Monday, September 18, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 488: Hurricane Shapiro


You don't know who to trust these days, do you?

Actually, nobody's ever really known who to trust. At one point in my life I spent a lot of time shadowing cops -- cops who relied on confidential informants to do their jobs. Most of these CI's were scumbags, low-lifes, petty or major criminals. A few were even lawyers. Actually, more than a few. That attorney-client privilege thing isn't held in the high esteem you might expect.

I learned that when one of them dropped a little information on a police officer, the cop made a mental note of it and went on with his day.

"Hey, didn't he say some guy was getting whacked this afternoon?".

"Yeah. We'll see..."

No urgency. No way of verifying what was offered. It was just -- information. Perhaps ill-informed. Perhaps intended to settle a grudge.

If said cop then got the same information from CI #2, he might take out his notebook and make a note. But there was still no indication he was acting on what he'd heard.

But if CI #3 showed up with the same news. Then it was time to spring into action.

I feel like one of these cops every time I watch the news these days. I'm never sure how much trust to have in what I'm hearing. So I tend to look for other sources. If it turns up in three or more places that don't share the same ideology or political agenda, I'll go along with it. Otherwise -- we'll see...

Last week, as Hurricane Irma bore down on Florida, CNN was wall to wall with the doom and gloom of a storm more dangerous than the planet had ever seen -- one that would level several American cities and then cut to anchors standing in the rain as approaching breezes tousled their hair.

Either CNN anchors are suddenly a dime a dozen and ten feet tall and bulletproof -- or maybe Irma had blown it's load in the Caribbean.

But that doesn't sell ads for Cialis, does it?

And this goes on all over the place. One week, Donald Trump is worse than Hitler. And the next, the very people who've called him unhinged and a Fascist are sitting down to have dinner with him. And the media who've promulgated those opinions are suddenly using terms like "eminently presidential".

Am I the only one who feels I'm being played?

Meanwhile, as Hurricane Irma threatened one coast, another storm dubbed Shapiro was threatening to bring death and destruction to Berkeley, California.

At least that's what CNN and a lot of people on Facebook wanted me to believe.

For those not paying attention, Ben Shapiro, a Fascist, White-Supremacist, was booked to speak at UC Berkeley, the birth place of the free speech movement, and after failing to prevent his appearance, the college and city had required Shapiro to spend more than $600,000 to make sure the students attending his speech did not come to harm.

For those who've truly been paying attention, Ben Shapiro is about as far from a Fascist, White Supremacist as you can get. He's actually an Orthodox Jew married to a Moroccan woman with whom he's had two kids.

He's also, according to the Anti-Defamation League, been the target of more anti-Semitic attacks than anyone else on social media. Attacks that came from both the Left and the Right.

He's also written a couple of books about how the media participates in the creation of our current culture of fear. Something, you'd suspect people in the media do not take kindly to.

So, he's labelled with the worst things you can call people these days as vast numbers on social media parrot the terms and demand he be silenced.

But Shapiro went ahead and spoke -- and nothing happened.

Oh, a few hot heads got arrested and some people who heard him might've had their opinion changed. But the culture of fear took the real hit because it turned out the guy isn't somebody to fear.

You can find Shapiro's entire speech here, including a half hour of engaging with people who disagree with him. Engagement that is intelligent and respectful and honest on all sides, proving that people can hold differing views without demonizing one another or pedaling falsehoods.

Below is a small snippet that will hopefully start some of you questioning the sources from which you get your news. Maybe it's time for you too to seek some additional sources.

And -- Enjoy Your Sunday...

Sunday, September 10, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 487: GONE COUNTRY


A lot of people have trouble understanding my love of Country music. It just doesn't fit with the understated sophistication and intellectual acumen which are my trademarks. Which not only reveals how little they know me, but Country music as well.

There's as much depth and variety to Country as any other musical genre and maybe more than some. You just gotta find that part of the pasture with the grass that appeals to you. Trouble is, given the picture of Country folk that's always been a mainstay of the media (particularly Hollywood) most people don't bother to give it much of a listen.

