Monday, December 31, 2012

The Best of 2012

Year–end lists are inevitably subjective and usually pointless. Unless you or something you’re intimately involved in is on one, they’re pretty much of little consequence.

So, once again, instead of listing my favorite tunes, movies and books I want people to believe I actually read, I’ve decided to go Full Narcissist and list the best things I posted on this blog in 2012.

And this is no piddly “Top Ten”. Because ten would barely scratch the surface of the brilliance shared here on a regular basis. So what follows is one or two gems from each of the past twelve months.

I am nothing if not consistent –- in my self regard.

Winking smile

Have yourself a Happy New Year.


The Epiphany

White Out/Black Out


They Always Need Indians

Burying The Future


Is There A CBC Hush Fund?

The Crayon Is Mightier Than The Narrow Mind


Beaten By A Dead Horse


A Man Of The People


Mea Maxima Culpa


The Only Remaining Decision

Desperately Seeking Validation

Not Unless Somebody Dies, You’re Not!


An Open Letter To Ken Gass


The Four Truths Of Being An Artist


The Scroungers



It’s Never Too Late For An Awesome Childhood

See Tomorrow’s CBC Shows Today


Canada’s Tall Poppy Death Penalty

My Way Or The Highway

All my best for the coming year. And I’ll do all I can to make visiting the Legion worthwhile in 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 253: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole

The holiday season always travels hand in glove with chaos and a hectic pace as we try to cram as much family, as many friends and countless traditional and celebratory events into each day.

But amid the festivities, we also find moments that make us reflect, not only on Christmases and New Years past but where we’ve travelled since the last one.

It’s in those quiet moments when we connect with that tiny voice inside that has always charted the course we really want to follow, the one that leads to the fulfillment of our deepest hopes and sweetest dreams.

If you haven’t connected with that voice in a while or have allowed it to be silenced by cynicism, defeat or frustration, let me put you in touch with one that will move those clouds aside. It’s a voice as pretty as any you’ve ever heard.

Yes, there are thousands of truly beautiful voices in the world.

And this may be one you’ve never heard. If not, you’re welcome.

And if you are already familiar with Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo'ole you’ll no doubt agree that no one banishes troubles and negativity as thoroughly.

May your own voice guide you to happiness in the coming year. But in times of trouble, let the inimitable “IZ” help you along.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

My Way Or The Highway

There’s something I’ve noticed about public discourse of late. It’s no longer a genteel pursuit.

Debate that involves genuine give-and-take, a sharing of opposing opinions and people shifting their positions a few notches given what’s been said is a thing of the past.

Lately, it seems, there is an inciting incident immediately followed by a shrill demand that we all think the same way.

Media outlets and social media erupt with not only an agreed agenda that requires no further discussion, but the implication that anyone who doesn’t 100% comply is some kind of fucking psycho deserving of no place in polite society.

It’s as if all those Chinese propaganda posters urging that the running dogs of capitalism and counter-revolutionary thought be crushed have found a new life and new acolytes.

And like those days, there has arisen a need to not only disagree with someone but parade them through the public square in a dunce cap with a sign around their necks reading “Reactionary”.

Within my social media feeds are people who post endlessly about partisan politics, their disdain of capitalism or socialism, hatred of religion (one in particular or all in aggregate) or atheism and the various ways we’re poisoning ourselves or killing the planet.

And I don’t have a single problem with anybody having any kind of opinion on anything. I assume that’s a right we all share.

Except we don’t anymore.

There’s a lot of “my way or the highway” going on and it’s starting to feel scarier than the sexually frustrated glare of the pompadoured teenager with a pack of Luckys rolled in the sleeve of his T-Shirt who first coined that term.

Friday, a week after the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, a representative of the National Rifle Association held a news conference in which he asked for a larger discussion surrounding gun control; one that included issues like mental health, violent films and video games as well as placing armed guards in schools.

It wasn’t a sophisticated presentation to say the least and deserved much of the criticism that ensued. But debunking his approach to the problem didn’t seem to be enough. The man had to be branded as psychotic and dangerous as well.

