stuff, written by me

Monthly Archives: October 2013

The Pentachrist is a character that I have dreamt about three times. He has the body of a man, the head of a goat, and the horns of a ram. When he comes to the earth, the world will end.

this is not what the Pentachrist looks like, but he has a similar pentagram-shaped badge/emblem/thingy

this is not what the Pentachrist looks like, but he has a similar pentagram-shaped badge/emblem/thingy

*****

Dream #1 (over a year ago)

Note: this one involves lots of dreams-within-the-dream, so just treat every mention of “waking up” in the description as part of the dream. 

In the dream, I am having a recurring dream. In the recurring dream, I find myself in a barren wasteland. The light has a red quality, it’s misty, mostly flat but with some outcroppings of mountains or jagged hills in the distance. There is a terrifying creature who rules this wasteland. He has the body of a man, the head of a goat and the thick, curled horns of a ram. Somehow, I know that his name is the Pentachrist. It’s as if he’s warning me in the dream that he is coming.

Every time I have the dream, I wake up in a cold sweat, but over time I feel less scared in the wasteland. I begin to explore. I learn new things. I learn that when the Pentachrist finds a portal, or a gate, or whatever he needs to cross over into our world, he will bring about the apocalypse.   

I realize that I’m not alone in the wasteland. There are other humans there, four others, spread out and very far away from me. We can see each other – just barely – but we’re much too far away to communicate, and the wasteland is deceptively large. I want to reach them but I can’t.

One day, it hits me, a realization that should have seemed obvious but never was: these four other people, they are real. They exist, in the waking world, just like I do. They are also having the dream. If I can’t cross the wasteland and speak to them in the dream, I should find them in real life. Perhaps together, we can find out why this is happening to us. I start to search for them when I’m awake. They could be anywhere.

The second realization comes more slowly. That the five of us are the only ones who can stop the Pentachrist. We are having this dream because we are, somehow, “chosen”. He is warning us that he is coming, but he is keeping us apart in his wasteland because he knows we can stop him. If we find each other in the waking world, the five of us can form the five points of his pentagram, and we can stop him from coming into existence. We are the only ones who can save the world. 

Note #2: I posted this dream (in brief) on Twitter and my friend Daniel Cockburn read it and then thought about it and came up with a complete narrative, fleshing out the bits I dreamt and giving it a great ending. I liked his take a lot!   

Dream #2 (August 2013)

I am staring at the night sky, looking for constellations I recognize. I see the Big Dipper, and Cassiopeia, my favourite. Suddenly, I see two glowing stars in the sky. They are looking at me. Their gaze is piercing. A voice whispers in the wind “when you see his eyes in the sky, he is coming”. The voice doesn’t need to tell me who it is referring to. I know it is the Pentachrist.

when you see his eyes in the sky ... he is coming

when you see his eyes in the sky … he is coming

Dream #3 (October 2013)

This dream is about linguistics – morphology. We are analyzing root words, morphemes, the smallest units of syntax, of language. 

We are analysing the root “pen”. 

I am writing with a pencil.

PEN

PENCIL

PENTAGRAM

I draw a circle with the pencil I am holding. I draw a star inside the circle.

Pentagram

A weird feeling bunches up in my stomach. I regret drawing the pentagram. I have unleashed something. Something that is like a coven of witches, but more abstract. Ghost witches. Witch spirits. They are bringing a message. 

PEN
PENCIL
PENTAGRAM

PENTACHRIST

He is coming.

*****

So, what should I do? Write a script or novel or something because it might make a good scary movie, or start preparing for the apocalypse because the joke will be on me when the dreams turn out to be a real warning that I’ve been ignoring for a couple of years now?


I use this blog to write updates about my producing projects, and I don’t often write about my “other job”. It’s with an organization I’m pretty proud to have been working with for the past seven or eight years (good lord, how has it been that long) so I’m going to tell you a bit about it today.

REEL CANADA is a traveling festival that shows Canadian films to high school students (as well as newcomers to Canada – ESL students of all ages) across the country. We’ve been at it for eight seasons and it’s grown from a program that manages to put on film festivals in just six schools in Toronto (in the pilot season) to one that put on over 60 events across seven provinces (in our eighth). To date, we’ve held over 800 screenings for over 200,000 students across the country, bringing filmmakers and other film industry heavyweights with us everywhere – from Montague P.E.I. to Medicine Hat, Alberta.