I like to think I came to it honestly. My formative years were spent in rural Saskatchewan, where it was everywhere, with the same guys in pick-ups listening to Hank Snow and Marty Robbins were just as likely to pick up records by Perry Como and the Mills Brothers. 

It was just there. Another song on the only radio station you could get.

Later on, I lived in LA when "The Eagles" were taking flight, among other Country influenced artists like "Linda Ronstadt", "Kris Kristopherson","Poco", "Little Feat", "Loggins & Messina" or "The New Riders of the Purple Sage". And trust me, when your only alternatives were Disco or some lounge singer ruining "The Doobie Brothers", listening to those guys was way better.

More often, Country songs are stories, as the old Nashville radio adage goes -- "Listen long enough and somebody sings your life". But sometimes, it's just fun too.

Friday we lost two giants in the world of Country. Don Williams and Troy Gentry.



Williams (top photo) was in his late 70's. Long retired from a career that saw him top the charts 17 times and have much of his song writing covered by other top selling artists.

Gentry died when I helicopter ferrying him to a concert in New Jersey crashed. His Duo "Montgomery Gentry" formed in the 1990's with singing partner Eddie Montgomery also had a couple of decades of hits and Country Music Awards.

Each, in their own way, represented those two sides of Country music, the stories and the fun. 

If you enjoyed their artistry as much as I did, here's a sample of each. If you weren't a fan, have a listen to what you missed.

And -- Enjoy Your Sunday...



Sunday, September 03, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 486: RETURNING THE FAVOR



I got an amazing reaction this week on a Washington Post article I posted about the response of the so-called "Cajun Navy" to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.

You can read the entire article here. But basically it was about a bunch of responsible, resilient and resourceful people doing what any decent person does for their neighbors.

Most of the feedback I got was positive.

But in these divided times, I also got reactions from those who refer to themselves as progressive, or as some call them, "Social Justice Warriors" pointing out the Cajun Navy is made up of Southerners who fought in unjust foreign wars, wear a police uniform, probably don't like Gays, Muslims or Black people and doubtless voted for that douchebag Trump.

We've apparently come so far or are so far gone that people simply helping people is suspect and apparently you actually can tell a book by its cover.

Some of that can be explained by our political divisions. But I think much of it devolves to a divide between rural and urban, where the skills of one aren't appreciated by the other, as well as an additional schism between those who seek higher education and those who do not.


A champion of the latter group is Mike Rowe, a TV Host who gained fame with a series entitled "Dirty Jobs" where he got hired to do all those jobs most people just won't do.

That led him to developing a foundation to increase the number of people being trained to do skilled jobs. Jobs like being a plumber or electrician or house painter in a world that reveres rap artists, athletes and hedge fund managers while espousing the essential need for everybody to attain a college degree.

A few months ago, Mike was awarded the first "TV series" that would be produced and distributed by Facebook. That series is called "Returning the Favor" and its one of the most uplifting things I've seen in a long while.

I can't post the first episode of "Returning the Favor" here because it's still a Facebook exclusive. But if you're on Facebook, you can access it here.

What I can post is a video Mike also did this past week after somebody made the mistake of calling him a "White Supremacist" online. It's from Fox News, so those of you who feel you're somehow dirtying your hands by doing that can find a print version of Mike's response here.

Either way, d+o yourself a favor and reach across these seemingly unbridgeable divides by watching "Returning the Favor" on Facebook. At the very least it'll encourage them to spend more of their ad money on content.

And -- Enjoy Your Sunday...


Sunday, August 27, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 485: LUVVIE



The actor, Vincent Price, was also an accomplished painter. Atop the favorites of his own work was a canvas depicting a beautiful garden awash in sunlight and filled with thousands of beautiful flowers. The garden is seen from inside a darkened room where a man stands in the shadows, his hand hovering expectantly over a telephone. The painting is titled -- "The Actor".

It's the perfect representation of how much of life an actor sacrifices for their art.

