Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Trans Can road trip to Cannes to WR delivery!


Trans Canadian road trip to WR delivery

Wrestling Reality is almost totally packaged, the stress levels are the highest they have ever been, delivery is in 11 days, and I’m on an airplane to Calgary to pick up Jess. We are going to drive across the country together and move her and all of her stuff to Acamac, I am very excited about this, plus this road trip will complete my full coverage of road tripping from West to East on the Trans Canada. I will have traveled from Sunshine Coast BC to Cape Spear Newfoundland. Although the timing is very bad for me to leave the office, I am confident that my editor Andrew MacCormack and Steve will be able to keep chugging along at a sleepless pace. I anticipate a restless few weeks ahead.

It was so good to see Jess and start our lives together, right when I landed on the plane her room mate Tash picked me up, and I got to their place and started packing Jessica’s Subaru waiting for her to get back from her last call shift of her contract at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary. Before I knew it Jessica’s other roomies Nicky and Niale got home and grabbed me to join them to the Labor Day Edmonton vs. Calgary football game...hilarious! I have never seen so many out of control drunken people, everything from streakers, to fights, to passed out dudes in wheelchairs, a true cultural experience. Jess got back from work and we immediately started our road trip…except we weren’t heading east, we starting by heading west into the Rockies for one last mountain experience. Kananaskas has an incredible resort, the same place where the G8 summit happened in 2004. Only when I was there in 2004 filming the anti globalization protests for my film Songs of Solidarity, access to this resort was impossible. The Canadian Army has rocket launchers, tanks and choppers surrounding the whole estate and perimeter for 50 kms each way. This time around, a lot more of a chilled out vibe! Jess and I spent 2 nights at the resort, treated ourselves to a massage, pedicure for Jess, outdoor hot tub, and a lot of relaxing.

After 2 nights of rejuvenation, needed for both of us, the reality that I needed to be back home to oversea the delivery of the show kicked in, and instead of doing the trip in our hoped 10 days, we decided to boot it across the country.

The prairies where beautiful, everyone always says that it’s a painfully long and boring part of the trip, I disagree, the skys, the fields, the oil drills, such a foreign landscape for me. The sunsets where incredible, and the leaves on the trees had already begun turning color. We met up with our friends Van and Matt in a provincial park in Saskatchewan and a great night over a campfire beside a prairie lake. They where doing a road trip the opposite way with there newborn and pop tent trailer…reminded me that I need to get a motor home again sometime!

The next day we made it to Manitoba where we met one of my old best bros Jason Tippet and his wife Amaris at a truck stop style restaurant on the side of the Trans Canada that Burton Cummings owns, it was a dive…but it was great to see the two of them even if for only a bit. Jay was around back in my early days of traveling the country following Phish shows, going to festivals, and Vineyardy experiences. We share many stories together, all full of Kerouacian road trip adventures from hitch hiking with our other friend Shannon (we where 3 peas in a strange little pos) through the sleepy country roads of Southern Ontario, to making heap loads of money selling hemp jewellery at Christian music festivals (just doesn’t sound right does it? Ha ha) to drinking wine all night in cabins in the middle of the woods. There could be a whole journal dedicated to my adventures with Jason and Shannon. Great memories. The three of us are all scattered now but still try to stay in touch.

After our brief, yet fulfilling Burton Cummings experience, Jess and I hit the road and drove as far as we could, I think we made it to Dryden, or maybe Kenora? I can’t remember, I was too tired to think. We pulled into the shittiest little motel I have ever stayed in, that didn’t matter much to me, I just needed to sleep. Jess wasn’t exactly in love with our only resting place, but we managed. The road trip continued, I purchased Sirius satellite radio in Calgary, so our trip was made much more fun with Howard Stern getting us through the hours! We made it to Toronto in pretty good time, the trip along Lake Superior was truly breath taking, I had no idea the landscape was so beautiful up there! However I still think that Ontario is the most boring part of the drive, not the Prairies!

