Ottawa or Bust!

October 26, 2008 by  
Filed under Film Festivaling

(I just wanted to say the word, “bust”.  I’m cheeky like that.)

I’ve recently arrived home from two days at the Ottawa Writer’s Festival where I discovered Artistic Director, Sean Wilson has the exact same head as Rick Mercer.  Not the same face, mind you.  Just the cranium.  The shape, the hair, and the disproportionately child-like size.  It was pretty cool, I must say.

I was actually in Ottawa for three days, the first being made up of a lovely evening out at McDonald’s with my “Little Brother Figure”, Aaron Bradford.  I’m pretty sure he’ll thoroughly hate this paragraph.  When I first met Bratworst he was in high school, with long, blue hair, and had just let his friends shave his eyebrows off.  He said, “They made me.” but I highly doubt they physically pinned him down.  People called him “Marilyn Manson” for a year.  Now Bradford is all grow’d up, I suppose, and not actually that much younger than me, now.  He has a good hair cut, he can grow a full beard, he wears pants that fit and he has begun showering regularly.  It’s working for him.  Back in the early days when I knew little about animation and Bradford knew little about changing his pants, I starred him in a video series for a large Youth organization.  It was called, “Bradford’s Magic Photo Album“.

Evening #2 for me involved a screening of the Moving Stories Film Festival and a very friendly Hospitality Room.  Paul (Quarrington) had arrived at the Hospitality Room earlier in the day and thought it very inhospitable that it was closed.

I enjoyed hearing an audience respond to my film that evening, although it was very noticeable that we were at a writer’s festival, and not a film fest.  Nobody claps at readings and thus, nobody clapped at the films.  …It felt kind of like church.  I did, however, hear one person sheepishly air-clap and whisper, “woo-woo” after mine.  That rocked.

I met Charles Hodgson, of Podictionary.com, the pod cast which explores a word root every day!  I now have a CD and a book I am very interested in delving into.  It’s not often you meet a real, live etymologist.  In fact, it’s not often I use the word “etymology”.  Where does that word come from?  Charles would know!

Day #3 was for masterclasses.  I attended “Adapting Books: From Page to Screen” with Judith Keenan and Paul Quarrington, moderated by Tom Shoebridge.  Intriguing, entertaining, and informative.
Quarrington was trying to salvage his voice for a concert that evening with his band, The PorkBelly Futures, so his comments and answers were interspersed with swigs of Buckley’s Cough Syrup.

From six to seven I attended my own masterclass workshop, entitled, “Animating Books: From Page to Screen”.  I was joined by Gary Thomas of Crush Inc. and it was moderated by Chris Robinson, Artistic Director of the Ottawa Int. Animation Festival.  (Who, by the way, if he reads this post because of the Google alert that comes with the tag, is NOT a “Cranky Fart”.  You heard it here.)

I really enjoyed being on the small panel of two, but only wished it could have gone longer.  We screened our work and that took up some time.  I realized once we were up there that both Gary and I are animation cheaters.  I mean, our current, featured work was barely “animation” at all (not that we don’t animate, but what we were showing involved a lot of live-action).  But then, perhaps animation by its nature is “cheating”.  Yep.  That’s what I’ll say.  And if you disagree, you can fight me.

Then on to a nap, during which I was not able to sleep, in spite of my cushy hotel bed (two of them, actually.  I love the superfluous second beds.)  I wasn’t able to fall asleep on either of them.

I got up and eagerly jotted off to the big show, “Writers That Rock”, with a lovely line-up, including the most creativity I’ve seen in some long time by the hilarious Bob Wiseman (Keep an ear to the ground for his live performances, wherever you might be), and closing off with the PorkBelly Futures with Paul Q., who, by this time had a line-up of throat medications displayed for the audience, taking appropriate swigs and drops and suppositories, depending on the difficulty of the given song.
Despite his struggle to stay coherent and conscious (enough Buckley’s will do that to you), they all sounded great.

