Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Where are we now?

Still recovering from the positive news of making Travel Day with Canadian tax credits and awaiting any news from the people Rachel contacted who might co-produce with me.  This amounts to the usual fears and apprehension that writers, producers and actors share, maybe directors too. Are the forces going to approve of us, will they like us (in my case, the script), and 100 reasons why they should.

Countered by 101 reasons why they shouldn't.

Rejection, as I've posted before is a daily thing for anyone in the film business, and judged by others, often of less ability.  Actors can get or lose a part just because of how they look, writers can fall prey to envious readers who can't write but who want to punish those who can by giving a bad reader's report.  After all I had 9 original screenplays produced but 24 still on the shelf, all rejected.

There is a lot of envy in this business because so much of it is a lottery. Take the cast of Friends, that hugely successful series from the early 90's.  None of the actors are particularly talented, but for some reason they seemed to click with each other and more importantly, with the audience.  In other words, they won the lottery.  On their own, they're quite unremarkable, as evidenced by their lame efforts at movies.

Joke in LA is "what's the difference between Jennifer Aniston's movies?"

Answer is: "Different titles." 

In the meantime, I studied the tax credit system in Manitoba, where this might be filmed if it all falls together (cup half empty??).  It's not all that difficult as I compared the other provinces incentives.  My main concern is the general lack of good actors in the city, considering that it's relatively small, around 700,000 compared to Los Angeles 10 million. 

And many of those are Canadians who left Canada to be successful here.  And not to belittle Manitoba or any of the other provinces, there simply isn't enough choice in the talent area which means we would have to cast in Toronto and Vancouver.  I remember casting once in Calgary with a Toronto director who privately lamented to me "this is like the Gong Show" relating to a now-defunct game show of the 70's.

And that's not to say LA has all great actors, just more of a choice of the good ones.  Of course, some Canadians will label me as betraying Canadian talent, but the truth is, most of the best Canadian actors are in L.A.  Michael J. Fox once said that in Canada he would do crazy things and people would look at him, in Los Angeles they paid him.

There is one exception though, and that is Quebec.

The French-Canadians consistently make good, if not great movies, one even won an Academy award for best foreign film, Barbarians at the Gate, by Denys Arcand who consistently makes good movies.  I've always thought that it's because the French Canadians have a strong identity and culture whereas English Canada struggles to be somewhere in between England and the U.S. 

Nonetheless I still constantly remind my American friends of Canadian actors, as in "Keifer Sutherland is Canadian, so is Michael Cera (Napoleon Dynamite), Ellen Page, William Shatner, Leslie Neilson, Jim Carrey" and dozens others.  Some people think it indicates that general lack of self esteem Canadians seem to ooze, always feeling it necessary to validate ourselves to our big rich cousin America.  It probably is, but we all continue doing it.

And that's not including the hundreds of Canadians that flow to LA during pilot season in early January in hopes of grabbing a part in a series. There's even specific motels that are filled with Canadians, places like the Highland Gardens on Franklin in the heart of Hollywood, where a documentary was made on aspiring actors and the majority staying there were Canadian.

But how will it affect Travel Day?

With the exception of the "star", the leading role of Katherine, we will cast in Canada, it means more expense and of course, travel and accommodation and of course, per diem, expense money given to anyone from out of town,crew can get around $400 a week for meals and anything else they can get for that much money.  And stars can get whatever they negotiate, meaning a lot more than a paltry $400 a week. And remember hotel costs are extra and meals are usually eaten on the set for free.

The great part of filming in LA is that you simply pick up the actor/star at their home, drive them back at the end of the day. No per diems, no hotel expenses, no first class airfares.  All this will come out of the budget and the way the American dollar is sinking (today 93.48 cents Cdn) the Canadian dollar will be worth the same by February. This means that the U.S. investor's money won't be worth that much more and would cause the budget to go lower even as costs for airfares, etc. remains the same or higher.

So now I have to do a new budget to reflect the exchange rates. That's at least 2 days of work. All for nothing of course.  We don't make money until the money is there.  All I am doing now and for the last 3 months is gratis, free.  Working a good 8 hours a day in the hopes we get the money. Same as Shirley. 

As with many things, a new opportunity presents a few more hitches that mean re-adjusting the budget and the original vision. There are 2 schools here, it can't be done right if it's not what you originally set out to do, meaning location, actors you wanted, etc.

Or you roll your sleeves up and make it work so that you still make the movie you wanted to do.

If  it all works out. Notice a similar theme you hear from me?  

And I'm optimistic.

(Next: The sad state of the film industry)


  1. Hey Jim,

    When are we going to see Shirley? We've heard all about her but you are keeping her to yourself - maybe just a picture???


  2. Hey Chris... I am trying to get her to post a pic, also want her to do a "guest post" sometime soon.