“What kind of an idiot would put guns in schools!” said some, apparently forgetting that President Bill Clinton had proposed exactly the same thing after the Columbine shooting, while additionally ignoring the reality that 1/3 of American public schools already have them.

I was also treated to the sight of the same CNN anchor who had demanded censorship of violent video games after the Virginia Tech shootings now scoffing that anyone could be so deluded.

A New York newspaper, righteous with indignation, published the names and addresses of every legal gun owner in its jurisdiction, following the philosophy that, like sex offenders, their readers had a right to know what dangers lurked in their neighborhood.

Perhaps they didn’t realize or maybe simply didn’t care that this turned people who hadn’t broken any law into potential targets for someone eager to possess a weapon but not having the mental or legal capacity to properly acquire one.

In an equally ill-conceived erasure of basic human decency from the other end of the spectrum, gun owners launched a petition to demand CNN host Piers Morgan be deported for, as a resident-alien, attacking the American Bill of Rights.

Start a petition requesting Morgan get the boot for being a salacious ghoul who lowers whatever standards remain for television and you might be onto something.

But just because he doesn’t agree with your point of view? Although, sadly, I don’t think that’s a sentiment Morgan’s world view allows him to share.

Meanwhile, those angered by the newspaper reversed their invasions of privacy by releasing the names, addresses and personal information (including photos of their children) of its editors and reporters.

This included reminding readers that these folks probably had no way of defending themselves against a home invasion and by the look of it owned some pretty cool stuff and even had swell places to hide on their properties.

And if you think that’s as low as we could sink, you’re wrong. This week the ecological journal “Earth First” published a list of corporate CEOs and government lobbyists it felt should be assassinated.

Couched in a lot of “of course we’re just kidding” rhetoric, there’s no mistaking the message -- or the targets –- anybody who doesn’t agree with them. Last on the list is Brandon Darby, a conservative blogger who unearthed a plot to fire bomb the 2008 Republican convention and called in the FBI.

For which duty as a responsible human being Mother Jones magazine branded him a “snitch” and “Earth First” now apparently thinks he should be whacked.

Where exactly did we not only lose our ability to respect an opposing opinion but start demanding that those who hold them be “removed” –- if not to a retraining camp then permanently?

When did we all put on these blinkers and filters that prevent us from seeing all but one path?

How did we get to a place where a crucifix in urine is art but a Koran in a toilet is reprehensibly insensitive?

Why is it wrong to consider someone laughingly obese except if they’re the Mayor of Toronto?

How do so many people tweeting their disgust with Walmart paying bribes in Mexico not realize they’re doing it on a device filled with rare earth minerals mined by slaves or assembled in a suicide inducing sweatshop?

And this isn’t just the way of the desperate for attention on Facebook. After the Newtown slaughter, award winning novelist and PEN humanitarian Joyce Carol Oates tweeted…



So let me tell you about something else that happened on Friday.

There was a local demonstration featuring aboriginal drummers and environmental activists protesting the latest outrage related to the oil sands or pipelines or recent environmental legislation. Perhaps all three.

Banners and signs proclaimed the Prime Minister’s hatred of all things ecological and the greed and insensitivity of capitalism.

Meanwhile, I was a block away, filming a sleek Tesla Roadster as it pulled up to Mile Zero of the Trans-Canada Highway.

This electric car had just driven the entire length of Canada (something electric cars are not supposed to do) thanks to a small company from Saskatchewan called “Sun Country”.

A year ago, Sun Country set itself the goal of making the nation accessible to fully electric, no-emission vehicles. It was their contribution to reducing greenhouse gases while turning the electric car into a reliable option for anyone wanting to stop using fossil fuels.

In mid-November, they installed the last of the electric vehicle charging stations that have transformed Canada’s Highway One into the longest Green highway on the planet.

And in the process, they have opened up many lesser thoroughfares to electric vehicles, including the entire province of Prince Edward Island and every inch of Vancouver Island.

There were fireworks and speeches and a bottle of Atlantic seawater poured into the Pacific. Nearby sat a humongous electric pick-up truck, the next stage of Sun Country’s grand plan to save the planet.

