A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false." - Harold Pinter
There is nothing quite like feeling the excitement, nervousness, the sheer giddiness of sitting in an audience, in a large theatre full of strangers who have all gathered to see the film, or stage production that you created. Now I use the word "created" loosely in this sense, as I have held a number of different positions on set, and after working on each of them, with each unique experience and tribulations, when it all comes down to it, sitting there and listening to the reactions of those around you to what they are seeing, hearing them gasp, laugh, cry, jump... The sense of pride and accomplishment is second to none. The journey to that point is long- at times years in the making, with a lot of sweat, late nights and teamwork from a number of people... All for that moment when someone who knows nothing about the journey the film went through - sits down with a bag of popcorn to watch it. It is that sense of creation... Bringing a single idea, thought or image, making it into story on paper, reworking it, draft after draft... To then collecting the resources, the people, the talent and the time to make it into what you see on that screen. I recently helped on a short film called "Necromance", it's about 8 minutes long, took a weekend to shoot... And it has since been accepted into three film festivals and shown to audiences in different parts of the world. This creation that we made from scratch is now affecting people around the world. As you probably read in an earlier blog, a film I directed "Therapy" went to France - and was accepted extremely positively. I know that movies conjure images of fame and fortune and red carpets... And don't get me wrong, at the higher levels there is a lot of that, a lot of political and financial moves that take place... But at the heart of making a film... Is that sense of creation. Making something tangible... From nothing. With that comes a sense of accomplishment and pride as we look up and enjoy what we have created. That is one of the many positive aspects for the arts... It's the bringing together of incredible minds to brainstorm, troubleshoot and create something that wasn't there before. A way to release ideas; and at the same time inspire ideas from others. It is a way to push the boundaries and discover parts of yourself and the world around you that you didn't know were there before. This is film at it's heart. It's not easy to say the least. It is extremely taxing mentally, physically and mentally; with long days, eclectic work conditions and even more eclectic coworkers... But at the end, it's worth it. It's worth it after it is all said and done, to see what you created - and to experience how it affects others. That is art.
Filmmaking is a very broad term that can encompass a variety of different duties. It is almost a "jack of all". I haven't had my hand in filmmaking since I began my travels. I did help a friend on a short film a few weeks back (which was amazing!!), but other than that, I have been exploring other areas of my life, pursuing other passions. Getting back on set was probably one of THE best things I could have done. It surfaced many of the feelings and reasons I starting filmmaking to begin with. Traveling and expanding my other passions, it wasn't that I "fell out of love" with storytelling, it is just that I knew that I needed to step back, reanalyze my desire and refocus. To be honest, I didn't know how I would feel getting back on set. I was nervous, pretty rusty and very anxious. That lasted a day. Much like riding a bike, it all came back to me - With a vengeance. The energy and passion of the other filmmakers, the project, the community of a group of people all with the same passion coming together for a single goal and to support one persons vision. My heart was stolen once again. Love and passion have a way of doing that. No matter the distance, no matter the time, as soon as you step back into it, it is like you never left. Being a storyteller is like being on an emotional roller coaster. There are days that it drives me CRAZY!! I want to scream, growl, cry... Anything to release the buildup of emotion the desire to create builds. And others where I feel completely at peace, fulfilled with the process. Almost like an abusive relationship, or being bipolar... But the struggle is within. The need - And it is a NEED to create takes over. It is almost like there is nothing else in the world. Being away from it for so long, there were other desires that took the place of the one to create, but they were only temporary. It was always there. I recently had the opportunity to edit a short video for a contest "#60days in paradise"
If you talk to any filmmaker... Or really any person who has attempted to submit a film to a festival, you will hear the same... Most films only have a "year shelf life"... Meaning you need to promote the film to your best ability for the first year after it's made, because most likely after that year, the chances of finding a festival that will take the film goes down dramatically. This isn't exactly wrong either. If you read a lot of rules for many of the big festivals, one of the requirements is that the film has been made within the past twelve months. That is why after a year, as a filmmaker you start looking for different avenues to market your creation; be it through the internet, DVD’s, iTunes… And this is why “Therapy” has been such an anomaly. We filmed “Therapy” in 2010, and from the moment it was ready we did everything we could to get it out to the world. A project of passion, one that was dear to our hearts and one that we felt could reach out to people around the world. Rejection letter after rejection letter was received, and as much as we tried to keep our spirits up, we started wondering if it would be accepted. The “Vancouver Women In Film Festival” acceptance letter came in, and we were ecstatic! The 3 days at the festival, surrounded by fellow filmmakers sharing the same passions and learning from others in the industry, we left rejuvenated-the passion burning in our souls once again. A couple of years later the film is submitted to the National Screen Institute… And from there Gimbli, and then in February 2014 the Festival Regards sur le cinéma du monde in France showed it at their festival. After months… YEARS of submitting it, paying for the submission dues… Suddenly almost 4 years later, festivals are coming to us and WANTING to show it. Everything we ever thought about festivals began blurring… There are no definite lines, NEVER give up on your passions. Not only was it viewed at the festival… It won Audience Choice!! Our amazing Producer/Writer Meeshelle Neal was in attendance to accept the award. Although there was the language barrier of French/English, the welcome the film received was warm as it surpassed the cultural boundaries and touched those thousands of miles away from where it originated. The feeling of pride, of joy that our short 15 minute film could affect others across the world became reality. It is one thing to hear about it, to know your film is being viewed elsewhere… But when feelings are expressed directly to the filmmakers, questions answers, feelings and realizations shared… It becomes what film is meant to be…. A bridge between an idea, and a feeling. The idea from the filmmaker, eliciting an emotion from the audience member. That is the greatest gift any filmmaker can receive – is that acknowledgement that what they created touched someone. You may argue that and say it is winning awards (Oscars, etc.)… But I can say from firsthand experience that being able to sit in a theatre, watching what you have created up on the big screen, listening to the reactions of other audience members… When they laugh, when they gasp… You begin to see parts of the film you never saw before. You see it with new eyes. Then after the film when others approach you with experiences on how the film affected them, what they felt… There is nothing better. That is why I became a filmmaker. That is what drives me to tell my stories. To reach out to people and know that I have touched their lives. I love being a filmmaker.