As the evening wrapped up and people headed out to be hospitable, I tried that “sleeping” thing again, with some success.

And that’s that.

Now it’s time for one of those “real jobs”, I guess.

Until the next festival…

The Kids of St. John’s

October 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Events, Film Festivaling

Ta-daaaaa!

Just one click away lies the masterpiece of the “2D in 2Days” workshop kids!

Over two days, seven kids, ages eleven to thirteen worked on flipbooks and claymation to come up with this:

I’m pretty proud of them, if I do say so myself (and I do).

“Anne’s Blue Heaven”

October 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

“I see the eight of us with our ‘Secret Annexe’ as if we were a little piece of blue heaven, surrounded by heavy black rain clouds. The round, clearly defined spot where we stand is still safe, but the clouds gather more closely about us and the circle which separates us from the approaching danger closes more and more tightly. Now we are so surrounded by danger and darkness that we bump against each other, as we search desperately for a means of escape. We all look down below, where people are fighting each other, we look above, where it is quiet and beautiful, and meanwhile we are cut off by the great dark mass, which will not let us go upwards, but which stands before us as an impenetrable wall; it tries to crush us, but cannot do so yet. I can only cry and implore: ‘Oh, if only the black circle could recede and open the way for us!'”
– Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

In Passing

October 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

Originally written Feb 23, 2007

Sometimes I daydream about horrible things.  Usually while I’m waiting for the subway, during rush hour.
I think about getting accidentally shoved onto the track and losing my left hand.  It makes me feel as if it might make life easier somehow.  Do I want to lose my hand? No!  My left hand is my career and my career is like my child!  A part of me would die if I were to ever have my hand taken off by a train or anything else.  I’d rather lose half my body or even my face than lose my left hand.
This morning in the subway I realized I fantasize about these things because, in a way, it would make sense of my struggle.  All my life I’ve been struggling with God-knows-what (and He does), throughout a perfectly blessed and privileged, middle-class life.  I’m perpetually fighting to push forward, but I can’t be sure of what it is I’m fighting or pushing so strenuously against.  Nothing is “wrong”.  …So why is everything wrong?
Why do I feel as if the air I’m trying to walk through is as thick as mud?
A constant, underlying Melancholy would make sense for an artist with no hands. What a poetically bitter existence that would be. Struggling through a life like that would make sense and no one would question my discontent.  No one would tell me I’m ungrateful.  (As it is, nobody does. I don’t recall having ever spoken of this before.  But I do feel as if I’m being ungrateful.  My life is incredible.)
I’m learning how to be content in all situations.  I’m not yet there, but it’s something I grow in as I live.  However, I’m not sure I’ll ever been content with Life.  Not MY life, but Life as a whole — capital “L”, Life.
I think this feeling must be humanity, or at least “the human condition”.  The struggle — the fighting — is against everything that’s wrong with the world; an endless dissatisfaction, having a distant recollection that this isn’t the way it was meant to be.  What I’m pushing against is “why bad things happen to good people”.  What I’m pushing against is “why a fine dog bites a nice child”.
Even in the ecstatic times, something in me is fighting against pain.
So, I don’t think I want to grow to be content with capital “L”, Life.  I don’t want to grow desensitized to it.  I won’t accept that this was the plan, because I’ve seen the blueprints and I know it wasn’t.
This feeling –this pang— could be the seed that could mutate into self-mutilation.
A person wants pain they can see.
I remember breaking up with a man and trying to make myself throw up (I never succeeded. Damn my repressed gag reflex!)  I just wanted to know why and where in my body I felt so ill.  I can’t locate heartache and it confuses me, deeply.
I’ve read about disorders where people become convinced they are supposed to be amputees and become so obsessed that they go as far as amputating themselves. Sometimes it’s for pity, but it’s often because they see amputees as valiant heroes — overcommers.  In a way, I can understand that disorder.
I think those of us who aren’t already there, are just one sliver away from serious, debilitating dysfunctionality.  All it takes is one little brain glitch to bridge the gap – one little spark from a couple crossed wires to make the difference between balanced and imbalanced.  Sane and insane.
This was all just a fleeting, partially subconscious thought when I got onto the crowded subway car this morning, but now that I’ve spoken it out loud (in a way), it’s messed with my head a little and made me rather somber.  I’ll likely not speak of it again, for fear that irony (who, in my mind, is a living, breathing, cruel and bored 30 year old man) will take advantage of the moment and have me hit by a train on the way home.  I don’t really want that.