After settling in, Jess stayed at the Hotel and I went to meet Garry Blye for dinner. Garry has become somewhat of a mentor to me and I really appreciate his time. I am still very hungry to learn from the best and be guided through at least one other full TV series by an experienced producer. Wrestling Reality proved to myself that I can produce on my own, now I just need to learn how to do it without so many fuck ups. Strange to say though, the “fuck ups” that I made on this show where crucial ones. Because of these mistakes I feel like I have matured and propelled myself to a whole other level. Refiner’s Fire is a song that we play sometimes when I’m playing base at Saint John Vineyard…its about strengthening your spiritual walk, and getting closer to God through testing, and painful experiences…this show was my Refiner’s Fire for sure. Only Wrestling Reality didn’t necessarily get me closer to God…it just made me realize that I’m now a hard core wrestling fan! Ha ha.
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My time with Garry was insightful and I am keen o do a project with him sometime soon. The next day was a long but nice drive through Montreal, up the Northern side of the Saint Lawrence River, through Trois Riviere, up to Quebec City, across the river and up to Riviere du Loops (I love French Canadian town names…St. Lois de Ha Ha for example). Jess and I got a hotel room that night and drank some wine and ate some chocolates…the chocolates where intense and beautiful!

The last bit of our adventure was the welcoming leg of New Brunswick, we took the alternate route from Riviere du Loops to Edmonston, that drive in itself revealed a secret land that I never knew existed in this area, so many little French towns on lakes surrounded by rolling hills and all in all beauty. I have driven the Trans Canada leg so many times and to be honest am quite bored of it, this was a nice alternative. It always feels good to be on the final leg of a journey, we where keen to get home, we had a great trip, but reality of wrestling had to be faced. Jessica saw her new home (first time she has seen my house since it was a bombed out, charred fire wreck almost 3 years ago). We unpacked and the madness began.
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When I saw madness that is exactly what I mean. The delivery of the show was intense. I am currently at Pearson airport waiting to get back home after another week at Cannes for MIPCOM, and believe it or not the whole show isn’t delivered yet, but the guys are close. To rewind…Jessica had 2 weeks off, I feel for her as we where all in a very intense no-sleep schedule for the first 2 weeks of September. I fall in love with her deeper and deeper every day, not only because she is the most amazing woman on Earth, she also would bring me down Bailey’s and Coffee every morning after an all night editing session! Tidby thinks I have a drinking problem because I put Bailey’s in my coffee…but I just tell him, “Hey…Jessica is a doctor, and I will take what the doctor prescribes me!”

Andrew MacCormack has really proven his worth as the editor of this show. The reality of the show is that there just wasn’t any money, and for me to devote all my time to it, and not to developing other business would have been disastrous. So it was perfect timing to hire Andrew. He and Steve have literally been thrown into the fire, and are learning very quickly. I edited episode 1 so Andrew could see my style, I taught him the basics of Avid, and let him go for it…so much of the look and style of this show has to be credited to his editing skills, I’m very impressed with his learning curve. This is exactly what I need, an editor I can trust. What I also need is another “producer” to help support me, that is where Steve comes in. Steve is quickly learning the ropes, and I am excited to see where he will soar to after we get to concentrate on producing the next shows. The important thing for me is that my employees can deliver the same if not better product to the client than I can. As an entrepreneur and a producer, I will have to step back a bit from shooting, editing, even directing. I need to know that my guys can fill the holes, and so far they have proven themselves.

Our deadline was the 14th of September. The show was supposed to go fully to air on the 18th…and we where NO WHERES near delivering the product that we wanted to, we where rushed and after pouring so much effort, time, and sleepless nights, it was heart aching to think that the best version of our show wouldn’t be on TV, but we had to deliver. I called Brian Sobie at The Fight Network and told him that we where going to have to overnight the tapes on Purolator for a Saturday deliver, it was going to cost 500 dollars. The shitty thing about this business is it is so hard to plan your personal life because of unexpected production screw ups and delivery issues. The whole show was to be finished on this day, but it wasn’t. Jessica and I had planned on a 3 day vacation to Pleasantville (my family’s cottage in Nova Scotia right on LeHave River). It was 4:30 pm, I was scrambling to make sure everything was taken care of, I was trying to explain to Rick and Peter why the fights and the documentaries weren’t going to be back to back on TFN, we still hadn’t resolved our legal issues and the show was to air in 4 days. It didn’t look like Jess and I where going to be able to go…until the phone rang…conversation went like this:

TFN- “Greg, we have a big problem with your show”

GREG-“ WTF??? What are you talking about (insert heart attack here)

TFN- “We can’t air your show on Tuesday”

GREG- “Why the hell not?”

TFN- “ It’s too good…our sales department watched it and realized that this is gold, we need to promote the hell out of this thing, we have pushed the show up to November for release…you have a couple more weeks to deliver the show to us in its perfect state”

Yes it was huge relief for me...and a compliment for all of us. Unfortunately Rick and Peter didn’t agree at first, they where both pretty pissed. Understandable actually considering that all of the wrestling fans and all of the Maritimes where expecting the show to start in 4 days. I explained to them that it’s in the show’s best interest to hold off. Rick called Brian at TFN and asked for an explanation, and also mentioned that we have release parties all set up already. The result of that phone call was that TFN would still run episode 1 Tuesday night for our premiere, but run the whole series in November. It made a lot of sense to me, and I think in the end Peter and Rick where happy with the results as well. Jessica packed up the Subaru and headed to Nova Scotia for a much deserved rest.

