Friday, September 10, 2010

Rock Musicians and Bedbugs Don't Mix

By Norm Richards

I read the other day that bedbugs are the new problem. I don't think so. They have always been around. They're pre-historic, I swear. Part of this story was about getting increased hits on the subject of bedbugs on marketing web sites. This story reminded me of my own rub with the bedbug. Perhaps touring musicians are more susceptible to bedbug problems. We spend more time in old hotels then most people while being on the road. I gave up renting an apartment since it was an unneeded expense once I went on the road. I became somewhat rootless. I took a room where we played if the establishment we were hired by paid for it or not. I enjoyed the freedom that went with travel and the feeling of not beholding to anyone. It was kind of free spirited to do this.

While on the road, one night after playing, I checked in like a hooker buying a two dollar room. I hit the pillow hard. I was suddenly awakened less than an hour into a deep sleep. I sprang out of bed and threw on the lights in search of what hit me. My skin was crawling and something bit my ass. When I looked down where the shape of my body formed an outline in the sheets I noticed these little red bugs. I was so disturbed I washed and left the hotel in the middle of the night. I walked along in the dark with my small suitcase in hand. I ended up at a local dinner to contemplate the rest of my day. This sobering experience had me booking better hotels thereafter and even then I checked under the covers before turning in. You never know.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rock Group Memories

I wrote the introduction to Jack Hebert's book. It's remarkable how close one remains to musician buddies over anyone else while the years pass. The moment we make contact he says, "Yer Face!" It's an inside joke taken from a day we mounted the stage at the Elks Hall for sound check and rehearsal. I told the guys a story about a woman who frequented bars in The Pas and made fun of familiar faces in the crowd. Musicians are more kin than kin themselves. This is the way we still acknowledge each other.

Introduction


A life and future began for me behind a blue drum kit set with two twenty inch cymbals made of the finest brass money could buy. One sizzled and the other rang with the warmest tone and flare one could ask for. Before me stood three guys handpicked from the cream of the crop. On my far right I'm blessed to be on stage with a young phenomenal guitar player who would come to play lead guitar through thick and thin. Directly in front of me on Bass stood a rather baby faced fellow with an excited voice and feel for what he was doing. On my left stood a strawberry blonde curly haired friend from catholic school to now I'd never known played a pretty good keyboard. Here we stood with our catalogue ordered instruments barefaced and ready. Someone said count four. I counted. A thundererous sound bounced off the back wall of the narrow hall and returned passing through our bodies as waves of glory. It made me smile with sheer delight. No one noticed the pleasure I felt. I focused my ears on the total sound. We moved together as one. I looked down. I found comfort in what I was doing. At no other time in my life had I felt quite this way. Yet this is just a warm up for what is to come later in the evening when the doors swing open and our peers come to dance. So long as we could duplicate this warm up with the main show everything would be right we thought.
This is something that has never changed in all these years since our musical lives began. Every number, every performance is a search for the perfect moment in our lives.

I'm proud to have shared this with Jack Hebert, the author of this book. If an industry involving music was to begin in our home town and one man could be found to have something to do with it, it would have to be my lifelong friend and fellow musician Jack Hebert. He carried equipment to halls and set it up when no one else did it or would. Jack came to my house to rouse me from a deep and content sleep. When I looked up it was twelve noon. He stood over my bed laughing. "Come on, let's go. Drop your cock and grab your socks. It's morning in the swamp! We gotta haul equipment," he says. I hurt and all I want to do is sleep. He won't have any of it. He's ready to start the next phase of his musical day and I'm forced to be part of it. His was an early lesson in taking responsibility for what we did. Jack has always been that guy.


The aforementioned is the introduction to 'My Seventh Heaven' a memoir of northern Manitoba's musicians. The introduction written by Norm Richards.


