Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 475: Worth It!


This is the second of what might become several posts on cutting the cord with your cable provider.

Over the last couple of weeks, the Writers Guild of Canada and various other local creative guilds, associations and unions have been urging those in the film and television industries to sign petitions calling for the government to rescind the recent CRTC ruling which, in their estimation, will remove over $200 Million from production financing.

It's a petition I won't be signing.

For as much as I sympathize with those who feel their jobs are under threat, I also know it's high time we abandon a system that hasn't done anywhere near what it was supposed to have accomplished for Canadian Creatives.

I have no love for the CRTC who, in my opinion, [one you'll find ample examples of by searching "CRTC" on this site] are primarily responsible for pretty much everything that's wrong with the Canadian industry, neither protecting the culture nor the needs of those who create it -- as their mandate clearly states was "Job One".

Instead they have bent over backwards to ensure the survival of broadcast entities who do as little as possible to support (never mind promote) a vibrant production industry.

Yeah, we make a lot of really good TV shows here. But the majority of what you find surfing the cable tiers is repetitive, derivative crap -- as it is in all countries.

But every endeavor made by Canadian Creatives to change that is fought tooth and nail by the very people who would most profit from making more original programming.

So why should we be in the business of coaxing more production out of people who not only don't want to do it, but already find working with us "onerous" as they've publically claimed on multiple occasions.

For while this new edict may threaten the way we work as the system is currently constructed, it's patently obvious to those who don't operate under the yoke of government management, that there are fortunes to be made in the online world.

You probably know about the massive number of original titles already being produced by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, some of it filmed right here in Hollywood North. But you may not know how large the online industry is becoming.

This week, Apple stole two of Sony Studio's top execs, the guys behind "The Blacklist", "Breaking Bad" and "The Crown" to begin producing original content for Apple TV.

Meanwhile, established entities like Turner have 25 series in development for social media and streaming services. Conde Naste now has 18 digital channels. And even Wired Magazine is producing online series.


Perhaps the busiest of these is Buzzfeed, which this week announced that it will have Thirty (Count 'em 30) online shows available by the time its prime college age audience (that advertiser essential 18-25 core demographic) heads back to school in the fall.

Among these is a returning series called "Worth It" which debuted last September and garnered between 10 and 20 Million views for each of its episodes. Episodes produced for a pittance while offering production values equal or superior to what you'll find on Canadian channels carrying comparable content.

The premise of "Worth It" is simple : a pair of Buzzfeed dudes sample three similar products with “drastically different price points” and decide which is the most "worth it".

It's the kind of show that makes you wonder why anybody still needs to watch the Food network -- or almost any other "lifestyle" show.

That cracking sound you hear is an entire specialty channel tier collapsing.

This is a coming reality $200 Million Canadian will not save -- even if all of that lost production money were to be spent in one narrow niche of programming.

So instead of beating our chests, signing petitions and writing open letters, perhaps its time to live up to our "creative" titles and come up with something that might find a larger audience online than currently tunes in to all of Canada's channels combined.

It's time to not only cut our cable cords but the intravenous drip from our broadcasters that is barely keeping most of us alive.

Trust me. It'll be -- worth it.

Enjoy Your Sunday...



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 474: Mutants


There are reports out today that 2.5% of current cable TV subscribers will cut the cord by the end of Summer. They're part of an increasing trend that will see millions more not watching traditional television by year's end.

And none of this should surprise anybody. The past week's media "Up-Fronts" where networks debut their new shows for the new season created barely a ripple across public awareness. Quite simply -- there was nothing in the various line-ups that we haven't seen before (often many times before). Like their movie studio counterparts, traditional networks can't seem to do anything but recreate what worked in the past.

For every "Game of Thrones" or "Breaking Bad" there are hours after numbing hours of programming exhibiting a complete lack of imagination. Last night, surfing across channels to find a baseball game, I encountered "Masterchef: Australia" "Love it or List it: Vacation Homes" and a couple of new versions of storage locker shows.

