Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Observing Directors

One of the first breaks I got after graduating film school was being accepted as a director observer on a teen drama limited series being shot out in Vancouver, and then again on a paranormal action series being shot in Toronto. I learned tons from both opportunities...from two very friendly and forthcoming directors who let me sit in on every part of the process, to a multitude of friendly and forthcoming crew members more than willing to share their on-the-set expertise with a newbie.

Last night I observed a couple of other directors doing their thing at the Banff TV Festival annual Western BBQ.

Hoser faces aside (and Winning leaning in trying to squeeze me out of the shot, like always), David Winning (l) and Grant Harvey (c) supplied me with lottsa laughs as we kibitzed and commiserated about the struggling state of the biz...what makes for a good/bad agent....the never ending hustle for the next gig...when the filming of TV movies in Canada was going to drop down to only 10 shooting days (frak!)...and which film was better, All The Presidents Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Deliverance.

Directors are a different breed than writers...generally a little more buoyant and outgoing rather than quiet and inward, but still have the more or less the same insecurities, fears, questions, complaints as scribes --- I feel comfortable in either camp. And I still learn tons from observing and listening to other directors...hearing them explain what makes for good storytelling may be different than hearing a writer explain the same, but no less valid.

As for the BBQ...t'was a pale imitation of its once wondrous self. Yes it was chilly, but attendance was poor to dismal...the beef mediocre...and with dj's and solo musicians instead of the usual full-piece bands performing in the tents, and most people heading back to their hotels after only a couple of hours, it was not particularly...memorable.

I've heard that Festival organizers really had to scramble to make the most of what they had this year considering the recession and a lower than expected turn-out...but it really feels like the event has lost something over the past couple years. I'm not sure what that something is exactly (one long-time attendee speculated that the fest has 'lost its soul')...certainly the international competition and 'awards' haven't got the same lustre and prestige...or perhaps the timing of the fest doesn't quite jive anymore with the Canadian network decision makers schedule (though interesting to note that like next to nobody was here from Rogers Media - busy with fall launch and announcement of their simulcast purchase of 16 weekly U.S. hours I suppose) ...but anyway, the festival needs some fixing.

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