Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Man Is A Man... Is A Man.

My first time as a full-blown Producer.  This deserves a blog post.

A while back, I referenced that my friend Brian was looking for someone to help produce his short film.  We had a chat and I was on the project.

At the end of January, I did it.  I was a Producer.  And a PM.  And an AD.  All at once.

If you're wondering why I haven't had anything to post lately, it's because I've been writing this one.

Rehearsal.  Phil and Alfredo, DOP-ing and Directing

It was thrilling.  And tiring.  And overwhelming in the best way.

Best of all - it was an impressive learning opportunity.

Now, the film is edited and ready for the festival it's heading to (more on that later!) but there are a few nuggets of inspiration I'd like to share as a first-time producer:

Now, I don't mean that in the "be VERY afraid and never do it" way, but in the "I'm scared shitless and I'm doing this by the seat of my pants" kind of way.  

I've read that making movies is like riding a rollercoaster.  There's the initial excitement of pre-production, which is like coming up to the crest of the first hill, and then there's production, which is the ride.  I can't think of a better way to describe the feeling of seeing your months of hard work come to fruition.  Even if you screw up somehow, you will learn something from it - even if it's learning that you will never screw up that way again.  

I had a good crew to work with, but to be honest, a good chunk of us had never done what we were doing before.  I can't recommend enough jumping in headfirst to a project and learning along the way - just make sure that everyone involved knows that's exactly what you're doing.

I was lucky that I had my co-workers (producers at Breakthrough Entertainment) to help me with questions and forms, etc., but that leads to my next point...

You can't learn anything by sitting there twiddling your thumbs.  

I was, as mentioned before, incredibly fortunate to have the help of several badass producer ladies in the pre-production phase of the film.  Pilar Segura, Sharon Summerling and Deb Wilkinson.  The educated me on budgets, scheduling, call sheets, insurance and how to deal with stress and discourse within the team.  They were also very encouraging of the project and me taking the time to be involved. 

I had an amazing PA by the name of Corine during the two shoot days too, who asked questions the whole time, but she got ME thinking about what I needed to do while on set.  Not only did we become friends, she's working with me on my next project.  It's only fair that I pay forward the knowledge I received.

That's Corine!

Being in the position of Producer doesn't make you friends with anyone - as they say "You don't make friends with salad"... a very loose analogy to how the Producers control the money and that means that they have to learn how to say NO.

Luckily for me, I was also acting as AD, so the AD didn't have a chance to hate me.

Seriously though, I made quite a few contacts on that set (like Corine!) 


On our last day on set, after the last shot on location had been cut, I sat with several of the crew and asked what I, and the production, could have done better.  It gave me a great perspective on what we should have paid attention to at the beginning of the shoot, and now I have a list that I'll be sure to bring up at the production meeting for my next project ("Soulless", but more on that later). 

In conclusion - be active. You may not know what you're getting into, but you sure as hell will know when it gets out.

As a fun aside, we'll be screening our short film at the newly-branded Big Picture Cinema at Gerrard and Carlaw.  You can get tickets HERE for a fun-filled night with a Q&A with the cast, crew and a raffle.  $10 for entry, $20 for entry + copy of the film.  See you there!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

My Reaction When...

Some of my favourite blogs are Hollywood Assistants, 1st ADs and 2nd ADs who take gifs and apply them to their work situations.  I'd like to show you my version, as an AD/PA turned short film/indie Producer:

When my Co-Producer brings up a new project:

When I accept:

My face at Production meetings:

aaaaand, when I get a 2 AM email indicating that we're fully crewed 5 days before going to camera:

bonus gif:

What my very first day on set as a PA felt and probably looked like:

Thursday, 13 December 2012

I'd Like To Take A Minute...

... to direct you to The Black and Blue, an industry blog by Evan Luzi.  More importantly, this post in which Evan details how to be a helpful PA and what he calls the "PA Paradox".

From the article:
"The PA paradox arises when crew complain about the lack of effort from a production assistant one moment and then chide the same production assistant for being too eager later in the day. It’s a lose-lose situation for the PA."