It’s hard to explain exactly what a REEL CANADA festival day entails, but it can be pretty magical. Here’s a video about the tech setup we occasionally do when we bring all the screening equipment into a school and transform it into a multiplex (please excuse the music):

Essentially, we help schools put on a one-day film festival out of our curated catalogue of Canadian features, docs, animations and shorts (new and old). Students help organize the event and select films, and we bring special guests (in person or via Skype) to talk to them after the screenings. Of course, filmmakers aren’t always free to come to a hundred schools every year, but some kind of live discussion is always part of the events we put on, even if it’s just a teacher or a trained facilitator talking to kids about what they saw. It’s one of the most important elements of what we do, because it really helps connect audiences to the work they’ve seen and gives them an opportunity to think and talk about what it means to be Canadian.

Today, we celebrated the launch of our 9th season as well as the launch of a new fundraising campaign that seeks to raise money for what we do from within the film industry. After all, if the industry that benefits the most from the audience-building work we do believes that the program is valuable, then they should be wiling to support it, right? Well, it looks like they’re ready to do just that!

the crowds gather to hear our announcements

the crowds gather in the TIFF Lounge to hear our announcements

This morning we held a huge event for about 1000 adult ESL students from across the GTA at TIFF Bell Lightbox. They watched Breakaway, Away From Her and Iron Road and participated in some seriously heartstring-tugging Q&As with the stars. After the students shuffled out, a who’s who of Canadian film heavyweights congregated in the TIFF lounge to hear REEL CANADA board member Colm Feore and bonafide mogul Robert Lantos announce the launch of our fundraising campaign. And the best part of the news they had to share? Not only have we launched it, we’re already $70,000 toward our goal of $200,000 – which is all meant to help us increase the number of students we reach from 40,000 per year to 100,000  by 2017. Personally, I think we’ll hit the magic number even sooner, but I don’t want to make my REEL CANADA teammates nervous.

Colm Feore breaks it down for the crowd

Colm Feore breaks it down for the crowd

Oh yeah, and there was even more great news: we’ve just confirmed Scotiabank as a sponsor to the tune of a $50,000 cash contribution and $25,000 of in kind support.

In addition to our two high profile guest speakers, we also had several fabulous guests for the festival portion of our day. Vinay Virmani, the writer and star of Breakaway and Wendy Crewson, star of Away From Her) both turned up along with the lovely Anne Tait, who produced Iron Road.

But wait, there’s more! Filmmakers and actors  who have come out to our events in the past and have supported our program over the years also turned up in droves to our little lunch. Patricia Rozema, Charles Officer, Hubert Davis, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Clé Bennett, Ron Lea and several others were there, along with film industry types from ACTRA, Telefilm, the NFB, eOne and … y’know what, at a certain point, I lost count.

The charismatic Vinay Virmani chats with CTV. This guy should go into politics, he should.

The charismatic Vinay Virmani chats with CTV. This guy should go into politics, he should.

And the press? Oh! The press! Four camera crews – two from the CBC, one from ET Canada and one from CTV turned up, as well as a large contingent of the city’s prominent print and online journalists. This piece from the Globe’s Liam Lacey was posted just two hours ago. I blame Ingrid Hamilton, who did an incredible job of promoting our event and getting media interested in the story.

As if all those announcements weren’t enough, we unveiled one other thing – some posters for the fundraising campaign that were designed by the superstars at Agency 71. Check out three out of the four posters (foolishly, I failed to take a photo of the beaver design).

They did such a killer job! These images are SPOT ON.

Anyway, the launch event was fancy! I wore a dress, that’s how fancy it was. And after several hours of happy schmoozing, I’m so dead tired this evening that all I can manage to do is write this blog post and eat raw fruits and vegetables from the fridge because cooking is waaaaaay too much effort (I know, I should have ordered a pizza).

I’ll leave you with my favourite photo of the day.

team WE'RE DICKS, reporting for duty

team W.D. reporting for duty


It’s the weekend – time to give feminism the day off and get back to the important matters of the season, am I right? I said I’d post a list of the major  omissions in my horror experience, so here you go. In most cases, I have no excuse. Very few of these films have been avoided on purpose (only one, in fact).

here is an image from a film I have not seen

here is an image from a film I have not seen

Anyway, to the list of shame. Feel free to, in fact, shame me:

The Beyond – I have seen relatively little Fulci. What I have seen, I really enjoyed, though.

