New Zealand!

The word that most accurately describes New Zealand is “beautiful”. My entire time there I was simply floored by the natural beauty – and unlike Australia there are no animals that can kill you.

Before heading to the airport I checked to make sure I had everything and ran to catch the train/skybus. I was ahead of schedule and everything seemed perfect until the teller at the Jetstar counter told me that I needed a print-out of my ticket out of New Zealand or they wouldn’t let me in the country. Fuck. I ran to the Virgin Australia counter (because I booked my ticket out of NZ with them) and there was nobody there for the next 2 hours (no flights). I ran around the airport trying to find a place to print out this damn ticket until I finally found the service desk. Time was ticking (as Jetstar is known to be very firm on their gate closure times) and I had to wait 5 minutes for the clerk to arrive. I jumped on to my e-mail account and printed the page (which cost me 3$ – WTF) and sprinted to the check-in counter at the last minute. Thank God.

I started my trip off in Christchurch at 5 am in the morning. I slept maybe 4 hours on the plane that night and there was a security guard going around the airport and waking anyone who was sleeping. I had to hang out at the airport for 3 hours until my car rental place opened and during that time I befriended a guy from Vancouver who was living in Australia for a while. We drove around town trying to find a breakfast joint and the reality of the devastation from the earthquakes began to settle in. I really didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was. I walked around the city, talked to some locals, and realized just how horrible those quakes were (and worst of all – they keep happening). There is a cool part of the CBD that they’ve set up, though. It’s called ReStart and it’s basically an open-air mall made out of stylized shipping containers. Really cool vibe going on there. After talking to a bunch of locals and seeing a play in the botanical gardens, I could see how Chch was a very beautiful city before the quakes. My heart goes out to them and I hope they’re able to rebuild what they had without it all falling into the ocean.

I packed my car the next day and headed for Mount Cook – New Zealand’s highest peak. They apparently shot some scenes of Gondor around there, but I couldn’t really pick it out. It started raining while I passed sheep farm after sheep farm but as the altitude raised, the sun began to shine. I passed some beautiful lakes and majestic scenery to finally park at the Mount Cook YHA. The fact that I was traveling alone really set in here because the YHA was a huge place and everyone kept to themselves. The previous night in Chch was a lot of fun and I met some great people, so this was an adjustment. I walked around the village and booked a glacier boat ride for the next day and a southern hemisphere star gazing for that night. I ended up talking with the star gazing guide about various star formations and stuff while the clouds slowly revealed the southern cross and Orion. At about 11pm I headed back to the hostel where some people were watching Lord Of The Rings (EVERY hostel in NZ has one of the 3 movies playing every night. I’m not even kidding). The next morning, I headed to the glacier ride and met Adva, an Israeli who was also traveling on her own. We started chatting while we explored the Tasman glacier and ended up hiking and hanging out for the rest of the day. We talked about her travels to South America (something, apparently, a LOT of israelis do) and hung out at the only pub in the village before heading to sleep.

The next day Adva and I made off for Wanaka where she’d be staying for a couple days. I was heading to Milford Sound and it was on my way, so I offered to give her a ride. Wanaka, she told me, was awesome. They have this Puzzle World “amusement park” where you actually walk through some pretty bizarre things. I’m not gonna lie, I really enjoyed it. From water running uphill, to a room that makes you look super short, it was a quick, entertaining rest before I headed to Milford Sound. Adva and I parted ways and I had a delicious lunch at a place called Soul Food – Quinoa loaf with an orange ginger fruit smoothie. Amazing. The drive to Milford Sound was pretty uneventful. Don’t get me wrong, the scenery was amazing (I drove up a freaking mountain) and I’ve never seen that many sheep in my life, but it wasn’t until I got to Te Anau that I was really blown away by the scenery. I saw a dude juggling out on the highway and trying to hitch a ride. I figured why not offer to help out. Turns out he was Israeli, too! We talked about the mandatory army years and how we each met a girl before we left on our trips. He was a really cool guy and I was blown away that he was hitch hiking and camping for most of his trip. Stretching every penny as far as possible. I was impressed, curious, and slightly jealous. That feels like complete freedom. But then again, having a shit load of money is also a way to complete freedom (if only I had that). Depends what you’re going for, I guess. Anyway, like I said before, the scenery from Te Anau to Milford sound was amazing. It changed so quickly from sheep land to rainforest to long-ass, creepy, one-lane, hand carved tunnel through a mountain (The Homer Tunnel) to towering peaks and driving (slowly) down the side of a mountain while a double rainbow showed us the way. Seriously beautiful stuff. I left the Israeli hitch hiker (forgot his name, unfortunately) at the entrance to the park and made my way to the Milford Lodge where I’d be staying for 2 nights.

Milford Sound is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been so far. I walked around the main road and snapped some pictures and just breathed in the thick rainforest/sea air. There was a mist just above my head that shrouded the mountains in this kind of fairy-tale haze. Unfortunately, Milford Lodge was also quite large and everyone there was traveling with friends or family. I ended up starting Treasure Island because it was the only book on my iPhone’s kindle app that was free and that interested me. I also ended up talking with a French family from Normandie who were super nice and even gave me a bag of green tea. That definitely helped ’cause Milford Sound was NOT the warmest place in New Zealand. The next day I got ready for my boat ride/kayak trip. We rode up to a family of seals and under some waterfalls. It’s important to note that Milford Sound gets about 7 meters of rainfall a year. The temperature can change in the blink of an eye and even Bear Grylls, I’m told, could not master these peaks (something my kayak guide was quite proud of). It was sunny for my ENTIRE full day in the area. WTF. The boat trip was beautiful and the kayaking was pretty relaxed. The guide and I ended up telling horrible jokes while we paddled through some easier waters. I spent the rest of the afternoon hiking along the nearby trails and snapping some pictures before retiring to the pub for a local beer and a couple chapters of Treasure Island (which is pretty damn good, by the way). The final cricket game between South Africa and New Zealand was underway and since I had no idea what was going on, I asked an older local fisherman (who had had a few) to explain me the rules. The combination of his accent, the beer, and my exhaustion from the days exercise made it so I *kind of* understand Cricket now. Just don’t ask me to explain it to you. I ended up walking back to the lodge in the dark and 2 biker women were walking ahead of me and asked if I was an axe murderer. I said “no, I’m Canadian”. They laughed and we ended up chatting until we got back to the lodge. New Zealanders and Canadians have a very similar kind of humour, I learned. I parted ways with them and almost ran into a bush full of fireflies. First time ever seeing those and it was absolutely giddy-fying. I wish I could’ve taken pictures but it was just too damn dark. Not much left to do in Milford Sound after dark, so I read a chapter of Treasure Island, watched Scott Pilgrim on my phone, and went to sleep.

The next day the rain started to come down. I put on my raincoat and made off for some trails. I saw some beautiful waterfalls, some great swinging bridges (that actually scared the crap out of me), and a hilarious “museum” with a very colourful character manning the till.
“What’s in the museum?” I ask.
“Old stuff.” she responds with a grin.
It ended up being a small museum of the pioneers in the area who mapped the region and built the Homer Tunnel. I headed for Queenstown next with not much to report between the two points.

In Queenstown I stayed at the best hostel I’ve seen at so far – Adventure Queenstown. It was in the centre of the city, had balconies overlooking the mountains, and really helpful staff. I ended up booking a canyon swing over the shotover canyon for the next day because the cloud cover didn’t seem to permit a skydive (sadly – that was going to be my main event in Queenstown). the night was decently quiet and I stayed at the hostel and met some lovely folks from the UK (England and Wales) and some Americans (from Boston and Los Angeles). The Bostonian and I noticed how damn similar our accents were because he had been relocated to L.A. and lost his New England accent. He even said “about” and “bag” the same way and told me how much Californians made fun of him! I decided to head to bed early that night because I knew I was going to have a big day. Boy was I right.

I woke up super early to get ready for my canyon swing. I had booked it at 11am, but wanted to see if I could book a mountain bike ride for the afternoon and have a good breakfast. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t exactly stellar for the mountain bike, but the guy recommended me a fantastic breakfast place called “Vudu”. Seriously awesome food and a delicious blueberry earl grey that kicked ass. After breakfast I moseyed over near the canyon swing place where I actually had unlimited Internet access. As I surfed Facebook and Instagram, I notice the sun beginning to poke out of the clouds. The sky was clearing up in a big way. I walked 10 feet to the skydiving place and asked if they were jumping. “We just started now.” said the attractive till girl. “Shit. Yes.” I whispered. I ran over to the canyon swing place and asked if they’d be able to delay my swing ’till the afternoon. She reluctantly worked some magic and I was off to skydive!

In the skydive prep room I met another Canadian from Regina and a French girl from Lyon named Flora. We all hung out together and, oddly enough, I was the calmest of the bunch. I didn’t start feeling nervous until I was in the plane and realized how easily I get airsickness. Luckily they had oxygen on the way up and I was feeling fine, but once we hit 12,000 feet the clouds began to roll in. We climbed to 15,000 feet hoping we’d be able to see the ground but no luck. We’d have to head back down and wait for the clouds to pass. Ugh. Needless to say, I’m not very keen on small planes.
The cloud cover lasted all day and they ended up refunding my money. No skydiving for Justin. No worries! I still had a canyon swing to do (although thankfully it was quite a while later). I walked around town and actually found an amazingly hand knitted NZ wool cardigan with kiwis on it. It was the kind of thing I had been looking for since arriving in New Zealand. With the money I saved on missing out on the skydive, I figured “Shit. Yes.”