The article itself focuses on what you can do to stay out of the way but be helpful.  If you're struggling or have never been on set, you should take a read.

Most of the blog focuses on the camera department, but once in a while gems like these pop up.  If you're at all interested in working as a Camera Operator, Trainee or DOP, jump on over and have a read-through.

And Evan - if you happen to see this - any time you're in Toronto, hit me up for that coffee!

When is a Man a Man?

A couple of weeks ago, a longtime friend posted a notice on Facebook that he was looking for people to help with his upcoming short film, to be screened at the Reel World Film Festival.  He had applied with ACTRA to be one of only a few short films pre-selected for the festival and got in.

Brian Mifsud is a Toronto actor who is moving his way on up.  He's been writing plays and films since High School (I've even acted in one!) and I knew his writing was solid.  I approached him about being Co-Producer on the film a couple of weeks ago.  Once we sat down and had a coffee, it was like old times.

Thanks to the work I've been doing as a Mentee at Breakthrough Entertainment, I've been taught about scheduling, contracts, and paperwork.  Luckily, everything Brian needed help with.

This week we've started casting our production, and today we're going to scout our locations - one of them being a super-cool office to be revealed after the film premieres.  

I'm excited to be a part of this project, and can't wait until we start filming in January.  There's a fundraiser tomorrow night, for anyone who's interested:  Click here for tickets and info.


Monday, 3 December 2012

It's Like Real Life Operation - Part 2.

Around July, the docs had her come in for a prep appointment to discuss the surgery and how it would go.  This is when they dropped the bomb that the donor bone?  It would come from her own leg.  They would be taking the fibula out of her left leg, a bit of bone from her left hip and putting it all in her left arm with some more titanium and screws.  This time, they'd be fusing it to the scapula so that it would be more stable.  The hope was that since it was her own healthy tissue, the blood vessels would mend and she'd have healthy bone in her upper arm.

It kind of scared all of us.  What would that mean for her walking?  How could they take a bone from your leg and have nothing happen?

Well, it turns out, your fibula is more of a stabilitory bone.  Her walking would be unaffected.  The only result would be that she'd have a scar down her lower leg and would have to rest it more often.

Knowing all of this, we waited for the day that the surgeon would call with a date.  When he did, we had exactly 1.5 weeks notice to get our lives in order - Mom taking time off work, me working my schedule out and informing everyone, and Dad to arrange to only go on short trips so he could be home as much as possible.

The plan was for me to stay home with Mom until she recovered enough to be alone in the house.  Dad would relieve me on weekends, when I'd go home to my man and spend some time with him.  Mom's best friend (and longtime cheerleader) took a week off work right after the surgery so that Dad and I could adjust to the new schedules.

The day of the surgery, Mom went in at 7 AM and we went out for breakfast.  Then lunch.  Then dinner.  We were expecting a 6-8 hour surgery, as we were told, but during it they kept extending the time frame.  First 10. Then 12.  Then they stopped giving us updates.  

Dad and I were falling asleep in the ICU at 10:30 PM when they called us to tell us she was out, but we couldn't see her yet because they were getting her set up and it would probably be another hour.

At 11:30 that night, we saw my Mom for the first time since 7 AM.  There had been minor complications due to the extended stay under anesthesia  including having her kidneys shut down temporarily.  When we arrived, they were still trying to get her IV in (blood everywhere) and she was fully conscious and in pain.  All I could do was hold her hand and promise to get her water as soon as possible.

Once the pain pump was in and she was medicated and asleep, Dad and I went home to sleep ourselves.  We determined that I'd take the morning shift and he'd be on afternoons unless he had to go on a trip.  For the next couple of weeks, we were in and out of the ICU at Mount Sinai Hospital every day.  Two days before she went home, they moved her to the outpatient ward.

I spent some time going between home (parents) and home (Fiance) that week, and then weekends for a couple more weeks.

As of right now, Mom is up and about, driving, and in rehab.  The best news: She has MORE mobility in her arm now than she did before.  She can put it in her back pocket, which is more than we could have ever asked for.