C.S. Lewis wrote, in a collection called “The Business of Heaven”,

“The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never sage, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”

“Day:1”

“Loves it!” Newfoundland and Beyond

October 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Film Festivaling

My [now annual] excursion to St. John’s NFLD was, as usual, a lovely time.  I’ve found that in every trip to The Rock I seem to get tricked into being educated, in some way or another.  This year at the St. John’s Int. Women’s Film Festival was no exception.  From Irish sailors stopping in to port, to films about Holy Heart High School, to dark comedies about Newfoundland life — everything seems to be crammed full of culture.  Everything also seems to be uphill and against the rain.

I ate cod tongue.

I have yet to be screeched in.

I spent Oct. 11th and 12th with seven junior high students, creating animation flipbooks and claymation shorts for the festival-sponsored workshop, “2D in 2Days”.  I was truly impressed by the quality and understanding of animation these guys achieved in only two days and it excited me to try the workshop again.  I had planned it all out two years ago, but this was my first time seeing it through to fruition.

The morning of Sunday, Oct 12th was spent in the CBC radio studio, with Angel Antle, on the Weekend Arts Magazine, talking of workshops, festivals, films (specifically mine, “Nagasaki Circus”) and fire eating.

Then, a little break and on to the festival!  I actually got rather distracted during most of the festival and missed a great deal of the films and workshops I had wanted to attend.  I ended up starting a flipbook of my own, having been inspired by my kids from the previous week, and I hid away for most of the week.

“Nagasaki Circus” screened on the 17th with the Moving Stories Film Festival, within the St. John’s Festival — A festival within a festival.  Like an onion.  Or a parfait.

Luckily, I missed my flight home because I was too busy dancing atop of Signal Hill with filmmaker, Irene Duma, so I was able to attend the closing ceremonies and the after party where I was able to meet people I had hidden from all week and shove some helium balloons down my shirt.  See?  It all works out.
I then garnered a solid three hours of sleep, woke up while the others were still wrapping up the party, and I caught my next flight off that precious stone.

watch Post Festival Depression, chalked full of festival inside jokes!

Here’s what you should expect next:

The Moving Stories Film Festival is trucking onward to screen at the Ottawa Writer’s Festival where many-a-masterclass will occur.

I will be on the panel of one of these masterclasses, “Animating Books: From Page to Screen”

Come to the screening Wednesday, October 22, 7:00 PM, at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington Street
Tickets, passes and info: 613.562.1243.
The brilliantly written and puppeted “Nagasaki Circus” will be screened, along with many others, including Paul Quarrington’s “Pavane”, which is a short adaptation of (or alternate angle to) his latest Gillar long-listed novel, “The Ravine”.

The “Animating Books: From Page to Screen” masterclass with Rachel Peters and Gary Thomas, Hosted by Chris Robinson, and Presented with the Ottawa Animation Festival will be held Thursday, October 23, 6:00 PM.

For more information about the Writers’ Festival and all of its events, visit: www.writersfestival.org

I’ve got MY bus ticket.  Do you?

Donkin Donuts

October 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Rachel's Thoughts

I’m downtown in Toronto, enjoying the sites after having had a meeting with my indie film’s sound designer. (I sound pretty impressive, don’t I?)