I was a professional actor for 15 years before I transitioned to writing and producing. I worked a lot in the trade and became relatively well known. So, after the switch, people frequently asked if I missed it.

Well, to some extent I did. But more often I felt that my new efforts were creating work for a lot of actors instead of just one.

And there were a lot of things I didn't miss. The constant waiting for something to happen or somebody to make a decision. The endless casting calls, occasionally to audition for people without a clue about either the craft or how to create a marketable product by harnessing it. The constant financial insecurity that didn't allow for any rest between gigs. Continually dealing with those who thought the characters you played were who you were in real life.

All of that is captured perfectly in a short film entitled "Luvvie" by Canadian actress, writer and director Annie Briggs.

Captured as well is the love of the work that gives most actors the desire to keep going no matter the disappointments, no matter the odds, no matter the hardships.

If you want to know what an actor's life is really like -- this is it.

Enjoy Your Sunday...

LUVVIE from Annie Briggs on Vimeo.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 484: DIEPPE UNCOVERED



Somebody once said, "The only reason truth is stranger than fiction is because fiction has to make sense".

We all spend a lot of time trying to make sense of something. And a lot of times we fail because we're so busy applying logic or science that we don't look any deeper.

So imagine my surprise on learning that a mystery I've been trying to figure out for a long time would be solved by a guy I wrote about last week -- Ian Fleming.

Let me begin 75 years ago this week, August 19, 1942 when Canadian soldiers raided the Nazi held French port of Dieppe. The attack was a military disaster resulting in more than half of the invading force being killed or captured.

I don't remember learning about the battle in school, maybe because some school supervisor thought the story would be too painful in a place where many of the lost men had once lived.

But later in life I was cast in a musical about the raid entitled "Gravediggers of 1942" written by well known Canadian playwright Tom Hendry. Now, you might think a musical about a military disaster would be in bad taste. But such shows as "Oh, What A Lovely War" were much admired at the time and this was our version.

But all of the cast spent their free time in rehearsal reading books about the raid where the prevailing opinion was that it was badly planned by the British generals in charge and that the Canadian troops were merely canon fodder sacrificed to learn how not to conduct an invasion.

The show was a huge hit and I can't count the number of times I met an audience member who'd lost a member of their family and was as obsessed as I was on discovering why such a tragedy had been allowed to happen.

A couple of years later, I revisited Dieppe again on stage by way of Peter Colley's "The War Show" where the first act climax depicted the slaughter on the beaches. Often the curtain dropped not to applause but to silence and the sound of someone weeping.

One night, during the intermission, there was a knock on the Green Room door. Being the only actor who wasn't in the middle of a cigarette, I answered it. A huge, muscular man in his late 50's filled the doorway with tears streaming down his face. He reached out and dropped several crumpled 10's and 20's into my hand. "I lost a lot of good friends at Dieppe," he said, "Have a drink to 'em on me."

He started away, then turned back. "And Bless you all for remembering. It means a lot."

That lack of remembering seemed to be the official stance at the time. Part of it might've been the feeling that perhaps our boys let the side down. Maybe it was because we didn't want to be impolite and accuse the Brits of using us.

Whatever the reason, you knew the whole conversation was being avoided. And because of it, thousands of men who had survived the battle were abandoned, forever to wonder how an event that had so negatively impacted their lives had been allowed to happen in the first place.

Only a handful of those men are alive as the 75th anniversary of the battle is marked, all in their 90's now and perhaps past understanding of why their sacrifice had been needed.

A couple of years ago, the mystery of Dieppe was finally solved. For it turns out, the raid was a cover, almost a diversion to distract from the real mission. One which might have shortened World War Two by months, if not years, had it succeeded. A mission planned and commanded by a young naval intelligence officer by the name of -- Ian Fleming, the man who would one day create James Bond.

The truth is a tale only a writer of fiction could concoct, perhaps knowing that said truth needed to be couched in an official story that would not make sense. 

What it doesn't explain is why a generation of warriors couldn't have had their burden of regret recrimination and guilt lifted after WW2 was over. Perhaps that's the real mystery of Dieppe.

