When I was a kid, my parents had a strict rule about books. The rule was: no books are off limits. I couldn’t watch much TV, I wasn’t allowed to watch movies that were obviously “for grownups”, but I could grab any book off any of the shelves in our house. It was a great rule, which led me to discover all kinds of amazing authors who made a big impact on me, even though I was probably too young to fully appreciate them.
I loved the fact that my parents felt that books couldn’t be harmful, but by the time I reached my teen years and started reading the trashy YA fiction that my peers were into (remember all those V.C. Andrews books that all girls were obsessed with? In retrospect, those stories were pretty effed up), I discovered that my mom didn’t really mean that no books could be harmful. She meant “books that might be a bit too mature for you but are still good books can’t be harmful, but don’t read junk.” Hah.
That’s all well and good, but the unfortunate side effect was that I internalized the idea that the pulpier side of fiction, including most “genre” paperbacks, were the reading equivalent of a Big Mac combo. As a result missed out on some awesome stuff – crime, sci-fi, and other genres that, as it turns out, I really like. I’ve never read any Philip K. Dick or Elmore Leonard. I’m catching up slowly. Last summer, I read my first Jim Thompson novel (The Killer Inside Me, which chilled me To. The. Bone.) and loved it.
Anyway, I’m taking the long route to a simple point, which is: this year’s cottage reading list!
Important literary works are fine, but when a lady’s at the cottage, sipping long drinks in a hammock, it’s a bit of a drag to try to concentrate on the classics. It feels like eating a heavy red-meat-and-root-vegetable stew on a summer night. It might be delicious but there’s no denying the fact that it’s more of a winter meal. I just want some corn on the cob or a bowl of cherries, y’know?
This summer, I’m taking the relaxed approach to cottage reading. No stigma, no worries. Much murder mystery.
First up on the agenda is this crime/mystery novel I bought at a yard sale for $0.50 because the tag line on the back cover sounded hilarious. Joke’s on me, because it turns out to be a totally fun read. I might even seek out the next Tres Navarre book in the series (apparently there are seven) when I’m done.
Next up, Sideswipe, Charles Willeford’s third Hoke Moseley novel. Hoke’s a fantastic and totally depressing detective character, portrayed once on screen by Fred Ward in Miami Blues (based on the first Hoke Moseley book). I can only ever picture the character as early-’90s Fred Ward, but that seems perfect.
Not particularly pulpy, but I’m looking forward to revisiting an old fave that I read when I was in my mid-20s and LOVED, but barely remember any of the actual details of now. It’s always fun to give yourself a refresher in “stuff I thought was great a decade ago”.
If I get through all three in the next week, I’ll be pretty impressed with myself. And there’s no shortage of choices for #4. I think there’s a stack of about a dozen contenders next to the cottage couch.
Fantasia was so busy that I didn’t really get to see many movies or hang out with many of my Montreal-based friends. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun or get to hang out with some of my favourite members of the international film festival family that I feel pretty privileged to be part of.
- Getting to hear everyone’s amazing pitches during Frontieres – seriously, even though this was part of the “business” it was still amazing to see people I like knock it out of the park, as Bobcat Goldthwait did with his hilarious pitch for a Kinks musical, and as the (truly awesome) Jason Lapeyre did with his simple, compelling pitch (he writer/director behind one of my favourite films of last year – I Declare War, which Drafthouse Films wisely picked up for distro)
- Catching up with friends from all over the world. Plus, even though Montreal is actually not far away, I don’t get there often or see my Montreal pals nearly enough, so it’s a nice treat even just to see those among them who happen to be Fantasia staffers, for a few days.
- Going to a karaoke party, not doing any karaoke, but hearing a bunch of my favourite people really giv’r. Side note: why are film festival people so into karaoke? Every fest I go to there’s a huge karaoke party and these otherwise fairly laid back and/or let’s face it super shy and nerdy people are climbing over each other to get on stage. What’s the deal, film pals? I don’t know anyone in my “real life” who is this into karaoke. I don’t really get it, but I try not to judge.
- Eating in Montreal. One night, we went down a cobblestoned side road in the Plateau and stumbled upon a restaurant called La Prunelle, where Colin ended up eating a bison rib that was larger than his head. It was amazing, and a totally random discovery that we made because we weren’t in the mood for Schwartz’s, which is where our other pals were going in the same neighbourhood.
- Getting to meet the crew of absolute sweethearts who accompanied our already-favourite Georgians, Tim and James, to Montreal for the premiere of The Demon’s Rook. I swear, the nicest group of people, every last one of them.