If all goes well, they’ll build this environmentally responsible replacement for the ubiquitous Canadian half ton in Saskatchewan, creating 3000 jobs while saving cities and municipalities the carbon penalties they face if they don’t improve the energy efficiency of their vehicle fleets.

The trucks would also save farmers and tradesmen the $1000/month most of them now spend on petroleum products just to do their jobs.

It was a good story.

One not one single member of the media showed up to cover.

They were all at the demonstration.

That was where the social rage was as palpable and the indignation as righteous as it has become daily on Facebook and Twitter and the 24 hour News networks.

As I listened to the drumming and the rhyming chants, it struck me that a small (but somehow nonetheless evil) corporation had, under the rule of an uncaring government harboring its hatred for things green, still made a tremendous positive difference.

They were now poised to share that mission with thousands of future employees who would have good jobs building tens of thousands of vehicles to further benefit the planet –- and make an even bigger difference.

It made me wonder why anyone would spend time beating war drums and spouting an approved script while demonizing those with a different opinion when it was possible to just go out and change things for the better. 

And maybe just by realizing that there might be a different way to look at the issue.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Cowboy Who Kept Christmas

In 1934, the “Yodeling Cowboy”, Gene Autry, made his first Western movie, becoming one of Hollywood’s newest sensations, the singing cowboy.

By 1946, despite a few years off to fly in the Army Air Corps during WWII, Autry had made more than 70 films and with his “Melody Ranch” radio show was regularly topping the popular charts.

He was the first performer to earn a Gold record and the first to sell out Madison Square Garden. So it was to no one’s surprise that he was given a place of honor riding ahead of Santa Clause and his reindeer in the 1946 Hollywood Christmas Parade.

But while waving to the crowds of kids and getting his horse Champion to regularly rear or bow, Autry noticed that all he heard were gleeful cries of “Here Comes Santa Claus”.

He went right home and wrote the first of what would become a whole herd of Christmas classics.

While cutting the demo for what would become the top selling record of 1947, Autry and his engineers mixed up some cocktails. Listening to the tinkle of the ice cubes in the drinks inspired him to add “Here Comes Santa Claus”’s signature sleigh bells.

Two years later, despite the fact that he didn’t think it was a very good song, Autry recorded the Christmas ditty that would spawn movies, TV specials and a thousand imitators, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”

“Rudolph” became the biggest selling song Columbia Records had ever recorded and continues to top the Christmas charts more than 60 years later.

As he moved on to become one of the first TV stars of the 1950’s, bought baseball teams and built museums honoring the American West and the country’s native peoples, Autry continued to release new songs at Christmas.

It’s become a Christmas tradition here at The Legion to post a selection of Christmas songs before the big day. And this year I’ve decided to honor the guy who wrote the first seasonal tunes I learned to sing.

Merry Christmas from The Legion –- by way of a Cowboy who knew how to keep Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 252: In The Days After Doomsday

So, once again, the world did not end. All those Mayan documentaries, far-fetched notions of New Age Prophets and the best efforts of Roland Emmerich have been for naught.

And now some of us really have to get our ass in gear if we’re going to get our Christmas shopping done.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Life it’s that not much turns out the way you were led to believe it would. There’s always an unexpected wrinkle or two.

And when you can’t even count on the things that are pretty much predictable turning out as planned, you wonder why anybody wants to take on something as massive as the end of an entire planet.

Because even when that does happen, it’s probably not going to go exactly as all the computer models predict, let alone what was derived from ancient texts and stone carvings.

back in the early 70’s, some Doomsday cult predicted the end of the world to occur on a mid-summer Sunday afternoon. The news media played it up a lot. Mostly for yucks, of course. But still, when the day dawned they began counting down to the 3:00 pm (local) deadline.

Around then, my buddies and I were back from our Sunday touch football game, splayed on the porch and well into a case of 24.

Then we noticed the sky darkening and a huge storm cloud rolling in over the city, unleashing thunder, lightning and a torrential downpour at exactly the appointed hour.

Like most Summer storms, it blew itself out in ten minutes. But there was a moment when (based on all the hype) you wondered, “Could this really be happening?”.