Learn the true story of Dieppe below and please catch the full version if you can...

And -- Enjoy Your Sunday...



Sunday, August 13, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 483: SPY VS SPY


On a hot, prairie afternoon in 1962, I was introduced to the world of espionage.

"Dr. No" was screening at Regina's classiest theatre, The Capitol. I'd never heard of Sean Connery or the film let alone the book from which it was adapted and knew nothing of a genre that would come to have a profound effect on my life.

"Dr. No" absolutely blew me away. After the movie, I stood staring at the lobby cards in the poster windows outside, enervated, reliving the scenes depicted. I then shot down the street to the nearest bookstore to buy a copy of the novel that the credits had indicated was written by some guy named Ian Fleming.


To my surprise, there was a whole shelf of Ian Fleming's Bond books. By Christmas, I'd read all of them. Maybe too young to fully understand all the finer points and certainly the sexy parts. But in addition to opening my eyes to an exciting adventure genre head and shoulders above Tarzan and Treasure Island, I suddenly started paying closer attention to the news, the cold war and the hotter one taking shape in Viet Nam.

James Bond had led me to wanting to know more about how the world really worked.

Of course, I saw every Bond film, usually on the day it was released and might've been Connery's biggest fan. Then, in 1965, a new spy arrived on the scene -- Alec Leamus, personified by Richard Burton in John LeCarre's "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold".


Despite Burton's consummate skills as an actor, "Spy" troubled me. Leamus didn't seem to enjoy his job as much as Bond and he had this guy named Smiley hanging over him as that boss who never tells you the whole story. I picked up Le Carre's novel too, but honestly found it hard going, depicting I world far darker than I imagined could really exist and with not a lot of charming characters or lighter moments.

Luckily around the same time, a new actor and a new spy entered my life -- Michael Caine as Harry Palmer in Len Deighton's "The Ipcress File". I was about 16 by then and Harry Palmer matched me to a T. He was working class like I was, wore exactly the same glasses I wore. More important, he had a healthy mistrust of authority -- the same one I was developing.


Somehow, in an era prior to entertainment magazine shows and social media, I learned that the director of "The Ipcress File" was Canadian -- Sidney Furie. Fifteen or twenty years later, while still an actor, but trying to learn to write, I got to meet Furie and peppered him with questions -- which mostly came down to why it had been his only espionage film.

For me, so much of that movie had been perfect for the genre, the moving masters in the corridors of power, the film noir touches, the grit of real spycraft combined with lighter moments that kept the story personal and engaging.

I think I was looking for something resembling hope for the genre, for we met not long after I'd seen "Moonraker", a film so egregious I was certain the Bond franchise had run its course. Like that unforgettable sunny afternoon in front of the Capitol theatre, I stood in front of an equally classy theatre in an equally sunny Los Angeles -- only this time holding back tears and angry at what a character and world I loved had been allowed to become.

A short time later, My careers of writing and acting at a tipping point, I was hired as the story editor on a new CBS series entitled "Adderly". Adderly had been a minor character in a novel by American writer Elliot Baker. But he was unique enough that the TV powers that be decided he'd be worthy of a television series.

And so for two seasons he was, with those of us responsible for creating his adventures constantly pulled between the more popular cultural icon of espionage created by Ian Fleming and the more realistic version provided by John LeCarre. Oddly, or maybe because of my own bias, the compromise usually ended up being somewhere in the Harry Palmer ballpark.

But still, a half century after all these characters entered the culture, the debate about which of the key creators, Fleming or LeCarre, was better at story telling and creating the world of spies still continues. To be honest, the more mature me likes them both but for far different reasons.

Check out the confrontation that follows to make your own choice.

And -- Enjoy Your Sunday...

Monday, August 07, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 482: SMOKE ON THE WATER



The folks on Canada's West Coast have been watching the skies a lot more than usual lately. And it's not for the usual purpose of seeing if there's some blue among the rain clouds.