“Live in the moment”. “Enjoy the now”. “Savour this feeling”. These are all phrases thrown around daily… But the question is… How?
Life is an incredible, fascinating, confusing journey on this spinning globe we call earth. There is no greater gift than the opportunity to wake up each morning and take on a brand new day. It can be glorious, painful, exciting, frustrating and enlightening... All at the same time. It is through the moments of your greatest pain and confusion, that one can experience the greatest enlightenment. The times of confusion where your entire being is screaming "Why me?!?!" or "This isn't what was supposed to happen!", are the moments you will look back on and see that those were the moments that were the beginning of something glorious and amazing. In those moments of change, of intense pain and confusion, instead of pushing the feelings away and suppressing them - embrace the feelings. Allow them to control your being. Laugh, cry, hate, release, scream out... Grasp these emotions, as they are what make us human. We aren't robots, we can't be strong and composed at all times. Strength and character are built from these moments of weakness, and how we work through these times and come out on top.
Even though my journey through Europe has been going on for almost a year, for myself, it truly began in the Balkans. First day: Sept. 20, 2013 in Dubrovnik. People always seem to comment, or tease people who travel for extended periods, saying "You'll come back a new person..." Or "You'll learn so much about yourself..."; and if you had said that to me 3 weeks ago... I would have laughed at you and said "How cliche!", and gone on about how we are the same before an after, we may have new experiences BUT... Blah blah blah.. That was before my trip truly began. My time in the Balkans may have been short, but the impact on my life, and how I view the world and myself has been huge. There is a part of me that wishes I had had more time there... But deep down I know that every moment had its purpose, and it was perfect as it was.
The tallest volcano in Europe, located in southern Sicily, by Catania. Having read up on it online, seeing photos, etc. I knew instantly that I needed to see the world from the top. Looking at different tours and possibilities, nothing quite felt right, as the idea of being herded around like sheep in a tour didn't appeal to me, and there was something deep down that felt like I needed to do this on my own. I see now that my spirit longed for the opportunity to conquer... Something... Anything.
Excuses. We all make them, and they are what I have come to believe are what separate the successful, from the ordinary. They are what stop people from living their dreams and doing more than what they ever thought possible. I don't want to sound "preachy", or like I'm on a high horse, because I am the first to admit that I am notorious for making excuses. Example: 5 years ago my 5 year plan was to complete a feature film. And... Well... Here I am, with no feature film under my belt. Over the past 5 years my excuses were plentiful "I need to make a couple more shorts to gain more experience", "this script isn't ready", "where am I going to find the funding?"... And the list goes on. Now they are all very viable excuses... But to be 100% honest with myself, if I really wanted to make a feature film, I would have. I really wanted to travel Europe, and look what happened? There have been MANY obstacles that I had to face to get here... Yet because I truly wanted it, I made it happen. I've seen this not only in myself, but in others as well. They have said that they want to do something, yet they "can't" for x reasons. Now let me tell you a story that I heard recently that inspired my thoughts on excuses. I was speaking with another traveller, and he was saying that he travelled from Seattle to Malta... By "hitchhiking" on boats. He essentially thumbed it across the Atlantic... And he's gonna keep going across the Mediterranean. I tell you this as the ultimate statement of "Where there's a will, there's a way". He could have told himself "I can't afford it", or "it's impossible to get to Europe unless I fly"... But he did it. If he can do that, then I have absolutely NO excuse. People who say "I can't lose weight because I don't have time to go to the gym"... I challenge you to write out a weekly schedule of all your activities, all the way down to your favourite TV show, and I can almost guarantee that you will find time.. All you have to do is want it, and schedule it in. Make it a priority. Life is priorities.
It's funny, when you think of ancient ruins, roman colosseums, and people like Julius Caesar and Hadrian, you think of Italy... Of Rome. Turkey doesn't tend to cross your mind... At least it didn't for me. Then to come here and step back in time to a place in the world that is so full of Turkish, Greek, Ottoman, Lycian culture... No other place has compared to the depth of Turkey. I don't know what I expected when I came here... In my mind I pictured a place very eastern feeling... Much like Morocco (which is funny considering Morocco is geographically more west than Turkey)... But Turkey is an incredible mix of East and West. I have never met such warm, welcoming people. Our first day in Turkey we venture off to do some sightseeing and decide to take public transportation to the "Düden" waterfalls. Taking public transportation is an excellent way to immerse yourself into the everyday of the city you're in, I love it!! And we ended up getting off too early... 3 Kms too early. Speaking with a gentleman/cafe owner on the corner (and by speaking I mean communicating as best we can through sign language as neither of us spoke the other language!! Lol), he flagged over another fellow from across the street who then jumped in a car and drove us the rest of the way to the waterfalls! When I offered him payment as a thank you he refused to take it and drove off, waving goodbye as he left. There is a relaxed type of feel to everyplace we have visited, and it has really been the people that have made this part of our journey incredible. Before this, Croatia took my breath away with its stunning coastline and crystal clear waters. The coastlines in Turkey are stunning, but they don't compare to that of Croatia... But if I were to choose where to come back, it would be Turkey, and that is because of the people... Well, and the culture and history... I've become a bit of a history lover on this trip.