Stiff from carrying my laptop around on my back, I sit down in a coffee shop called, “Country Site Donuts” — a name that makes me shake my head and sigh in disappointment at how the owner must have just given up on life, settling for such a cheep rip-off of the Canadian chain, “Country Style”. Although it wasn’t nearly as sad as the “Donkin’ Donuts” I once saw in Prince Edward Island. At least “Country Site” could be passed off as making some degree of sense.  And at least they sold donuts.  Donkin Donuts was just a kiosk that sold caramel corn.

As I’m sitting, resting my weary shoulders from the weight of technology and finishing up the last three pages of a novel, a lady comes waddling in and motions secretively to the waitress that she wants to speak privately.  Privately, but loudly, she stage whispers, “Pssst! You can just get me a Coke this time, because I don’t have any money.” She sits down, nods at the waitress and shoos her to ‘snap to it’.  She repeats several times, “It’s ok. Yeah, I don’t have any money, so shhh. So it’s ok.  Go ahead.”

It was to be under the table – real covert-like.

After a few more requests for a free Coke, I jump up and approach the counter myself, slapping down a toonie (that`s a Canadian 2 dollar coin, for future reference). <

“How much is that Coke?” I ask, gleefully.  Too gleefully.  I enjoy gifting.

“Genie! This lady is buying you a coke!” says the waitress behind the high, protective counter.

“Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh, dear dear! You’ve saaaaaaaaaaved my life! Oh you’re an angel in disguise. Oh, you lovely lady. There ARE some nice people in the world! You’ve SAVED my LIFE!!”

If I had known it was a matter of life and death I might have gotten her something more substantial than a bubbly sugar beverage, but hey. I’m glad to be of service.  Gleeful, even.

“Oh, honey. Thank you, thank you… and I’ll have that dutchie too.”

She points to a plump donut.

Me – “…oh. Well… yeah! Ok, sure! How much for the dutchie?” And I slap down another loonie.

Genie boldly continues, “…And I like the look of that muffin too, and an orange juice and…”

Way to milk it, Genie! Good on ya!

Both the waitress and I interrupt and insist that I don’t have enough money for any more things. …How the waitress would actually know this about me, I’m not sure.  I think my personal fashion style is a bit more “poor“ than the “bohemian“ I`ve been aiming for.  But Genie doesn’t question her inside knowledge of my finances.

Because I saved her life, she comes up to me for what I think will be a hug, but turns out to be a one-year-old style kiss, with lips turned ¾ of the way inside out and is more wet than anything you’d ever like to touch on another human being. Even though Genie doesn’t seem the type to pick up on social subtleties, I try to refrain from wiping my cheek clean after the *shudder* …kiss. My right cheek is nearly dripping.

I head back and sit down to my book once more and Genie, taking her coke and donut to-go, dotingly follows me.

“Yep. I know. I saved your life. Really, it’s ok. It’s ok, Genie. It’s not a problem.”

Smiles, smiles. Happy happy. Smiles and nods.  More smiles.

Genie – “Now, listen. They don’t feed me at that home. I don’t like it there. They neeevver eeeever feed me there.”

Me – “Never??”

Genie – “NEVER! I can feel the baby kicking because I’m so hungry.”

Genie pats her poochy belly. She’s got to be at least 60 years old, but it’s hard to tell. She’s a woman-child and has an air of eternal youth about her. Very few wrinkles on her puffy face and no white hairs that I can see

.

“I can just feeeeel that baby kickin’.

She sees that I’m reading a book.  I must be smart.

“Now, let me ask you. Are you studying Biology, like me?” (Pronounced, “Bee-ology”)

Me, – “Nope.”

Despite my one-word answer, I am being very attentive. I mean, I could easily leave if I wanted to. I’ve finished my coffee and my book.  I have every right to stand up and go.  But I don’t.

The waitress leaves the safety of her donut-filled counter to tell Genie that I need to finish my “homework” (I like looking young, but hate being mistaken for a student).  She tells Genie that she should probably leave me in peace — let me work.