Dawn of the Dead – The original. I’ve seen Night and Day but not Dawn. I don’t know how that happened.

The Devil’s Backbone – I haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth, either.

The Evil Dead – Yes, the original. Also the remake.

The Fog – I love John Carpenter, and I’ve seen everything he made between 1980 and 1995 … except The Fog. I have no explanations for this. 

Haute Tension – To be fair, I was reeeeeally preoccupied with playing in bands and not watching movies in 2003, but I don’t have much of an excuse for not catching up with it since.

Ju-on – I’m fairly certain I’ve seen none of the Grudge films. It seems pretty scary, and I think I might enjoy it?

Martyrs – I had Colin describe the plot of this one to me in excruciating detail, and I decided I never wanted to actually see it. Sorry, but this is precisely the kind of horror film I find not enjoyable in the least.

The Omen – I’ve always wanted to see this one. Maybe this year is the year!

Saw – And also all its sequels. I don’t like the term “torture porn” AT ALL because I think it misunderstands horror, and torture, and (not least of all) porn. But I also don’t like films that feature a lot of torture, even if it’s implausible and over the top and silly. On the other hand, I have seen and thoroughly enjoyed all the Final Destination films, so it’s not like I can’t enjoy a good stupid franchise.

Last but not least, what’s the best way to list “All Dario Argento Films Other Than Suspiria and Deep Red“? Because also that.

another one I haven't seen

another one I haven’t seen

Oh god, I feel so unburdened, now that you all know the truth.

To be honest though, I thought the list would be a lot longer. While consulting various “best horror films of all time” lists in order to ensure I wasn’t forgetting something painfully obvious, I was actually comforted to realize that I’ve  seen many more classics than I thought. I mean heck, I’ve seen nine out of the Time Out London top ten. And more than half of the list as a whole (but I didn’t really keep count).


Yesterday, I got into a big feminist huff about this Emily Yoffe piece on preventing rape on college campuses, which was published by Slate. I rewrote the article, changing all references to gender to illustrate what it would look like if I took a headline like “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk … it’s closely associated with sexual assault, and yet we’re reluctant to tell women to stop doing it”  and changed it to “College Men: Stop Raping Women … It IS sexual assault, and yet we’re reluctant to tell men to stop doing it”. 

I was not trying to “write an article telling men not to rape women”. I was changing an existing article in order to illustrate what I thought was a fairly simple point about how rarely we see articles from that other point of view – the point of view that addresses men and talks to them about rape prevention, as if they have something to do with it!

The article was retweeted and shared on Facebook a number of times, and the excellent folks at rabble.ca offered to republish it on their site, which of course I said an enthusiastic “yes” to. You can find it on rabble here.

I haven’t received a crazy amount of negative response to the article but I have encountered several (tried and true – very familiar to me and probably every other vocal feminist on the internet) arguments from seemingly well meaning men whose comments fell loosely in one of these categories:

  • Men who don’t see why we can’t “do both” (that is, talk to men about rape, but also tell women to protect themselves) – as if I was ever suggesting that we not do both.
  • Men who feel offended that the “hey men, don’t be rapists!” message implies that all men – including themselves – are potential rapists.
  • Men who feel (seriously) that society already does a lot to tell men not to rape (ha ha).
  • Men who believe that non-rapists don’t need to hear this message, and that rapists will never listen anyway, so it’s probably not the best strategy for changing anything (let’s leave aside the fact that most rapists don’t actually consider themselves rapists).

One guy even commented on my original post that when both parties are drunk, it’s not rape. Or, in his words, “there is no victim”. I’m not even going to address that one, because really, where to begin?

Before I go any further, I have to point out, most of these men were not aggressively argumentative – they were trying to understand my point of view, and I appreciate that type of effort, even if it comes with a certain amount of (inevitable) mansplaining. I’d rather someone try to understand me in a clumsy way than not try at all.

Anyway. Something about the repeated return to the “why can’t we do both” argument has been really bothering me, and I wanted to articulate exactly what it is.

What bothers me is the very idea that it is important to make sure women are aware of the potential risks all around them. It bothers me because my own experience would lead me to believe that approximately 100% of women do not need any such reminder, as they are already all too aware, every day of their lives.

Sure, let’s get this out of the way first. Yes. It’s perfectly fine to tell any potential victim of any potential crime to “be aware” and “protect themselves” and “make smart decisions” and “not put themselves in high risk situations”. I’m not saying it’s bad to do that. Nobody ever said that, and it’s beside the point.