Homeless and Unemployed. On an average day that thought would be frightening to most people. Not having an address, a roof over your head, or a job to pay the bills. The uncertainty and unknown of the future. Pictures of shopping carts and dark alleys rush into your mind. Yet here I am. Both Homeless... And Unemployed - and have been for months now. To be honest, when I started on the crazy European adventure, it was the thought of being a nomad that frightened me the most. It is easy to become complacent in a life of security. Knowing when the next paycheque is coming, being able to go home at the end of the day knowing that everything within those four walls is yours. To take all of that away, strip life down to the bare essentials, strap it to your back and leave... It is quite daunting. Priorities start taking different shapes. Instead of being stressed out about calling back that client the next morning, or watering the grass... You start working on where you are going to sleep the next night, and how you are going to get there, whether it be by bus, train, boat or plane. Oil changes on your car becomes trips to the train station to buy your ticket for the next morning. Priorities change and life takes on a different meaning. It no longer becomes about making money, retirement plans and promotions - it becomes about experiences, 1000 year old monuments and life. discovering who you are, how you tick, and what truly matters to you. Traveling has a way of putting everything in order and allowing you to truly see what is actually important in life. It is tough, grueling, stressful, rewarding, beautiful and worth every moment of each trip. All of the ups and downs, mistakes and breathtaking moments all come together to create a life that is truly unique to you. Only you have gazed upon the Eiffel tower at that exact moment, in that exact spot, with your own eyes. It is no one elses but your own. It is easy to go onto a computer and look at photos of the Sahara desert, but to actually feel the heat off the sand, climb a sand dune to watch the moon rise over the horizon, hear the night come alive in the wind as different sounds and scents blow across your face... Only then have you seen the Sahara desert. Traveling conjures up so many mixed feelings and actually makes you feel alive. For a short moment in your life, you are free. You are free of everything that held you back before and you are able to fully enjoy what this life has to offer. It teaches you how to live without boundaries. It allows you to dream without restraints. Traveling shows you that anything is possible, all you have to do is jump.
Having been traveling for a bit now, I've picked up a few pointers or tips for future travels, and maybe others who are planning on strapping a backpack to their back and hitting the road to see what adventures lay beyond. I was thinking it might be nice to share a few of them... Only a few otherwise this could go on forever... And I gotta go do some more exploring!
Auschwitz. Just the name can induce feelings of fear and images of destruction, pain and suffering into the minds of people. I had learned about the holocaust and Hitler in school, but to see first hand what he did to people, and it wasn't only him, but Heinrich Himmler and others as well who all contributed to the pain they inflicted on innocent people. Having visited the Dachau concentration camp just outside Berlin, done some tours in Germany, France and Poland, researched some information on WWII while we were in Germany in December, I thought that I was prepared for what I was to witness at Auschwitz & Auschwitz Birkenau, but nothing at all could have prepared me for the horror. Hundreds of pounds, yes POUNDS of hair. The prisoners were forced to have their heads shaved when they entered the camp, their hair sold, or woven into textiles like rugs. a rug made of the hair of suffering prisoners of a concentration camp. The horror of the nazis went beyond the scope of what I ever could have imagined. Millions of pairs of shoes from the victims of the camp stacked high in cabinets along the corridors, stories of pregnant women being shot point blank because they were pregnant. A concrete wall stands solitary along the back of a courtyard, a memorial with flowers stands in front, where men women and children all stood... Sometimes families, all stood in front of a firing squad; the youngest to be executed being only two months old. The bodies being burned in the crematorium, where inside was both the crematorium and the gas chamber, where the walls are still covered in the scratch marks of the men, women and children who suffocated within those walls, only to be burned in the next room, and their ashes used to make cement. Medical "Professionals" used the prisoners as guinea pigs to test their sick and twisted experiments on. This is only the first camp, Auschwitz I... The small camp.
Have you ever had one of those days when nothing seems to go right? No matter how hard you try, it seems that the universe is against you? In the regular day to day, you can just go home, close the door, lock the windows and wait for tomorrow to come and start everything fresh again. When you are traveling though, it's not quite that easy... It can be a lot harder to conquer the tribulations that keep getting thrown at you, and there is nowhere to hide.
The word identity evokes many different ideas to different people. People have identity crisis, they try to discover who they are, what they want to do, who they want to be, and most of this stems from their past, what they have done, experienced and seen. This shapes who you are today, and who you will be in the future. Identity is extremely important to people, to cultures... And also, as I have learned on this trip - Countries. A person saying that they are "trying to find themselves", doesn't seem that far fetched, and in fact is quite common. But to hear of a country doing the same thing, it seems a little odd... Especially countries like Spain, England, France, that have been around for centuries, and at one point have been huge dynasties. Places like Canada and America, are young and still trying to figure things out, but to look at Spain, who is also struggling to discover itself, is such an eyeopener. Riddled with wars, struggles for independence, different cultural and religious influences from Muslim to Christian to Catholic, all coming together in a huge mixing pot of people and ideas that are trying hard to find their true "Spanish" identity. There are times when I do look at Canada and think that it is easier as it is a new country and can just start anew without the history... Much like construction, at times it is easier to build a new house, than to try to renovate an older one. That being said, there is a lot to be said for "older homes" - the character, the life that it has, that you can't find in a new home. Experiencing different parts of Spain is like walking through different countries. Granada compared to Barcelona or even Madrid, is like night and day. The accents of the language are different, the people, the food, the streets, the feel... It is incredible to see that cities are able to keep their own personal identity within the same country. The Spanish people are a strong willed, opinionated people who have strong roots in the past, but at the same time long for change and a new world, and aren't afraid to speak out for what they believe. I admire this, and strive to take that away for myself as well. It is important to live the life you want, follow your heart and stand up for what you believe in. Being in Morocco, and meeting people, when you met someone who was Berber, they stated it proudly and with conviction. It was wonderful to see the pride in their eyes of their heritage. I loved it. They know who they are.
