This isn’t an update about a film Im producing, but it is an update about a film that Colin Executive Produced and that a dear friend of ours, Joseph O’Brien, wrote and directed. Joe is a veteran screenwriter but a first time director which makes it extra exciting to finally be able to congratulate him not just on completing a great movie but securing a very cool world premiere as well.
Fantasia just announced its second wave of programming. Among other awesome offerings is Joe’s film, Devil’s Mile. You can read the whole announcement over at Twitch.
I’m selfishly hoping that it’ll be screening over the same weekend as the co-production market so that I can attend without having to buy a second set of train and hotel tickets, but even if that’s not the case, I’ll clearly have to splurge on this, because it will be crazy fun to celebrate with the Devil’s Mile team in Montreal.
I had all these grand plans for getting back to the gym after Cannes, but then I had a shitty cold that lasted for three weeks (have I mentioned lately how grateful I feel for my health every single time I swallow? I do, because it’s only been like a week of pain-free swallowing over here since May 24).
Anyway. Fitness plans delayed by three weeks. Then we went to visit Colin’s folks for a few days (which was lovely, but not very gymmy). So, nearly a month after I got back from Cannes, I finally made it to the gym for the first time in forever. Sigh.
I’m no athlete, but I do know that when I exercise regularly, my moods are significantly better and less swing-y, my sleep patterns are far more stable and I rarely wake up at 4am just for the fun of contemplating every terrible thing that the brain is capable of thinking of until dawn. Plus, I have ten times the energy of my normal self. And way fewer introverted-hermit periods where I don’t want to leave the house or speak to anyone including my closest friends (which otherwise happens to me more often than you might think. Interacting with other humans is so exhausting). Plus, y’know, there are the “fitness benefits”.
Today I started way easy, with a workout that consisted of a 30 minute interval sesh on the elliptical trainer plus a bunch of squats plus a half hour spent seriously stretching my very tight and at times clicky and painful hips. I’ll get into the more serious workouts later. For now I’m just trying to acclimatize myself to the idea of going and not hating it.
I was creaky and stiff, but surprisingly, I did enjoy my hour at the Y. It almost made me feel like a movie tough guy in a training montage, which is kind of the goal.
It’s 70ish days till September right now. Let’s see what kind of change I can affect in my body composition between now and end of summer, eh?
I’ll let you in on a secret. I one specific goal in mind which I have been mono-focused on for years but never achieved. I want my shoulders to look like this:
Think I can get there by the end of this summer?
A personal plea on the ol’ blog. If you’re looking to share an awesome office space with other creative types, please read on, as I am in the market for a new office roomie.
I currently spend part of my time working out of a studio space at Queen & Spadina with Colin, which he has shared with three others for many years.
It’s an excellent spot, centrally located, in a very secure building. Right now, we’re downsizing into a smaller, brighter, newer office space, and we’re looking for a new person to join us.
July 1 (preferred, though I realize how tight a timeline that is) or August 1 move in date.
All info is below, and please share this far and wide if you know someone who might be interested
LOOKING FOR CREATIVE TENANT TO SHARE STUDIO SPACE
$435 / month to share a 570 square foot studio with creative types.
We have one spot available to share in a 570 sq ft studio office located at Queen and Spadina (192 Spadina, just north of Queen). It is in a super neighbourhood on two TTC streetcar lines, with a variety of restaurants, bars, clubs, stores and other spots of interest nearby.
We are looking for a creatively minded individual to share the space with the current tenants who work in film and journalism. The space is ideal for visual and/or commercial artists, graphic designers, web developers, filmmakers, freelance writers, etc.
The open-concept studio is more than 570 sq. ft., with large windows, hardwood floors, an 11-ft. ceiling and bathroom. There will also be a small kitchenette with sink, shelves and bar fridge. Nice and sunny, with north-facing windows, the space gets lots of indirect sun, making it welcoming but not hot.
Located on the 2nd floor with both a passenger and freight elevator, the studio is in a well maintained professional building that is very secure with video camera and electronic security, with 24-hour access to tenants. The portion of the studio that is available is roughly 8 ft by 12 ft with large wall space, and facing the window wall.
The space is separated into three roughly equal-sized work areas of approximately 100-110 square feet each. You will be sharing the space with three people: Jay Somerset, a writer and editor; and Katrina and Colin, two film types who work with TIFF, among other clients.
The base monthly rent for the space is $375 plus utilities (hydro, high speed internet), which to roughly between $30 per month. First and last month’s rent and references required.
Move-in date: July 1st or August 1st.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email Colin at email@example.com, or call him at 647-895-8846. And please let us know what you would be using the space for.
Here’s a few photos to help you get a sense of the space.
Now that Cannes is over (and I am over my three week Cannes Cold, or whatever that nightmare bug was), it’s time to get back to work.
Two major projects are my current top priority. First up, Rite of the Witch Goddess, the film I’m co-writing with James “The Demon’s Rook” Sizemore and producing with Tim “Also The Demon’s Rook” Reis. The film was accepted into Fantasia’s Frontières co-production market on the basis of a pretty slick package (and, in my humble cowriterly opinion) a pretty great script that James and I cobbled together over the past few months. I learned a lot of lessons from last year’s Frontières experience and I’m anxious to apply them this summer. I learned what makes a successful pitch, and a successful presentation package, so we’re hard at work on all that.