Big chunks of British Columbia are on fire and have been for more than a month. Thousands of fire fighters have been deployed. Entire cities have been evacuated. Newscasts are full of shots of pick-up trucks fleeing flaming forests.

The Sun and the Moon are bright red from dawn to dusk. And smoke blankets everything...

Yesterday, I ventured off my island to watch my beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders get their gridiron asses handed to them by the BC Lions. And the taste of ashes that comes from such a colossal loss was this time quite literal on the boat ride home. 

But smoky skies suggests something else to a good number of us -- smoke it up some more!

Because this week also included Vancouver's "Celebration of Light" one of the world's largest fireworks competition. Saturday concluded the show with a spectacular presentation from Team Canada.

We like to think of it as fighting fire with fire.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Monday, July 31, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 481: ZYGOTE



Okay, so I'm burnt, dehydrated and beyond tired -- recovering from one dead solid perfect day. Which means I don't have much left -- except this...

For all this talk about the old way of doing things dying, there's also a ton of new ways being born. New ways of telling stories. New ways of getting those stories around. Less dependence on gatekeepers and grand bureaucratic plans. More reliance of getting back to what really matters -- telling the story.

One of those newish things is Neill Blomkamp's Oats Studios. Here's one of the first offerings. No doubt there will be more...

Pass the Aloe and a beer and...

Enjoy Your Sunday.


Sunday, July 23, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 480: THE COMING DISRUPTION



One of the odd realities of life is that those who are supposed to have a handle on what's coming usually don't. History is littered with great leaders who didn't really believe their enemies could defeat them, or the peasants would one day have had enough and rise up with their torches and pitchforks.

The whale oil industry didn't think much would come from the discovery of petroleum. Record executives didn't believe file sharing would be a challenge after they got rid of Napster and nobody in the film business believed a low budget movie about a war in space would revolutionize what kind of movies fill up the multiplex in Summer.

And now the Canadian TV industry and many of the Guilds employed therein are convinced we can continue making television as we have for the past couple of decades. No matter how many Cassandras at film markets and symposia for the last years have preached that "content is king", touted the future of streaming or implied there is no longer such a thing as a protected territory -- they thought they knew better.

They didn't recognize the disruptors as legitimate competitors or realize how quickly they could become too big to fail.

This week a new player arrived in Canada. Dazn -- which bills itself as the "Netflix of Sports", offers to stream to any and all of your devices for $20 a month the same all-inclusive NFL package Bell or Rogers will sell you for $50 -- while also providing you with pretty much as much other sports programming as you can fit into your day -- instead of endless panels of ex-athletes and poker.

Meanwhile, Netflix released numbers indicating that, despite the number of movie channels Shaw, Telus, Bell and Rogers are willing to package for you at ever increasing prices, 5 million more people in the last year have chosen to subscribe to their service instead.

The one thing you can be sure of in life is that change will come. Make that two things -- the pundits will not see it coming. And -- okay three things -- it'll all happen quicker than anybody thought.

For a complete explanation of how all that works -- so you can do your best to prepare yourself, spend a few minutes with Tony Seba, a guy who studies disruption.

And -- Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

LAZY SUNDAY # 479: LISTEN TO ME



For about a year I hosted a television show that included interviews. Neither of my co-hosts nor I had any experience doing that. We'd mostly been hired because we were perky and charming.

So, the way the show worked was an actual, experienced journalist would conduct the interviews and I'd sit in front of a green screen on which the interview subject appeared looking for all the world like they were answering my questions via some remote or satellite hook-up.

Since that shot could quickly become boring, the interviews were intercut with close-ups of me listening intently, nodding, laughing at jokes, or whatever reaction was required.

Now, having been an actor for a decade or so by then, I'd learned the number one rule of playing a scene -- "Acting is reacting". Maintain the reality of paying attention to whoever you're talking to and you're pretty much home free.

Following that gig, I got called a lot to do interviews for real and always begged off because carrying on an informative as well as entertaining interview is a very special skill.