The longer I am in Europe, the more I realize the devastation and impact that war has had on the world. Not only in terms of the number of lives lost, which in itself is extremely sobering and should be enough to stop anyone from beginning future wars, but also in what we as humans have lost in historic information and cultural identity. How many historic records, priceless pieces of art & literature and magnificent architecture/ancient ruins must be destroyed by the hand of greed and war? When will it end? I know for myself as someone who has only grown up learning of war from textbooks and films, I never fully realized the extent of the damage done by the hand of war. To walk through the streets here where stone walls are riddled with craters made from bombs and guns. To see first hand the memorials erected in memory of the brave men and women who lost their lives at the hand of a force that was threatening both the freedom of themselves an their families, but also generations to come. To feel the impact war has had... Even as I walk the streets today... It is a feeling that is hard to describe and put into words. Walking along the beaches of Normandy, looking across the beaches and out toward the water, the views breathtaking as I feel like I am in the tropics, the feeling on June 6, 1944 must have been extremely different. The very place where children now play and people walk along the promenade was once stained in blood. Why do we not learn from history? Over and over it continues to repeat itself, always leading countries into war against each other. For what? It always seems to be some sort of political, religious, greed or revenge motive, and it is not the perpetrators who suffer the most, but instead the millions of people who somehow get caught in the cross-fire.
The adventure has begun. Having bounced around Ireland and Iceland, it is easy to see why people get addicted to traveling and never stop. Some of the places I have been just in the past two weeks have been breathtaking and I am excited to see what the next few months have in store. Iceland is an absolute must see for everyone and anyone. There are no words that can describe the landscape and the scenery. I do highly recommend going to the north as well, and not just sticking to Reykjavik and the south. Myvatn Lake is out of this world. The view changes around every corner. One moment you feel like your in a painting the landscape is so beautiful. The next turn your on Mars with the red mud-like dirt, then you blink and you are in a winter wonderland with the world around you covered in white. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been. Almost a thousand photos later, I have my work cut out for me with having to go through them! The history and story behind each place we visit adds to the beauty of the country as I learn more about the people, culture and what has formed societies outside of what I know in Canada. I must admit I have a new found respect and admiration for the Irish people. They have been beat down so many times through the years, from revolutions, wars, famines.. And yet they still fight through the hardships and keep moving forward. The more I learn about different cultures the more I see that there are many stereotypes that are true. I know people like to make fun of stereotypes, but at the same time, it is the little quirks that make each place that much more exciting and fun to visit.
I am not the same person who boarded the plane from Vancouver to London on October 17, 2012. As cliche as that may sound, it is the truth. There hasn't been some profound revelation that has blown everything I ever believed in. Or some moment of light that has changed my life forever. It is the small day to day happenings - and how I react to them, and how they affect me that has changed. Stepping outside of the life I had created in Vancouver and beginning a new adventure in London has been one of the biggest eye opening experiences of my life. I did it before in 2007 when I moved from Calgary to Vancouver - but it wasn't the same. The way in which the world is viewed, the way in which life is lived out here is different, and being surrounded by it opens your eyes to everything you had, and everything you took for granted. I know that I have touched upon many of these thoughts in my previous blogs, but I don't think I myself fully comprehended the extent, or reality of what I was feeling/experiencing.
It seems that as of late the topic of "questioning information" surrounds me. Questioning the media, art, "facts", images, stories... Everything. What is there in life that we can take at face value? This topic has risen with conversations with multiple customers where I work that all seem to hit on the subject, one where the gentleman actually said point blank "I raised my children to question everything", to a passionate conversation about the film "Argo" and how the facts/story/events were "hollywoodized" for the film, and yet because the words "based on true events" is displayed, people will take it as truth. Yet the "truth" is only that of the opinion of the storyteller/director - and what they want the "truth" of THEIR story to be. This is true with any conversation, piece of art, story in the media - the story told is only that of the person telling it. This is also why Canada has refused to allow Fox News into Canada because of the way they tell their stories - they are very biased in how they relay their facts and offer their own "opinions" which they pass as true information and claim that it is up to the viewer to make their own opinions and question. This is true to an extent where yes - people shouldn't take everything they hear at face value, but instead dig deeper and learn all sides of the story... But when it comes to the news, many people just trust that what they see/hear is truth - because the source in which we hear it from we trust to have gathered all of the facts and shown them without bias. Yet every story has bias. This is why the more I think about that conversation I had with the gentleman, and the statement he made about how he raised his children - the more I believe his words ring true.
The mid point of March has now arrived and the travels of April creep closer and closer. Plans for Iceland are in place and the looking into Ireland, Scotland and Wales has begun. The travels of a lifetime are upon me and I feel like a kid in a candy store with so many bright and yummy options to choose from, I don't know where to begin! The wanting to see everything, and at the same not overload each day too much proves to be a fine balancing act, but at the same time makes me laugh at the idea that these are my biggest worries. London has been a fantastic experience, I have had the opportunity to do a lot of soul searching, growing and reflective review of myself which I feel has brought me to a place where I will be able to enjoy the travels ahead more fully, and whatever may lie beyond this time in Europe. There has been a constant struggle of trying not to look too far ahead, as if there is anything these past 5 months have taught me - it's that no matter how much you may plan... Things have a way of happening in their own way. Take Germany in December for instance. That wasn't part of the initial plan AT ALL... And yet has been a huge highlight of the trip so far, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Iceland is the same - it was going to happen... Then not... Then yes... Now it is on and I have the opportunity to share it not only with the one I love, but also with one of my favourite cousins! Having the ability to share this experience with someone else has been incredible. There are of course pros and cons of both traveling in groups or solo... But having someone there to share the experiences with, who may see things that you don't - that you can discuss events and experiences with... That has to be one of the best parts of this trip so far. The feeding off of each others excitement and bringing different ideas to the trip has been so positive as our list of places to see grows daily. I want to see the architecture, history and landscapes... While bringing in the relaxing idea of checking out some of the "top 25 beaches in the world" wouldn't have crossed my mind on my own... Traveling with someone who is so excited to find these beaches and balance the sightseeing with a little rnr is confirmation that this is exactly how the world is supposed to be discovered... Together.