- And, last but certainly not least, getting to sneak away for a portion of an evening and attend an amazing event put on by our friend Philippe Spurrell – a 16mm screening of animal-themed shorts and animations in a beautiful west end church. Getting to see old stop motion, Oscar-winning animation from ’80s Russia, old Loony Tunes, and a weird black & white live action film about dogs that can walk tightropes and do other crazy tricks was a MAJOR treat!
Now the countdown is on before I get to do it all over again, but as the home-turf-host, because TIFF is in just under four weeks. Eeeeeeeeeeeeek.
Note to self for next time: take more actual photos of your friends, because you’ll want to remember those moments later. Milkshakes, maybe slightly less so?
I didn’t intend to take two weeks to write about my Fantasia experiences, but there ya go. It was busy, I was super tired afterwards, and now I’m finally catching my breath with a couple of weeks of fresh country air (still working, but in an idyllic setting on beautiful Elbow Lake).
To recap for those who haven’t been obsessively following my life and times: I went to the very awesome Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal for two reasons.
Reason #1 was to attend Frontières, the international co-production market. It was the second year of Frontières, and I’ve wanted to submit a project since last year.
I pushed hard to get the team behind Manborg to put together an application for their next film, The Void. The project got in on the strength of their awesome concept and story, but I did a lot of the coordinating to ensure our application was on time and complete, and to coordinate meetings and set a schedule for us once the project was selected as one of the “official 12” that were going to be profiled and featured in the market.
Reason #2 is because a very cool horror film that I executive produced, The Demon’s Rook, was having its world premiere there. I’ll write more about that rewarding experience in a future blog post.
In addition to those two reasons to be there, we were also hanging out with and introducing another set of filmmakers we’re working with to some people who may be able to help with their project – a doc about the psychology of horror called Why Horror? A team from the film was in town for unrelated reasons, attending the Just for Laughs fest, which coincides with Fantasia (oh, Montreal, why are you so busy?!), so we managed to squeeze in a meeting and a bit of strategizing with them as well.
On the whole, I would say that Fantasia was a huge success. Our pitch was well received and the meetings were all very positive and hopeful. While Colin sat with the Void team and took meetings about their project, I circulated the speed-dating-esque room and met with some of the other projects that were being pitched, and talked up Ultra 8 Pictures to the other producers in the room.
The schedule at the market was as follows:
- 9:30am – 3:00pm – meetings every half hour with a brief break for lunch.
- 3:45pm – 5:00pm – panel discussions / industry sessions on topics such as indie film financing and distribution
- 5:00pm – 7:00pm – cocktail parties on the terrace of the Concordia building we were in – a chance for participants to schmooze and get to know each other in a more informal setting
- 7:00pm – midnight – dinners and movies – people either went off to eat and keep chatting or to experience some of the films in the fest
- midnight – ??? – everyone descends upon the Irish Embassy, the festival’s official pub, which has a delightfully huge back patio and serves booze till 3am (I guess that’s a Montreal thing, not a that-bar thing).
I was pretty conservative with my late nights at the Irish Embassy – even though it’s a great place to meet people and even though team Demon’s Rook was representin’ there most nights, I knew there was no way I would be able to make it for a 9:30am meeting if I didn’t stumble out of a bar until 3am. Maybe in my 20s, y’all. But no longer.
Anyway, I left Fantasia feeling very optimistic about everything. But I also left feeling like “oh god, now the real work begins”.
First and foremost, the work of figuring out some basic agreements with the filmmakers we’re currently collaborating with on a totally friendly basis, to provide a bit of mutual comfort and protection should things suddenly develop faster than we anticipate. Or even at the exact pace that we anticipate.
There’s nothing more awkward than having to draft up a legal document among friends that basically says “hey, we’re working on this together and we agree not to screw each other over”, but sometimes it’s necessary. Everyone seems to have at least one horror story of working with friends and getting shut out of some amazing thing that they helped develop, or having their idea taken away and produced by someone else, or being promised something big that never materialized, or whatever.
So, agreements. They’re awkward, but they’re necessary. Right now, I’m knee deep in trying to sort them out for various projects, most of which are progressing pretty slowly, so there’s no urgency. But the ones we were at Fantasia with – those are actually moving along at a decent clip, and if we have no paperwork to reassure everyone of their role, someone’s going to end up feeling mistreated in some way.
I’ve spent the past week collecting sample agreements and templates and having phone calls with producer friends. I think I’m starting to wrap my head around it?