I wish I'd been aware back then of the skills NPR host Celeste Headlee shares in the video below. But I more ardently wish the people in my social media streams would listen to what she has to say.

As online debates get coarser, angrier and more insulting, with friends unable to talk civilly to friends (either their own or mine) without just pissing all over their opinions and listening barely, if at all, to what's being shared in return, learning how to talk to one another is becoming a lost art.

And we all need to get a handle on that.

Enjoy Your Sunday...

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 478: The Protectors


Everywhere you look these days, somebody seems to be releasing new content or new devices on which to experience Virtual Reality.

Now anybody from the owners of a PS4 to a cheap android phone with an onboard gyroscope can put themselves inside thousands of titles, from rollercoaster rides to special segments from films like the Canadian producer Minds Eye Entertainment's upcoming release "The Recall".

For me, story telling onscreen has always been about directing the viewer's attention in a particular direction, doling out what I want them to see instead of what they might notice from turning away to look around at what or who else might be in the playing space.

The economic restrictions placed on shooting a 360 degree environment also need to be considered. Where do you hide the crew and equipment? How much extra time and money does it cost to dress an entire room instead of the corner where most of the action takes place?

That's not to say entire VR dramas and comedies aren't on the horizon, I'm just suspecting that like 3D in the 1950's, it might be a passing fad until the surrounding technologies or our understanding of their potentials improve.

No doubt porn and horror will find a place. They always do. But I'm thinking that the real power of VR lies in news, sports and documentary.

News could have put you in the middle of the Hamburg G20 Riots this week to get a fuller perspective on that. Sports would have let me experience my beloved Saskatchewan Roughriders new stadium amid their rabid thousands known collectively as the "13th Man".

But for controlled story telling that fully takes you into a world, VR might really boost interest in documentaries the most.

Recently, Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow put together a team of VR veterans and transported them to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to shoot a National Geographic doc on the 100 Rangers who protect elephants in Garamba National Park from ivory poachers.

It's an astonishing piece of work which should do a lot to help you understand our future as well as...

Enjoy your Sunday...



Monday, July 03, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 477: Let The Games Begin


Okay, I'm going to beat this "Television-is-dead" horse once last time. But the stick we're using this week has nothing to do with comedy or drama -- and everything to do with why most people subscribe to cable packages in the first place.

Much as we creative types want to believe we're the be and end all to televised entertainment, we're not. Yes, there's a lot of that on the tube and there are a ton of specialty channels that continue to regurgitate the hit shows from every era of television ad nauseum. Play your cards right and you can even catch the same episode of almost anything you once loved several times a night.

While the bent of many current services may lead you to believe that genres like bachelorettes, cooking contests, fishing for crabs and big rig crashes on busy highways have a shitload of followers, the truth is most people keep forking over money to cable companies for two things -- news and sports -- with the latter being the gold standard for raking in big ad buys and humongous audiences.

And while you've all heard of the ridiculous prices big brands will pay to be associated with the Superbowl, it's the money from sports in general that keeps many networks or their corporate overlords in the black -- and therefore capable of producing million dollar episodes of your favorite doctor - lawyer - whatever series.

Imagine what would become of neighborhood sports bars if there wasn't a 100 inch television on every wall and you might see what will happen to most television stations or the broadcast conglomerates they're part of if big league sports aren't on the menu.

And that day is not far off.

At the moment, Canada's various film and TV creative guilds are lobbying government to save the thousands of jobs the CRTC threatened by downgrading the required contribution of local cable companies to program funding.

Now ask yourself how much sense that makes, when jobs are rapidly disappearing among journalists in the news divisions and just about everybody who works in televised sports.

A couple of months ago, the leading Sports network South of the border laid off 300 behind the camera staffers. A month ago they cut loose 100 of the familiar faces who've graced the screen.

The reason for that is simple. ESPN's overall subscriptions are down 13% while the fees the professional leagues are demanding for access to their product continue to rise.

The economics are unsustainable. And they're about to get worse.

Beginning this fall, Amazon will be offering their Prime subscribers the National Football League's Thursday night games. Games that will also be carried (as they have for generations) by CBS and NBC. Except....