Complacency, security and fear. Three themes I have been struggling to figure out and come to terms with for years. They have been the topic of many of my stories and films as I attempt to find my path in this world. They are the main themes of "The Countdown", as Bill and Sam struggle against the norm, the security of their environment against what is morally right. It is easy to settle for something safe as it offers security and the peace of mind that the future is taken care of... That the world you have built will still be there in the future. Of course if you are to speak with any of the richest people in the world, they will tell you that their success came because they took big risks a the beginning to build what they created. They wouldn't have what they do today if they had stayed with the shift work job, or the office job. They looked outside the box, put everything they had on the line for their dream and they went for it. I know that the odds for success are most likely 1000 to 1 for those who make it compared to those who end up filing bankruptcy... That is where the fear comes in. It is that fact that stops millions of people from putting it all on the line.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. It's funny how these simple words hold so much truth, yet at the same time are so easily forgotten. For me, at the moment, it is being absent from home that is making my heart fonder. Hearing what people from other parts of the world think of Canada, Canadians, the cold, the freedom... It really does paint a clearer picture of how lucky I am... And how proud I am to be Canadian. You always hear how the rest of the world thinks that Canadians are so nice and polite... And we are. We are always there with a helping hand and a friendly smile. Coming to England I wasn't expecting much of a culture shock, I figured we were part of the commonwealth, both English speaking countries, it wouldn't be that different. I was obviously expecting some differences... But I am surprised by how different it truly is... And a big part of it is the people, attitudes and relationships. The people that I have met here have been wonderful, I don't want to convey the wrong idea, but in Canada there is more of an openness, a friendliness and a genuine heartfelt feeling of trust that I haven't found here. The ability to meet someone and connect freely without restraint. The worlds perspective of Canada of freedom and openness... Is true. Growing up in that environment I didn't fully ascertain the fullness of that viewpoint until I was able to look at Canada through the eyes of an outsider. Living elsewhere and being able to reflect and compare - I see now just how lucky I am, and why having a Canadian passport in my pocket is the one thing I can be most proud of. I have had many conversations from people who are from across Europe - people from France, Spain, Poland, Germany, Italy, etc.... And they have all asked the same question... Why have you come here? They are surprised that I would leave Canada to come live in Europe... Why I would ever want to leave Canada at all. At first the question caught me off guard, because I didn't fully understand the meaning behind the question... But I do now.
London is a city much like New York in the sense that many people come from all over the world to make a better life for themselves and reach their dreams and goals. It is a multicultural hub of diversity, creativity and opportunity. Working in a theatre, I am surrounded by like-minded creative people from many different focuses - acting, photography, theatre, film making - and there does seem to be a common struggle for everyone, and that is the balance between art and life. The cost of living here is extremely high with wages that do not meet the demand. The struggle is finding the time and ability to practice their art while having to work & live. This of course is a struggle for artists across the globe, but there seems to be a very defined cynicism of London from the artists I have met. A feeling of being drained by this city with no energy to fulfill their dreams even when they do have the time. Having not lived here long I personally don't have this issue but can see where these feelings can stem from. London does have a pulsing energy that never stops, from the bustle of the streets, the rumbling of the tube underneath, the energy of the nightlife in Soho, to smell of exhaust and the beauty of the building centuries old that surround you on every corner. It is an extremely easy place to get lost... And lose yourself in. It becomes easy to lose sight of the beauty of the surroundings as you go about the daily grind. This comes from centuries of struggle this city has endured, the countless battles it has weathered, and the fact that in itself, London is a Kingdom. Much like the many large cities in Europe.. Like Rome and Paris, London was once an empire of itself. It has been conquered, defeated, beaten, rebuilt, redefined, and risen again amongst rubble to overcome. With all of this history and life at every corner of it - it is easy to lose yourself in it. There is a sense of the inability to break through and into the lifeblood that is London. This is a fast paced, unforgiving city, and maybe in that sense there is the idea that if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere - and that is probably true in true Darwinian fashion... Only the strong survive.
A recent dinner with a friend brought up an interesting topic of conversation that resonated with me, and has been something that I can’t shake. A very simple five words with a message very simple and straightforward.
You know it's Oscar season once again when Hollywood releases it's big guns out to the masses and movie-goers all flock to the theatres to see the big contenders. It is a business with dollar signs in it's eyes and the ways to making those dollars down to an art. All of that being said, Les Mis is definitely one of - if not the biggest contender in the Oscars. You add a tried, tested and true story that has withheld the test of time, been on Broadway and the London West End for countless years, still performing to sold out crowds - and to make that into a film... You of course will have an instant success. Much like Marvel and DC Comics with the Action Hero audience, you put up something like Les Mis on the silver screen, you will undoubtedly attract the theatre and art crowd - along with those people who have heard of Les Miserables and just "aren't into "Musicals" or "spending the money to go to a live performance" (which I completely disagree with, but know this to be true). This being said, bringing such an amazing story to the screen does allow it to be opened up to a much larger, mainstream audience, and that is one of the great aspects that I love about film.
Go with your gut
Even on the dreary grey days of January, London can inspire and excite. A walk around Regent’s Park on a brisk, cool afternoon has a way of lifting the spirits and clearing the mind. There may be no leaves on the trees, and the passerby’s may be wearing scarves and earmuffs, but there is something calming about everything. All of my thoughts and worries melted away for a moment and I could breathe. The story I am currently working on is growing, like a living thing it began as just random thoughts, images and emotions scattered onto a page, needing to be released from my mind as I tried to make sense of them. It has now turned into a journey as the protagonist has grown and taken a life of it’s own. I have never experienced writing in this way and it excites me as I feel that the character is taking me on a journey, and not the other way around. Every time I read it, something new emerges and I realize something new. Who is this person on this page? And where did they come from. I have no idea where I’m going, or how I’m getting there, but I know it’s going to be one helluva ride!