But it wasn’t. Although, next morning the spokesman for said cult announced that they had not been wrong in their prediction and that, the world as we knew it, had in fact, ended.

But you didn’t hear much about them after that. I think they all quit the cult and got jobs in an Apple store instead.

And still –- every time somebody sets a new date for Doomsday, the media is right there to hype it, revealing by those who take them seriously the true nature of their audience.

So now, as I hastily cobble together my Christmas to do list, I’m once again wondering what happens to those who buy into “The End Times” and how they cope with having to revise not only their future plans but the way they make sense of the world.

Roland “2012” Emmerich, meanwhile, has been relegated to making action films with Channing Tatum and prepping a sequel to “Independence Day”.

Here’s the story of one guy who got Doomsday wrong a year ago. Followed by a little disclaimer NASA felt the need to release this week.

I hope that finally wraps our latest Doomsday.

And then you can –- Enjoy the Sunday so much time and money was spent telling you it might never happen.

We Will Forget from Garret Harkawik on Vimeo.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Get A Jump On 2013

Everyone who works in film and television is the owner of a small business. Even if the only person working there is you, how productive you are determines how successful you will be.

That’s not to say you won’t be impacted by what “They” are or are not buying this season or whether your particular skillset is in as much demand as a plumber after an earthquake or as little as a Canadian screenwriter on a Co-Production.

But all of us are better served by broadening our horizons,  attending seminars or expanding our toolbox to include new ways to save time and money or increase motivation and efficiency.

Over the last month, I attended a series of workshops conducted by Mike Vardy, a productivity expert who has guest written on this site and operates the leading Canadian productivity website.

After just one workshop, I was able to chop a couple of hours of dealing with email, phone calls and paperwork out of my day, leaving me more time for what I hopefully do best and increasing the amount of real work I complete in an average day.

And things got better from there.

Now, just in time for Christmas and the following week of making resolutions to improve your ways in 2013, Mike and other bright lights in the Productivity/Efficiency world have assembled an astonishing list of products to help you get one up on 2013.

The retail price for these products is about $500. But until January 9th, 2013 they are available in a “Kickstart The Year” package you can purchase at an 80% discount  -- or $88!

And a chunk of that bargain price also becomes a charitable donation to Goodwill for the fine community work they do across the country. So while you’re helping yourself, you’ll be helping others as well.

And what’s in the package?

Chris Brogan on Self-Reflection: The Three Words Video Webinar (Value: $47)

Gini Dietrich on Starting a Business: Starting a Business: Real-Life Experience, Tips. and Tools for Success (Value: $25)

Jeff Goins on Writing Your Book: The Writer’s Studio and How to Start Publishing for Kindle (Value: $65)

Craig Jarrow on Time Management: 31 Days, 31 Ways: Daily Tips for Time Management Mastery (Value: $31)

Lorie Marrero on Organization: Home Office Rules of Thumb: A Handy Guide to Organizing Your Time, Information, and Workspace (Value: $20)

Jonathan Mead on Making Your Dreams Happen: Reclaim Your Dreams (Value: $47)

Kate Swoboda on Living a Meaningful Life: The Courageous Living Program (Value: $125)

Dick Talens on Getting Fit: Hack Your Body By Hacking Your Brain (Value: $45)

Jaime Tardy on Taking Control of Your Finances: Eventual Millionaire Academy: Part One (Value: $67)

Mike Vardy: Four Ready Retreat Digital Workbooks on task, email, idea and time management (Value: $20)

If you really intend to turn things around or take a step up in 2013, this could be what makes all the difference.

Pick up Kickstart the year here and build a better you in 2013.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Canada’s Tall Poppy Death Penalty

Imagine being a dancer who performed so beautifully a member of the audience insisted he be put to death.

Imagine being a composer whose music so moved people that the State had him executed.

Imagine being a playwright whose plays were so popular someone in government had him murdered.

The stories of Nero and dancer Pantomimus, Chilean folk singer Victor Jara and Elizabethan dramatist Christopher Marlowe are apocryphal examples of talent overwhelmed by jealousy, evil and ignorance. And they are far from unique.