Do this as an experiment, men who doubt me when I say that women are already very aware. Ask the women in your life whether they’ve ever felt afraid when they’re alone in an elevator and a (male) stranger gets in. Or when they’re walking alone at night. Or when they’re walking alone at night and they hear footsteps behind them. Or when they’re walking alone at night on an empty stretch of road and a (male) stranger is heading straight toward them. Or when they’re walking alone at any time of day and they suddenly approach a group of more than two or three men who look at them in a leering way. Or when someone catcalls them on the street, or slows down their car next to them as they walk in order to make a lewd comment or proposition. Or when they’re walking to their car in an otherwise empty-seeming parking garage. Or when they’re in a bar and some guy won’t leave them alone even when they say “I have a boyfriend”, because the only way they feel allowed to turn the guy down is if they’re taken by some other man, because “I’m not interested in you” is not good enough, because  drunk guys often can’t take no for an answer?

Ask them if they’ve ever considered carrying mace in their purses, or actually carried it, or if they ever had a “rape whistle” on their keychain, or if they ever held their keys in their hand like a weapon while walking, just in case. Or if they’ve ever pretended to be on their cell phone while walking by some (male) stranger or group of strangers in an otherwise secluded place, in order to appear as though they weren’t quite as alone. Or if they’ve ever actually phoned someone while walking home alone, so that they’d be on the line with them, just in case. Ask them if they’ve ever taken the long way home in order to avoid a usually very safe shortcut, just because they didn’t want to be in a park or a back alley by themselves.

Ask them if they’ve ever been afraid of being raped, period. I’d bet good money that you won’t be able to find a single woman who would honestly answer “nope, I’ve never felt that fear”. Most would say “of course”, because for most women, being aware of their safety and the threat of rape is as natural as getting your period every month. We don’t need to be reminded.

Now think about the fact that most women aren’t raped by a hooded stranger lurking in the bushes on their walk home. Most women are raped by someone they know. A date. A “friend”.

That means that on top of the fact that we’re already on high alert in everyday situations that might legitimately be dangerous, we also have to be on high alert at the times when we should be able to relax and not feel fear – when we’re with people we know and trust. Even in those situations – at parties, on dates, in group settings with our friends, colleagues and classmates – we are told we have to be aware – to not dress a certain way, to not drink too much, to not allow ourselves the luxury of letting our hair down (metaphorically – because if we did it literally it would probably be misinterpreted as flirtation and provoke some rapist – ha ha) the way that men can anytime they want.

And what usually happens when women do make the mistake of actually relaxing in situations in which men are allowed the same pleasure? When they have as many drinks as they want, instead of as many as they can while remaining on guard for a potential sexual attack? Well, sometimes they are lucky and nothing bad happens. And other times, they are not lucky, and someone takes advantage of their vulnerability and afterwards they are shamed and scolded for not having been more aware of their own safety. Because there is never a time when women are just allowed to let their guard down. And as a society, we don’t consider that to be enough of a problem to make us say “hey, instead of telling women to be constantly in self-protection mode, let’s try to change the way we behave and create environments where they don’t have to feel fear and anxiety, because nobody should have to be on high alert all the time”. That would be unrealistic, because rapists will be rapists, am I right?

Because this (truly hilarious image, which I got from Ella Ceron on Twitter) …

blog post

… is how our society deals with rape. Conclusion of study: sexual offenses were not victim-initiated. Recommendation: make the victims change their behaviour.

So, let me ask you this, men who say “hey, I’m all for educating men about rape prevention, but why can’t we do both? Why not teach women self defence and remind them to be aware and to protect themselves”. Did it ever occur to you that that’s pretty condescending?

FOOTNOTE: when I say “tell men not to rape”, I don’t mean that our message to men should literally be “hey, don’t be a rapist”. That’s simplistic and ridiculous and not what I was ever suggesting. As I have mentioned elsewhere before, I am using this as shorthand for the many ways in which we could creatively engage men in a real discourse about rape and rape prevention, talk to them and/or teach them how to not behave in ways that are sexually predatory, and generally make them a whole lot more aware. If men were aware the way women are constantly being asked to be aware, then perhaps they would be more sensitive to subtler signs of discomfort or fear from women around them. Perhaps they would stop their drunk pals from going too far with girls they’re out drinking with. Perhaps they’d say “hey, that’s really not cool” the next time their university’s frosh week captain tried to lead the crowd in a sexist, rape-condoning chant. Perhaps they – the ones who are proudly assured in their belief that they are not capable of ever committing a rape, and neither are any of their friends – would start to change their behaviour in all those small ways that eventually amount to a shift in the rape culture we actually live in. Perhaps they’d even think twice about arguing with women when all we want to say is “hey guys, be more aware. And also, don’t rape”. 