Due to the complete lack of interest in signing up for cable among young people in particular, the advertiser coveted 18-35 demographic will disproportionately be watching online. Meaning CBS and NBC will no longer be able to charge the ad rates that have up to now kept pace with the NFL's licensing fees.

To make matters worse, Facebook is experimenting with college basketball games and several other services are making pretty much any game anywhere available. There's a whole list of those places here.

And very soon, that will begin to impact the amount of money all the traditional networks have available to spend on prime time drama.


A few days ago "Hawaii Five-O" cast members Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim departed the series because producers would not increase their salaries. And while some might spin that in a different direction like, say, racism -- it might just be simple economics.

First corners get cut. Then the number of new shows in development get cut. Then the number of series episodes or shows in general get cut.

Does that remind anybody of the last few years of Canadian TV?

Comedy and Drama do not exist in some kind of bubble, safe, separate and apart from the rest of the program schedule. Sports, News, Daytime Programming, Prime Time -- they all depend on each other. And when one becomes a sinkhole, the rest go down with it.

To quote an ESPN Sportscaster who in doing a baseball injury report, once appended the usual so-and-so is day to day by adding "But then, aren't we all". 

Instead of trying to save a few jobs in one segment of the industry, we better all start thinking about how we're going to continue to do the jobs we've all been trained for in the coming online world.

Television as we know it is gone. Let the Games begin...


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 476: Here Come The New Networks


This week, apparently feeling my signing a petition to reverse the CRTC decision to reduce the amount of money Cable providers remit for Canadian production, the Writers Guild of Canada asked me to reach out to my member of parliament, in the hope of turning their attention to our cause.

This request arrived around the time the National Post reported that several senior executives at the CBC had issued development and production deals using those cable funds to their assorted spouses or boyfriends. Apparently this had been investigated internally by the Mother Corporation which found nothing seriously untoward about these deals.

In other words, this is just how things are done at the CBC.

Now, I think those of us who have worked extensively in the private sector and/or within the American production industry are aware that such crap simply doesn't happen. Yeah, the occasional idiot nephew gets a job through nepotism. But the folks who make the final calls know that sort of thing is a career ender.

So, does this mean my Guild now wants me to contribute my lobbying efforts in support of a system that directly and personally benefits those in a position to decide which shows get made? 

And what's more, why am I being asked as both an artist and an audience member to continue funding an industry that's regularly having the folks from Silicon Valley eat their lunch? 

For this week, a number of new players entered the series production game. Facebook, for example, announced a new quiz show entitled "Last State Standing" which will offer an online prize of a half million dollars. 

At the same time, they indicated an interest in copying the Netflix model and picking up the recently cancelled MTV series "Loosely, Exactly Nicole" which stars comedienne Nicole Byers (pictured above).

The website also indicated an interest to pick up more of the current MTV scripted slate.

Meanwhile, Time Warner signed a deal for $100 Million to deliver 10 new series to Snapchat. That's right, a production sum equal to fully one half of what's being lost in Canada is going to produce shows for a web service primarily known for making your photographs disappear not long after you post them.

And if that doesn't have your head spinning -- investors also ponied up $450 Million to launch a studio which will exclusively produce online content for Vice.com.

What all of this means is huge amounts of money are being invested in shows unlikely to ever appear on a traditional TV screen -- unless they're streamed from a tablet, laptop or mobile phone. 

Why isn't the same thing happening here?

Because we'd apparently rather save an industry that hardly anybody pays any attention to anymore.

Clearly the future of drama and comedy is online. But years of an air-tight and government controlled system that regularly awarded producers who'd never earned a dime -- or just married the right network executives -- have led us to both lose touch with the entrepreneurial spirit to explore this new frontier as well as drying up any money that might come from those willing to invest in our ideas.

Here's a taste of "Loosely, Exactly Nicole". Are you telling me there aren't a whole shitload of Canadian creatives who couldn't do better...?

Enjoy Your Sunday.



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.