We stayed at Cindy and Al’s place in Bedford. The next morning I was interviewed on Tom Young’s talk show, then I went to meet Rob Power while Jessica looked at possible future homes. Rob and I discussed a partnership of sorts for the 2 years that I will be living in Halifax. He is going to give me an office space and an offline editing machine in his incredible facility Power Post. This is in exchange for me bringing him as much online work as I can. I’m all over that. It is the online experience that is the stressful stage of the editing process. We have onlined the show ourselves for WR and this is why we are so stressed and exhausted. This is one of a few very strategic partnerships that I am lining up right now to get Hemmings House Pictures to the level that I need it to be at to make a profit. Rob also mentioned that if we are going to be in Halifax for 2 years, that I really need to meet the other producers in town, he called up John Wesley Chisholm…his company Arcadia is one of Atlantic Canada’s busiest producers. John Wesley does a lot of underwater documentaries, and at any one time has multiple series on the go. I arranged with John Wesley to come back to Halifax at some point in the near future and chat about opportunities.

Jess and I finally got to Pleasantville and enjoyed a weekend of no stress. We hit the beaches, went to my and my dad’s favorite pub in Lunenburg “The Knot” saw the worst movie ever at the Bridgewater theater called “Mr. Woodcock” went for a sail on our sunfish, drank wine and ate cheese. This is the life I need to create for myself, or at least balance for myself.

The next week we got back into the madness mode, we now had to deliver the 6 one hour fight specials. This required more all nighters, and once again props to MacCormack for pushing it so forcefully. The fights look great, I know we are going to have a kick ass show. Tuesday night was our Premier on The Fight Network at Dooley’s. Dooley’s have been very cool for our show, they sponsored us a considerable amount of money for product placements, and the held all of our after parties. Tonight it was only fitting that we held this event here…and it was packed. Great turnout, so good to have so much support in my community, my friends, family, interested others…very cool. It is always a surreal experience watching something that I produced on television, a small thrill.

Another strategic partner that I am looking for is with someone who can offer me some new production facility real estate. Working from the basement has its benefits, but man doesn’t it ever have its drawbacks as well. I truly believe that working in a professional environment will keep you in the professional mode. Working in my basement with drums, guitars, empty bottles, people crashing on the couch, distractions of home life…it just doesn’t cut it anymore. So I went to talk to an old client of mine Steve Belyea, he was the one who hired us to film the Marty Smith DVD which took me to LA a few months ago for its award. He has an old car factory that is 50% empty, his business occupies the other half. This building is incredible, all open brick, very hip, perfect environment…if I can afford it! Steve seems to be interested to talk further about it. I’m stoked. One of the things that I would be interested in doing is get some other like minded companies involved in helpingt o make this work, like IVS for example. They are technically competition, only in a small way mind you, but we are all great friends and work together often. I took them and my CFO Steve Foster to check it out. There is a buzz. Who knows if it could happen, maybe it would cost way to much, hard to say. The time has come to start leveraging other people, companies and finances to get what I need. I am guessing that this is the entrepreneurial drug that I am addicted to that gets me excited to make these connections work.

The New Brunswick Film commission every year puts on a conference, and this year thankfully it was in Saint John. There was 2 days of panels, networking and pitch sessions, it was real nice. Sadly the attendance wasn’t very strong, but those who where there got a lot out of it…ESPECIALLY ME! My friends at Fat Kat animation in Marimichi had a booth set up, and everytime I talk to them they tell me about their expansions. They currently have 120 employees animating shows for producers all over the world. I first met Andrew Dunn from Fat Kat at the Banff Film and Television Festival a few years back…when Jessica and I first moved her to Calgary, and when we drove across the Rockies. Since then I always run into him and his team and different industry events, truly the magic of industry events is getting to know the other players in the scene, and to become friends with like minded people.