This morning, I read and was infuriated by Emily Yoffe’s Slate article, “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk”. Just once, I’d love it if anyone – especially (radically!) a woman – actually wrote an article that tells men not to be rapists, instead of  suggesting that “putting all the responsibility of preventing sexual assault on the victims” is somehow a feminist point of view. So, for fun, I rewrote her article. I did not spend a lot of time on this, because I’m trying to make a really simple point. Most of the words below are her own. I changed only references to gender. Everywhere that Ms Yoffe said something about giving “warnings to women about their behavior”, I changed it to a warning for men.

NOTE: I bolded the changes I made, to make it easier for you to see them.

That’s all I did, the rest (including all links to other articles & studies) is still in her own words. Just imagine a world in which articles like this actually got written.

College Men: Stop Raping Women

It IS sexual assault. And yet we’re reluctant to tell men to stop doing it.

In one awful high-profile case after another—the U.S. Naval AcademySteubenville, Ohio; now the allegations in Maryville, Mo.—we read about a young man, sometimes only a boy, who goes to a party and ends up raping a girl. As soon as the school year begins, so do reports of female students sexually assaulted by their male classmates. A common denominator in these cases is alcohol, often copious amounts, enough to render the young man incapable of distinguishing right from wrong. But a misplaced fear of blaming the perpetrators has made it somehow unacceptable to warn inexperienced young men that when they get wasted, they are putting themselves at risk of becoming rapists.

A 2009 study of campus sexual assault found that by the time they are seniors, almost 20 percent of college women will become victims, overwhelmingly of a fellow classmate. Very few will ever report it to authorities. The same study states that more than 80 percent of campus sexual assaults involve alcohol. Frequently both the man and the woman have been drinking. The men tend to use the drinking to justify their behavior, as this survey of research on alcohol-related campus sexual assault by Antonia Abbey, professor of psychology at Wayne State University, illustrates, while for many of the women, having been drunk becomes a source of guilt and shame. Sometimes the woman is the only one drunk and runs into a particular type of shrewd—and sober—sexual predator who lurks where women drink like a lion at a watering hole. For these kinds of men, the rise of female binge drinking has made campuses a prey-rich environment. I’ve spoken to three recent college graduates who were the victims of such assailants, and their stories are chilling.

Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let men know that when they drink to excess, they can end up becoming these very perpetrators. Young men are getting a distorted message that having sex with any woman they want – regardless of whether the woman consents – is their right. The real message should be that when you drink so much that you lose the ability to be responsible for actions, you drastically increase the chances that you will become a sexual predator and a threat to women around you. That’s not villainizing all men; that’s trying to prevent them from becoming rapists.

Experts I spoke to who wanted young men to get this information said they were aware of how loaded it has always been to give warnings to men about their behavior. “I’m always feeling defensive that my main advice is: ‘Don’t rape. Don’t make yourself vulnerable to the point of losing your cognitive faculties so that you think it’s ok to rape,’ ” says Anne Coughlin, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, who has written on rape and teaches feminist jurisprudence. She adds that by not telling them the truth—that they are responsible for their own actions —she worries that we are “infantilizing men.”

The “Campus Sexual Assault Study” of 2007, undertaken for the Department of Justice, found that the popular belief that many young rape victims have been slipped “date rape” drugs is false. “Most sexual assaults occur after voluntary consumption of alcohol by the victim and assailant,” the report states. But the researchers noted that this crucial point is not being articulated to young and naïve men: “Despite the link between substance abuse and sexual assault it appears that few sexual assault and/or risk reduction programs address the relationship between substance use and sexual assault.” The report added, somewhat plaintively, “Students may also be unaware of the image of predatoriness projected by a visibly intoxicated individual.”

“I’m saying that men are responsible for sexually victimizing women,” says Christopher Krebs, one of the authors of that study and others on campus sexual assault. “When your judgment is compromised, your risk of becoming a rapist is elevated.”