The canyon swing was awesome. Basically, you’re strapped to a cable and you jump off a cliff. You have a choice of a bunch of different styles, too. Some you get cut down so you don’t have to force your brain to do something “suicidal”. Others, well, you jump off a cliff. After chatting with one of the attendants I chose the pin drop (which is apparently a favourite). It took a shit load of coaxing (and a hell of a lot of jokes) to get me to jump off that cliff, but once I did it was amazing! 3 seconds felt like 20 but I didn’t scream at all. The pictures and video are freaking hilarious. Totally glad I did that.

After recuperating from those two epic events, I decided to head to the small mountain and climb up instead of taking the gondola. I was told it would take 45 minutes, but when I got to about a quarter of the way I knew it’d be a big hike – in my Adidas street shoes. I was sweating so much at the half way mark, that I was embarrassed when a German dude came up behind me. He hadn’t even broken a sweat, so I let him go ahead. He said “thanks” and started JOGGING UP THE FUCKING MOUNTAIN. Seriously over 45 degree incline. Jesus Christ! There goes any thought I had of being ‘mildly in shape’. The view from the top was well worth it, though. And after a crazy event-filled day in Queenstown, I was very happy with everything I had done on the south island of New Zealand. Oh and before I even got to the top of the mountain, German dude was already jogging down. He said “You’re almost there!” and I managed a “Thanks man.”

That night I ran into Flora – a French girl I met during the skydiving. She was with a huge group of people and invited me out to the World Bar. I met another slew of people and we walked around rainy Queenstown while Emma tried to meet up with her WWOOFing partner she met online. This was my first taste of “random year-long travel” ways of thinking. I really enjoyed this group of people and it was a lovely end to my Queenstown adventure.

I flew to Auckland the next day and decided to rent a car. This let me go straight to Piha beach from the hostel and enjoy some sun and black volcanic sand. It was windy as hell and the surf was intense, but Piha was definitely beautiful. I met some Germans and a guy from Winnipeg back at the hostel and we ended up drinking some wine and shooting the shit. They said that Auckland wasn’t particularly exciting and that they haven’t really explored much. That kind of disappointed me because I had planned to stay 4 days there, but it also gave me a kick in the ass to book a tour of Hobbiton!

Hobbiton was the only Lord of the Rings thing I wanted to do in New Zealand. I didn’t check up on it until I was at the Queenstown airport because I thought it’d be so out of the way. I realized it was on the north island near a town called Matamata – only 2 hours away from Auckland. Nice! I woke up early on the Sunday and drove to Matamata. The north island is completely different than the south. It’s pastures and rolling hills, while the south island is wet and filled with crazy mountains. It just feels different, too and there seems to be a little more of a beach culture going on. Anyway, Hobbiton was totally worth it. It was THE set they used in the movies and it was surreal to walk around it all. Movie magic. Apparently Peter Jackson had just left the week before as they wrapped shooting of The Hobbit. Awesome.

On my drive back from Matamata, I decided to stop by Tauranga and Mount Maunganui. It’s basically a beach resort that was quite beautiful. Bars and surf shops were everywhere, but because it was a Sunday, everything was closing down pretty early. Oh well. I headed back to Auckland and ended up hanging out with the Irish dudes and Kiki at the hostel.

The next day Kiki and I decided to explore Auckland together. This was quite nice ’cause I had been traveling pretty much by myself since I picked up that Israeli hitchhiker in Te Anau. We went to the docks, we went to the Auckland tower, we crashed a University opening week party, we walked all over downtown and finally ran to a ferry to check out Waiheke island. The minute we walked off the ferry, the rain started and we ran to a restaurant to have some wine and food. We talked about life back home and I was blown away how well I got to know someone in a couple hours. I guess that’s what happens when you have nothing else to lose. The chances that I’ll ever see Kiki again are incredibly slim, so why not be completely honest about everything? It was really refreshing. I wish her luck in everything she does.

My last day in Auckland was spent climbing the Mt. Eden extinguished volcano. It gave you a really nice view of the city and every other extinguished volcano in the region. Seriously, New Zealand is just one big volcano. The whole country. I wouldn’t be surprised if the place didn’t either fall into the ocean or explode in one giant bang. I really hope with all my heart that it doesn’t, but I can’t deny that ominous feeling. I headed to the airport pretty early and made sure everything was going well so I wouldn’t miss my flight to Sydney. This little taste of New Zealand made me realize how amazing this country is. I definitely have to go back one day and see everything I missed. 2 weeks is definitely NOT enough.

Until then, stay classy NZ.

Australia (part 1)

The Miller High Life. Quite literally.

Welp! After one of the craziest chain of flights I’ve ever experienced, I finally landed in Melbourne. And when I say craziest, I mean it. Every flight I was on was delayed (one by 2 hours) which basically meant that I was either sitting on a plane or running like a madman in order to get my connecting flights. Intense! Anyway, I made it. All 28 hours of it. That’s what matters.
I took the skybus to Southern Cross station, and the lovely Brooke was waiting for me when I hopped off. I swear I was delirious when it all happened, but it felt damn good to see a familiar face – specially such a good looking one. We rode the train to her house while we exchanged stories of the last little while. I admired the scenery and we got off at the north Richmond stop which so happens to be super close to her place. I showered and changed and got ready for a night that is slightly hard to remember. We ended up buying 6 wine-sized bottles of delicious New Zealand cider (with the understanding that it would last a decent amount of time). Yeah, those were finished that night. I have not been that drunk in a while. WELCOME TO AUSTRALIA, JUSTIN!

Best cappuccino ever.

The next day Brooke and I had a brunch date with her friend Eleanor. We met up with her and her Brazilian boyfriend at an Arepa place just off Brunswick street. It was pretty good and I learned that poached eggs and bercher muesli were “typical” Australian brunch foods. This place prided itself in not selling both options and every australian got the joke. I didn’t. We walked around the Brunswick street and Smith street area and got caught in the rain on our walk home. Not at all horrible because it was WARM OUTSIDE. I liked that because Montreal was -12 at that exact moment.

Monday came around and Brooke took me to a little place called the Manchester Press. It was (for lack of a better word) fucking delicious. I had the best cappuccino I have ever tasted and some egg concoction that included a (not as good as Montreal’s) bagel. There were these art installations that were amazing – a robot boy and his robot dog all made with styrofoam. Afterwards, we walked around the CBD (downtown for us North American folk) while casually bar hopping. I think we ended up going to 5 or 6 different places – all of which were pretty awesome. Since I was still dealing with jet lag, it ended up being a quiet night of cheese and crackers at home while we got ready for the next day. We ended up watching horrible TV and going to bed actually pretty early.

Installation art in a back alley.

The next few days were a mishmash of bars, shopping, and a delicious dinner made by our lovely host Grace, where I met another of Brooke’s friends – Mas – a Japanese dude that is seriously awesome. It also included a trip to the Melbourne Zoo where I actually pet a Kangaroo and saw Koalas!! Scratch that off my bucket list. We also had dinner with Brooke’s talented leather artist friend, Sarah, at this amazingly delicious Sicilian place on North Lygon street called Bar Idda. We checked out Sarah’s new workshop, had a drink at Atticus Finch, and Brooke challenged me by saying I wouldn’t be able to get us home without her help. I’m happy to announce that I proved her wrong! We got home without a hitch and I was surprised that after only 4 days, I could basically figure out Melbourne’s tram system. Sweet!

Arcades in the CBD

After a delicious brunch on Johnston at Bluebird, Brooke and I did a little op-shop browsing before I headed on my own to St-Kilda – Melbourne’s beach area. That’s where I got my first sunburn. Nothing horrible because I could feel it when it got really hot and so I got the hell out of the sun just in time. 10 minutes more and I would’ve been a lobster. On my way to the beach, I ran into a French couple who were basically traveling hobos. They were sleeping in the park in St-Kilda and were working odd jobs to make money and continue traveling. It was pretty intense talking to them ’cause I realized that I could NEVER do something like that. Well maybe if I were with someone, but sure as shit not alone. I met up with Brooke on Chaple street just north of St-Kilda and had supper and vodka before heading back down to the beach. There’s a market every Thursday night, so we walked around that and I ended up buying a Melbourne-designed T-shirt. Brooke said she knew someone at Pure Pop Records and thought we could grab a drink there. Sure enough her friend Holly was there and let us stay past closing to have a pint. That store/bar was awesome and they had great kitty-album art. Hilarious and good people. We stayed down there ’till pretty late and ended up taking a cab home – my first time in an Australian car – which reminded me that I’d have to learn how to drive on the other side of the road. Whoa!

The next day, I headed to the museum on my own. They had a bunch of dinosaurs, bugs, spiders (like the terrifying Sydney Funnel Web Spider), aboriginal art, and my favourite – a history of Melbourne display. I spent a good 4 hours in that place. It was so interesting and well put together with a ton of futuristic interactive displays. Pretty great. Brooke was craving an iced coffee and we decided to meet up on Brunswick to quench that thirst. She had to work that night, so we headed home to make a simple supper and watch 50/50 before her shift started. Brooke works at an interesting place called The Night Cat. It’s a “club” that has a live band that plays reggae and stuff. The clientele is a mixture of pretty much anyone you can imagine. I stayed there for a beer to hang out with Brooke and then headed to The Old Bar to check out some local live music. I ended up hanging out with some girls from the Victorian country and had a seriously awesome time.