I'll be seeing her this weekend for Christmas before she goes on a cruise with my Dad on the 22nd.  She goes back to work in January.
On the flipside, during all of this I also found out the following:

  • I found out on the day of Mom's surgery that my Fiance had lost his job.
  • I found out the day after Mom's surgery that I'd gotten into the Mentorship Program, with a start date two weeks later.
  • I withdrew from being the Social Media Coordinator for Delerium at the end of it's fundraising campaign. 
  • I began Co-Producing A Man is a Man is a Man with Brian Mifsud, an old friend from grade school.
And that's my life, so far. Deep Breaths!


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

It's Like Real Life Operation - Part 1.

Over the past few months, some big changes have happened in my family and home life.

My awesome Mom, a 2 time cancer survivor and cook to the gods had surgery on her broken-since-January shoulder.

Some context to the situation...

When I was three, my Mom found out she had bone cancer in her left arm.  When they realized it couldn't be removed due to the way it had metastasized to her bone, they took out the bone of her upper left arm and replaced it with one from a donor.  To hold it in place, they put in a titanium plate for a shoulder and screws in to attach the donor bone to her shoulder bone. (The donor bone's connected to the, shoulder bone, the shoulder bone's connected to the.... etc).

The hope was that the donor bone would fuse with the healthy Mom-bone and it would flourish.  It didn't, but they decided to leave it alone because it worked.  Mom's range of motion was severely limited, but she could still function in a normal way.  Her hands just couldn't go in her back jeans pocket or to the top of the car steering wheel.

Fast forward to January of this year, almost 24 years later, and something happened.  She twerked it the wrong way and the screws came loose, causing the titanium (!!!) to snap and her arm to disconnect.   I mean, loose, hanging, disconnect.  Her doctors gave her a few options:

  • She could leave it be.  They said that hundreds of people lived this way.  She would wear an arm sling the rest of her life.  I couldn't believe my ears when I heard it.
  • She could opt to have the same surgery she did 23 years ago and see how that goes.  Everything goes back to normal... well, normal for her.
  • They could remove it.  Bad move, doctors.  Bad, bad move.  I wanted to hurt someone.

After a discussion with me and my Dad, we, as a family, decided that she should have the surgery.  We figured that if the new hardware held out for another 23-25 years, she'd be in her ... later years, let's say... and at that point she'd let it be.  Until then, she had a wedding to attend in a pretty dress, future grandkids to spoil, and a lot of independence not to let go.

Producer's Program: How I Became a Mentee

A while back I shared with you that I was applying to a mentorship program here in Toronto.  Well, I got in!

I had had a meeting with Ira Levy, one of the Executive Producers at Breakthrough Entertainment in Toronto.  I'd met Ira while working at a previous job and we'd kept in contact.  

Ira was more than happy to help and matched me up with Joan Lambur, Executive Producer and co-Author of Grabbing at Water.  I would suggest the book, it's not bad!  A good weekend read.  

Due to some family stuff, and the fact that Joan and Ira were at MIPCOM, we pushed back my start date to October 17th - and here I now am!

Joan's been excellent in terms of letting me in on the process from an Executive Producer point of view.  Thanks to being her mentee, I've had the opportunity to tour the set of Life With Boys, meet someone who was heavily involved in the Tom Green Show, read TONS of scripts and now am currently learning the ins and outs of pre-production from another member of the Breakthrough Staff who is working on another one of their new productions.

In terms of whether or not I should have applied - most definitely.  This opportunity isn't just great for people who think they may want to be a producer.  If you want to Executive Produce, Line Produce, Production Coordinate or Production Manage, I would heartily suggest you find out if there's a program like this in your area.

For now, I'm learning about scheduling and budgets.  In the new year, I'll be learning about casting, equipment rental, and what it's like to see a series shot from "Above The Line".

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Crowdsourcing: The Bane of My Existence.

Remember how I mentioned that I'd met a PA on the set of a TV show that I'd talk about later?

This is later.

The day after I worked with her on set, I sent her an email to say thank you for showing me the ropes on set, and hoping that I'd work with her soon.