There's not only a lack of creative imagination but an obvious desire to not even try to come up with something new.

Why should anyone doubt the audience quickly spins through the cable dial and then hits the Smart TV button to see what Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and others have to offer.

Last night's lack of interest in keeping my attention after the ball game ended led me to Vimeo and the latest staff picks of film-makers to watch.

Top of the list was "Mutants" by Quebecois film-maker Alexandre Dostie.

Never heard of it? Of course you haven't. How much Canadian media attention has been paid to a film that merely won the 2016 TIFF award for Best Canadian Short Film, a Canadian Screen Award for Best Live Action Short and the Prix Iris.  

Why commission a film or TV series from this guy when you can buy another "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off or revisit "Rosanne" 20 full years after it was last on the air.

"Mutants" is not only an engaging film. It's proof that dynamic, challenging and original film-makers live and work in Canada.

And if we can't find them on our TV networks, we'll find and watch them online -- instead of continuing to support the endless drivel coming from the cable box.

Enjoy Your Sunday...


Mutants from Travelling distribution on Vimeo.


Monday, June 05, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 473: Nashville Cats


Like most Canadians, I'm an unrepentant hockey fan. And as this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs progressed and Canadian teams fell by the wayside, I hesitated to embrace any of the survivors as my -- or as the media chose to label them -- "Canada's team".

That's because I was hoping the dark horse of the season, the last team to claim a playoff spot, might make it to the final round -- The Nashville Predators.

The Predators and I go back to the day the team won its franchise in 1997. I was working in Nashville, staying in a quiet little hotel with a small diner where I had breakfast and read the morning newspaper. On the day the NHL granted the city a professional team, the short order cook spotted me and came out of the kitchen.

Cook: You're from Canada, aren't you?

Me: Uh-huh.

Cook: (gestures to the newspaper) This here "Hockey". It's that game they played in that movie, ain't it?

Me: What movie?

Cook: "Rollerball".

Me: (long pause) Yes. Yes it is.

While most people (and certainly the Canadian media) didn't think hockey could possibly catch on in Nashville, a city with no hockey traditions, little knowledge of the game and no major professional teams in any sport.

But those people simply didn't understand the kind of folks who live in Nashville. 

Almost immediately, the stars of Country Music were enlisted to sell the game, appearing in newspaper ads and on billboards with their front teeth blacked out.

But the initial crowds were small and the franchise was soon in trouble. A Canadian Tech Millionaire tried to move the team to Hamilton and might've succeeded except for his own smug hubris and a proud and independent community that decided it wasn't losing something else to anybody fighting for the North. 

They dug deep and saved their team.

Being at any hockey game is fun. It's particularly joyous when it's a do-or-die playoff game. But last night Nashville kicked the euphoria level up another notch. They had 17,000 fans inside the arena and 40,000 on the streets outside. They had special cheers. They had original songs and committed chants.

My favorite can be found around the 4 minute mark of the video below as the Pittsburgh Penguins are introduced, each player's name appended with "Sucks" -- with a special addition for the head coach.

Whatever happens during the remaining 4 games of the series, one thing is certain. Hockey has taken root in Nashville, embraced with a passion you'll never see in the Platinum seats of Toronto's Air Canada Centre -- or maybe any other Canadian hockey hotbed.

This is a fan base that comes to have a good time, win or lose. And that's something the rest of us should embrace.

I've got a feeling that this year, Nashville will become Canada's team.

Enjoy Your Sunday...




And the highlights from the first Stanley Cup Final played in Tennessee...



Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 472: Tied To The Whipping Post




I'm not exactly sure when it was decided the Hammond B3 organ was no longer a necessity for a Rock 'n Roll band. But it was. And the decision is still wrong.

Used to be every hard rocking or Blues saturated outfit worth listening to would lug one of those monstrosities onstage (typically a three-Roadie job). It was then wired into some equally large Leslie "Voice of the Theatre" speakers -- so named because they were what provided the sound in most movie theatres -- each of them topped with a set of spinning horns called a rotary tremolo system used musically to vary the amplitude and intensity of the sound.