The next couple of days involved some good hang outs with friends in Northcote (where Brooke’s friend Tom showed us a new kind of whiskey sour that is seriously delicious), and the St Kilda festival – something I was definitely not ready for. Since I landed in Melbourne I had not had a dry night. After the craziness that was the weekend (and Brooke telling me that I piss her off sometimes haha) I was needing a quiet night. St Kilda fest is exactly the opposite of that. Imagine a shit ton of people drinking and partying near the beach, carnival rides, street performers, and I witnessed someone trying to coming suicide off a building (and all the drunks egging him on). It was intense. The only salvation I had was the “exclusive” gang at pure pop records. I ended up chilling there with a magazine and a delicious spinach pizza – exactly what I needed. I headed home and Brooke and I watched the horrible movie In Time. Good concept, horrible script.

The second week started with me realizing that my driver’s license was only in French. Fuck. I scrambled to find out what I needed to do to be able to rent a car. This would put a MASSIVE dent in my New Zealand travels ’cause I was planning on renting a car for the entire time. I called the Canadian embassy and they told me to try with l’alliance française. I checked with them and they said they did license translations all the time. THANK GOD!!! After sorting all of that, Brooke and I headed to the National Gallery of Victoria. They had an exhibit on German art between the wars. It was pretty damn awesome. Germans are fucked up.

The rest of the week was pretty low-key compared to the first week. We had breakfast in the graves in the CBD, saw the war memorial, walked through the botanical gardens, and had a small house warming party for Tash (Brooke’s new housemate). But the highlight was driving down the Great Ocean Road. I don’t know exactly what to say about it other than it is seriously beautiful. There are so many amazing beaches that are virtually deserted. The road itself is a lot of fun to drive, too, and was a lovely intro to my right-side-of-the-road driving style. We stayed a night in Apollo Bay and I was able to swim in the (really cold) ocean for a bit. Handy note – Lorne is really pretty.

The last day in Melbourne before I flew to New Zealand was pretty low key. We ended up watching a movie in the theatres (which are expensive but really nice) and chilling at home. Thank god for that ’cause my flight to Christchurch, New Zealand was INTENSE! I’ll cover that and the rest of New Zealand on the next post. Woo!!

Sundance Kid

Photo by Fish Griwkowsky

It happened on January 20th 2011. I landed in Salt Lake City to attend the biggest independent film festival in the world with Trevor and Fish. Our little short that could – The High Level Bridge – has been getting an amazing amount of praise (TIFF, AFI, SxSW, etc) and Sundance is really the biggest thing that could happen. I’m writing this entry 5 months after the festival simply because it took me that long to absorb what had happened and, well, I was freaking busy when I got back to Montreal.

  1. This is not AFI
  2. Getting our bearings
  3. Parties and people watching
  4. Screening of the short
  5. Interviews and other hilarities
  6. Flight home
  7. Back in MTL

Photo by Fish Griwkowsky1. AFI was the first major film festival I had ever gone to. It was in sunny L.A., the organizers quickly became friends and it was easy to meet other filmmakers in the festival through the organized outings. I knew it wasn’t normal, but it was lovely. Sundance is a massive circus and everybody is left to their own devices. As a first-timer that can be very overwhelming. Not only is it hard to plan your day (be it because there is so much going on, or because you simple just don’t know what’s going on), but there are a lot of parties, events and films that are for only select groups. This all means one thing: Prepare. Read about the events beforehand and plan out your days ’cause nobody else is going to do it for you. As much as AFI had a sense of togetherness (for me at least), Sundance was a “fend for yourself” atmosphere which isn’t necessarily bad, just not what I expected. I was often left to explore on my own while Trevor and Fish went to some “Director’s Only” events (Fish got around that by saying he was Trevor’s personal photographer – which is totally legit). One thing that was really welcomed was the arrival of Johnny Blerot, our sound editor/mixer/magicman. I hadn’t seen him in a LONG time and it was really great to catch up. That man was always one of the coolest persons I know and I’m glad that things haven’t changed.Photo by Fish Griwkowsky

2. When you first arrive in Park City things are pretty overwhelming. The first weekend is insanely packed with people who have come to stargaze. I remember walking down Main Street while texting Jasmine and almost running into James Franco as he was escaping 20+ screaming teenage girls. It’s definitely interesting. Trevor said that during the Director’s Breakfast, Robert Redford himself said the circus outside wasn’t what Sundance was about. He said it was about the films and the filmmakers. Good intentions bad evolution – kind of like Religion.

We were all pretty disoriented when we first got there – which, I guess, is normal when you arrive in a new town for the first time. Hunger being our first concern, we walked up Main Street in search for a decent place to rustle up some grub. We settled on Easy Street which ended up being our default eatery for the week. We even had Fish’s birthday dinner there before we went to the shorts award ceremony and then to Corb Lund’s show (who happened to be in Park City at the same time). We walked up and down Main Street and took it all in.

3. Parties, parties, parties. Trevor, Fish, and I decided early on that we’d watch movies after the first weekend to avoid rushes and have a better idea of what to see. This meant we could concentrate on the more, *ahem*, social parts of Sundance and get ourselves acquainted with the town. It started with the opening night party with free Stella, food and re-acquaintances with our L.A. friends. I met some locals from Park City who were super nice and we chilled with drinks and talked about snowboarding. Unfortunately, writing this post 5 months after the fact makes it really hard to remember specific details or names, but I can guarantee that people from Park City are aces. Afterwards, there was the AFI alumni party where we saw EVERYONE from AFI. It was great! Landon, Lane, Jenn, Dilcia, etc, etc. I missed those peeps. The next party I was personally invited to was the Avid Indie Moguls’ party on Sunday night where I saw the new RED Scarlet (and was seriously blown away). Unfortunately, being alone, I felt kinda awkward there even though I met a great guy from Washington state – a Russ Howard. We shot the shit about filmmaking, him being a composer, me being an editor and we ended up going to the Fantastic Fest MASSIVE Party that was in the Playboy local – WTF?! Photo by Fish GriwkowskyApparently I wasn’t on the list to get in, even though we RSVPed, so Russ actually was able to get me in with his +1. What’re the odds?! And I owe him one ’cause that was easily the best party I went to at Sundance. Jenn and I ended up singing Bohemian Rhapsody in the Karaoke room and I stayed out ’til 2:30am and ended up walking back to the chalet. Seriously best. night. ever. The rest of the parties included the ASCAP Music Cafe, the late night lounge with LA friends (mostly Jackie and Jenn) and one memorable night with Fish at the High West Saloon on Park ave. We drank a good 150$ worth of delicious whiskey in Mint Julep and Apple Cinnamon form and bonded over stories of Edmonton and family. I can safely say that Fish Griwkowsky is a stand up guy and I’d buy him a Mint Julep any fucking day of the week.

4. Our short, The High Level Bridge, first showed on Monday the 24th but we all ended up going on the 25th at the Prospector Theatre because it’s a bigger theatre and would surely be more energized. It was showing before Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles during the entire fest. That movie is AWESOME and our short perfectly complemented it, if you ever have a chance to see it, GO. So very haunting. The screening went really well and everyone came up afterwards to congratulate us. It was quite a feeling. The best part of all those screenings, though, is the fact that Matt Groening – the creator of the fucking SIMPSONS came to see both films. At the closing party, we ran into him and he remembered our short and said “Yeah, it was really great.” !!! HOLY CRAP. Photo by Fish Griwkowsky

5. On the Monday, I ended up meeting with Meagan Keane and the Avid crew for an interview. Great peeps that were clearly burning the wick at both ends in order to finish all the artist relations projects they had going on during the week. We went through the questions a little and ended up with this beauty (haha):

Trevor, Fish, Dara and I also went to see the Honda display which had the most advanced robot on the planet – Asimo. This little guy was seriously terrifying to watch. He was so eerily like a human, yet so mechanical that every move creeped me out. We made a little video about it, but the creepiness just doesn’t come across on the video. This is the beginning of the end of the human race.

6. The flight home was so very relaxing and I had a lot of time to think about the entire trip. Unfortunately, when I got back to Montreal, I found out that my luggage had be left in Chicago and I, having complete faith in the airline, decided to leave my winter coat in my checked luggage. This is usually fine except that the day I landed ended up being one of the major snow storms of the year. Great. I froze my ass off in my small Sundance down vest and Park City hoodie (thankfully the warmest hoodie I own) and got home at 2:30am which is just enough time to get a good night’s rest before having to get to work at 9am the next morning.

7. The Monday back was probably the worst day ever. I knew that the greatness of Sundance had to be evened out by something, I just didn’t know it was possible to have all the events happen on one day. Thankfully, since then my life in Montreal has been a blast and Roberta Munroe – Trevor’s consultant during Sundance – has become a great friend and business associate in the shorts world. She’s sent a bunch of contracts my way that have been a ton of fun, and I cannot wait for the next ones!

At the moment, I’m working at Blimp! editing a show called Légitime dépense for Télé-Québec. It’s a great job and a great company and when I’m not working there, I have 2 shorts on the go. I cannot even believe how lucky I am in this industry and I absolutely know that Sundance and the contacts/friends I made there has helped me. Thanks to Trevor, Fish and Roberta for everything. I look forward to the future!