The PA in question turned out to be a Producer on a project called Delerium.  She indicated that they were looking for a Social Media Coordinator to take care of media updates via Facebook, Twitter, their blog and their fundraising site on IndieGogo.  She said it would be easy - an update every two or three days, getting info from the cast and crew and that's it.

I agreed to attend the first script reading.  She didn't show.

Apparently, she'd gotten called into work as an AD and didn't tell anyone.  So, I sat around a table with a bunch of strangers and listened to what was going on.  At the end, we tagged a mini-meeting on about the Social Media strategy - and I said what I told the PA.  Everyone agreed.

It turned into one of the most time-intensive volunteer projects I've ever worked on.  Between managing the IndieGogo campaign, emails from the crew, pre-production meetings I didn't need to be a part of and chasing people for information - I nearly lost it.

When I went into the production, I was under the impression that maybe two hours a week would be spent on it - it's a low-budget short film!  I was a volunteer!

The crew were antsy because they hadn't reached their 15k goal (too high, in my opinion, but no one listened), the writer/director was faced with changing the film, and at points the actual producers were pushing everyone over the edge in one way or another.

In the end, me leaving after the completion of the IndieGogo campaign was for two reasons: I had applied to the producer's program and was waiting for an approval or disapproval of my application, and the project was eating up too much of my time and sanity.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Producing a Producer: My Story

Back in August, a former colleague and good friend of mine were talking and I brought up the difficulty with staying in the PA program.  They'd been party to my journey thus far and saw that I was unhappy with how it was going - and concerned for our wedding coming up next year.

They suggested I apply for a program through the company that I'd completely forgotten about - that allowed a production company to become a mentor to someone hoping to become a producer one day.

Being a PA is fun most of the time - the people are amazing, the work is interesting and you get bragging rights ("I worked on Tales of Revolution 6!"*).  While I was on set, I was watching and talking to the ADs. I saw what they do - and while it's an on set position, I don't really think it's right for me. 

I remember while working at the organization that I was really interested in the Producer's side of things - the paperwork, the wheeling and dealing, the decision making, finding out how they choose projects to pursue.   The program will give me some insight into all of this, allow me to follow a project through to completion and keep me paid while I'm at it.

I applied.

I'll be hearing from them any day now to find out if I was accepted or not.  I applied with an excellent mentor company, and my mentor has an amazing background.

Let's keep my fingers crossed!

*Not an actual production.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Wedding Planning

It's starting to feel real now. I'm currently sitting at the bar of our venue, having a drink and checking over our Save the Dates to be addressed and sent out soon.

The bartender just refilled my glass of PiƱa Colada for free. It's freakin delicious.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Helpful Hints When Talking To The Receptionist.

For the past month, I've been temping at an engineering firm as their receptionist.

Since I've been manning the phones, I've come across all sorts of callers.  Having had enough of the rude and unfunny, here are some helpful hints when talking to the front-liners:

  • Get to the point, politely - please, thanks and a courteous tone go a long way.

  • Say WHO you're looking for, not just their extension number.  I say this because there are several principals who have to be informed of your call before I put you through to them - and I'm only a temp.  I can't memorize 120 extension numbers off the bat.

  • Don't get mad at me if I ask you to hold.  I'm the receptionist manning god-knows-how-many lines and a busy visitor queue.  You are not more important. I will get back to you.

  • If I don't answer, try calling again.  It gets busy.

  • Only make small talk if the receptionist initiates it.  Sometimes, I don't have time to chat about Mayor Ford.

That's pretty much it - simple, no?  Any other tips from the admin personnel out there?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Bridal BBQ and Pool Bonanza.

In mid-July, the Maid Of Honour (MOH) for my wedding had a pool party and barbeque for HER wedding, so that the parties to the wedding could get to know eachother before the big day, which is only a month away now.

Her friend hosted it at a parent's house up on Hamilton mountain and asked us to bring a thing or two so we could potluck.

The week of the party we bought salad in a bag, four different dressings and I made cookies.  We also had hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken burgers, awesome smores bars, some type of casserole I couldn't eat and tons of other goodies.

The salad didn't make it.  FI and I had to travel via train for the party, and I guess despite the cooler bag the heat got to it and slimed everything.  Ew.  The cookies were warm too, but that led to them also being soft and breaking apart.  I totally fail-cooked.