How much punch did one of those babies have...?

I recall being at the Calgary stop of Canada's infamous 1970 "Festival Express". It was literally a train full of the best Musicians of the time hop-scotching the country. Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy, Seatrain, The Flying Burrito Brothers and more.

The Band closed the final evening, appearing before a crowd limp from two solid days of great music, too much booze, too many drugs and no sleep. They promised to go easy on us, just idly and mellowly jamming.

Then Garth Hudson, at the Hammond, hit the first four notes of "Chest Fever" and the entire stadium exploded back to life, completely revitalized and ready to rock through the night.

Another guy who knew how to handle the Hammond was Gregg Allman of "The Allman Brothers Band", who died a couple of days ago. 

It was Gregg's talent and character that held the band together barely two albums into their decades long career after his brother Duane was killed in a motorcycle accident. He is to be forgiven some of his faults, like marrying Cher and destroying not one but two livers during his 69 years.

Because Gregg forever put to rest the question of whether a white man could really sing the Blues.

I never got to see the Allmans perform, but spent endless hours listening to some of the best music to come out of the 70's -- or any other era. Whether you were a fan or never heard of them, here's a memorable taste.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 471: Welcome To The Holodeck


Last week, for reasons which escape me, I was invited to a couple of computer group meet-ups; one hosted by Apple and the other by Microsoft. In the process, I got to meet people working on the cutting edge of both platforms. And what I saw was beyond exciting.

Now, you have to understand that while I've been a computer user since 1979, when I bought my first TRS-80 from Radio Shack. But my daily life with the technology has been primarily focussed on screenwriting, budgeting, video editing and the other film related niches.

A lot of people still argue about the benefits of using Apple or Windows products. But what I witnessed was both of them moving in the same direction, becoming more alike as they endeavor to make sure no one is left out of the coming revolution in how we live our lives.

I had to learn a little coding when I started writing this blog, but as with most things Tech, those deep knowledge jobs have been streamlined into apps and programs any idiot (especially  me) can use.

But this week I learned that the keyboard and mouse reality, with which most of us have become familiar, is about to be blown to smithereens with technologies that feel like they belong in the next iteration of the "Star Trek" or "Alien" franchises -- but are already available.

For example, if you have $8,000 you don't want to park in a boring old mutual fund, you can head over to Amazon and pick up a HoloLens.

The HoloLens is a wearable device which allows you to access "Augmented Reality" which means holograms you can see and interact with that appear within your actual reality.

This means you can pull something off your computer, place it in front of you as if it actually existed in reality and -- if you were an architect or contractor for example, see how it looks and operates within the space you're inhabiting.

Space aficionados can take a photograph from Mars, literally walk into it, then access other scientific data to more deeply explore what's around you. You store, customize, access, navigate, and reimagine physical tools in the digital world; with the results of your work then saved or shared to any device or platform you want to send it.

And gamers don't need to travel to other realms for first person shooter adventures. Their targets are already capable of busting through the walls of their homes to attack.


As the technology progresses, even the devices we've come to know will disappear, replaced by digital screens replicating virtually any format we can imagine.

The video below was produced by Microsoft in 2009, mostly as an in-house guide for developers to ponder. Much of what was imagined then is now either about to arrive or quickly approaching reality.

As some of us worry about how to finance traditional television shows or what we can do to place the film we just shot on a Vitual Reality headset, there's a whole new world evolving that's going to change everything we thought we knew.

Enjoy Your Sunday.





Sunday, May 14, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 470: Hounds of Love


We are about to enter the Summer doldrums of serious movie viewing. One which most movie watchers predict will see the worst box office numbers we've seen in a while.

Your local multiplex will be awash in sequels: "Alien: 6", Spider-Man: 6","Transformers: 5", "Pirates of the Caribbean: 5" "Planet of the Apes: 23?, 24?"