Artists have always been the canaries in the human rights coal mine, endlessly silenced, imprisoned and exiled by dictators and totalitarian regimes for their ability to inspire or open minds.

It continues today with artists of all stripes from British novelist Salman Rushdie and Danish cartoonists to Chinese visual artist Al Weiwei and Russian punk band Pussy Riot.

Most of us think that sort of thing doesn’t happy in a freedom loving country like Canada. But it does.

In fact, it’s happening right now.

This week in Montreal, Canadian filmmaker Remy Couture stands trial not for committing any actual mayhem –- but for being too good at making the special effects in a film appear “convincing”.

Rémy Couture

Couture has been charged with corrupting morals through the distribution of obscene material. Specifically, he posted a short film about a rape and mutilation on his website that somebody assumed was the real thing and complained to Interpol.

Montreal police leapt into action. Yet, even when their investigation had proven without any shadow of doubt that Couture hadn’t harmed anyone and that the body parts depicted were manufactured out of latex and resin, they charged him.

Couture’s work was simply so good it wasn’t possible to tell it from the real thing on screen.

Now, in the world of filmmaking, Couture’s talents are celebrated. I’ve made dozens of films and TV shows dependent on special effects, prosthetic make-up and replicating physical damage. And when you find somebody who can turn rubber and corn syrup into believable flesh and blood, they’re worth their weight in gold.

They’re the kind of people you can build an industry around. Because that kind of talent elevates the final product, bringing both profit and honor, not to mention other filmmakers in need of talent, to the country in which it resides.

But this time, the powers that be have decided to make an example of Couture instead –- and maybe send a message to anyone contemplating doing a horror or action film in Canada.

We don’t want your kind around here!

Sadly, Couture’s case is something many of us in Canadian showbiz have seen before. Many times.

Back in the 1970’s, the Toronto Police Morality squad regularly raided bookstores for pornography or just publications with gay or feminist themes.

Two filmmakers who would go on to become among our most celebrated, Ivan Reitman and David Cronenberg, were forced to defend their first works against obscenity and morality charges.

In 1973, Toronto Free Theatre’s production of Michael Hollingsworth’s astonishingly powerful play “Clear Light” was closed and the author and cast threatened with prosecution.

A few years later, cops regularly attended performances of Theatre Passe Muraille’s “I Love You Baby Blue” using binoculars to assure themselves that nothing “explicit” was going on.

Not long after, a Yonge Street Art gallery created a furor by exhibiting the work of Montreal sculptor Mark Prent.

Prent’s work included human body parts hung like meat in a deli window and installations depicting various human deformations and examples of madness.

Among these was an execution chamber (the photo above) where the viewer could throw a switch and watch the rubber figure strapped into old sparky convulse and contort.

I remember standing for a long time at that switch, unable to throw it even though I knew the figure in the chair wasn’t actually alive.

Prent’s work was disturbing. But it forced a lot of introspection and debate as well. David Cronenberg was so impressed he included many of the artist’s creations in his film “Scanners”.

But faced with a constant requirement to defend or justify his work before any gallery would display it, Prent finally gave up on Canada and left the country.

Too many Canadian artists, feeling similarly stifled or failing to understand why work bought or celebrated abroad is ignored and even belittled at home, have done the same.

There’s no way of knowing what the full impact of Remy Couture being convicted of being talented and good at his job might be. But it will definitely cast a chill on anyone making horror, fantasy and action films in this country.

Unconvicted, his work has already been blocked online and seized from Montreal video stores. The same is true of a documentary made about the case by Quebec filmmaker Frederick Maheux.

Perhaps we don’t actually execute exceptional artists in Canada. But our moral and intellectual superiors appear to remain exceptionally good at driving them away.

And that’s not a positive thing for any of us.

If you’re so inclined, you can assist Remy Couture here. I think you will find his description of his arrest particularly unsettling.

Here’s a short clip of Remy Couture at work. If he’s convicted, the writers, directors, actors and crew on this film could be next.

Making Of - A Little Off the Top - Make up FX from BloodbathTV on Vimeo.


On December 22, 2012 Remy Couture was ACQUITTED of all charges. Full Story here.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 251: Long Branch

Tough week.