A photo of this group Symbols of Sound is found below.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Canada's Filmmaking Culture

My last Blog outlines the backstory of Tom Lamb's history I wrote for North Roots Magazine. I graduated from Vancouver Film School in 2000 with a feature script titled "North Boy." It has never been produced. Funding and development in Canada has remained a real roadblock. Without big brave executive producers attached and money to sustain, projects like mine just don't get off the ground. And yet, I keep an interest in Canada's film industry from a distance. After being active for many years, I've remained a non-member of Canada's producers organizations. I still dream of improvements. Occasionally, I make contact.

I wrote to Jim Shaw a few years back when he was engaged with the CRTC on the poor quality of what he sees coming across his cable company screens. I told him I agreed and supported him. Maybe, I was alone in that support since I spend no time discussing these views with other producers like I used to. Shaw fought a good fight and I respect the man for that. He wrote back to me. That was pleasing since I noticed he copied the prime minister of Canada, heritage minister and the heads of all the cable companies on our dialogue. Perhaps now that he's a real broadcaster and not just a cable guy, he'll find a way to put his money where his mouth is. So far he seems to be doing just that.

I wrote the new head of Telefilm Canada after she visited us here in July 2010. It's my hope that some positive changes take place in the industry and we see better films made. Here is the letter I wrote.

Attention: Carolle Brabant
Executive Director


Subject: On Screen Manitoba with Carolle Brabant

Thank you for coming to Winnipeg to speak to producers and film associated business representatives on July 6, 2010. I welcome your offer to consult further.

In the late 1980's, I helped organize and encourage independent producers when few films were made outside Toronto and Montreal. We partnered province to province to bring attention to our goals. We wanted access and opportunity. We formed producer associations with help from the Department of Communications prior to their name change to Heritage Canada. We brought together talks between broadcasters, Telefilm Canada and regional producers. CBC partnered with us and programs were developed and made. Regrettably, private broadcasters never fully participated. Over the years since, a great deal of expansion has taken place. You know the numbers and many of the successful films are record of the progress made.

In the early 1990s, I embarked on a co-production with CBC to develop The Tom Lamb Story. The film has yet to be made. It may someday be made but it will take support and new investment. I lost Executive Producer Don Haig when he died suddenly. That put me in turnaround along with other complications. CFCF Montreal had helped me develop the script further. I look forward to someday tell the Lamb family's screen story.

Meanwhile, I've had numerous lessons and I further developed my career. I graduated from the (VFS) Vancouver Film School screenwriting program. I had a successful run at Banff Centre for the Arts where I worked as production manager. Later, I moved on to Ottawa where I helped start the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

In 2006, I wrote a book titled "Greening of a North Boy." The book is well read and continues to sell. I've written feature story for North Roots Magazine gaining a massive readership throughout northern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nunavut. In 2010, I helped co-write and edit a book titled "My Seventh Heaven" a memoir of northern Manitoba's musicians over the decades since the fifties.

I found young digital equipped filmmakers today simply ignore funding bodies like Telefilm. They make their films and tell their stories no matter what. It was also my experience, fellow screenwriters at VFS scoffed at Canadian and embraced American and other country's films.

Part of the problem is we've under funded production. Making film in Canada has not been made attractive enough. Help to manage and maintain producer overhead remains a roadblock. Project to project advancement has suffered. How do we take risk without a trusted net to protect us from inefficiencies and inequities? It takes so long to develop and produce films here. banks and investors don't benefit from such a system. We need to speed things up and improve the way financing is done. I have some thoughts about that. The American studios do many things right and their know how can't be ignored. They learned a long time ago to never starve development and in turn, production. It's not worth it. No one makes money. Hits are important since it funds smaller films with artistic merit and helps expand industry further. I think we need to re-focus on this as a goal and I make this as a recommendation to consider.

It's my hope you share my views and where you do not, I would love to hear your views. For now, I'm glad you opened a dialogue across Canada seeking improvements. I'm happy to contribute where I can. I'm not affiliated and am open to consult. Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to speaking with you again in the near future.

Yours Truly,


Norman M. Richards
Writer, Producer


Post notes: I dream we develop screenplay better. All else will follow.

That's my Blog today!