The lack of either the inclination or ability to create something new and fresh in Hollywood will be painfully on display. And it drives guys like me to start looking around to what might be worth watching come the Fall.

The list of films in competition in Cannes has just been released. And that always helps. But in times like these, I turn to movie critics I trust for signs of real hope.

And while not being a huge fan of the tribe of critics, I've always found a handful who apparently share my sense of what's worth buying a theatre seat to see.

These people are harder to find now that more and more media outlets are cutting staff. So online, I look for Peter Travers of Rolling Stone or the gang of laid off scribes from the Toronto press now online as original-cin.

Their current reviews reveal a bountiful buffet heading our way as soon as the Sequel Tsunami passes.

Among them is a first feature from Australian writer/director Ben Young, "Hounds of Love", a work of fiction that replicates the true crime genre in a way that promises to be challenging to say the least.

But unlike the studio bosses who keep regurgitating the tried and true, that's what I look for most in a movie, an engaging story, something I haven't seen before, or haven't seen being told in a particular way or from a unique point of view.

"Hounds of Love" promises to deliver all of that.

Don't feel bad if you can't make it through the trailer. I got a feeling this one will have audiences squirming on a lot of levels -- and without resorting to wall to wall CGI.

If you're a movie lover like me, this will give you hope and help you...

Enjoy Your Sunday...


Monday, May 08, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 469: A Man From The Future


Elon Musk, started his career by inventing an online bank that became Paypal. Then he brought the electric car back to life and called it the Tesla. That led to finding ways to power the electric car more efficiently, which begat the Tesla Wall and Solarcity -- as well as cars that can drive themselves. 

Along the way he puttered around with getting space exploration back on track, which became SpaceX, which will get us to Mars within a couple of years.

He's also building the largest battery factory on the planet, roof shingles that will generate electricity and the Hyperloop, a method of transporting people around the country (and eventually the world) in a fraction of the time they can make the same journey by air.

None of this is science fiction. It's all happening right now, to be fully realized in our lifetimes. 

If, like me, you're having trouble keeping up with this guy -- because I haven't even gotten into robotics and connecting human intelligence to machines and tunnels and some of the other stuff, what follows may help.

Elon Musk was in Vancouver last week. This is what he had to say.

Enjoy Your Sunday... 




Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 468: An Evening With The Godfather


I had a cocktail with a friend this week and at one point asked his plans for that evening. He said he was going home to watch "The Godfather", a movie he'd never seen.

Given the reputation of the film and iconic position it holds in the culture, not to mention how often it has come around on television for the last few years, this caught me completely by surprise. And it got me wondering how many others I know just haven't had the time or inclination to catch one of the great movies of all time. 

The thought made me long for the days of those old movie houses that used to get taken over by cinephiles for the sole purpose of giving modern audiences the unique experience of seeing films from the past on the big screen they were designed for. 

No matter how often you can now see a film on a television, laptop or even your phone, you only really get the entire picture when it envelopes your complete audio and visual attention.

Other art forms like opera, dance, live theatre and music hang onto their power by continuing to be available in buildings originally built for their performances alone. Movies deserve no less.

Film lovers in New York were given such an opportunity last night courtesy the Tribeca Film Festival which is headed by "Godfather" alumni Robert De Niro.

Following a screening of Parts I & II at Radio City Music Hall, De Niro was joined onstage by virtually all the surviving members of the cast for a riveting discussion of just how close the film and many of the careers it launched came to never getting made.

I'm sure those are stories my friend and far too many Gen Xers, Millenials and beyond have never encountered. And they offer a clear window into how Hollywood really works. You can find some of that here, but hearing it directly from the people involved makes the tale all that more astonishing.

The Tribeca evening streamed online and is well worth 90 minutes of your time.

Great movies are made from great stories, both onscreen and off.

Enjoy Your Sunday...