With each place I visit, each experience that I partake adds more to who I am, who I have become. It is like each day changes who we are as we evolve into who we will be tomorrow. The exciting part about that – is that we don’t know who we will be tomorrow. We have the choices of today to determine that. I of course am not saying that there are drastic changes from one day to the next, that we can become completely different people in the blink of an eye, but that each day takes us one step closer to who we are to ultimately become; and who we are to become is based solely on the decisions and experiences we make today, that we make now. This idea is not a revelation by any means, as I am sure that everyone has come to the same conclusion at some point – a very inspiring teacher I once had recited the words “the more you do, the more you are”, and even though it has been probably fifteen years since those classes, and many of the lessons I have learned since then have been long forgotten; those words have stuck with me. Each new day brings with it new opportunities to become… More. More of who we want to become, and of course the opposite is also true and if we are not careful, can lead us down the wrong path as well. This idea can lead to a multitude of questions, and grander ideas, but when all comes down to it, there is only one question to ask, and that will lead to the answers of any questions that arises: Who do I want to be? By answering that question, or at least striving to find the answer to that question will lead you closer to becoming that person. I want to be a storyteller. A filmmaker, writer, theatre director… A teller of stories. Because of this, I love listening to other people speak, I love going to the movies and learning from other storytellers, and how they relay their own pieces of art. Most of all, I enjoy sitting back and “people watching”. Observing real life and how people interact, trying to decipher their train of thought that brought them to that exact moment. It is in that understanding that I can become a better storyteller.
It has officially been a month in Germany. The journey began on December 3rd 2012 in Hamburg, and the flight leaves tomorrow (January 4 2013) out of Berlin. The time has flown by, yet at the same time I feel like I have been here forever. The idea of heading back to London seems foreign, that it has been months since I was last there. Although there were many doubts at the beginning whether doing Germany for an entire month was the smart thing to do... Looking back, I wouldn't want it any other way. The culture and history here is so rich and vibrant. The people with so much life, the countryside so lush - even through the snow it took my breath away. From Hamburg to Koln, Koln to Dresden, Dresden to Munich, to Aalen to Konstanz to Berlin... The diversity and character of each city felt like I was in a different part of the world for each. From the Industrial feel of Hamburg, to the beer loving Bavaria, to the breathtaking views of Konstanz and the alternative feel of Berlin, Germany has something for everyone.
It is official, the world did not end in 2012, life as we know it still races on into the future, and a new year has arrived!! Rang in 2013 surrounded by a million people from all the corners of the world. When I say "a million"... I literally mean over a million other people at the largest outdoor party in the world. The Brandenburg Gate lit up the sky as the Golden Quadriga of Victory sat atop the lights of the city and party setting it aglow. The perfect backdrop to an amazing way to ring in the New Year. Spirits were high and smiles were everywhere as the crowd made their way to the event. Fireworks going off all around... And the clock hadn't hit 9:00pm (21:00) yet! It was the first time I had seen police officers in what looked like full military garb.. I will admit it made me a bit nervous, but the night went on without any disturbances (that I could see at least). Along with the police, the amount of fireworks (and fireworks shrapnel left over on the streets afterwards lol) was astounding! It seemed that everyone was lighting some sort of firework and watching them go off along the street! It put Guy Fawkes Night in London to shame... And there were fireworks going off for 2 weeks afterwards in London!
If you would have asked me 6 months ago how I would be spending my Christmas this year, there would have been no way that I would have been able to guess how it actually happened!
Germany has been a huge learning experience from walking the streets and meeting the people, to standing in awe of the amazing architecture, to questioning things throughout the day and going back to the hostel to look up facts. The streets of Germany are paved history books, each step bringing you closer to the knowledge of the past. I must admit that Dresden has been one of the most fascinating cities we've been to (so far, we have yet to make it to Munich or Berlin yet!). This city was a European cultural hub for centuries. There were priceless works of art here, the architecture of the buildings was breath-taking... And then WWII hit. It wasn't so much that it hit Dresden either, but instead due to the cultural richness of the city, it was bypassed by the Allied forces, as it was not seen as a threat. That is until February 13, 1945 - months before the end of the war, it was known at that time that the end of the war was near as the Allied forces were making their way into Germany. The night of February 13, 1945, the Allied forces bombed the city of Dresden, destroying it and killing thousands of people. The exact number of innocent people killed is unknown as refugees and people from other cities had been migrating to Dresden as it was considered to be a safe place. There are many speculations as to why the city was bombed, but it is not known for sure. The repercussions of the bombing is felt, even to this day. There are neo-nazi groups that come from all around Germany to protest in Dresden every year on February 13, protesting against the Allied forces and comparing the bombing of Dresden to the Holocaust. This is met with resistance from anti-nazi groups, and huge altercations have ensued.
Well... I have officially said good-bye to one decade and have entered a new one. Turning 30 has been a mixture of many different emotions, but a sense of ownership and acceptance have taken the lead. People say that "30 is the new 20", but I don't know if that is quite true. At 20 a person is just trying to sort things out, just starting off in life, trying new things, making mistakes and blindly moving forward into the world of "adulthood"
A city rich with life and stories, it becomes easy to get lost in the hustle of the people, the rushing of the vehicles going by, and to forget to step back and take it all in. There is a story within each person that passes. Behind each vehicle that goes by there is a history of the roads the tires have traveled, and who has sat in it. The time and years rush by like trains and it is the moments when you take the time to stop and take yourself out of the rush that take your breath away. I was speaking with someone who grew up in the UK, and I described my awe for the architecture and the city of London, and the response I received was "You'll get over it". It shocked me at first, then I started to think about it, and the meaning behind the words. This is a person who grew up amongst the 1000 year old buildings and the walked their whole life upon the cobblestone streets - there was nothing new or exciting for them about it anymore, it no longer holds the beauty in their eyes. Much like a child experiencing the world for the first time, everything is new and exciting, while to an adult, it's nothing special. I want to experience the world through the eyes of a child again. I want to take the same approach with my art as well. I look back to the very first film I made, or even farther to the first large stage production... And the emotion and raw energy I infused into the whole production. Years later the life disappeared and I began to doubt. Being out here has ignited the spark again - I am experiencing the world anew again, and so are my stories. Every story ever written or told comes from life, a person's experience, which then leads to imagination and when put to paper can be magical. Experience breathes life into all things, and when your life becomes ordinary or mundane, there is nothing new to ignite life into your stories. The key is keep the stories alive with life.