Genie shoos her away with an,

“Oh, I’m just explaining Beeology to her. It’s ok. Leave me alone.”

“It’s ok.” I mouth to the waitress.

“Now let me tell you what I’ve learned about Beeology.” She says with great emphasis on every single syllable.

“You know your digection system, right?”

She pats her baby belly again.

“Well, in your digection system, you’ve got a tube running this way,”

She runs her finger horizontally across her stomach.

“and a tube running this way.”

She runs her finger vertically down her stomach, drawing an invisible cross.

“Now, if theyyyy faaaall out…”

(My attention had been starting to wane, but this sentence quickly catches my attention again.)

“Now, if thoooooose fall out, they`ll just start to ROT!”

Me – “Really?? …Wow.”

“Yep. They just start to rot and everything begins to SMELL! All your parts start to smell and you just start to SMELL! It just smells Horrrrrible.”

“oh no.”

She pats my knee for comfort, so that I won’t be too frightened by this news.

“But if you have cells, like these…”

Genie points very carefully and slowly to five specific spots on the top of her head – she tilts her head towards me so that I can clearly see the five points on the top of her balding scalp that have “cells”.

“then you’re gonna be aaaaaaaaaaalright.”

I get another pat on the knee.

“Oh, good. …That’s very good news.” I say.

Genie then leans in close, much like in the covert operation upon which she embarked, when she first arrived.

She whispers,

“How would you like what they did to me? Oh no. I don’t like that one bit. They don’t feed me there. You have to visit me every day, ok? Every day.”

I ask her if she had friends at “the home“, trying to get her focus off of my sudden responsibility for her well being.

She mentions a name or two and I try to keep her attention there.

“But my father. Oh, what he did to me… Ohhhhhh, what he did to me. How would you like to be tied down…Oh no… How would like that?”

Oh, damn.

I didn’t see that coming. I didn`t sign up for this.  Gleeful expression, fading.

Curling up my eyebrows with great concern for her, I agree and nod that it is horrible, horrible, horrible what her father did to her, whatever it was.
I hope she gets back Beeology soon. …for her sake. Just think about Beeology, Genie.  Remember Beeology??

A few seconds go by,

“On Mondays I get my money and I like to go to Tim Hortons. I don’t suppose you could buy me something at Tim Hortons, could you?”

Me – “Oh…. No, no, no. I just bought you some food and look! You’re still holding it!  You haven’t eaten it, Genie!”

A flush of pride wells up inside me as I realize I am capable of saying “no” to people.  I`ve been working on that.

After more prompts to visit her every single day, I try to end the conversation without making any promises. I give multiple hand shakes and a, “Weeeelll, it was good to meet you Genie. …yup. You have a good day…  aaaaaalright then…”, as well as other subtleties she refuses to acknowledge, until the waitress, watching all this time, orders her to go sit at the patio table with her yet untouched donut.

She slobber kisses me four more times during this transition.  By the second of these goodbye kisses I find myself too traumatized to pretend and I begin to unapologetically wipe them off with my sleeve, right in front of her. She’s not going to notice.  And she doesn`t.

Not too long after Genie sits down outside, I leave the building and wander some more through the Great and Mighty Toronto to find the art supply store I had been looking for. I wipe my cheeks with an obsessive-compulsive vigour for about the next half an hour. I can still feel a phantom slobber and those cold, clammy, inside-out lips pushed against my face.

All-in-all though, I’m glad I met Genie.  Even if she did forget me the second I left the Country Site Donuts, which is likely.  I won’t forget.

Maybe I’ll go back there some day, just to meet her again, for the first time. I’m very curious about how to keep my digection system from falling out.

Nagasaki Circus is a Wrap! …and I aint talkin’ a chicken caesar wrap!

