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When little fish swim

A Whistler screenwriter pitches at the Banff Television Festival and celebrates the survival of O


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I’m an incredible wimp when it comes to meeting people, including making ordinary phone calls. The embarrassing truth is that when I was a teen, I couldn’t even call my hairdresser to book an appointment. I begged my mother to call, and she did. Possibly she was more disgusted with my growing resemblance to Cousin It than my shameful inability to use the most basic instrument of twentieth-century technology. When I finally left home for film school I was forced to overcome my irrational fear. But every now and then it crops up again.

What should be a straightforward task of e-mailing the broadcasters I need to meet, becomes an agonizing exercise. I dither over my e-mails, writing and rewriting, trying to sound upbeat, professional and creative, but not too wordy.

One of the brilliant things about Banff is that it’s completely inclusive. As an emerging producer, I have as much right to meet the heads of national and international broadcasters as the award-winning producer who’s worked for 20 years. After several days of dickering I muster up my courage to hit the Send button. The next day, I receive replies, short and sweet. I have appointments to meet with the commissioning editors from the CBC, CTV, Global, The Comedy Network and W Network.

In the end I decide to drive to Banff with my producer. Since he lives in Vancouver we haven’t had much time to prepare our project together. I figure a road trip will be an efficient way to conduct a 10-hour project meeting as well as put our relationship to the test.

I first met Robert two years ago at the first 72 Hour Filmmaker Showdown in Whistler during the Telus World Ski and Snowboard Festival. I was making a film with Lisa Fernandez called Mating Rituals of the Whistler Mountain Cougar , and he was producing a documentary about the filmmaking contestants. Over that intense, emotional and hilarious 72 hours, we had the chance to observe each other working in extreme production conditions. I knew he was upbeat, a clear thinker and a cool cat under pressure. He’s more of an O than a P.

When I later decided to develop a half hour comedy series, Wild Life , based loosely on the short film, I realized I had to find a producer. My heart was in the writing: I needed someone to make the phone calls. One of the critical questions to ask when choosing a producing partner is: do I want to go through hell with this person for a very long time? I remembered Robert, and thought we’d get along rather well in hell.

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