Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 287: Give Nick Mancuso A Break

One of the untold stories of the Canadian Film Biz is that I gave Nick Mancuso his first big break. Yep. I’m the guy who first put him in a movie.

It wasn’t a tough decision by any stretch. We’d worked together a lot on stage and it was clear to everybody in theatre in those days that he possessed an awesome talent.

But while I’d done a number of films, Nick hadn’t. And so when I managed to sell a script with me playing the lead, I wanted him to be in it.

Trouble was, the only role he fit was a single scene bit part, playing a sexy Latin lover and waiter named Manuel, who unsuccessfully hit on the film’s heroine when she was on the rebound from my character.

It was a thankless part. I mean, seriously, who was going to believe that any hot movie actress faced with a choice between Nick or I wasn’t coming right back to me.

But as the saying goes, “There are no small parts, only small actors”. So Nick said “Yes”. And he never looked back.

That first credit was soon followed by “The House on Garibaldi Street”, “Nightwing”, “Ticket To Heaven”, “Maria Chapdelaine”, “Heartbreakers”, “Stingray” “Under Siege” and about 130 other titles.

None of which, of course, would have happened if I hadn’t given the kid his first shot.

And now Nick is looking for a few people to give him his next one.

Somewhere along the way, Nick, like a lot of good actors, started to write. Only he mostly wrote poetry.

I first met Vigo Mortensen at some Poetry Jam or Slam or whatever they’re called where actor poets like them take one another on. It was just like that scene with Eminem in “8 Mile” -- only with not as many hoodies.

Now, I don’t know why so many really good actors are obsessed by poetry, but they apparently are. That Ryan Gosling can rhyme like a sonovabitch.

Anyway, Nick is now trying to launch a film based on the works of beat poet Gregory Corso, who Jack Kerouac called '"the herald of the Beat generation", and he’s looking for crowd-funding to finance it.

The film, entitled “Bomb! Burning Fantasy”, has a cast which includes Nick, John Savage (“The Deer Hunter”, “Carnivale”), Bill Moseley (“The Devil’s Rejects”, “Grindhouse”), Sally Kirkland (Oscar nominated for “Anna”) and Ray Abruzzo (“The Sopranos”, “Mad Men”) –- so, you know –- heavy duty actors. Not those flash-in-the-pan pretty-boy Hollywood types.

Nick is also coming off a run of producing some exceptional independent features, notably “The Big Gamble”, winner of Best Feature at the New York International Independent Film Festival and “Real Gangsters” which this week won Best Picture and Best Screenplay at the Action On Film Festival in Pasadena.

So you have the opportunity here to put a few bucks on somebody with a ton of experience who is, as they say, “On a Roll”.

You can find “Bomb! Burning Fantasy” on Indiegogo here. And what follows is a taste of what you’ll be funding.

As Spike Lee, Rob Thomas and other Hollywood heavyweights have recently proven, crowd-funding may be the only way we get movies in theatres that don’t feature guys in spandex suits.

That’s the kind of film Nick Mancuso is making. And somebody (namely you) needs to cut him a break.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 286: Save The Drive-In

Unless something semi-miraculous happens in the next month, this will be the first Summer I can remember where I didn’t visit a drive-in theatre.

Once a warm weather fixture of every good-sized town, there isn’t a surviving drive-in within a day’s drive of me now. And with fewer than 500 anywhere in the world and only 53 left in Canada, that’s unhappily true for most of us.

Yeah, there are Summer movies in the park in a lot of places, but given the civic bureaucracy attached to most ensuring the films are family friendly, nobody sneaks in a flask and we’re all sent home at a respectable hour –- well, it just isn’t the same thing.

It’s also hard to imagine any insurance wary and nanny lobbied community that would program a dusk to dawn Biker-flick or gore-fest, let alone a demo bending double feature like this…

No, the culture has definitely been diminished. And with all theatres having to switch to prohibitively costly digital projection by next year, things do not look rosy for those of us who delight in watching a movie either under the stars or through a steamy windshield.

And yet –- there’s still hope…

Enter Honda, with a plan called “Project Drive-In” which will donate digital projectors outright to five theatres chosen by online ballots while at the same time raising money to buy new projectors for many more.

According to Honda’s Manager of Social Marketing Alicia Jones, "Cars and drive-in theaters go hand-in-hand, and it's our mission to save this decades-old slice of Americana that holds such nostalgia for so many of us".

To participate, and maybe save your own last remaining local drive-in, visit “Project Drive-In” here. With some luck, those dancing hotdogs and sodas will continue to parade across outdoor screens for generations to come.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fair For Canada? Yeah. Sure.