The culture of binge drinking—whose pinnacle is the college campus—does not just harm men. Surveys find that more than 40 percent of college students binge drink, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as consuming five or more drinks for a man and four or more for a woman in about two hours. Of those drinkers, many end their sessions on gurneys: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism estimates that about 600,000 students a year are injured due to their drinking, and about 700,000 are assaulted by a classmate in a drunken encounter. Some end up on slabs: About 1,800 students a year die as a consequence of alcohol intake.

The site Compelled to Act, started by the grief-stricken father of a college-student daughter who died because of a drunken snowmobile accident, keeps a tally of alcohol-related death, including reports of students who perish due to alcohol overdoses, falls, and drownings. The typical opening weeks of school (except perhaps at Brigham Young University) result in stories like this one at the University of Maryland: In the first three weeks of the semester, 24 students were taken to the hospital for alcohol-related causes.  Then police were called to an off-campus bar known for serving freshman to investigate a stabbing involving underage students.

I don’t believe any of these statistics will move in the right direction until binge drinking joins smoking, drunk driving, and domestic abuse as behaviors that were once typical and are now unacceptable. Reducing binge drinking is going to require education, enforcement, and a change in campus social culture. These days the weekend stretches over half the week and front-loading and boot and rally are major extracurricular activities. Puking in your hair, peeing in your pants, and engaging in dangerous behaviors have to stop being considered hilarious escapades or proud war stories and become a source of disgust and embarrassment.

As a parent with a son heading off to college next year, I’ve noted with dismay that in some college guidebooks almost as much space is devoted to alcohol as academics. School spirit is one thing, but according to The Insider’s Guide to the Colleges, when the University of Florida plays Florida State University, “Die-hard gator fans start drinking at 8 am. No joke.”  I guess I’m supposed to be reassured to read that at the University of Idaho, “Not everyone is an alcoholic.”

“High-risk alcohol use is the one thing connected to all, and I mean all, the negative impacts in higher education,” says Peter Lake, director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law and author ofThe Rights and Responsibilities of the Modern University. He cites the problems of early student attrition and perpetually disappointing graduation rates.

I’ve told my son that it’s his responsibility to take steps to ensure he does not become a sexual abuser. (“I hear you! Stop!”) The biological reality is that women do not metabolize alcohol the same way as men, and that means drink for drink women will get drunker faster. I tell him I know alcohol will be widely available (even though it’s illegal for most college students) but that he’ll have a good chance of knowing what’s going on around him if he limits himself to no more than two drinks, sipped slowly—no shots!—and stays away from notorious punch bowls. If male college students start moderating their drinking as a way of looking out for their female counterparts—and looking out for your own self-interest should be a primary human principle—I hope their restraint reduces the likelihood that they will victimize women.

If I had a daughter, I would tell her that it’s in her self-interest not to be the drunken sorority girl who finds herself accusing a classmate of raping her. Because this University of Richmond student is an example of what would probably happen. He was acquitted in one of the extremely rare cases in which a campus rape accusation led to a criminal trial.

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I am feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. I have too many things on the go. I think my resolution for 2015 is going to have to do with simplifying my life, but it certainly isn’t going to happen in the next 12-15 months.

I’m managing a few special projects at REEL CANADA (the same part-time basis as before, but a few more hours per week this fall than anticipated), and I’ve got a new gig that I’m excited about which threatens to swallow up a lot of my upcoming time (more on that soon).

Then there’s the fact that I want to move into a bigger apartment, which (considering Colin’s work-related travel schedule – and these days, mine too) has to be very strategically timed, so the search has to happen in hurried bursts of activity. Maybe I should hire a realtor. And, I’m determined (determined, I say!) to complete at least one of the writing projects which have been on the back seat of my life for years and which I told myself I would make time for once I quit my full time job and went freelance.

Plus there’s the producing, which I am grimly resigned to giving most of my time to, even though it’s the thing that doesn’t pay. Here’s where those projects are at.

The Demon’s Rook

I love this movie and the adorable sweethearts who made it. That’s why I’m thrilled at how well it’s been doing since its premiere at Fantasia this summer. The film got great responses out of FrightFest (London, UK) and Scream Fest (Los Angeles). It’s playing Sitges (Spain) next. FEARnet, Bloody Disgusting and Fangoria have all posted really positive reviews. We got a great sales company on board (Raven Banner, the same fine folks who helped get Manborg out into the world), and there’s been some interest from US distributors recently, which I can’t talk about yet but am very excited about, obviously. Next up, I’m looking forward to digging into the director’s next script, for a witchcraft-y horror film. He gave it to us way back in the summer, but the pre-and-post-TIFF weeks were too hectic, so I’m going to read it now, while I’m out in the woods at the cottage, in the perfect setting.