Well hello there, 2011

How is 2011 so far, you may ask yourself. Well I have an answer for you: FANtastic. But before I get into that, there are a bunch of things that have happened since LA. I can’t just cast them aside and forget about them forever, you know. That would just be heartless and wrong – and I’m not a jerk (well some might disagree, but they can go suck it).

  1. Vancouver and Whistler (again!)
  2. Selling my beloved car
  3. Christmas parties up the whazoo
  4. BACK to EDMONTON
  5. Christmas in Jasper
  6. NYE in MTL

1. Since 2010 began in Whistler with 2 Frogs, it was only fitting that we all headed back to Whistler for the end of 2010. Perfect bookends. The 2 Frogs crew went back for the Whistler Film Festival that had accepted 2 Frogs as the closing film of the festival (!!). Not only was 2 Frogs playing, but also The High Level Bridge, so I had to go! Jessica Malka and I decided to head there together as it’s always nicer to travel with someone and we booked our flights the week before. Everything was fine until I got onto said plane. I started feeling really really shitty and dizzy. We landed in Winnipeg and I thought it was maybe due to hunger, but once we landed in Vancouver it was clear that I was in trouble. We met up with Tara at her place (where we would be staying for the night) and headed to the Anza lounge for Psych night. Good times, but I was starting to feel like absolute shit. We got home relatively early and I started to get cold sweats. I slept all night and in the morning I felt three times worse. I couldn’t barely move without pain and even though Jess and I went to Bandita’s for breakfast, I couldn’t eat their delicious Heuvos. I had to go back to sleep to hopefully kill this before I get to Whistler.

The Whistler Film Fest itself was okay. After coming home from the high that is the AFI Fest in LA, I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed. The passes are divided into tiers and only the “Premium Industry” passes got you into everything. I only had an “Industry Pass” that got me into probably one third of the parties (but I could buy tickets at 56$ a piece…) And because I was still pretty sick during the whole thing (I felt much better on the plane ride home… WONDERFUL) I didn’t get any snowboarding in. I DID see some amazing movies – like the Whistleblower and Attenberg. I saw some not-so-good movies, too though. One movie actually made me angry. I won’t go into which one it was, but I can tell you that it was a sequel to a movie that really inspired me when I was young. Anyway, I met some awesome people and all in all it was a good trip. It was nice to hang out with the whole 2 Frogs crew again (and have a travel buddy in Jessica), but I don’t think I’ll be going back to the Whistler Film Fest unless I happen to be in Whistler for some snowboarding.

2. Well after a good 6 months of talking about it, I finally did it – I sold my car. My beloved car that I have owned for 6 years (but driven since 1999). It was my first car, a car that I had so many good memories with, and just an all around awesome car. A Black 1999 Mazda Protege LX. I drove across Canada 3 times in that car. I’ve driven to Vancouver, Waterton, Lethbridge, Kananaskis, Banff, Jasper, Grande Prarie, Cold Lake, Saskatoon, Kelowna, Kamloops, etc, etc, etc in that thing and every trip was worth remembering. *sigh*. I’m going to miss that car. Maybe when I’m 60, I’ll buy an “antique” Black Mazda Protege if people still do that kind of thing in 2042.
I sold it ’cause I just didn’t want the hassle of a car in Montreal. I never used it and it was basically just hemorrhaging money from my pockets. Some bastards had broken her side mirror off and with oil changes, minor repairs, tire changes, insurance, etc I just didn’t see the purpose of keeping it for 3 road trips throughout the year. I’m sure I’ll get another car eventually in my life, but I had to say goodbye to this beauty. At least I got a good price for it.

3. I got back to Montreal on December 6th – the first major snow storm of the year. It took me a good 2 hours to get from the airport to the Palace (something that usually takes 45 minutes). I even walked uphill with my luggage in the storm. I still look back at that and wonder what the hell was wrong with me. But with snow comes the feeling of Christmas and business Christmas parties were upon us! One thing about being freelance is you have a lot of parties. The first one I went to was the Blimp one. It was on a freaking boat and everyone was dressed to the nines! I spend the night drinking Jack&Ginger and dancing like a moron. Good times! The Halogen party was at a sports bar where I watched the Habs lose. I met the new new editor that is replacing Thomas while he goes back home to France for the holidays. She seems pretty awesome and I’m glad things at Halogen are going well. I was also invited to the Post-Modern party, but was in Whistler so I missed out. It was a good week! Not much work got done on my part, though haha.

4. Edmonton. For the Holidays. Again. When I first bought my plane ticket in November, I though to myself “Really? Again?” but as the departure day grew nearer, I actually got pretty excited for the trip back home. I was going to see my family and friends whom I missed quite a lot. It started with a potluck at Bree’s where I saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in years. It was short but sweet as I had landed 2 hours before going to the party. The next day I had Pad’s with Lyndsie and that was pretty awesome. We joked, we laughed, she made fun of my Olympics hat – which was to be expected. That night was movie night at Mario’s with Stefan and Garrett. Apparently they don’t see each other quite as much anymore, so it was a blast from the past for everyone. Pretty fun! We watched Scott Pilgrim and ate Pizza 73 pizza. It was really fucking great to see those guys. The next 2 days I had lunch with Shad and Eric – two awesome guys. It felt like I hadn’t even moved. We just picked up from where we left off last year. It’s always a nice feeling. The next couple of days I was stuck fixing my parent’s and my sister’s laptops. It was annoying to say the least. Thankfully it was broken up with supper with Bill one night. I definitely miss that guy, too, and we met at the usual various BPs around the city. This time it was the Capilano one. We talked shop and I’m looking forward to editing one of his shorts. My sister and I headed to Colin’s parents house, too, where I saw Colin, Alex, Agnes and her husband, Mathias. It was crazy to see Agnes ’cause I can’t even remember the last time I’ve seen her. Probably a good 7 years at least. She’s living in France now and seems to be doing really well. Awesome! The flight back to Montreal was welcomed and as much as I love seeing my friends and family, I’m happy I don’t live in that “gigantic suburb for a city that doesn’t exist” – as Trevor’s friend put it.

5. One of the stipulations of my coming back to Edmonton for the holidays was that we do not spend Christmas in Edmonton. My family was supposed to come to Montreal this year, and they bailed after realizing how much it would all cost (among other things). We decided to compromise and spend 3 days in Jasper. It was actually pretty fun and I was able to rip down Marmot Basin on Christmas day. It was empty and nicely groomed. Even thought they didn’t have much snow, I still enjoyed myself as I flew down listening to In the Meantime by Spacehog. We had good food, a spa, Uno, and alcohol. My mom and I even went on an ice walk in the Maligne Canyon (one of the highlights). It was a great way to see the mountains and spend time ONLY with the family – one thing my mom always says I never do enough of.

6. New Year’s Eve in Montreal was pretty fun. I was imagining some super crazy party like last year, but it was actually low key. We spent it at Evan’s Tattoo studio and I ended up DJing for a little bit. Jenn and Greg were in town for the party and we had a delicious supper at Aux Vivres before heading to Jasmine’s for drinks and then Evan’s. Honestly, it was just what I wanted from New Years. After all the craziness that LA, Whistler and Edmonton brought it was nice to just spend NYE with friends and have a mellowish good time. All I know is that I had a good time in the first few hours of 2011 and I’m hoping it keeps going!

BRING IT ONNN!

(next post will probably be about Sundance. HOLY SHIT!!!)

L.A. is for lovers

Contrary to what the title might suggest, no I didn’t succeed in my plan of plastic study. I was enjoying all the other sights that Hollywood has to offer. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, then MOVE ALONG!

L.A. was intense. Probably the best business trip I’ve ever been on (if you don’t count moving to Montreal – this trip is still going). I will begin to reduce the entire trip to POINT FORM!

  1. Trevor’s trepidation and tremendous trouble
  2. First night in Hollywood spend by the Hockney pool at the Roosevelt
  3. Day 1 – signing in and getting our bearings.
  4. Day 2 – Griffith Observatory and punk rock films!
  5. Day 3 – David Lynch day and Barney’s Version(!!)
  6. Day 4 – Sunday brunch, Aaron Sorkin, and Les amours imaginaires
  7. Day 5 – Monday….? Bowling night, shorts 3 and missing Little Rock.
  8. Day 6 – THLB plays tonight! Red Carpet with Halle Berry
  9. Day 7 – 3D workshop, 20 minutes of Tron, Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  10. Day 8(last day) – Awards Brunch, Venice Beach, Black Swan(!!)
  11. Leaving day. Sad times.
  12. BACK IN MTL

I SHOULD MENTION THAT EVERY PICTURE IN THIS BLOG POST ARE THE WORKS OF FISH GRIWKOWSKY

1. I wake up early from sheer excitement. I’m heading to L.A. today. I’ve never been hugely into L.A. or the Hollywood scene (even though some movies are downright awesome). I guess going there for an important film festival that is showing your latest short (that I’m very proud of, by the way) makes it that much more exciting. I open my laptop and check my facebook. I’m about to wish Trevor (the director of The High Level Bridge) a happy birthday when I read his status update from last night.

“…Whoever picked up that vinyl python purse of my mother’s from the 60s got not only the bag, but also my vintage “I ? Edmonton” button that was a gift from Smo Key Johnson, and my passport. Looks like I won’t be getting on that plane for LA in the morning….”