One that leaves you in need of restoring your faith in humanity.

So here goes…

How about a Canadian love story. One every single Canadian has experienced on some long, bitterly cold winter night.

Don’t tell me you can’t relate. Because this is all of us.


Enjoy Your Sunday.

Long Branch from Dane Clark on Vimeo.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Thought You Said

This is the true story of George Phillips of Meridian, Mississippi.

George was going to bed when his wife told him he’d left a light on in the shed. He went to turn off the light and saw people in the shed stealing things.

He phoned the police, who asked “Is someone in your house?”

George said no, the men robbing him were in his shed. The Police said all their officers were busy and to lock his door until an officer became available.

George said, “Okay,” hung up, counted to 30 and phoned again.

“Hi. I called a few seconds ago because there were people in my shed. Well, everything’s okay because I shot them.” Then he hung up.

Within five minutes three squad cars, an Armed Response unit and an ambulance arrived and the police caught the burglars red-handed.

One of the policemen approached George and said, “I thought you said you shot them!”

George nodded, “And I thought you said there was nobody available!”

h/t Seasoned Citizen

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 250: Hope On The Rocks

Just a couple more weeks to Christmas –- the season of giving.

And most of us do that.

We give gifts, throw a party, buy a round for friends, tuck some bills in a Salvation Army kettle. Sometimes we even drop cans at the food bank or park an unwrapped gift under one of those charity trees at the mall.

We give. But when it comes those truly hurting, we do it ritualistically or from a distance. Most of us don’t make the giving personal.

And at a time so focused on close friends and family, that personal touch is what those most in need need the most.

Over the last week, a lot of us shared that photo of a New York Cop giving a homeless man a pair of boots.

But how many of us went looking for somebody we could help in the same way?

Give it a shot. It’s easier than you think. Even knowing that somebody simply cares can make a huge difference in the lives of those who are without this Christmas.

At the end of the day. We’re all they’ve got. Hope on the rocks.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Add Something More To The Christmas List

I’m way too busy these days. And I know you are too. It’s the season of busy. So just a quick reminder of two things you might want to pencil into your already busy holiday schedule.

The first is doing something special for both yourself and some kids in need.

As of last night, it’s become clear that NHL Hockey is unlikely to arrive in time to appear under anybody’s tree. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t great hockey to be had –- hockey that comes with an additional element of “feel good”.

The above blizzard of bears in Calgary marked the start of Junior Hockey’s seasonal tradition “The Teddy Bear Toss” wherein you celebrate a goal by donating a bear for kids who don’t have one. And who wants to be without a bear and hockey at Christmas?

They don’t do this in the NHL. I believe it’s out of concern for giving Sidney yet another concussion.

If you’ve never been to a Junior game, it’s as fast and more furious than the top level many of the players will be joining next year (if the NHL has a next year). And they include all the guys we’ll be cheering for at the World Championships starting Boxing Day.

So go. Most local Junior teams schedule their “Teddy Bear Toss” this or next weekend.

And… for those in Toronto and the GTA.

Please avail yourself of the opportunity TONIGHT to attend the Premiere screening of Tony Nardi’s “Letter One” at the Hot Docs Cinema at Bloor and Bathurst Streets. 9:00 pm.

I can’t stress enough how important this film is to every one who considers or wants to consider themselves a working artist in this country.

It’s the season of new beginnings – and there’s no better way of preparing for the New Year than with some fresh ideas on rebooting the culture.

Please, please attend if you can. You will not regret doing so.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Up The Junction!

Here’s something I completely fail to understand about Canada’s CBC News Network. For 99% of the time, they’re not pals of the 1%.

Rich people don’t pay their fair share. The motives of people in positions of power are always suspect. Too much Public money goes to people who don’t deserve it while others suffer.

Conrad Black (uck-spit).

Then one of the Royals gets knocked up.

And it’s -- Global Warming? Economic collapse? Political Corruption? Wars in the Middle East? International Terrorism? Who cares!!!

Suddenly all the dour and not to be messed with news anchors are gushing over baby names, revised orders of succession and who’s betting on what arrival date with British bookies. Not to mention how many millilitres the Duchess horked up this morning.