The highlight of the Fantasia experience with The Demon’s Rook was not just getting to see the film on the big screen for the first time, but also getting to hang out with the lovely director, James Sizemore, and meet his beautiful wife and adorable parents. Not to mention DoP/editor/producer Tim Reis and HIS beautiful girlfriend and adorable parents. And the dozen or so other folks who came up from Georgia to support them. What an incredibly sweet group of people. I feel really lucky to be working with them.

Bye Bye Blackbird (working title)

This is the noir-ish murder mystery thriller that I’m working on with Peter Lynch. The script is so close to being done that I can almost taste it, and I’m super excited! I mean, it’s been “done” for a long time, but it’ll be at a polished, “ready to be sent out to people” level in a matter of days. We’ve been talking to funders, to other producers who might come on board to help us, and to sales agents. Everything seems to be progressing well enough that we might actually shoot this sucker next year – perhaps not as early in the year as we’d hoped (the original timeline had us in production by February) but soon enough.

Greta

If you ever saw a copy of the Ultra 8 Pictures brochure that we printed for Cannes, you might remember this one as the project with the creepy closeup of a witchy looking woman as its central image. It’s a supernatural thriller, and writer/director Terrance Odette passed a rough draft to me the other week for some preliminary feedback. I had lots of notes, but overall, I thought it was great. We even have some interesting funding prospects for this one, but I don’t want to jinx it by saying too much. Suffice it to say, I have very high hopes for this one.

Replace

This is a really smart body horror film by a German writer-director who we’ve been trying to hook up with Canadian partners, to do a German-Canadian coproduction. Finally, it looks like everything might be in place. Ultra 8 is not the lead producing entity on this one – but the person who likely will be taking the lead is a really good local producing powerhouse, so I’m quite excited about the opportunity to work with him. I can’t say too much yet, but we’re aggressively pursuing cast at the moment and we’ll be able to officially announce something soon. Woop woop!

The Void

After a successful market experience at Fantasia, I stepped back a little bit from this one. It’s a fantastic project, but there’s not much for me to do while the script is being worked on, and I’m damn busy with other stuff! Plus, it’s the only project I’ve been spending time on where there’s no agreement – written or oral – on what Ultra 8 Pictures’ role (by which I mean, mine or Colin’s) actually is, so it seems prudent not to prioritize it until we all have time in our overloaded schedules to sit down and discuss what needs to be done.

Why Horror? 

This documentary about the psychology of horror films and why we love to feel scared did some great work at Fantasia, Festival of Fear and TIFF. With a little bit of help from team Colin & Kat, they bagged a bunch of interviews with visiting filmmakers and got a lot of great shooting done. I can’t wait to get back to Toronto after Thanksgiving and meet with these guys, so that we can figure out where they’re at and what help they need next. Oh, and Why Horror? just launched a Kickstarter campaign. You can find it (and contribute!) HERE.

And their poster is rad, too:

Why Horror poster clean

I think that’s it. I need a nap.


I almost forgot it was October and that I should have been watching scary movies for 14 days already.

So, to get myself in the mood, I made this list of films that I find actually scary. And then I will make a list of films to watch during the second half of October. Call it the “Lazy Gal’s 31 Days of Horror”. Because it’s only 15 days.

And btw, when I say “actually scary”, I don’t mean “I am so tough, and nothing really scares me”. I am actually pretty easily scared, and very wimpy when it comes to horror films. But there’s a difference between the anxiety I feel in the moment while watching any old scary movie, vs. the deep terror that gnaws at me for months or sometimes years after I see a film. These films populate my personal nightmare chamber forever. In alphabetical order, as always.

Audition (1999, dir. Takashi Miike) – When the tonal shift happened in this film, I felt a knot develop in my stomach that maybe still hasn’t gone away. The last 10 minutes made me dry heave on my couch. Nuff said.

The Descent (2005, dir. Neil Marshall) – It’s not a spoiler to say that this is a film about a group of women who go cave exploring and get trapped in the caves. The moment they entered the first tight passage and experienced the first tiny cave-in, I started to hyperventilate. I was watching it with a group of friends in my living room, and I had to excuse myself and sit in the other room for most of the film while they continued to watch it. I came back in for the last 15 minutes, and haven’t stopped shivering since. Basically, I haven’t seen 85% of this movie, and it STILL gives me panic attacks to think about.