…Fuck. Not only does Trevor have to jump through countless hoops to even get a passport in a ridiculously short amount of time, it’s his birthday and we wanted to celebrate in LA. I get on the plane wondering whether or not I’ll survive AFI Fest without him as he was the main contact for everyone and had pretty much planned everything out. My flight to Chicago was short and sweet, but I was still worrying about the passport issue. Once landed, I immediately check my e-mail for news. Nothing. Oh well, guess I better enjoy the biggest airport in the world and get on that flight to LAX. This particular flight was uncomfortable because my seat wouldn’t recline. I’d go on complaining about this, but I’m reminded by Louis C.K.’s monologue on Conan O’Brien. I WAS SITTING IN A CHAIR IN THE SKY! Anyway, I get to LA and grab my bags. Karen, my chauffeur, greets me and tells me some interesting news – Trevor is arriving in 1 hour on a different flight and she was wondering if I’d mind waiting for him. HOLY CRAP. How the F*&% did he manage this, I think to myself. I grab a pumpkin spice latté from Starbucks and wait for Mr. Anderson to arrive. Sure enough an hour later he walks down the hall half cut on free airplane booze and looking completely exhausted. Wow. That’s gotta be a record for Canadian Passports or something.

2. He doesn’t want to talk “about the war” he tells me when I unload the dozens of questions on my mind. Well, I guess we’ll just enjoy the drive from LAX to the Orange Drive Manor Hostel where we were staying. Fish is already there reading in bed when we arrive. I’ve known of Fish for a long time. He’d be at shows and bars in Edmonton and I’d always hear stories about him, but never actually talked to him. This trip in Hollywood would be the first time we hung out like this – even though I’ve edited 2 things he has shot. He was wearing his leg brace for his broken foot and the force with which he was coughing into his hands scared the crap out of me. We call our respective beds, grab a burrito at Baja Fresh and decide to head to the Roosevelt to grab a drink by the pool. I must say that this is the night when it all sunk in. We were on a beautiful outdoor pool deck at +25 degrees Celsius in the evening, surrounded by palm trees and little white lights. Absolutely surreal – and it continues on from there for then entire 9 days.

3. Thursday, November 4th 2010. I wake up early (I’m having a hard time with the jet lag). I play some Chaos Rings on my iPhone and wait for Trevor and Fish to wake up. Hungry as hell, we eat at the Grill in the Hollywood&Highland mall before renting our brand new Mazda 3. We head to the Red Room and meet some of the lovely staff of AFI fest. They give us our passes and a goodie bag that even had a solar cell phone charger (cool)! I decide to buy myself an American cell phone in order to cut down on costs. By that time, the day has pretty much passed and we get ready for the screening of Love and Other Drugs. The after party (as all other Gala parties) is held in the ballroom of the Roosevelt. We meet the DOP of Love and Other Drugs, Steven Fierberg, who later tells us that The High Level Bridge was the best thing he’s seen at the festival so far and that it was beautifully shot (Woah!). We learn that ever party is sponsored by Stella Artois and enjoy beer upon beer while talking to many filmmakers. I’m feeling a little awkward talking to complete strangers, but moving to Montreal definitely helped me get over some of that fear. All in all a nice night to open the festival.

4. Friday, November 5th 2010. I wake up early again. Can’t seem to get over that jet lag. I check my e-mail and play a little bit of videogames before the others wake up. We decide to drive out to Eat Well in West Hollywood for breakfast and eat some delicious Heuvos Rancheros. Today is the first film-crazy day at the film fest and there is so much to do. First we meet up with fellow filmmakers for a tour of the Griffith Observatory in the Hollywood Hills. It’s a burning hot day at +35 degrees Celsius and our Canadian body temperatures are having trouble acclimatising (we were gearing up for winter!!). The Observatory is pretty awesome. They have little nerd references all over the place and it’s hard to muffle my chuckles. I especially like the star formation display that shows how the Big Dipper would look from the other side of the galaxy. NOT AT ALL what Battlestar Galactica showed. Pfff. The filmmakers gather for a huge lunch and we introduce ourselves and got to talking. It looks like we have a good group of people here, although that was pretty much a guarantee. I meet Celine Dahnier, a Parisian living in New York and director of Blank City. We get to talking about Montreal and theatre with Johnny O’Riley, an Irish director living in Moscow who made The Weather Station, and Alex Stockman, a Belgian director that made Pulsar. Apparently Johnny’s sister recently moved to Montreal and wants to start up an Irish film festival. I’m definitely for that. We tour the AFI campus and I’m blown away by how huge and beautiful it is. If only I had money and the desire to work in Hollywood (haha). Afterwards, we had a tough decision to make. We had the choice between too many good films. It was either Rubber or Barbershop Punk, Blank City or The King’s Speech. I had already seen the King’s Speech, but I really wanted to see Barbershop Punk AND Rubber. It was a really tough call, but we figured that we’d be able to see Rubber outside of the festival a lot easier than Barbershop Punk, so we picked the later. It was awesome! Afterwards, Blank City was the choice so it ended up being a punk-rock documentary double bill! We headed to the King’s Speech after party and it died down rather quickly so we headed to the Blank City after party at the Autebellum Gallery. I met the editor for Blank City, Vanessa Roworth, and congratulated her on her AMAZING job. Little did I know that it was her first long-form project. Mind Blown. That is all.

5. Saturday, November 6th 2010. David Lynch day! After seeing his face on the big screen introducing every film we’ve watched at that fest, we finally get to see him in person! After another breakfast at the Eat Well, we head over the Grauman’s Egyptian to watch the David Lynch’s Eraserhead and Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. David Lynch came out between the two movies to answer a few questions. The man is a legend, but he seems a little odd (which is expected, I guess). Trevor and I wonder how this guy made it through film school or even regular school like this. Regardless, it was David Lynch in the flesh and it was pretty awesome. He introduced Sunset Boulevard and I got ready to watch this movie for the first time. How fitting I see it at the Egyptian just a block away from Sunset Boul. BOOYA. After the double bill, Fish introduced me to Barney’s Version. He had been talking about it since we arrived and I didn’t really understand why. Apparently it’s one of his favourite books and was written by Montrealer Mordecai Richler. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew that Dustin Hoffman and Paul Giamatti would be there (and not to forget the king of Canadian film, Robert Lantos), so I was game to go. Well I proved once again that knowing nothing about a movie before you see it makes it that much better (if it’s a good movie, of course). Barney’s Version was the best movie I saw at the fest. It filled me with so much emotion that I couldn’t talk for a good 15 minutes afterward. There were points in that film where I was just completely blown-away. We hung out outside the Egyptian when if finished, drank some beers and had some finger food. I don’t know about Trevor and Fish, but my mind was in shambles after seeing such a beautiful movie and I couldn’t formulate cohesive sentences let alone talk. I just enjoyed my free beer. A wonderful day of cinema at the Egyptian! That night I met the crew from Little Rock. Awesome people! We ended up partying in Kerim’s (a projectionist at the Mann’s Chinese) hotel room ’til the wee hours of the morning. Good times!

6.  Sunday, November 7th 2010. We woke up at a reasonable time and were invited to a Filmmaker’s Brunch in the Marylin Monroe suite at the Roosevelt. Woah! The food was great and the room was beautiful. We talked with Céline, Sonia and Vanessa from Blank City along with Joseph from Feeder – a crazy short where he stuck a camera in his mouth and shot from the inside. After brunch we headed back the Egyptian to see Aaron Sorkin. He was giving a talk about screenwriting that was also paired with a screening of All the Presdent’s Men. I had never seen this movie before and I gotta say that after watching it in the Egyptian, I definitely enjoyed it. In the evening, we sneaked into the Quebec party for Les amours imaginaires where I met Yanick – Quebec’s representative in LA. Good guy. The three of us split up as I wanted to watch Xavier Dolan’s movie and they wanted to see Abel. We met up afterward for the Abel after party.

7. Monday, November 8th 2010. I miraculously still had a DVD of 2 Frogs dans l’Ouest on me and decided, after talking to Jacques and Dany, that I would hand it to Yanick. I drove deep into Beverly Hills, got honked at by some uppity rich bitch who was taking up 2 lanes (and has the nerve to honk at me!), and handed him the DVD. I hope he has a look at the film. If he could help us get into some festivals in the states, it’d be amazing. We decide to take it easier today. I must admit that Saturday was a beautiful day of cinema, but my back and butt couldn’t take many more days like that. The main film tonight was Casino Jack. Trevor, Vanessa and I decided to miss out on that one and catch Shorts Program 3 (which included Joseph’s film Feeder). We tried to catch Little Rock, but found out that it was completely sold out. They had to turn away a ton of people, apparently. Crap. By this time Fish’s cold had taken over and he was out of commission for the day. Trevor left him his hotel room and he spent most of his time there. We had been going hardcore for the last 6 days, so I totally understood. Actually, my respect for that man grew with every passing day because he was in crutches, sick and STILL having a blast – the guy is a rock. Trevor got wasted with our fellow Canadian Jacqueline (who works for the festival). I bought some supplies for Fish and then headed to the Bowling night with all the other filmmakers. I met so many people from Shorts Program 4 that night. It was hilarious. Bobby Miller and his actor Eric Levy (for the short TUB) for one. Those guys are aces. Joseph from Feeder, too. I bowled a bit, made friends with Jenn Murphy (who works for AFI) and had an all around good time even though the past 6 days were catching up with me, too. I fought off the fatigue and bowled a TERRIBLE game and ate some delicious pizza with everyone.