In any case, we had a great time - I fell in the pool (no, not INTO the pool, IN the pool), we all got to know eachother better and I got to meet MOH's third bridesmaid from Calgary.

This is going to be a fun wedding!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Happy Birthday To Me!

I turned 27 this year.

As per usual, I made my yearly pilgrimage to Canada's Wonderland.  Every year since I've been able to ride the Dragon Fyre, I've been going at least once a summer, usually for my birthday.  I'm a coaster freak - I'll ride anything on rails that doesn't spin in a circle.

This year, they've built Leviathan, a big-assed roller coaster that spans almost half the park.  I was eagerly anticipating riding the monster, but really bummed about the lineup it would have.

To combat lines, FI and I went on a Friday and made sure Leviathan was the first thing we lined up for.  We were in line for only 30 minutes - it moved so fast, it was almost at the point where we didn't stand still.  I was surprised and very, very pleased.  We ended up riding Leviathan twice that day.

We also managed to hit the waterpark's lazy river, wave pool and one of the tube slides - where FI promptly lost his glasses in the splash down section.  He wasn't happy about that.

We also got on the Fly, Behemoth and the carousel.  We even spent 25 bucks at the arcade playing skee ball and wound up leaving with a stuffed Bat.

And that was it.

At 7 PM, we were bone tired and ready to go home.  While I was disappointed, I'm at the point where I'm no longer the "Ride Warrior" I used to be. 

I think next year, I'd like to have a nice dinner and some mini-golf.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Bai San: Honouring the Dead

I guess I need to start from the beginning and explain why I am honouring Chinese tradition with a last name like Copeland.

My fiancee happens to be Chinese, and ever since I first met him I've slowly been integrating myself into the culture.  I don't speak very good Cantonese, but I am learning my foods very quickly.  I can ask for water, say thank you and please, and that's about it.  I've tried finding a Rosetta Stone version for Cantonese, but it doesn't exist, and I don't want to learn Mandarin.

In any case, every Canada Day the family gets together to honour my fiancee's great grandparents, who are buried at a cemetery here in Toronto.  The date isn't an important date in the family - it's one where we can all get together at the same time thanks to the long weekend.  I think the ancestors would have preferred to have more of the family there than have a specific date.

The idea is to honour your dead by cleaning their graves, bringing food, (small amounts of) alcohol, incense and money to burn.

No, literally, burning money is a thing.  We happen to not want to be arrested for defacing currency, so we burn paper (i.e. crappy counterfeit) money.  It's symbolic for sending wealth into the afterlife for your ancestors.

My favourite part of all of this is the pig.  The first time I attended a Bai San, they had the whole roasted pig from snout to tail sitting on the grave, staring at me.  I was terrified to eat it, because while I like my meat, I don't think about it's face when I eat it.

It was delicious.

I love this tradition, because I think it's important to remember those who have passed.  I had an impromptu Irish Bai San when my grandmother passed away this past Winter - after her funeral, my family took some of the sent flowers over to her daughter Susan, who is buried a section away in the same cemetery.  We cleaned off her grave, left some flowers and stayed for a moment to keep her in our thoughts.

My grandmother was pre-deceased by four of her children, three of whom are buried at that cemetery.  If we had known where, I'm sure we would have taken the time to visit them all.

Does your family have any traditions for remembering passed loved ones?

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Bells and Whistles.

Set Day 2/50. 

8:30 AM: I walk on and get to the AD trailer a half hour early - the 2nd AD isn't even in the trailer.

I get my paperwork and fill it out so I can get paid: priorities, right?  8 pages of contracts, health and safety and attaching my drivers' licence.  My hand cramped up.  Found this gem on the wall:

9:00 AM: When the 2nd gets there, I get to attach my walkie.  I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but if you're ever given a walkie, run it like the secret service down your back.  It'll save you heartache and earache later.  

9:30 AM: The other daily AD comes in and gives me the tour of the studio.  My duties today consist of ringing the studio bell and controlling that red light above all the studio doors.  Best. Job. Ever.  One long for locking, two short for "Cut!"