As it turns out Fat Kat are actually getting a booth at MIPCOM next week. Andrew asked if I was going this time around, and to be honest I told him straight up that another trip to France plus $2000 for the conference pass is out of my budget right now. I really wished I could go to MIP this year because the show is ready to sell for the international market. Then a big change of thought came my way when he said they had an extra ticket and I could have it, provided I pay for my flight! I discussed it with Jess, and we both felt that it was the right thing for me to do, everytime I go to a market I end up coming back with more opportunities. Jess and I had to be in Toronto on Friday for my busy Jeff Prime’s wedding in Perry Sound. We where going to fly back to Saint John on Sunday, but instead, I purchased a return flight to Nice leaving Toronto on Sunday.

The end of the week was similar to the end of the previous week. All nighters for MacCormack, late nights for me juggling everything that needs to be done before the next adventure. The next adventure started with the familiar drive up to Perry Sound for Jeff’s wedding. Why familiar? Well Jess and I just drove this route the opposite way 4 weeks ago on our trans Canadian road trip.

But my most significant memories of this segment of the Trans Canada is when Andrew Tidby and I hitch hiked passed Perry Sound into the lakes regions for our old buddy Erik Klein’s bachelor party. This was only 3 years ago…why did we hitch hike? I have NO IDEA. It was that day when I realized, hey, I have money, why don’t I rent cars? Previously I would never think of renting a car, I would just rough it buy hitch hiking, sleeping in a ditch, bathing in a river, you know, that’s ort of thing! Ha ha. But here we are, 2 grown men hitch hiking to our bother’s bachelor in the far reached of the Muskokas. It was a hard hitch to be honest, it took hours to reach our destination. We arrived there and it was beautiful, right on the lake, we went fishing, played Frisbee, drank…and ultimately driving 2 hour North to Sudbury to the strip joint that Erik “apparently” wanted to go to. Why we would ever want to leave this paradise for a dirty Sudbury Saturday night is beyond me, but we did, and dammit we had fun. Nothing like sitting front row with a bunch of your childhood brothers hollering at the dancers…sure I felt like a bit of a dirt, but what the hell…it’s a bachelor party!

Anyway, back to the present, enough about the strip joints…After our arrival we drove downtown to finally meet the guys at the Fight Network,a nd to hand deliver the fights. The Fight Network was a very cool spot, Toronto is a happening town, these spaces are everywhere, all open brick, metal and wood finishes, very creative environment. They immediately started rolling cameras when I got there interviewing me about the success of Wrestling Reality. It is always a different experience when I am on that side of the camera! It was cool though, everyone I met at the Network really liked the show, I was introduced to the CEO who saw plenty of potential, and who wanst to make this TFN’s flagship show. Things have definitely changed since the beginning when I was perceived as a nobody, to now when they treat me as the producer of a sure to be hit show. Moments like this really help me justify the huge sacrifice we all took to produce this gem.

Brian took Jess and I out for dinner and we discussed business. They all knew I was heading to Cannes to sell the show, but it was obvious that they where interested in distributing it. I can see a real benefit to staying in house with TFN, I just have to be sure that it will be profitable for us to make it work. After discussions, I decided that I wouldn’t push the show at Cannes, but focus on my other projects like Grave Concerns and Weather Bomb…we would continue this dialogue when I get back.


Jess and I arrived at the Tim Horton’s camp where the wedding was to take place. We checked into our cabin and once again had a relaxing night and day. The wedding was really nice, very small, but in the natural confines of the edges of the Canadian Shield. I was proud of Jeffy, he deserves a good woman, and he got one!

Early the next morning, Jess and I woke up for a 5:30 departure to get her to her 9:00 flight. The party was still going on when we woke up. It was nice to wake up that early sans-hangover. We hit the road and got to Pearson in no time at all, clear roads on a Sunday morning. Jess boarded her plane, and for the first time I actually started to miss her immediately, it was to be our first time apart in a month, and this month was the first time we have lived in the same place for 13 years. I had a very frustrating wait all day at Pearson, I forgot my AMEX card so I couldn’t get into my beloved Maple Leaf lounge, they are total Nazis there, even though they know you are a member, without the card NO ENTRY.


The flight was long to Zurich, when I got there I checked into the lounge for only half hour, then continued to Nice. Once in Nice I had the option of taking a private helicopter to MIPCOM, or the bus…I decided to save 100 EU and took the bus! I finally got to Le Palaise and found the Fat Kat crew. Their booth was great, huge and colorful. These markets are full of producers, thousands of people trying to buy and sell. You HAVE to stand out, buying a booth is truly a smart move. The boys gave me the key to one of the 2 condos they rented, I got there, took a shower and crashed into a 1 hour sleep thatw as so deep and lucid that I didn’t even know I was dreaming. The jet leg and the lack of sleep over the past month finally caught up with me.