8. Tuesday, November 9th 2010. Welp, the day came. The High Level Bridge played in Shorts Program 4 at the Mann’s Chinese. Before Dara, Fish’s wife, arrived in the afternoon we headed to Hamburger Mary’s for lunch. It was incredibly gay and even had a mirror ball in the washroom with Dancing Queen by ABBA playing on repeat. That last bit REALLY annoyed me as I pretty much hate ABBA. FIsh and I dropped off Trevor at the Hotel while we checked out Amoeba Records – probably the biggest record store in the world. I picked up the White Stripes Live in Canada DVD along with White Rabbits – It’s Frightening! I wanted to also pick up Scott Pilgrim on Blu-Ray, but it was sold out for a signing. Missed it by THAT much! Dara arrived with the beginnings of Fish’s cold. They decided to hang out at the Hotel and Trevor wanted a nap. I took the time to wander down Hollywood Boulevard and buy some souvenirs for some people along with a money clip at this awesome second hand store. The friendly guy that sold me the clip also offered me some legal mushrooms. THAT was odd. Tempting, but odd. I got back to the Hotel at 5:30 and we all got dressed for our walk down the red carpet with Halle Berry. It was pretty crazy, cameras everywhere and Fish started taking pictures of the photographers. I heard someone say “Those guys were the most entertaining of the night.” Good times. The screening was excellent, as well as the other films that presented. I think my favourite was a tie between “Some Boys Don’t Leave” and “Tub”. The after party was canceled due to the bar being closed and I ended up partying with the Little Rock crew and Alex from Belgium in a dive bar off Hollywood and Highland.

9. Wednesday, November 10th 2010. The morning started early as we had tickets to the 3D workshop with Sony rep Buzz Hays. I woke up in my Roosevelt room and packed everything up to head back to the Orange Drive Manor Hostel. We watched 20 minutes of Tron – which looks like amazing eye-candy, but terrible story and spoon fed emotion. We played with a split beam camera and learned a LOT about 3D and what is possible with this new format. It’s pretty exciting and now I know why there is hype behind it. It’s the first time in history that we can actually use it to tell a story instead of just being a gimmick. The night finished off with Cave of Forgotten Dreams by Werner Herzog. After the film, I was passing out and decided to head to bed. Little did I know that Fish, Trevor and Dara saw John Hamm in the little mixology bar in the Roosevelt. Dammit!

10. Thursday, November 11th 2010. The final day of the festival started off great. I met up with Trevor and Fish at the Roosevelt for a quick dip in the pool and we got ready for the awards brunch. We thought of skipping the brunch for 2 reasons: 1. we didn’t think we were up for anything as there was no category for “Documentary short” and 2. we wanted to go to the beach today as it was our last day in town. We went to the brunch regardless to cheer on the others and have some food. After giving awards to Hamil, Little Rock, Boy and Bedevilled, it was time to announce the shorts. Marcel the Shell won for best animated with an honorable mention to Photograph of Jesus (the only short I hadn’t seen). They began introducing the honorable mention for Live action as “a film where the filmmaker took risks”. I assumed they were talking about “Feeder” because Joseph built a camera that fits in his mouth and anything could’ve happened with that! They continued on with “This filmmaker took a risk by throwing his camera off a bridge…” After that point, I didn’t hear anything else being said. I looked at Fish and Trevor and we were stunned. WTF?! Trevor went up to say a few words, but stayed speechless for a good 5 seconds. What an amazing surprise. We took pictures with the Jury. I was so sure we weren’t going to win anything, I only wore jeans and my Maurice Richard t-shirt. Hilarious. Afterward we drove to Venice Beach and enjoyed the moment silently. We ate at an authentic Mexican Burrito joint and headed back to Hollywood in time for our second red carpet walk – this time for the closing film, Black Swan!! The movie blew my mind and the after party was bitter sweet as I was saying goodbye to a lot of awesome people. We partied late and hard in the Monroe suite and ended the festival with a bang. What a rush.

11. Friday, November 12th 2010. Not much to report about this day, we were all driven to the airport and ate at a little café in LAX. The flight home to Montreal was great, though. Even though I hadn’t slept much in the last couple of days, I was able to work on the trailer for Lick and talk to some people on the internet (WOAH!). I got back in one piece and went out with Nyssa, Evan and Jakob. It’s like I never left haha.

12. I truly enjoyed my time in L.A. but I gotta admit it’s good to be home. I went to Isabelle’s surprise birthday party (we totally got her. Good job Ryan), and expozine with Danielle, Courtney and Shosh. Our new roommate is awesome and things are calming down on the work front, but I’m not too worried about it all. Life is pretty kick ass and I’m getting ready for the Whistler Film Festival where The High Level Bridge will be showing along with 2 Frogs dans l’Ouest as the closing film! 2 movies in one fest. I think the only other person to do that at Whistler this year is Bruce Macdonald. Just sayin’.

What a ride!

Okay, I recently re-read a lot of my blog and realized that it was an amazing way to keep tabs on my life. So many things happen and sometimes I need a little refresher reminding me how awesome  everything is! ON WITH THE LIST! (It’s gonna be a long one ’cause I haven’t updated in A LONG FREAKING TIME)

  1. 2 Frogs
  2. Lick
  3. NYC pt 2
  4. Habs gone wild!
  5. Greg’s cabin
  6. Boston with the sis
  7. the lovely Brooke in town!
  8. NYC pt 3 and 4
  9. The High Level Bridge

1. Wow. What to say about 2 Frogs – or more precisely what not to say. This was one hell of a project. I’ve been working non-stop on this film since January. We did thisAdd it up and that means a full 10 months (not to mention the hours I’ve put in before January)! The final product makes me so very proud and most of the reviews that we’ve had have been very positive! The premiere in Montreal on October 4th was amazing. My mom was in town, so it was really cool to be able to share that with her. Mom and sonI always imagined her being too old, or worse – dead, before I was able to celebrate my first major feature film. Fortune smiled at me! I’m 28 years old and I’ve already edited countless short films and two features. I also invited Shosh and Nyssa to the premiere. It was really awesome to be surrounded by all 3. I wore my Ben Sherman suite that Brooke and I had picked out in NYC earlier in September and Dany, Jacques and I smoked 3 cigars that were brought in from Cuba by Maëva. Seriously amazing night.Cigars, 5 minute standing ovation and a sense of accomplishment, loved ones and a flask of scotch. Add nachos to that equation and you’ve got yourself all a man needs to live.

2. LICK! What a surprise this film has become! I have been so overwhelmed with 2 Frogs that I almost forgot about it. Chris Agoston has done an AMAZING job and the final product is really really funny. So far it has been loved at Sudbury, Brantford and Toronto and there is already some distribution talks from various companies. I went to Toronto last weekend to check out the screening. Chris and Lauren, as always, were amazing hosts and I had a really great weekend – even though I walked through the air-canada centre and felt really dirty (GO HABS GO!). I’m always so impressed with how smart Chris is. This guy knows exactly what he’s doing and it’s so refreshing to work with someone like that. I look forward to the next project! If you ever get a chance to watch this movie, I highly recommend it. And not just because I co-edited it. 😉

3. New York. How I love thee. This time Nyssa, Rouj (our new roommate after Roger was so viciously torn from our Palace) and I decided to do a road trip over the Easter long-weekend. This was an INTENSE getaway, I’ll have you know and some of the events will never be posted on this blog. It all started on Friday. We had planned on leaving directly after work and sleeping there on the Friday night. Val and Olga had left Friday morning as they had the day off and called Nyssa later in the day telling us there was a problem with the apartment we rented (Nyssa had booked it off Craigslist). Apparently the address didn’t exist and the phone number the person had given us was perpetually unanswered. Fuck. I was worried the trip was going to be canceled, but we continued on looking for a place to stay. Miraculously, there was still room at the Gershwin hostel, but not on Friday night. We decided to leave Friday night at midnight and arrive in NYC in the morning (night 1 without sleep for Justin). The drive was quiet as both Nyssa and Rouj had passed out after the border. Luckily the sun was coming up and that always keeps me awake. I guess I’m a morning drive kinda person (more on this later). We finally got to NYC at 7am and drove under the Lincoln tunnel. Scenes from Die Hard 3 were running through my head. We signed in at the Gershwin and headed to SoHo for some shopping. I was sweaty and tired and just trudged along while the girls went from store to store. We made plans to head to Brooklyn for a street party later that night and ended up at the Brooklyn Bowl. I seriously passed out in my seat. Bad news. I ended up taking the subway to the Gershwin and don’t even remember how I got back. I think I slept for 6 hours that night. The next morning I told the girls to go on without me. They were heading to Canal street and I sure as hell didn’t want to follow. I spent the morning reading my book and eating some delicious breakfast in Madison Square Park. Afterward, I headed to SoHo for a little personal shopping and ended up watching some guys play stick ball near the Nike store on Mercer. I met up with the girls on Canal and we headed deeper into China town for a little food. We met up with Rouj’s friend later on at a weird brewery on Berry in Williamsburg. This is the night that will never be written! Let’s just say that I got really drunk, Rouj didn’t come back to the Gershwin with us and Nyssa and I ended the night with a 3$ falafel near the Bedford subway station. Fucking delicious. (day 2 with no sleep for Justin). Then comes Monday. The day we had to leave. I really wanted to see the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA. We showed up super early to be able to even get tickets. The line-ups were insane, but it was totally worth it. The exhibit was incredible with tons of movie props, drawings and thoughts from the incredibly creative director (say what you will, I still have tons of respect for him even though most of his recent movies are just copies of each other). Nyssa and I chilled in Central Park afterward and met up with Rouj. All in all a good trip! We packed up and readied ourselves and grabbed something to eat before we headed out of NYC. Little did we realize what time it was. 5pm on a Monday. Rush hour traffic. Fuck. I was stuck trying to get off Manhattan island in the middle of rush hour. Add on that my lack of sleep and no idea where I’m going and you’ve got some interesting stories. To make a long story short, it took us 2 hours to get out of New York City and we got totally lost on the NJ Turnpike. We got back to Montreal at 2am with MANY stops along the way so I could sleep for 15 minutes. NEVER AGAIN WILL I DO THAT.