Sunday, April 23, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 467: HOLLYWOOD'S GREATEST TRICK



Earlier this week, a producer friend asked me about the strike ratification vote going on for members of the Writers Guild of America, wondering aloud why we writer types were "continuously belly-aching" about the way we are treated in the movie and television business. 

I mean, we're in a "Golden Age" of writers. Never have so many productions depended on great writing and great scripts. And never have we had so many opportunities to sell what we write. 

Okay. So if we're that integral to the business, what's the problem with treating us fairly and paying us what we're apparently worth?

The stories of "Hollywood Accounting" are legion. Blockbusters that have taken in Billions (Yeah, I used the "B" word) yet somehow never earned a dime. 

The creators of "Spinal Tap", for example, filed an action a couple of weeks ago, calculating that they'd been shorted about $400 million by their studio.

You'd think a film made as cheaply as "Spinal Tap" and which continues to earn millions annually due to its iconic status, wouldn't have a problem sharing the wealth. But like most writers, the guys who created that particular golden goose aren't people the studios depend on to sell whatever's on the upcoming release schedule.  So -- well -- fuck'em!

Perhaps their lawyers will be successful. Most likely, they'll agree to something less than 400 extremely big ones while signing a non-disclosure agreement and something that says the dispute was amicably settled.

The sad reality of Hollywood is that for every recognizable star or noteworthy name, there are a couple of thousand people who do most of the work that leads to a film's success. And the majority of them are replaceable. Either by people of equal talent or those simply eager to do anything to be part of a movie.

And thus the endless churn and turnover of people who don't keep quiet and tow the line.

That's the theme of  "Hollywood's Greatest Trick", directed by Sohail Al-Jamesa and Ali Rizvi.

The numbers behind the story are here

But watch the film first. You'll never look at movies the same way again.

Enjoy Your Sunday...

Hollywood's Greatest Trick from Sohail Al-Jamea on Vimeo.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 466: You're No Bunny Til Some Bunny Loves You


A little something Steve Scaini and I made when we were both young and immature -- as opposed to the older immature guys we are today.

Happy Easter!

And Enjoy Your Sunday...

You're No Bunny Till Some Bunny Loves You from Spellboundfilms on Vimeo.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 465: Dan Miller

It used to be said that we were all "living lives of quiet desperation", implying that despite our sunny or calm demeanor, beneath the surface we were actually a rolling boil of anxiety over things of which the rest of the world knew nothing.

These days, thanks to social media, I'm thinking we're more "living lives at a desperate volume". Everybody seems to have to weigh in on everything, whether or not they know anything about it. Websites are full of link bait. Newspaper headlines sensationalize the copy below.

It's like we're all on a non-stop treadmill we can't escape until we're noticed.

Several years ago, at a film conference, just as the world wide web was gaining a foothold in the industry, a futurist of some note used a phrase that struck me as prophetic -- "Obscurity is the new poverty".

The meek may well inherit the earth. But until then, and if we know what's good for us, those of who want to become stars had better get our brand out there.

The message was heard loud and clear. Reality television was suddenly all the rage. 3rd rate actors and gym rats who once only found jobs in professional wrestling now open tent-pole films. Celebrities with no real abilities beyond a narrow niche of home renovation, cupcake construction or duck hunting  now have the ears of heads of state -- or even are ones themselves.

That only increases the quiet desperation in many of us. But it also makes us wonder -- "What if this rising above the crowd thing happened to me?"

What if I really was big in Japan?

What if Dan Miller was me?

Dan who...?

Enjoy Your Sunday.


Dan Miller from artperezjr on Vimeo.


Monday, April 03, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 464: Sudden Death Overtime


I had this really great blog post planned for today. Just needed to attend an afternoon outing of my home team and then I'd get at it. They're in the playoffs, so my support was necessary.

And then, the score was tied as the final horn sounded. So we went into overtime. Still not a problem. The boys were playing really well. They could take these guys.

But one overtime period became two -- and then three (as in two full hockey games) and then four making it the longest game in WHL history.