I got my stuff together, headed back to the Market, met Garry Blye and we had a great dinner at a Mongolian restaurant up in the middle of the cobblestoned side streets of Cannes. Garry as I have mentioned before is a real solid guy and I am very happy that he always takes time out to meet with me.

India was the presenting nation at this year’s MIPCOM so you can only imagine what the opening night party was going to be like. Garry and I headed over to the hotel where the festivities where going on, everything was velvet red, there where beautiful belly dancing girls, sitar and tabla players, bollywood electronica, and all the free booze a tired producer could handle. This was truly an experience, and that is my only real addiction, different experiences.

The next day was filled with great sessions from key note speakers like the CEO of NBC talking about the future of the industry, to Discovery Green, talkinga bout the trends for Green TV…right up my ally…finally the mass market is consuming environmentally conscious television. Too bad 3 years ago when I was involved with Eco 4 The World the market didn’t give a shit about green programming. Eco 4 The World (E4W) is an amazing TV series that is produced out of Singapore. I met Kevin, the show’s distributor, at Banff a few years back. They where very keen to co-produce the show in Canada, I saw it as a golden opportunity. I even went down to Singapore when I was shooting my “Chasing the Sun” documentary in China to meet with the producers to see where we could go with this. Sadly the Canadian broadcasters where not interested. This is no surprise, Canada for the most part are trend followers, not setters (save for NFB documentaries!). Sadly my opportunity to be involved in this great show slipped away, I only wish it was presented to me now when the green TV market is so hot.

Besides great session, and productive meetings, I was just happy to be on the beaches of Cannes again, large palm trees, multi million dollar mega yaughts, beautiful people, man it’s a real shot in the arm! That night I had the chance to meet with John Wesley Chisholm. I ended up cancelling my meeting with him in Halifax and told him I would meet him here. We hit it off instantly, in fact it turns out that he used to be in a bunch of bands that I used to listen too inckuding Johnny Favorite Swing Orchestra, and Black Pool (with Chris Murphy of Sloan fame). As I was looking at his project sheet I realized, on of his many projects on the go is a show called is IDENTICLE to Grave Concerns. This is crazy, I pull out my laptop and show him the Pilot Brent and I show for Jack Kerouac…we where both surprised and strangely excited. I think most people would become defensive, but I just saw opportunity, Iw ant to produce this show with him, and as it turns out, he’s cool with that idea as wel. Great way to get myself into the Halifax scene, and quickly get Grave Concerns on the road He already has interested broadcasters ready to buy the show, so it was certainly meant to be that I went to visit Rob Power that day and that he decided that I should meet this guy. Many good things on the go, I also offered myself to him as a director if he is in need anytime. He is very excited about this. We walked along the waterfront for an hour discussing opportunities, and ended the evening on an excited note. I returned to the villa and hung out with the 8 other Fat Kats for a bit and crashed to rest up for another incredible day to follow.
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The next day was truly an action packed day, I joined John Wesley for a meeting with a BC broadcaster, went out to lunch again with him, then met with Federica and Matteo. They drove from Torino just to meet with me, I was very thrilled by this. The Weather Bomb pilot as edited and it looked great. We discussed next steps for the next half of shooting that we need to do in April back in the Arctic. We met also with Garry again because we hope he is going to help us get this show to the market. We cruised along the dockside to check out some of the massive mega yaghts and I delivered the pilot to CBC, Discovery and Natioanl Geographic, then said good buy to my favorite Italian friends There will be a very exciting, busy and successful 2008, I have a feeling.

That night was my last night so the Fat Kat guys invited me to join them for dinner with a young distributor and her boyfriend. This was a true French experience, we ate outside in this steep and narrow cobblestoned alleyway, drank some fine wine, cheese and meats. We had a real fun time together and ended up another huge hotel party, these people don’t stop. I befriended and aquistions guy from Iran’s newest broadcaster (similar to Al Jazira). I talked to him about religion, politics, roles of women, business, broadcasting, everything. In the end he said he was very interested in buying and broadcasting my “Songs of Solidarity” documentary I shot so many years ago at the G8 summit protests…”We will buy anything Anti-Bush” he said…well this would be the film for him!

I got 2 hours sleep that night, hopped in a cab at 5:00 am, picked up John Wesley and we shared a cab to Nice. I am currently on my West Jet flight almost back to Saint John, by the time I arrive home I will have been traveling for 42 hours. I hate airplanes…but West Jet’s newest drink is the Mohito, Im on mt 2nd one and they are making my exhausted travels a bit better! Till next time!

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