4. The Habs made it to the Stanely Cup Semi-Finals!! We partied on Ste-Catherine! That is all.

5. Greg Mady gave me a call earlier in the year telling me he was moving back to Edmonton and that he would be having a huge party at his family’s cabin in Northern Quebec. My new girlfriend at the time and I decided to head down and join in. We swam, we drank, we had a blast and it was great to see Greg before he headed back out west. The nice surprise was that Jenn came, too! She was there to help Greg move his stuff (they’d drive the country together, aww). It was a blast from the past to see those two and I gotta say it was one hell of a weekend.

6. In July, my sister came to Montreal for a little vacation. We planned on heading to Boston for a week to check out what everyone keeps talking about. It turns out Boston really IS a beautiful city, although I must admit that when we first got there, there didn’t seem to be a lot to do. We searched a little for a pub that we could hang out at. Granted it was a Monday night, so we weren’t expecting massive parties. We saw the sights and headed to Martha’s Vineyard for a little beach time, too. It was a relaxing time and I really enjoyed hanging out with my sis.

7. Next up is Brooke’s visit to Montreal! She was here for almost a month and stayed at the Palace! We had tons of fun even though the post-production of 2 Frogs basically ate up all my time. We ate at all my favourite places and went to a bunch of art exhibits and enjoyed some park time. She is one special lady and I am really happy to have her as a friend.

8. Brooke’s next destination in her trip around the world was New York and I decided to join her this time around. I won’t go into too many details about the trip, but the main points were:

  1. Seeing Sarah and trying to convince her to stay for another couple days.
  2. Seeing Tara and going to Coney Island!
  3. Hanging out and getting to know Brooklyn.
  4. Finally hanging out with Brooke in New York after missing out on the last time.

Our last night in NYC wasn’t the best and I wasn’t too happy with how things were left. Because of this I decided to head down on the Sunday for 1 day. I fucking love the greyhound. That one day was an amazing trip and I’m so glad I did it. I surprised myself and it gave me new insight on how life works. Having always been the careful, responsible type, I didn’t think things like this were possible. It made me realize that if something is really worth it, there are tons of ways to make it happen.

9. Last but not least, the High Level Bridge will be playing in Montreal at the Image+nation festival AND the AFI Festival in Hollywood! Trevor, Fish and I are heading to LA on the 3rd and will be there for 10 days! I’m so freaking excited for this. You better believe there will be a blog post about that fest once I’m back.

There are a lot of things that never made the cut for the blog. Honourable mentions are:

  1. Snowboarding with Maya
  2. Osheaga
  3. My little garden
  4. Rachelle’s surprise birthday party and hanging with the Ontario crew.
  5. Scott Pilgrim (yes it’s that good)
  6. Buying Jacques’ MacPro
  7. Quitting Halogen
  8. Making it work as a freelancer

w00t!

Holy crap in a handbasket

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted something. I don’t really have much time to go into detail about what happened in the last 2 months, but I’ll point form it at least. That way I can remember to write it down later (if that ever happens – not going to lie – it may not).

  1. Rough cut of 2 Frogs
  2. Documentary with Ben and Emily
  3. Spring arriving in every sense of the word
  4. Meeting new people
  5. Buying a Canon T2i
  6. NYC part 2 with the roommies (a.k.a. wtf was that?!)
  7. Project overload chez Halogen

To help you all digest that little bit of info, I will include some lovely music care of The City Streets.

BRB LOL BBQ.

2 Frogs in Whistler!

Wow. Where to begin. You better believe I’m going to point form this shizznit. I doubt I’m going to be able to relay all the awesome goodness that happened in January, but I’ll try my darnedest. It starts with a little bit of:

  1. Leaving MTL with a shit load of stuff.
  2. The gong-show that is the first 2 days of production.
  3. Party nights, doin’ it right
  4. Trailer Fun
  5. We’re on a boat… in January… in Vancouver
  6. CineQuebec
  7. February? What February?
  8. Holy freaking shit – Avatar

1. Getting to the airport was more of a workout instead of a nightmare of stress this time. I had my luggage (for a full month), my snowboard gear, my laptop and a hard drive. Heavy AND fragile stuff. It felt really good to sit down once I got the airport. So good in fact that WestJet decided to let me sit for an extra hour as we all waited for our plane to arrive. Luckily the attendent was hilarious and kept Mirianne, Jason and I laughing with a healthy dose of “WTF”. Once in the brand spaking new plane (so new that they didn’t have time to install the TVs), I basically passed out while reading “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Foer – a book Shosh recommended to me. I think it gave me nightmares. Either that, or the fact that I was being hurtled through the sky at breakneck speeds. Either or. Dany picked us up when we got to Vancouver and we all passed out pretty much instantly.

2. Shooting started the next day and it was a crazy freaking day. On our way to the set, I got a message from Roger saying that he had been kicked out of UdeM (which means he’s also kicked out of the country ’cause he only has a student visa). I was getting more info from Nyssa and Roger via Skype as I assumed to role of Teamster for the morning shoot at “Showcase” in Vancouver. After we were done with that location, I helped Andre (our chef) and Grady (our sound guy) pack all the gear and food up. Two upstanding gentlemen. It was a first taste of how awesome this trip was going to be. Andre and I were the first to make the trek up to Whistler and get the Chalet ready. I helped him put the food away as I got my room ready to receive the massive MacPro that was going to be purchased.

The next day, Jacques and I drove back to Vancouver in what was a crazy day of sorting and buying. We went all over the city to find computer cards, a MacPro, Hard Drives, a delicious burrito, Monitors, extra props, coffee (Chai for me, thanks), lenses, ummm… purple monkey dishwashers… There was a point where I took the Van to head to one place as Jacques sorted out some stuff at another place. All I gotta say is that I could not have done this without my iPhone or a similarly equiped smartphone. Google maps saved my life, as well as web access on the go. I love efficiency! Once we got back to Whistler, I started setting up my editing suite so I could GET DOWN TO BUSINESS, BABY!

3. The cast and crew for 2 Frogs were amazing. I met so many awesome people and we all got along super well. We got along so well that when the cast and crew came back from a long day of shooting, we’d usually end up partying for a couple hours before heading to bed. This was the benifit of everyone staying at the Chalet. We really had a sense of family. Near the end, it felt like we had known each other for a year instead of a month.

4. The reason I was in Whistler for the shoot (among being an extra pair of hands whenever one was needed) was to edit a trailer that was to be shown at CinéQuébec on the 27th of January. At first it was really challenging to get something right because we couldn’t find a fitting song. We wanted to contrast the first trailer with a new teaser and really blow people away. We finally decided on a song and once that happened, editing went smoothly. We scrambled a little to burn a Blu-Ray (What the hell apple? HD-DVD is dead and you should have Blu-Ray included in DVDstudioPro!), but it all worked out in the end. Once it was finished, the entire cast and crew crammed into my room to watch it on my HD monitor. They all cheered at the end and everyone was extatic! Seriously, that was one of the best feelings ever (specially since I hadn’t slept for a good 3 days before that haha).

5. Our DOP Geoff Rogers lives on a boat. I learned this on day 1 and thought it was awesome. Little did I know that Jacques was planning on having the wrap party on his boat. After some coaxing, Geoff agreed and we all headed there for a beautiful night. Jacques and I pretty much sealed the awesomness of this party 2 hours before hand after we went from liquor store (for a keg and a shit load of wine) and to L&M for the DJ equipment and lights. I burned a DVD of the new teaser for the whole cast and crew to see and we all felt really good with what was accomplished during the 3 weeks in BC. Grady ended up DJing with little inserts by Jason and I. It’s freaking hard to DJ when you don’t know what’s on the CDs!! Anyway, the night was beautiful, somewhat warm and we piloted under the Lion’s Gate Bridge. A fitting wrap party for a wicked 3 weeks.

6. I wasn’t there, but I heard there was a lot of interest at CinéQuébec. Dany was really happy afterwards and there’s some good news coming our way, me thinks. I found one annecdote from the projectionnist awesome. He said that “Finally someone got Blu-Ray right”. I was proud of that haha. Not only was the trailer a success, but my technical skills, too. BOOYA.

7. Now I’m editing a rough cut that I must deliver on the 5th of March. This basically means that my month of February doesn’t exist to me, but I couldn’t be happier. Editing this film is awesome and I can’t wait to see it assembled and locked. We’re still a long way from there, but it’ll be a nice feeling to see it come together.