I also learned to never waste a second of my time working with people who aren’t 100% interested in working with me and who aren’t as respectful of my time and contributions as I am of theirs. James and Tim are awesome, supremely collaborative, open and generous partners to be working with and I’m really happy to be developing this project with them. We’re getting our agreements and paperwork in order (I can’t advise this enough, Junior Producers!), but we’re also communicating really well about what we all want (in the script, in the way we put the project together, and so on) so it’s been very rewarding. I’m looking forward to hopefully blowing some people away with a few of the things we’ve cooked up for our presentation, too.
My ambitious goal with this project is to line up enough partners at Fantasia and the next few festivals and markets to follow (TIFF, perhaps AFM, definitely Berlin) to be able to shoot the film next summer. At least half the film takes place outside and requires a lot of idyllic, lushly green locations, so summer would sure work well for us.
The second project is the noirish murder-mystery I’m working on with Peter Lynch, Birdland. The script has been polished up and over the past few months we’ve done a huge amount of work to secure a solid Exec. Producer and submit funding applications to all the usual suspects (Telefilm, OMDC, Harold Greenberg Fund and so on). Now, we keep pushing the project forward in other ways as we wait for some decisions to come in. The funding decisions we get won’t dictate whether the film gets made or not (we’re committed to doing it no matter what) but they will affect our timeline. If everyone hands over buckets of dough, then we might be ready to shoot as early as this fall.
More realistically, we’ll get less than we asked for from everyone (that seems to be a common scenario, based on stories I’ve heard from other producer pals) and will have to go into serious fundraising mode this fall in the hopes of raising the rest quickly and shooting in early 2015. I think the latter plan is more plausible but you never know. Better to be ambitious than not. We’ve already got a lot of good will and support on the project, so nothing is out of the question.
Beyond these two films, which are taking up 90% of my summer focus, I’ve also got two others percolating in the back of my mind. One’s an original story idea that I hope to find time to write into a script this August. The other is an idea I’ve been bandying about with a filmmaker friend, which I very much want to make happen.
And of course there’s the rest of the Ultra 8 Pictures development slate, but in all honesty, I have to let the writer/directors of some of those projects carry the torch themselves for a little while, because there aren’t enough hours in the day, and I don’t get a suitcase full of money from Telefilm for my development slate, so I can’t pay myself, let alone anyone else, to get some scripts polished up so that I can take them into the world and try to make something of them.
I got some good advice this Cannes from a friend (a successful and wise talent agent) about working only on the projects I’m most passionate about with the people I really want to spend a lot of time with. It might seem obvious, but it was kind of a revelation. I realized that I do actually spend a lot of my time trying to push forward way too many things, which means I can’t dedicate the right level of energy to any of them. So, the lesson of summer is: choose priorities wisely, line things up and get them done piece by piece, instead of trying to do everything at once.
Easier said than done, probably. I also have programming The Royal and helping REEL CANADA put together the 2014-15 catalogue (10th anniversary, yo) and helping Colin meet his TIFF deadlines and y’know, trying to spend at least 30 minutes a week actually enjoying the summer.
I’ve finally gotten around to reflecting on what films I really enjoyed at Cannes. These are in alphabetical order because I hate choosing favourites among my favourites.
Alleluia (dir. Fabrice Du Welz)
I loved this beautiful, disturbing, strange take on the Honeymoon Killers story, though it strays pretty far from the original. When Michel (Laurent Lucas, who also starred in the director’s debut feature, Calvaire) and single mom Gloria (Lola Dueñas) go out on a date, the last thing she expects to find out is that he’s a scam artist who seduces women and steals from them. And yet, the connection Gloria feels is too strong to ignore, and soon the couple are scheming to rob unsuspecting women together – that is, if they can before Gloria’s jealousy gets the better of her. The two leads are terrific, and the other women that surround them are wonderfully real (older, vibrantly sexual, full of a genuine yearning for love). Du Welz has a masterful eye for visual composition and for creating female characters whose emotional needs are cranked to 11 (or eleventy thousand).
Cold in July (dir. Jim Mickle)
Based on the book by Joe R. Lansdale, this tight little movie is hands down one of the best suspense thrillers of the year. Michael C. Hall (Dexter!) is Richard Dane, a small town Texas picture framer who shoots an intruder in his living room one night. When the intruder’s father – a dangerous ex con played by a perfectly ruthless Sam Shepard – arrives at the Dane’s doorstep looking for vengeance, the two men end up on the dark path together, because of course, nothing is ever as it seems in a good Texas noir. Don Johnson stands out as Jim Bob, the flashy pig-farmer-cum-private-eye who helps the two men get to the bottom of an ugly mystery. Good lord, has Don Johnson still got it! I mean, schwing!