There’s a camera locked on the doors of the hospital and B-roll aplenty of all the tchotchkes being churned out to cash in on the pending bundle of joy.

After spending a couple of weeks before the CRTC pleading poverty and pontificating on how much essential news and information the CBC provides us for so little, we’re now treated to an endless parade of royal watchers, experts in obstetrics and monarchist pundits –- most of them doing live trans-Atlantic interviews.

This Sunday (less than a week after the former Miss Middleton announced she had one in the oven) the CBC News Network will run a Prime Time documentary on the coming monarch.

Meanwhile, if you’re a Canadian documentary maker awaiting a similar CBC spot –- well, you might maybe start thinking of cutting in some kind of Royal Baby angle.

And we’re only in the first trimester.

Look, I’m pleased the young Windsors are expecting. Just as pleased as I’d be for anybody else I don’t know and am unlikely to ever meet.

But I’m also one of that statistically recorded 80% of Canadians who don’t have an acute interest in the Royal Family.

So why is the CBC falling all over itself to make sure I know every detail of this story?

And how seriously am I supposed to take the other stories CBC News will almost certainly run in the next months about the plight of homeless Canadians at Christmas, struggling Northern communities or heartless corporations?

If the wealthy and powerful elites are such a huge problem, why is the CBC so excited that they’re reproducing?

Or do I just accept that those tales and this one are all just part of the same journalistic need to pretend they know what their audience wants?

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 249: Letter One

How long does it take for passion to burn itself out?

When does an artist’s insight no longer resonate with its time?

At what point do you decide nobody wants what you’re selling, give up and move on?

Every creative person has a project they’re desperate to realize. And Showbiz is rife with stories about those repeatedly rejected or marginalized who refused to stop believing in their work.

But the Gatekeepers and Powers That Be are the Deciders.

And yet…

Books have become classics despite rejection by countless publishers. Award winning Movies have survived decades in development. Hit TV series overcame debut numbers that made them sure bets for cancellation.

In the end, they all achieved success because somebody believed. Somebody kept them alive. Somebody refused to accept that the message was not worth hearing.

In January of 2006, Tony Nardi asked me to attend a reading of a “letter” he’d written. After exhausting every excuse I had, I relented and went along. That letter changed my life.

Not changed it in an “OmiGod!I can see again!” way –- but close.

Shocked and angered by a script for which he’d been asked to audition, Tony explored where that shock and anger came from and in the process pulled back the veil on what really goes on in the creation of Canadian television.

It was a raw, passionate and scathingly unblinking look at the industry in which most of those reading this blog work or aspire to work.

Listening to that letter, I realized how much damage had been done to countless Canadian artists by what we’ve allowed to happen to the theatre, television and movies that we make in this country.

And it was something we could fix.

But would we?

Who among us had the courage?

And what might become of those who challenged the Deciders?

Much of what has been written at “The Legion of Decency” was inspired by Tony’s letter and some fellow Canadian bloggers who shared his passion for change.

Five years ago, I encouraged those reading this space to attend the first staging of what by then had become “Two Letters”, a theatrical event that earned glowing reviews.

Today, I’m encouraging you to do whatever you can to attend the first screening of the filmed version.

Friday, December 7th at 9 p.m. “Letter One” debuts at Toronto’s Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion moderated by Thom Ernst, host of TVO’s “Saturday Night at the Movies”.

The panel will include Nardi, Donato Santeramo (Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, Queen’s University), Nick Mancuso (actor and producer) and others.

Tickets are $11 ($8 for Hot Docs Members).

I don’t think I exaggerate in saying that if you are a working professional artist in Canada, this is the most important film you will see this year.

It’s passionate, inspiring and revelatory of what’s wrong with our creative industries –- and how we can repair them. And making it took more courage and commitment than most of us have ever been willing to bring to bear.

Start with one phrase from the trailer. “Filmed in front of a live audience in one take.” Imagine having the guts to do that with something you’ve spent almost a decade trying to get onscreen.

Go. Please Go. This is Important.

And –- Enjoy your Sunday.