8. I just have to put this in there in closing because i just saw it last night. Avatar RULED. I can’t even describe it. The story was so-so, but to be transported into such a world was amazing. It was just so beautiful. Anyway, go see it if you haven’t already (unlikely seeing as I was that last person on earth who hadn’t seen it yet).

And that’s about it for now. I’m missing TONS of stuff from Whistler and I may continue to update this post later if I remember fun stuff. Actually, I’m already remembering things now, so it’s almost garanteed that I will haha.

2010? What happened?

I keep hearing stories from my friends about how shitty 2010 is revealing itself to be. So far I can’t really complain about my personal life, but shit around me has fallen to pieces. What gives 2010? We had such high hopes! Let me get down and dirty on the year so far:

  1. Edmonton. Lovely Edmonton.
  2. New Years chaos
  3. Last minute Halogen stress
  4. 2 FROGS!!
  5. WTF?
  6. Next up, more WTF?

Sheena's beach1. Edmonton. What about Edmonton… Actually, this time around it was a blast! This was the first time in at least 2 years that I actually wanted to be in Edmonton (aside from specifics like Shad and Rochelle’s wedding and thanksgiving in October). I saw a bunch of people and how their lives have evolved lately. Everyone’s doing really well and I couldn’t be happier for them! The first night I saw the City Streets play at New City in Christmas Elves costumes. Hilarious. But the best part out of that is they actually played The Queen is Dead! They usually never play that song live! I hung out with Stefan, Mary, James, Janna, and a slew of people and eventually drove Stefan and Mary home along with a very very drunk Mike Brennan – whom I’ve known about for a while, but this was the first time we actually had a conversation. Once I got near his house, he just opened the door and started running home – door still wide open. WTF?

Dad
I spent a lot of time with my family this time around, too. Always fun even with the bullshit that is going on at the moment.
Other mentionables are a 3-hour lunch with Bill and a lovely time with Shad, Rochelle and Jenni at Red Robins (followed by Mario for Wii at Shad and Rochelle’s place – that game is AWESOME).
Eric, Tanya, Virginia, Bri and I planned a trip to the mountains for a couple of days to see Sheena’s place near Field B.C. That was one hell of a trip and I’m so very glad to have finally done it. 7 years is too long, my friend, I’m sorry.

I left early in the freaking morning on the 31st and that’s when the madness began.

Sheena's angel

2. Yeah. SO. I landed in Montreal with all my luggage (thank god) at 4:30pm. Just enough time to haul my snowboard, my laptop bag and my suitcase onto the Aerobus and finally get home for 5:45. I burst into the door way and couldn’t have been happier to see my two roommates. Apparently they had quite the week, too. Nyssa’s dad was there for a bit and I had enough time to take a shower and get ready for the night (that had been planned while I was in Toronto for an hour. Yeah, that’s how I roll). Nyssa, Roger and I headed to Isabelle and Ryan’s place for a DELICIOUS feast. I ended up staying there for the countdown (which was awesome) and then headed to some fucked up house party above Zoobizarre. There was a DJ in the freaking bathtub and people EVERYWHERE. Montreal parties are nuts! I think I got in ’cause I was following a group of cute girls. The bouncer assumed I was with them haha. I am a cunning cat. I hung out there for maybe half and hour and then headed to Pat’s place where they were having a more chill night. I got in and was immediately offered some bubbly. We ended up playing Monopoly in french (a Christmas present Pat’s mom got for Liv) until 5am. So much fun! It was great to see those guys. I woke up in a weird room to the sound of a text from Shoshana. …Riiiight. Drunk texts haha. Got home at about 2pm and spent the next couple of days ‘sorting out my life’ for the inevitable trip back west 4 days later. BAM! My first New Years in Montreal was a success as far as I’m concerned – something I was stressing about ’cause New Years has been consistently good for the past 3 years (probably ’cause it was the same thing for those 3 years). This was a dive into the unknown!

3. One of the reasons I am able to go out west is because my boss was kind enough to give me a leave of 1 month. But in order to do this, I had to find myself a replacement that was adequate. Maëva and I searched for a long time before picking someone that we thought would work out, but in the end didn’t. I came into work the day before I had to leave for Vancouver to find this out. Maëve, as always, was on top of it and immediately called someone else. He came in at 1pm. I trained him on the workflows with the RED and the rest of Halogen-type stuff and left for 5pm in time to see Sherlock Holmes with Shosh. CRAZY DAY. I think everything is working out, though. I haven’t had a call from Halogen telling me that the place exploded, so I’m happy. I’m crossing my fingers for the next week.

4. Vancouver. 2 Frogs!! WHOA. There is just too much to talk about in this one post (and I’m still IN Vancouver) so I’ll put a little info in this update and have a massive one almost solely dedicated on this experience. All I can say is that I really am living the dream. I’m working on a feature film, in the mountains, with a bunch of awesome people. I haven’t been sleeping much, though, but it’s been a blast regardless. Like I said, I’ll have more info about this entire trip next time. SIT TIGHT.

Roger's new coat

5. One shitty thing (among others) that has happened lately is Roger’s exit from Canada. Apparently something went horribly wrong at the university and he isn’t able to stay in the country anymore. It’s complete bullshit and a giant mug of WTF. I learned this news the day after I landed in Vancouver. I seriously couldn’t believe it. Now the big man is in Zurich waiting for the Ombudsman to contact him to see if this can be fixed. I’m pulling for you, man. The Palace won’t be the same without you.

Sis

6. More shittyness has happened in the last couple of weeks and has all but destroyed my hope for 2010. Although, when I think of it, my personal life is doing okay so far in this new decade. It’s everyone around me that is having trouble. I just can’t help but feel terrible for them. I wish them all the best and that hopefully this is just residual crap from 2009. I’m there for you if you need.

Next up, a post about 2 Frogs and whatever happens from now ’til then!

I leave you with one the best Tilt Shift videos I’ve ever seen from a guy in Australia. Amazing stuff:

I can almost taste it.

Holy crap in a handbasket. Have I got some news for you. There have been so many things going on lately that I haven’t had time/enough brain power to organize it all. I will now try to do so in 2 minutes flat. GO CHRONOMETER!

  1. Livin’ the dream
  2. Melted Cheese and Chocolate
  3. Crazy-ass Halogen
  4. Nyssa’s b-day
  5. Documentary time!

1. December has been a pretty intense month. I’ve come to accept this as normal as most people try and cram 4 weeks of work into 3 because of the holidays. This year is no different as I am heading back to Edmonton for a week. Another reason everything kicked into high gear (I hope you’re sitting down) is because 2 Frogs dans l’ouest – the epic movie that I’ve been wishing and hopeing would see the light of day has been green lighted!! Because of this, I had to ask for 1 month off from Halogen and am slated to edit in Whistler for the entire month of January! HOLY MOTHERF….!! This is intense because it’s basically the main reason why I moved to Montreal and is also what I want to do as a career – edit feature films. Sweet Mother of Pearl. Anyway, check out the trailer here and let me know what you think. We’ll have about 80% of the movie shot after January, so I’ll have a lot of work afterwards, but I’m so up to it.

2. Even though my schedule has been crazy, I managed to organize a little event at the Palace and invited almost too many people. I bought some cheese and chocolate and got ready for a fondue night with whoever was able to make it. I invited a bunch of people expecting about 50% of them backing out, but they all decided to come! I was delightfully surprised by this! I think it was a pretty big hit and we all enjoyed the food and conversation. Afterwards, some of us headed to Kate’s place for a drink and then to the silver door for their party – it wasn’t exactly my style, but still fun.

me and Seb

3. Halogen has picked up in a crazy way. I’ve assumed the responsibility (unknowingly) of all the tech in the company and is now the IT/editor/…whatever else needs to be done. I can’t say that I hate it, ’cause I like being in charge and it somehow feeds my enormous ego, but it does keep me busy with a lot of projects. I’ve also learned a lot about macs and how they tick. Doesn’t really change my idea about them, but it does help when something goes wrong. Maëva and I have also had to find someone to replace me for the month of January – not an easy task. We’ve found a guy named Guillaume who’s pretty good and I hope everything is okay for the month. I really don’t want to come back to a clusterfuck, but I guess this is what has to happen if I edit in Whistler haha. Also, remember to watch the Halogen holiday card that I posted a couple days ago! Seb and I made it!

me and Roger

4. Nyssa’s birthday was on Thursday and she got reservations to “au pied de cochon”. It’s a fancier restaurant in Montreal that is actually really close to our place (always a plus). We decided to dress up all fancy-like and enjoy a posh evening on the town. All I gotta say is Manhattan’s are DELICIOUS.

5. Ben and Emily called the other day and the Alberta doc is still on! After I get back from Whistler, I’ll be working on that project – can you say busy as hell? It’s good that I already have all the footage already. It’s going to be an awesome project to edit and they were able to get a grant from the NFB for post-production, too. I just hope I don’t explode after all this editing. I’ll need some weekends off.

That’s about it for now. It’s a little short and disjointed, I know, but I don’t have much time to go into great detail. I’ll have a better update next time that’ll include Edmonton and WHISTLER! WHOO! oh yeah, and new years… whatever happens for that night – I still have no idea. All I know is that I’m spending it in Montreal! WOO!