THIS moment. Instant panic attack.

THIS moment. Instant panic attack.

The Eye (2002, dirs. Oxide + Danny Pang) – I saw this one at a Rue Morgue screening way back in the day with my friend Eddy. It was one of the first Asian horror films I’d ever seen. I know, The Ring preceded it, and Ju-on was around the same time, but honestly I wasn’t that into horror films in the early ’00s, so this was all new to me. I don’t have a big eye-trauma phobia or anything, but I spent every second of the screening in a terrified cringe.

À L’Intérieur / Inside (2007, dirs. Alexandre Bustillo + Julien Maury) – Some jerks (my dear friends) convinced me to go with them to see this one at TIFF. This was before I started dating Colin so (secret’s out!) I never really went to the Midnight Madness screenings. It’s probably difficult for any human – let alone a female human – to spend 90 minutes watching a nine-months-pregnant lady be terrorized by a psycho killer in her own home. But for a scaredycat like me who was only used to watching horror films in my living room? Gah. I spent the entire screening scrunched up in the fetal position wincing. The worst (best?) part is that the sound design on that movie is so intense that closing your eyes does not help alleviate the roiling sense of dread AT ALL.

The Neverending Story (1984, dir. Wolfgang Petersen) – I know, but hear me out. I’m pretty sure this is the first film that ever made me feel frightened right down to my bone marrow. I saw it when I was eight years old or so, and the idea of an all consuming nothingness that could swallow up the whole world is a pretty freaky concept for a kid to wrestle with. Plus, there’s Gmork, the snarling wolf that’s constantly stalking our hero Atreyu. And there’s the swamps of sadness, which swallow up his horse (*SOB*), Artax. And let’s not forget the assortment of weird and scary creatures besides all that. I’m pretty sure this film was responsible for my aversion to scary movies for the next 15 years or so. And yet, it’s one of my favourite films of all time. Humans are complicated.

The People Under the Stairs (1991, dir. Wes Craven) – This classic about an insane couple who keep their mutant brood locked up under the stairs where they can terrorize unsuspecting visitors is actually pretty fun – and funny. But the first time I saw it was on TV in a motel room during a family trip somewhere when I was a teenager, way back before I actually started enjoying scary movies. I don’t know why I started watching it, but once it was on, I felt paralyzed with fear, couldn’t change the channel, but couldn’t stop feeling panicky. Although I have to say that when I saw the insane couple (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) as Ed and Nadine Hurley in Twin Peaks like a year later, I was pretty delighted.

Prince of Darkness (1987, dir. John Carpenter) – The first time I saw this gem about a research team investigating a swirling cylinder of pure evil (maybe?) in the basement of a church, it was at 2pm on a sunny Sunday afternoon. In spite of the cheery atmosphere and timing, I was freaked out for days. It remains my favourite Carpenter, and in fact my favourite horror film overall (if we haaaaave to pick favourites). The score is impeccable.

scariest cylinder of goo in film history

scariest cylinder of goo in film history

[REC] (2007, dirs. Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza) – I jumped in my seat A LOT during the screening of [REC] that I attended. It freaked me out (as a mild hypochondriac, anything to do with contagion tends to) and it’s one of those rare films that I actually found both scary and fun while I was watching. It remains perhaps the only film that uses the POV / mock doc conceit without being endlessly infuriating to me.

The Shining (1980, dir. Stanley Kubrick) – Somehow, I managed to not watch The Shining until I was over 30 years old AND not have it spoiled for me by anyone. Almost a miracle, I know! A few years back, my friend Sean (who had also not seen it, and is not wild about the super scary movies) and I sat down in his living room and watched it together. Even though I was, by this point in time, a fan of horror, it still made me feel really, really, really uneasy. Spooky, kinda-supernatural stuff has a much longer lasting effect on me than slasher-type gore.

Now, you might be sitting there wondering why this or that very scary film is not on my list. Let me assure you it’s not because I am too tough to be scared by it. It’s almost certainly because I haven’t seen it yet.  I only started loving horror films when I was in my late 20s and I have a lot of catching up to do. I might publish a “horror list of shame” later in the month but I don’t want everyone being like “WHAT, YOU HAVEN’T SEEN EVIL DEAD?” all the time.