I can't believe we have been in London for almost two weeks... It feels like it's been ages, yet at the same time, has gone by in the blink of an eye. This city is so rich with history and life, it's so easy to get swept away in the moment. There is so much to see and do-it has definitely been a very full 2 weeks!
The European adventure has begun! And what better place to begin than in London. It has been a very steep learning curve the past 3 days, but at the same time a real effort to take things as they come and not become overwhelmed. Surprisingly we have both been jetlagged, and just starting to get into the proper schedule. I say surprisingly because last time I was here I didn't suffer jetlag at all - but I also wasn't able to sleep on this flight, which is probably the main culprit. Yesterday was amazing as we traveled the city, obtained our "oyster cards" for the tube, opened our bank accounts, stumbled across an amazing market called "Borough Market" with dead turkeys hanging from the ceiling, feathers and all, along side a headless deer. A butcher selling "kangaroo burgers", "Reindeer burgers" and "Ostrich burgers" caught our eye. What an eclectic city of accents, languages and people. It is so alive with energy and buzzing with life, it is so easy to get lost in the organized chaos. It may be said that New York is a melting pot... But then London would be it's European counter part. Such diversity found everywhere, I can see why there is such rich art that comes out of this incredible city.
The past couple of months have been an absolute upheaval! With the packing of an apartment we have been living in for 2.5 years - to somehow getting it all into a 5x10 storage locker (thank you so much to Jeremy and Meghan for somehow squeezing it in there with space to spare!) - it is interesting how much just STUFF a person accumulates... In a very short amount of time. It also puts life into perspective of what is actually important when you have to make the decision of what to keep, and what to get rid of. The idea of living out of a backpack for 2 years seemed daunting at first, but has since become a reality... And freeing in it's own way. It makes "things" seem unimportant, and what is really important to the forefront. Life. Experiences. People. We only walk the earth once, and to surround ourselves with things, and get stuck in that world seems like a waste when you can get out and discover what the world and life has to offer. I haven't left Canada yet, but already this adventure has had a huge impact on me. To be honest, I feel already that when we do open that storage locker, and go through the boxes, there will be many things that will be purged again. May sound backwards-we are storing things unnecessarily, but at the same time, they had a purpose at the time, and we packed them for a reason. As we change and grow, the purposes will change and what we hold important will also change. To be honest, it also came down to the wire of just getting things in boxes because it was happening the next day :)
It is a virtue... It is something that many filmmakers require a great deal of. From the very spark of an idea, to the writing of it, to the raising of the funds, planning, crewing.. It can be months.. Years... Decades before it actually goes into production. Then there is the actually filming... And then it goes into post-production... Which can be a longer process than the others put together. There have been films that have sat on shelves for multiple decades unfinished that are just now seeing the light of day. from the picture editing, to the sound design, to the music, to the effects, color, mix... It is not an easy feat. And it all begins with an idea... A thought... A dream... A fleeting image... And your life is booked for the next 10 years, give or take 20 years. What is it that drives a single person to carry a project all of the way through that process? Do not get me wrong, a film is comprised of a multitude of people... But there is always that one person who sees it from day one, all of the way through to day 18,462. Perhaps this isn't true in the more commercial industry, but in the indie scene.. That one person has the drive, the passion the will... And the patience to see that vision all of the way through to the end. I am currently applying for a working/travel visa, and it has been through this experience that I have discovered that I... Am not patient. If I want something, I want it now. This does have it's advantages... I make things happen. There is no maybe. I have yet to be on a show where I have set a date to shoot... And it has not happened on that date, or at least within a week of that date. Through hell or high water, I'm getting it done... Maintenance Man is a testament to that. I was talking with a friend yesterday and we were discussing shows, and he was mentioning a show he was on that has been pushed multiple times, and it just keeps getting pushed... To the point where he is questioning whether he wants to still be on it. What does that say about the show? Yet at the same time the opposite can be said that if the filmmakers are not ready - is it worth pushing something through that may not deliver the end result you are looking for? There are always 2 sides of the coin. I could debate this for hours, but my main focus here isn't dedication - but patience. It is something that is definitely learned. It comes with practice - and in a way it goes hand in hand with the ability to let things go. These are two of my weaknesses, and perhaps may actually just be one. To have the ability to just let things go and allow the chips to fall as they may... And the patience to wait until they hit the ground. To come prepared knowing that I have done everything in my ability to make things work, and then just trust that they will. This is my next self project. Being a filmmaker isn't just something that I do - it shapes who I am, and coincidentally who I am shapes the films I make. It will be the project that I nurture and grow that will be the closest to the story that I want to tell... And that will require patience. Look at Avatar. It was 10 years in the making and I am sure that in that time Cameron could have made some sacrifices and made it sooner... But he chose to wait, and it was cinematically breathtaking. That is what I will strive toward. Not everything will come to me now, but as I keep working at it, the pieces will fall into place.