It’s interesting that the giant Telcos, which also dominate our television industry, spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year importing product so that they won’t have to employ Canadians capable of creating the same thing, are now whining about how committed they are to protecting Canadians.

Luckily, us artist types aren’t the only people who can see through their arguments.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lazy Sunday # 285: The Old Hidden Ball Trick

Back in my day of small town Little League teams and sandlot fields, baseball was about fun.

Carloads of parents and dating teens would sit in cars ringing the outfield, usually having a beer while stretched out on the hood. Winning and losing mattered, but it wasn’t everything.

And once a summer, barnstormers might pass through using routines like “Ain’t Lookin’ “ and the old hidden ball trick to entertain the crowd.

Or, the local men’s team would host a night of “Donkey Ball” in which every batter had to mount a donkey after getting a hit and ride it around the bases. Trust me, those games were a barrel of laughs for all concerned.

Back then, Collector cards still came with bubble gum and while you might keep a couple, most of them ended up clothes-pinned to your bike wheel so your ride sounded like a motorcycle. And the apex of our MLB heroes’ celebrity was a Gillette commercial.

Yeah, baseball has changed a lot over the years. But, I’m not going to go all Andy Rooney here, as many have following a week of baseball drug suspensions and millionaire player lawsuits that have dominated both sportscasts and celebrity gossip websites.

And I refuse to get sour because my beloved Blue Jays are languishing in the basement of their division despite signing stars and upcoming phenoms “guaranteed” to bring back our glory days.

For there is still “fun” at the highest level of baseball, where a struggling team can still find a creative way to outsmart one that baseball’s brain trust has branded “unbeatable”.

The old hidden ball trick.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Monday, August 05, 2013

Shark Week

If you have trouble reaching studio or network executives this week, it might not be because they’re extending their vacations.

It could be they’re staying home to get some inspiration…

As a Scuba enthusiast, I’ve been in the water with sharks on a few occasions. Nothing like it to jack you right into the essence of existence.

So, in the immortal words of Tracy Morgan –- “Live every week like it’s shark week”.

And as for Megalodon (the guy with the teeth up top), a lot of scientists are now saying he might not be extinct.

Not the “no such thing as Global Warming” scientists. The other guys.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Lazy Sunday #284: The Hulu Effect

For the last couple of years, whenever Canadian Broadcasters gathered to discuss the future of their industry, they’ve promised to create a “Canadian Netflix” to compete with what’s perceived to be the greatest threat to their future.

What’s interesting is that, although it debuted in 2008, and despite the copycat nature of our homegrown channels, they still haven’t managed to cobble together a Canadian version of Hulu.

Hulu is an American web presence and OTT service offering ad-supported on-demand streams of TV series, movies and original web series produced by the major networks and several studios.

With a name taken from a Chinese proverb in which “the Hulu” was a repository of precious things, the distributor has become a one stop location for virtually everything a television fan either missed the night before or wants to binge on.

And it makes money. A lot of money. Last year Hulu earned $690 Million in profit.

And unlike those aforementioned Canadian broadcasters, who are currently relying on a hodge-podge of individually branded websites and no OTT delivery for their offerings, Hulu is poised to plough a big chunk of those profits back into original programming.

Need we mention –- something else Canadian broadcasters don’t do.

“East Los High”, a teen drama with a Latino perspective, began airing the first of its 24 half-hour episodes in June. Its cultural value may be less prestigious than what Netflix produces and its budgets lower, but the show is easily on a par with virtually anything CW, FX or AMC produces.

This week, it will be joined by two more half hour comedies. “Quickdraw” concerns the adventures of a Sheriff with a degree from Harvard introducing forensics to Kansas in 1875. And “The Awesomes” is the animated brainchild of Seth Myers of SNL and Michael Shoemaker of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”.

They will be followed in the Fall by “The Wrong Mans” produced in partnership with the BBC, “Mother Up” featuring Eva Longoria and “Fugget About It” about a mob boss in witness protection in a small Canadian town.

If all goes as planned, Hulu will offer its viewers 20 original and exclusive series by this time next year. Which would be exactly 20 more than our own CBC plans to debut in the same time frame.

And Hulu’s intention is to double that number to 40 in the year following.

Feeling a little out of your depth and maybe a touch embarrassed Canadian broadcasters?

Wait until you hear what’s coming from Yahoo!, Google and Amazon, to name just three…

Here’s a taste of the Hulu offerings.

Imagine the same commitment to Canadian Content and…

Enjoy Your Sunday.