It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
Maika Monroe (who also stars in Adam Wingard’s The Guest this year) is great in It Follows, as Jay, a teenage girl who gets more than she bargained for while on a date with a seemingly normal, mild-mannered dude. Seems he’s the carrier of an unusual sexually transmitted phantom that stalks and kills it prey. Now Jay’s got to enlist the help of her cadre of teenage pals to help her outrun the danger – or figure out a way to beat it, without getting killed in the process. It Follows delivers a driving synthy soundtrack and a very tense atmosphere throughout. I especially loved Mitchell’s portrayal of realistic teenagers and realistic teenage sexuality that never veers into exploitative territory in spite of the subject matter.
Lost River (dir. Ryan Gosling)
Gosling got a lot of bad reviews for Lost River, but I think that’s mainly because people had their knives out for him. The film takes place in the ruined outskirts of Detroit, where single mom Billy (Christina Hendricks) struggles to keep her dilapidated home and raise two boys. Her teenage son, Bones, (Iain De Caestecker), has problems of his own, mostly dealing with local thug Bully (Matt Smith, whose transformation from the endearingly tweedy Doctor Who to total monster is impressive). The film wears its influences on its sleeve (Refn, Wenders, Lynch, and others) but is a strong debut feature that looks absolutely gorgeous, mostly thanks to Benoît Debie, the DoP behind films like Vinyan, Enter the Void and Spring Breakers. I’ll say this much: it’s better than anything James Franco has ever directed, and Gosling is at least trying to do something artful and different, which we should be encouraging in any emerging filmmaker, instead of snarkily mocking him for it.
When Animals Dream (dir. Jonas Alexander Arnby)
This film was totally mis-marketed as a horror film. It’s not one. It’s a completely stunning and deeply moving drama about how the difficulties of being a young woman and growing up in a repressive small community. When strange things begin to happen to 16 year old Marie’s body, she starts to learn that her family has bigger secrets than she ever realized, and that perhaps her heavily sedated mother is not a helpless invalid but something else entirely – something that she too is now becoming. A great metaphor for how women’s power is often suppressed for “their own good” because men don’t know how to cope with it. A very different transformation / coming of age story than Ginger Snaps, but dealing with some similar issues.
White God (dir. Kornél Mundruczó)
A very, very odd film about a girl and her dog. The first half plays out like an urban Hungarian Incredible Journey. Precocious 12-year old Lili is separated from her beloved dog, Hagen, a lively mutt who goes on a wild adventure trying to find his way back to her. After Hagen falls into the hands of some bad guys, the film takes an unexpected turn. The final act is straight out of the grimmest revenge film, as Hagen goes on a bloody rampage (flanked by about 200 other dogs from the city pound) to punish everyone who’s ever wronged him. I couldn’t tell: was this an art house film with magic realism elements, or was it a genre film that leaves an insane number of loose ends and open questions? Either way, it has to be seen to be believed.
Friday May 23
The final weekend of Cannes was indeed wonderful, but could have been a lot more so if I hadn’t fallen into the oh-so-familiar trap of total festival burnout. After eight or nine days of racing around like a maniac, staying up too late, and eating erratically (I swear, this town is the king of “croissant for breakfast, forget to eat until 9pm dinner”), I started to get a little scratch in my throat. On Friday, I was still ok. By Saturday … well, you’ll read that in the next blog post, eh?
On Friday, that throat-scratch was still just a distant murmur, something I barely realized would become an issue. I dragged my butt out of bed and went to two films, both of which I really enjoyed. The first was the supremely weird Hungarian dog movie White God. I look forward to writing more about this one when I do my roundup of festival faves. The second was the almost universally panned Ryan Gosling joint, Lost River. I thought it was a pretty strong debut. Flawed, sure, but nowhere near as bad as many of the totally knives-out reviews would suggest. More on both of those in my movie roundup post in a couple of days.
After the films, C + I went back to the apartment to briefly chill before dinner, which was a lovely affair with Paul (from Frightfest), Chad (from the internet) and our lovely writer & food lover & all around charming friend Jason Gorber (from Toronto – how novel) at La Brouette de Grand-Mère (Grandmother’s Wheelbarrow), a restaurant we try to hit every year for its charming fixed price menu.
There are a couple of “set” courses that get brought out to the table family style – a big bowl of delicious salad and a huge loaf of homemade terrine with lots of bread (I think I ate my annual quota of bread during these two weeks) which comes accompanied by a glass of champagne.
This followed by a smoked salmon course (which is served with a shot of vodka) followed by individually selected mains (I had the pork loin and it was mighty fine) which are served with a big batch of communal scalloped potatoes (to die for, seriously). Tim & Karrie League joined us for dessert and some final catching up (my caramel pana cotta was excellent), which would have been a perfect end to the night. But of course, we went to the Petit instead.
A dear Toronto friend had been trying for a couple of days to hook me up with a cool lady he knows from the UK who happened to also be in Cannes, and on Friday we finally succeeded in meeting up at the Petit Majestic. She was delightful, the cheap (ish) beer flowed as easily as the conversation, and before I knew it I was hoarse and exhausted and it was 4am again. Oh, Cannes. You cruel mistress.