Journal Entry. Toronto.
April 3, 2008

Had dinner recently with "M" a struggling writer/director/producer who never really liked me -- although he loudly professed otherwise.

A willing victim of the boys-and-booze media subculture "M" has been dragged under by the riptide of cronyism which is now sweeping him towards a middle age of anonymity, loneliness and fear.

Smiling with a hail-fellow-well-met bon hommie "M" was anxious to meet to lobby for work. But within minutes he'd dragged up the memory of a failed piece I'd done 15 years ago dissecting its awkward structure and weird visual grammar, telling me with barely disguised glee that our old boss still held it against me.

"He remembers, you know. He remembers everything."

"M" is a shadow man. He is Bogart's Ugarte. Shakespeare's Iago.

Confused as to why he finds himself unemployable, "M" is hurt that former colleagues shun him...angry that most network execs don't return his calls.

"I guess I'll take up teaching" he said.

Two hours and three beers later I watched him walk away into the Toronto night. Collar turned up against the drizzle ... dodging traffic ... giving irritated drivers the finger "M" caught my eye as he reached the subway stairs, and without so much as a nod disappeared downwards into its black hole.


joeclark said...

Unnecessarily nasty, “Don”?

"The Book of Don" said...

Hmmm. I'm sorry you feel that way. It wasn't meant to be "nasty" - not at all.

I hoped it might be read as a small comment on the duplicity that underlies many relationships in this dark business. And also the fear which lodges itself like a tumour (just below the breast-bone) once you hit that certain age when all the buddies have gone home and the beer tastes sour.

Anonymous said...

Hi Don,

I believe I'm part of the 'wave of newcomers' that lead you to start typing this blog.
I'm in my mid twenties and live in Toronto where I spend many a day at the Broadcast Center and many an evening at the NFB mediatque watching old docs and wondering if I missed the boat. Your stories of real broadcasting jobs ( not a life of hustling producers for casual contract), and some level of creative freedom make me wish I had been birthed twenty years earlier. It seems that the most a career in broadcasting can offer these days is making reality TV shows or cutting Depends ads. There are of course worse ways to make a living ( I worked on a tobacco farm in University) but when you live in a country that produced people like Donald Brittian and Arthur Lipsett you believe it can be better. I know we still make great broadcasting, the NFB film Up The Yangtze showed this to me. But how often does a doc that great happen? I know that the answer is to go out there and make your own projects, but with the media being the media is it worth going on that mission knowing that you could end up in twenty years as that unemployed writer/director/producer?

My apologies for the bad copy. I've got a party over on College to attend tonight and 'this piano's been drinking'.


Doc Holiday said...

Hey, Anon, just one quibble: Up the Yangtze wasn't made by the NFB, but by EyeSteelFilm, a Montreal indie that's known for taking chances on youngsters such as yourself.