3:30 PM: Lunch. I love, love, LOVE Craft services.

4:30 PM: Back to work.  Still running the bells and whistles.  I get to wander between set-ups.  I made friends with the Director's Assistant (wish I'd gotten her email!) and got some fun set items in photo form:

Such as this one!

8:00 PM:  Switching studios!  Now, we're lead to a creepy cavern-type place - all built inside.  I wish I'd gotten a photo of it!  Still on bells and whistles.

9:00 PM: I'm sent outside to shush the guys out back - they are being picked up on the mics.  I'm the nicest person in the world.

Yep, that's crafty.  They shut the door and there were no more problems.  I met some awesome Locations and Grips out back - make friends!  I'd love to see them again.

10:30 PM: Home time.  All in all, a relatively short day.  I ended up taking a taxi though, because I was way tired.  

I had a great time on the set, and when I got home I ended up sleeping 13 hours.

I haven't been asked back yet.

The other Daily PA, though, did get in touch with me again.... more on that soon.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

What's in Your Wallet?

I was asked to be a daily on a TV show today.  As I explained before, I took a duffel bag last time.

Never again.

Today, I'm going to give you a run-down of what's in my 'kit' (also known as: backpack).  My backpack has three sections, and I'll run you down what's in each:


  • SMARTPHONE. If you don't have one.... you should have one.
  • PENS.  Someone, at some point in your day, will ask you for a pen.  Even better if it's multicolour and you're willing to let it go. Have enough to survive 5-8 people asking for pens.
  • HALLS. Nothing ruins room tone more than an ill-timed cough.  And I'm just getting over something too.
  • TIDE STICK. Because lunch can be messy.
  • SHARPIE.  Someone's gonna ask you for one.
  • GUM. Because you don't get to graze.
  • MAG LITE. For dark places.  Best placed on a lanyard around a neck.
  • ACTRA HANDBOOK.  This is for me, personally, because Set PAs and TADs need to know it by heart.
  • PERSONAL STUFF.  Minimum amount of keys. $20 emergency money.  $3 emergency bus fare.  Metropass. Driver's Licence.  Health Card.  Credit Card. Debit Card.  Extra hair tie. All in a neat little carry-case usually used for small makeup.
  • PHOTOCOPIES. To attach to deal memos.  Drivers licence and Passport.
  • CALL SHEET.  Because if you don't have this on you, you're either cocky or you have access to it on your smartphone.  I keep a paper copy because I hate reading on my phone screen.
  • LIP GLOSS.  It can get dry on set, and I'm in a wedding soon.  have to stay pretty!
  • DEODORANT. Because no one wants to be the PA that smells bad.
  • ALLERGY MEDS.  We're going outside today, and I won't be the one sneezing and ruining shit.
  • HAIRBRUSH AND PINS. I'm a girl and I hate my hair in my face when I'm working.
  • MEDS. If you need any medications during the day, try not to bring the giant-sized bottle with you.  What I've done is gotten a sample sized Tylenol bottle and filled it with my medication and Advil liqui-gels.
  • ELECTRICAL TAPE.  I'm anal-retentive and who knows?  I had to use it on a music video once and it's been on my person ever since.
  • HAND CREAM.  Because.
  • GLASSES CASE.  In case I'm sick and tired of my shit falling off my face.  inside the case is also the rag to clean them.
  • CHARGER FOR SMARTPHONE. Just don't plug it in before asking someone. 
  • OTHER. I have a wrist issue I don't like making a fuss out of on set.  I'll wear a tensor to set and be done with it, but I have an extra just in case a pin goes missing or someone needs it.  I'm first aid certified, don't ya know?
  • TOOL BELT.  Yep. I have one of those instead of a jacket or anything.  I haven't used it yet, but today might be the day.
  • EXTRA CLOTHES.  Who know's where you'll sweat?
  • PAPERWORK. I keep an example copy of an ACTRA BG voucher on me for reference since I'm new.
And that's it!  I can tell you now, as soon as I loaded up my tool belt for the day, I never saw my backpack again until it was home time.

My next post will be about my day on set!