Now for the fun stuff... Submitting to festivals! After the screening of Maintenance Man, we took a little time, corrected some of the color issues we noticed on the big screen, added the credits and prepared Maintenance Man for the festival circuit. Sitting at just under 13 minutes fully complete, it is a little long, but it is ready for the plunge! There are a few festivals we are looking at, and the focus at this point is to submit to some of the smaller festivals, see if we can build some more hype for the film and feel out if it is ready for some of the bigger festivals. After Therapy, it has been an interesting ride through the festival circuit. Therapy was a film that when it was screened, and even now, when people watch it, it affects them - they can relate to the message and it resonates. Yet when we submitted to festivals - it just couldn't get in. One of the reasons 9that I discussed with a friend over coffee, and it seemed to really make sense) was the length of the film. To look at it from a festivals standpoint, what is better to show? 4-15 minute films, or 6-10 minute films (or more)? The more films you screen, the more people will come out, the better the attendance, the better the profits... And once again it comes down to profit. Film making is a career, an industry - all of the way from the film makers, to the festivals, to the distributers, to the programmers... And the bottom line is audience. The more audience the better. To look at time in a different light, look at Youtube. Some of the most successful people on youtube who are probably making six figures a year keep their videos under 3 minutes, and probably more around 3 minutes. Why? It's the demographic of who watches Youtube. The audience on Youtube want something quick while they are surfing, if they see a 15 minute video, they skip it for the 3 minute video. I never quite realized how important timing is. As a film maker you are so concentrated on the art, the piece, that timing is irrelevant. But it is definitely something to always keep in mind. Which brings me to "Living Space" aka Talking Furniture. The first half of the film has been shown, and it is coming along. Both Meesh and myself want to really watch the timing on the film for a few reasons - for festivals of course, but also because it is a comedy - with subtitles, and we need to be careful how much we ask the audience to read. It's such a slippery slope, because I find myself seeing the "characters" "talk" (subtitles), and I hear them as I read and want to add more... But they aren't in my head, they are words on a screen... It is so different to think that way. And to leave so much to the imagination of the reader. It's been a bit of a struggle, but such a great eyeopener. This has been a completely different experience, and although it has tried me in some areas, I really think it has helped me grow.
What an absolutely incredible journey these past few months have been. I look back at myself even from January until now, and see a huge change in how I view film and myself as a filmmaker. Each film is an incredible learning experience, and now that I have had some time to digest everything that has happened, I see where there is need for improvement, as well as where my strengths lie. I am currently reading the book 'Directing Actors', by Judith Weston... One that I believe should be a stable for any person with a desire to pursue directing, and have discovered many new techniques on how to work with not only actors, but crew, in order to best communicate ideas. That is the number one lesson for any person to learn, not only in directing, but any career and relationship - is communication. It is the one thing I believe that stands the achievers above the rest - is their ability to effectively relay what they are thinking to others, and bring their ideas to life. When I am not on set, I do have a day job - where I am constantly on the phone, or interacting with co-workers, and the ability to engage another person is such a fulfilling achievement. To see the eagerness in the other persons eyes - instead of that glazing as you see the other persons attention fade. This is my current goal; to develop my skills as a more effective communicator. To be able to engage an actor, see the ideas and creativity behind their eyes as you speak of the character, their motivations, the intent of the scene or action. It isn't an easy task, as everyone has different ideas on how the action should move, or where a scene is going - and it can be difficult sometimes to lock in on the same goal... But that is also the beauty of film making, that moment of discovery when you are in sync, where life is breathed into a scene and it comes alive. It is the job of the director to make that happen.
After a very tough preproduction, production and post production, "Maintenance Man" was screened at the first annual Cineworks Short Film Contest. My nerves were shot as I walked through the doors - not for people seeing the film, or their reaction, but to be honest, just in fear that something else would go wrong. I am normally an optimist, with a make it work attitude - just go forward and overcome, but with the track record of this show... I must admit, I was a little worried. Sitting down, watching the first film by Jayme Cowley - an absolute beautiful film with some really outstanding performances... And then our turn.
Rollercoaster Ride. That is the best way to describe the past month. I look back and it feels like it has been a lot longer, but it has been just over a month since we finished filming "Maintenance Man", and all of the fun that has ensued from there. There are certain shows that you will remember forever... And this is definitely one of those shows. I have learned more from this one show in the matter of 6 weeks, than the 6 years of schooling that lead to it. Okay, I may be exaggerating slightly, but the learning curve is quite steep.
The filming extravaganza of the past two months seems to be slowing and I am finally able to breathe! "Living Space"... aka talking furniture is in post and being edited by the amazing Stefanie Loffel, she is from the great down under and an absolute pleasure to work with. Looking forward to see what she brings to the show.
After a slow January, February came in with a bang! It started off with ADing on a short titled "First Day", then rolled right into an entry for the "Big Rock Beer" commercial contest, to a Nickelback music video, and now gearing up for another show this weekend. What kind of a show you may ask? The best way to describe it would be "talking furniture". After this is completed, we have been selected for the Cineworks Short Film Contest called "Back Down The Highway", and will be going for picture April 16, and the screening will be May 29th.
To watch a film, theatre production, TV show, or even gaze at a painting, a person doesn't realize the number of hours, man power, and effort that went into it. All they see as a viewer is the end result - The 2 hours spent in a movie theatre, 1/2 hour in front of the TV. It is that brief encounter that drives the artist to make more, grow, change, and bring new and exciting elements to their next project. A person can say this is true of many industries... That we don't appreciate the amount of time put into making the clothes we wear, or the food we eat. But unlike these, and unlike the many industries that are being replaced by machines and the internet, art will always need one thing.. A human idea. One idea, one creative spark to drive a person forward to create something new for others to enjoy. Sure, it can be argued that machines can be used to make that process easier, but that actual motivational beginning comes from the mind. In this way, there will always be jobs in the entertainment industry, it's just a matter of creating the ideas and getting them out to people.
With an entire new year ahead, the possibilities and opportunities are endless. I know that at this time of the year many people hit the gyms, begin their powder and water diets and look inward to help improve themselves, but what enhancing the creative? Surrounding yourself with wonderfully amazing people to enhance your mind and your creative spirit. Time needs to be set aside for this as well. Pumping the creative and the iron.
It is December already, and the malls are filled with shoppers, the airports are bustling and it is a time to reflect on 2011, and begin to look forward to 2012.
Welcome to my new website for both myself and Triquetra Productions. My name is Lisa Newell and I am an aspiring filmmaker living in Vancouver BC. This is an absolutely amazing city that is full of such talented and passionate artists.