Ten minutes into period number 5 we broke the record for the longest game in CHL history. And at the 151:36:00 mark...

The bad guys scored.

And you're reminded of that term, "Sudden Death Overtime" as in -- when it's over -- it's over.
 And somebody's done.

Last season we had our playoff hopes dashed with 2 tenths of a second remaining on the clock. This season the darkness descended after almost 6 solid hours of being at a hockey game.

This one's gonna sting for a while.

And yet...

We're once again part of history. I think that means the hockey gods are setting us up for something special -- only good special this time.

Hey, I'm also a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. it's unsubstantiated faith like that which keeps us going.

I've been present for a lot of great sports moments. Secretariat winning his last race. My Roughriders hoisting the Grey Cup on a last minute field goal. Joe Carter's incredible walk off homer to win the 1993 World Series.

And tonight as I watched the teams line up for the traditional handshake that marks the end of a championship round, I was reminded that the winners came just as close to losing. Opposing players hugged, shed and wiped away tears together. They all knew it could've just as easily have been the other guys tasting victory.

In Dan Jenkins marvelous book about Golf "Dead Solid Perfect", the reason for losing most games is simple -- "God just liked the other guy better".

A Rodeo rider always wants to draw the toughest Bull. Because otherwise he'll never know if he really was the best or he just got lucky.

We all know we can't really consider ourselves to be the best unless we beat the best.

But this is still gonna sting for a while.

Enjoy Your Sunday.




Monday, March 27, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 463: Black Holes

Life kind of entered a Black Hole around here this week. More in the days to come. But until then...

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 462: Those Who Can't Teach -- Teach Gym


I spent much of today in the presence of a bunch of young athletes making speeches. And I gotta say, unaccustomed as all of them were to public speaking, they blew me away with their insight, intelligence and unique perspective on the world.

We all have this preconceived notion of the dumb jock, a stereotype that's a staple in every teen TV show, movie and especially all those cheerleader flicks I used to catch at the Drive-In.

But today's experience got me thinking about my own high school athletic career -- which to be perfectly honest consisted mostly of going to Gym Class -- which every kid in my first year of high school detested.

This was not because Phys-Ed (as it was known back in the day) took place in some dank, musty gymnasium with flickering halogen lights and a drafty change room.

Nope, we had a brand new school with state of the art amenities. What made us hate it was -- along with your text books you had to buy a gym uniform, which consisted of really short white shorts, a white T-shirt with the school logo, sneakers and -- a jock strap, which none of the 14 year olds I hung out with had ever seen before.

The waitress at the Woolworth's lunch counter even yelled at us for pulling them from the boxes they came in to check them out while waiting for our post shopping burgers and cokes.

This "uniform" meant that not only did you have to get naked in front of a bunch of other guys twice a week when you had Phys-Ed (or four times because you had to get both in and out of your jock strap for each class); but you had to stay naked for 15 minutes at the end of the class while everybody crammed into a communal shower.

I guess this was the school's way of making sure we took at least two showers a week. But still...

On top of that, the Gym teacher was a guy who liked to yell a lot and clearly had interest in whatever he was supposed to be teaching because he had football or basketball plays to think up.

This changed about midway through the year, when the lady gym teacher took over to teach us some gymnastics. Not only did she know her stuff, she looked really good showing us how to do it. Although that meant there were some who had to take a little extra time to cool down before we hit the showers -- if you know what I mean.

But it turned out gymnastics was actually something I was good at and some of us even ended up doing presentations of "gymnastic skills" on Parents Nights or when somebody notable visited.

The Gym Lady, a real keener, wanted to start a team to compete with other schools. But somehow, that never happened and a year or so later, I was just too artsy and theatrical for that sort of thing -- and besides, the really cool guys didn't want to be thought of as jocks.

As coincidence would have it, one of the social media feeds I checked after today's revelation of the true nature of jocks included the video that follows.

And quite honestly, I can't imagine ever being this cool.

Enjoy Your Sunday.