October 4, 2008 by  
Filed under Film Festivaling, News

I’ve spent the last year creating 6 minutes of film entitled “Nagasaki Circus”.
My longest work yet (I am a commercial maker) was written by a cynical, stilt-walking mime named Martin “Lurk” Ewen.
Martin, a mime, turned out to be one of the most articulate human beings I’ve ever encountered (innately poetic, no?) and upon reading his short story of the same name, I couldn’t help but want to try to do it justice in film.
The story sat in my mind for close to a year, searching for a style and a medium worthy of its surreal nature, and then I discovered Lee Zimmerman and his hypnotic marionette show.
I believe Lee was the piece of the puzzle that brought us all together.  We all knew each other from the variety performance community, which created a great dynamic.  In variety performance, there’s about a half-a-degree of separation from everyone else.  I love my hippy world.  I’m glad it was able to successfully cross over into my other hippy world.
Eventually the project was taken on by executive producer, Judith Keenan and Bookshorts and we ended up with funding and encouragement from Bravo!FACT as well as the National Film Board of Canada.
This was my second film with the National Film Board’s involvement and I hope it’s the sign of a long lasting relationship.

The final piece is now touring with the Moving Stories Film Festival and will be submitting to other film festivals shortly.  Bravo!FACT has graciously let us hold off on airing the film until the summer of 2009 so that we can get the most out of our festival endeavors.

To read more about “Nagasaki Circus”, see what The Moving Stories Film Festival has to say in their press release.

Also, be sure to take a look at the Moving Stories tour schedule to see when it might be passing throughyour area!

Update: Watch “Nagasaki Circus”.

Takin’ it to the Street

October 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Busking, Events

My summer of chalking up busker festivals across the country was a great success.  It was my first year of organized busking events and there were some steep learning curves to plow through, but the people and the places were a great joy.  No where else can I meet such a diverse group of people in one room.  Musicians, comics, contortionists, fire acts, freak show acts, magicians,  visual artists, dancers, people who make bologna sandwiches with their feet,  and combinations of all of the above — all in one world-wide, yet tightly knit community.  It’s truly something to experience.
In a warm and dry climate I could continue drawing on the pavement, but winter hits hard in Canada.  Now it’s time to focus on the other festivals.  Film, to be exact.  Be sure to watch for my updates on that front.

at "Big on Bloor", Toronto

at"Big on Bloor", Toronto

Festival Time is Good for Yer Body…

October 2, 2008 by  
Filed under Events, Film Festivaling

“…Sweatin’ like a pig

in a portable potty.

Vitamin B, lots of fresh air.

Excuse me, Mr. Biker,

Can’t see through your lawn chair!”

I can’t remember who wrote that song, but I always think of it during festival time.

My summer of busker festivals has come to a close for 2008, but film festivals are just beginning!

If you’re in Newfoundland, be sure to come out to some screenings at the St. John’s Int. Women’s Film Festival on the 14th to the 18th.  One event in particular to keep an eye out for is the “Moving Stories Film Festival”, which will be featuring my latest film, “Nagasaki Circus” as well as many other intriguing shorts, on Oct. 17th.

I’ll be doing a kids’ workshop before the festival begins, on Oct. 11th and 12th, and the children’s work will be screened on closing night.

Much fun is guaranteed to be had in St. John’s in the month of October.  People who live on steep, secluded rocks certainly know how to have a good time.

Sadly, there will be no fire eating show at St. John’s’ closing party this year… at least not by me.  Any other fire eaters are welcome to take my place.  I’ll be heading out early, but I’ll have hoola hoops and Mamma Cutsworth’s beats on my mind.

Welcome To The New Site!

October 2, 2008 by  
Filed under News

Welcome, Family, Friends and Enemies!  It’s been a long time coming (about four years), but my site is finally refreshed and updateable.
I’m excited to be able to share news with everyone again.  Be sure to sign up for the email updates!  Now go browse around a little.  You’re makin’ me nervous, kid.