So long and thanks for all the fish…

5 07 2010

That is the inimitable line from one of Douglas Adam‘s Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy books (I think it’s the fourth in a trilogy of five). My brother Matthew is reading it right now, and it’s a trip down memory lane to pick it up again and dive with childlike delight into one of Adams’ weirdly constructed paragraphs about Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent’s excellent adventures. No one writes like Adams. If you’ve never read it and have any sort of a sense of humour at all, you might consider picking one of his books up for fun. Just leave the custard and sperm whales behind because they tend to get damaged on these trips.

But I digress.

Mist rises from the Niagara Falls high above the constant crowds. We "digressed" with a side trip there so my brother could see the Falls for the first time before heading out West for real.

I feel I’m going back in time because I’m on yet another road trip across the continent. My sixth. One could argue this many trips in ten years is un de trop, but I never get tired of road trips. It’s for a good cause: I need lots of time to think about my reasons for heading back to my native land, British Columbia, after 12 years living and working in Toronto and Montreal, to start my own documentary production company.

Sounds grand doesn’t it? And it is, until you consider the current production climate working directors et al. are suffering though. I believe Canada will fare better than most, although worse than we would have done without Harper at the helm, but still I get the sweats thinking about it.

Why am I starting a production company at this particular time? What am I, a woman of 31 years of age with virtually no field experience, doing, entering this industry at this point in time? When many esteemed directors, producers, sound techs and videographers are grasping for any work they can find? Why?

No one yet knows how to make money from webdocs. No one can figure out distribution figures when everything is being given away for free, and the consumers are now trained to expect everything to be free. No one has figured out how – aside from going to those excellent institutions the NFB/ONF and SODEC and the like – how to get money to make a film. And the only people who are getting THAT kind of money are the already working filmmakers, those who have produced at least two or three decently well-regarded films, and even THEY are having trouble getting the funds together.

I should be running straight back for the hills of Montreal, begging someone for an internship in network TV and moonlighting at McKibbon’s bar, praying there will be a job in 3-5 years when some reporter finally releases their white-knuckled grip on their job and moves on. But I’m heading out West to start editing our first project, a mini-doc about an encounter between Brazil’s orphans and a natural horsewoman.

Why? Because in spectacularly depressing scenarios like this, when everything media-related has been thrown against the wall and all the rules have changed, people can create their own opportunities. I have faith that starting out in the middle of chaos puts everyone on a level field. Chaos even creates an advantage for those who have nothing better to do than grab the tail of opportunity and see what corner they will be whipped around next. I believe that the current climate we’re living through is the most exciting, terrifying, thrilling, open-source, open-ended, adventurous time we’ve seen since New Wave met mullet hairdos. I think that if anyone can tackle this new environment, it’s those people like me, who have nothing to lose and everything to gain by jumping in now.

Tobi has finally found her true function: Amy Minksy holds up the Tobi clothes steamer.

This is a time for the pioneers and time-shapers, the innovators and inventors, the experimenters and the agitators… and the young. I may qualify in only the last category, but that’s good enough for me.

But in the meantime, on the scenic route to the exciting new world of starting a production company in the midst of all this chaos, I’m stuck inside a beige-themed RV, doing nothing much without access to the Internet.

Our trip west is taking the molasses-slow route. With two excellent drivers on board, Matt and my Dad (who never lets me forget that I’ve wrecked 4 cars in a total of 8 accidents) who don’t let me take the wheel for anything, I’m doing a lot of reading. 

Since we left Montreal a week ago I’ve already finished one ENTIRE novel – what a luxury! – Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed, and I’m starting Alexandr Solzhenitsyn’s In the First Circle – the first-time-ever-issued uncensored edition. Other pieces of note: the latest issue of Maisonneuve magazine that features some heavy reading (AI, Singularity theory and the end of humanity) and heavy breathing (how one copy writer almost ended up writing excerpts for hard-core porn videos.)

So long, and see you on the other side.

How beautiful is Canada, hey?

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