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Monday, March 29, 2010

I went to a panel on Feature Writing in Montreal, organized by the irrepressible Anne-Marie Perrotta, and got to hear Mark Krupa (THE WILD HUNT), Doug Taylor (SPLICE), Steve Galluccio (FUNKYTOWN) and Jacob Tierney (THE TROTSKY) talk about their experiences writing in my fair city. We're in a peculiar situation here because, as English screenwriters, we are writing in a minority language.

It is extremely hard to make a living in English TV in Montreal; of the two shows that are shooting here, one has a primarily Toronto staff. But it is quite possible to write features here. It was fun to hear the four writers talk about their unique experiences. Mark wrote a feature that got made for almost no money and won the Audience Award at Slamdance. Jacob directed his film (his second of three now), starring Jay Baruchel, who is about to hit the big time with OUT OF MY LEAGUE. Doug writes movies that get produced all over the place -- London, Vancouver, LA. And Steve's movie is bilingual, and could only have been made here.

It was interesting to hear that there is actually more money in Montreal for certain kinds of movies. Qu├ębec takes culture seriously, even Anglo culture, and you can get more money from SODEC, the provincial funding agency, than you can from Telefilm, the federal funding agency. Other provincial agencies, like Ontario's OMDC, aren't doing so well.

Why Montreal? "Montreal feeds you," said Steve, "the way New York feeds you." I couldn't agree more. Doug's feeling is he's writing all over the world, so why not live where he wants to live? Mark and Jacob are both die-hard Montrealers, too. Mark's movie was only possible with the dedicated participation of the hundreds of medieval re-enactors of Bicolline. Jacob made the point that when he was in Toronto, he kept having to write for Montreal and transfer it to Toronto, so he decided, why not write and direct the movies in the place they're really set?

The writers all talked about notes -- particularly funding agency notes. Arts bureaucrats need to give notes -- it's their job. The danger is that too many notes can kill a script. The writer's job "becomes more about protecting it than changing it," said Jacob, who also confided that he's tempted to leave a few glitches in his scripts in order to "focus the criticism." -- why not give them something you know is wrong that you can easily remove?

THE WILD HUNT opens in Montreal on April 9th. THE TROTSKY opens across Canada May 14. SPLICE opens June 4. FUNKYTOWN opens December 17.

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