But hotel living has got me remembering…
Buddy Ackerman (Swimming With Sharks): "Because there are no story-book romances, no fairy-tale endings. So before you run out and change the world, ask yourself, "What do you really want?"The most relaxed I think I’ve ever been was when a TV series I was working on got renewed for another season before we even wrapped shooting the first season. Offers were made and accepted to come back and work another season…sweet. And to top it all off, this series was actually shooting in the city where I lived. Triple bonus! It meant all the pressure was off of when and where you’d be working next. It also meant the luxury of relaxing for six weeks, including squeezing in a quick golf holiday with some friends. Sweet. Sweet. Sweet.
But that’s only happened to me once in fifteen years...the 'show in the city where I was living' part.
In the U.S. you can live in Los Angeles and assume the majority of shows and movies will shoot there. But in Canada, even though the majority of work happens in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal…a lot of stuff shoots elsewhere. And if you want to keep writing/producing TV series in Canada, you’re going to have to ‘travel for work’.
Look at some of the players who stop by Uninflected…Mark Farrell lives in the Maritimes, but travels to Saskatchewan to work on ‘Corner Gas’. David Moses also lives in Maritimes, and travels to Vancouver to work on ‘Robson Arms’. Jim Henshaw has been pretty fortunate to stay put in Toronto over the years, but he had to travel to Australia to run ‘Beastmaster’. Alex Epstein, along with Denis McGrath, went to South Africa for 'Charlie Jade', and now McGrath is jetting from Toronto to work on something in Vancouver.
And then there’s some of the people I know…Tracey Forbes from LA to Toronto and Winnipeg for ‘Regenesis’ and ‘Falcon Beach’; Rick Drew from Vancouver to Toronto to work on Psi Factor; Peter Mohan from Toronto to Vancouver to work on ‘Blood Ties’; Jordan Wheeler from Winnipeg to Regina for Renegadepress.com; Sara Snow from Vancouver also for Renegade; Rob Cooper and Damien Kindler left Toronto to work on ‘Stargate: SG1’ in Vancouver; Hart Hanson went from Vancouver to Calgary for ‘North of 60’, and Toronto from Vancouver for his first season of ‘Traders’…there are countless more examples but that’s enough for now (Blueglow I know has traveled for work, but I’ll let him tell you himself).
As Stephen Bishop sang so well..."...on and on, on and on, on and on."
After I moved to Toronto, my first sizable chunk of work was up in Montreal. I also had to travel to back to Saskatchewan and to Vancouver for work on other gigs. And I’m not talking a few days of travel…I’m talking weeks, sometimes even months.
Then I moved to Los Angeles…and I spent the majority of my time there being sent back up to work on shows in Canada. Didn’t make a lot of sense after a while…especially when trying to live in L.A. but getting paid in Canadian dollars. The rate of exchange will kill you (less now than then, but still…). Plus it always felt temporary - like it was just another ‘travel for work’ scenario.
And more recently, while back on the prairies, I still had to travel to Edmonton for the better part of a year to run a show.
Working freelance TV series in Canada, more often than not, becomes about having to travel for the work. I often liken it to being in a band or a professional sports athelete...or even a standup comic.
But at what price?
It can be incredibly tough on a relationship, or on your family and your kids. Hell, even on you. Those first few days of hotel or apartment living with some per diem in your hands can seem pretty sweet, but after a week or so it becomes a pretty lonely existence. The show is your life. Your ‘real’ life is somewhere else, back where you left it. And because it never ‘for good’...there’s always a temporary feel to everything, and you tend to live tentatively...with rules like:
1) don’t become too attached to people/co-workers because you’re ‘outta here’ in a few weeks/months
2) don’t become too fond of the scenery or the restaurants or the shopping because eventually, you’ll be leaving it behind.
3) don't enjoy yourself too much because it's not going to last.
4) And don’t ever apologize…it shows weakness
(sorry for that last one, it's another from Swimming With Sharks...doh! I apologized...)
Not so glamorous, is it. Unfortunately, if you’re working TV in Canada, it’s a reality.
This all reminded me of a time about five years ago. I was living down in LA but directing a show up in Toronto. It was December…Xmas was just around the corner…I was prepping an episode and a director I’d known casually for quite some time was shooting the current one. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and so we hooked up for quick lunch.
Turns out we’d been following each other’s career with one eye. He knew I was in LA and some of the stuff I’d done recently. I knew he was directing episodic….all the time. First he tells me that he now owns condos in Calgary, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. Then he relates all the shows he was heading off to work on in the new year. And me, knowing I had nothing lined up, started to feel some gig envy creep over me. I must have expressed something to that effect, gushing to him about how nice it must be to have all this work and the three homes and boy o boy he sure was doing well. Anyway, at some point I look up and BED (Busy Episodic Director) is just staring at me with a pair of tired, empty eyes.
BED: “What are you talking about, Dixon? I’d take your situation anytime.”
ME: (surprised) “Really, why?”
BED: (struggles for words) ”I mean yeah, I keep working, but that’s really all I got. You, on the other hand, have a life. You have four kids. A family. One home. Me, I just got a bunch of TV credits.”
I didn’t know how to respond. But I’m sure I said something encouraging and we shook hands and went our separate ways. Why was he feeling that way? I dunno…maybe because it was Christmas…or maybe because he was now 4o years old and starting to take stock in his life and what he’d accomplished thus far.
At any rate, what he said hit me really hard. And it stuck with me. And I made a concerted effort from that point on to start appreciating what I already had…and to try to travel less for the work.
Whether it’s the job or the family or the relationships, when you travel for work, something or someone always suffers. Having that knowledge now doesn’t make it any easier to balance or manage, but at some point you'll find yourself wanting to choose your kids and family instead of taking another mediocre sci-fi series gig. Especially if it means traveling...yet again.
Buddy Ackerman: "This is the only way that you can hope to survive. Because life... is not a movie. Everyone lies. Good guys lose. And love... does not conquer all."Life happens when you’re busy making plans…or traveling for the TV work in Canada. This started out to be a post on gig envy, and turned into a post about being careful what you wish for.
Back to the waterslides....wheeee!
SONG&ARTIST? - "Now one of these days that highway song
will lose its appeal to me.
I'm gonna settle on down like a natural born man,
I'm gonna live my life naturally, free and easy.
Until that day the thunder's gonna roll
and I notice there's a sign of rain,
so I grab my bags and I pack my clothes
and I'm back on the road again."
and I'm back on the road again."