PlaYR Awards Night and After-Party a successful Wrap

Tom Pearson of TPE Productions, Best Documentary winner
At my age ( I'm now legal lol), and with my experience in film and tv production, one would perhaps think I'd be an old hat at entering film festivals, however that would not be the case. In fact, my entry of A Thin Pink Line, into the PlaYR Festival, York Region's now 6 year running festival of film and videos this year having more entries than ever, was actually my first foray going this route. I did also once enter an online video short contest, winning The Canadian Labour Congress's One Minute Short contest, One Paycheck Away, voted across Canada online to win, but a festival is different, winners are chosen by your professional peers, and as such, one respects the award more in my humble view.

Prior to attending film school, I'd already produced and hosted shows for Rogers TV and Shaw for about four years, and as well had been producing and performing in both the live show, and taping for, the tv series of The Canadian Improv Showcase, while attending film school.

Co Host Joanne Vannacola banters
After Party revelers
Sarah Fisher with Video Editor Suleiman Rahal
After graduating with a 89% average, and with my student film chosen to be made into a movie, I worked as a P.A. on some T.V. productions and commercials including "The Designer Challenge" on W.T.N. , before taking work for Galactic Productions, later Enriching Entertainment, as an Associate Producer of feature films, a job that involved pitching the idea of becoming partners in a movie to American businessmen over the phone. Our minimum investment was $25,000, and they'd / we used the formula to finance a number of films including, The Retrievers, Miracle Dogs (Disney Channel, Animal Planet USA), Hansel & Gretel w Taylor Mumsen, Howie Mandel (Theatre release), Super Cross (Theatre) and others. This is how it's done in the real Hollywood, not by grants, and the atmosphere in the room could be electric at times. At others, not so much. During my four to five year period as an Associate Producer, I raised about $1,000,000 in productions funds for them and the parent company in L.A. and still keep a copy of an $11,000 commission cheque I earned as some kind of trophy reminder.
Actor Emmanuel Kabongo takes the stage
The only problem was, the only creativity I got to do was a slight variance on the pitch delivery. Hardly the stuff I went to film school for, but great experience nevertheless, learning from a veteran of executive producing 20 films, and as a single dad, the closest I would find to a nine to five type job in the industry...L.A. time that is! A whole other set of problems when raising a 9 year old and 12 year old whilst doing it and working on straight commission. you produced or your family went hungry. Catch 22.

So all things being equal it took me awhile to enter a film of my own into a festival but it was worth it. My film A Thin Pink Line was a great snapshot of the times and is well laced with a great and fitting music score by now defunct Sean Stephens and The Chaos System and therefore deserved a shot in my eyes, and the risky subject matter exemplifies what filmmakers should be doing which is pushing the envelopes of reminder and truth out there.

Sean Stephens at recent BBQ for Newmarket Jazz + Festival
Just prior to being announced as winner, the Host MC, Emmy Award winner, Joanne Vannicola, began mentioning of seeing my film for the first time, and that it was surreal to see her younger self onscreen, denouncing those protesting against the legalization of same sex marriage at Queen's Park. Her voice had sounded so familiar to me and now I knew why! She's in my film! Ha.

It is a credit to the Crew, Performers, Vendors and Editors involved in the production, that it was able to win the PlaYR Festival Award for best pro doc - a list too long to list here - but named in the credits roll in the film. 
The Dark Rainbow After-Party Glow! More After party photos at TPE Facebook.

Award winners party!

Thank-you all and look for my next film...inspired by The Red Balloon!....Stay tuned!

 Watch for more of the mysterious balloon...landing on a screen near you!

2015 Playr Film Video Festival TPE Shortstop

Carole Pope flanked by Canada's first legal gay couple Ian Taylor and George Olds as Toronto Sun photos

Festival Debut May 13 2015 Rainbow Cinema
I'm always the procrastinator. The two entries TPE put forward to be in the York Region Film and Media Festival, now called the Playr Video Festival I believe, and which has movie house locations set up at various locales across Y.R. for the duration of the festival at which you can attend for free, are not my most recent but they deserved a release despite their owners tardiness. so Wed May 13 at Richmond Hill's Rainbow Cinema on Yonge St, they get their due.

That's! I was surprised when I heard that, but it makes good sense to try and get people in the seats for a newish festival still finding it's place, but this keeps the Y.R. version rather unique. It's not so rulesy as some and has enough categories to keep things interesting, from emerging to pro.

The first was a short drama called Shoots, Scores that has little to do with hockey, and more to do with youth and relationships and mental health with a fateful twist left to the imagination that acts as a turning point.

It was originally shot as part of The Quest for Youth organized yearly by the Y.R.D.S.B. and I'd been asked to write a piece for it which was themed " Mental health, coming out of the shadows", thus you see shadows imagery throughout.

Tom Pearson
Because it was originally shot to jump to live from live stage action to music to live art, I probably should have reworked the transitions or voice-overed a poem left out that was part of the original mix, but in the end it is what it is and stands alone as a short film. It still gives a message in its own unique way, leaving the ending and "interpretation' of what you see, up to the viewer.

TP asked everyday people their thoughts on the issue
My Actors had no experience - some with special needs - and I had to act as Camera Operator, Lighting, Director and Actor during it, as well as try and get an inexperienced but eager Editor to go faster...trying desperately to duplicate what I wanted with limited software and a sick wife..Even the music, if you want to call it that, I created on my keyboard at home. Ha..In the end it's a great job by the cast though, with my hope that in the end there could be seen no difference between kids. I think it works that way. At the end of the day its a short with some disturbing intimations that make the viewer think...and that's all I wanted to do with as Jason Baulch and Mark Cardinelli's performances in particular an added bonus in my eyes. Creepy Guy played by Keith Campbell was also worth an honourable mention. Here's some Clips.

A Thin Pink Line

I decide to enter A Thin Pink Line because I was once hired to produce the world's first same sex wedding show held in 1995 at Metro Toronto Convention Centre, when it was just becoming legal. Now in its 10th anniversary year of becoming legal across Canada, coupled with the USA political landscape towards similar sentiment I believe it very fitting, as A Thin Pink Line was a behind the scenes snapshot of that time period including flying in couples from places where banned to marry legally. One contest winning couple came to marry here from Nebraska where same sex marriage is still outlawed today. The couples appeared in the media and in tv shows drawing attention to the issue and TPE saw fit to capture it all and use a shadow documentary crew to follow me around.

As soon as I'd heard one well known tux and wedding apparel rental chain bowed out because they'd heard of others getting death threats for  renting to a gay wedding, I knew this was worth documenting. At that point it became personal. These people were corporate bullies and treating people with disrespect. It was then that I realized this was a human right.

Even I myself had been on the fence admittedly at the time about the issue of same sex marriage, or, rather, didn't really care until then, as were many. Hell, our spokesperson and one of the performers for the event, Carole Pope, didn't even believe in the institution of marriage! Even certain media channels were reluctant to take our wedding show ads or call back.
Carole Pope flanked by Canada's first legal gay couple
From protesters at Queens Park, to people on the street, we interviewed and asked opinions, with not all being favourable and some outlandish remarks uttered and captured by our crew, " These people have a sexual disorder", and on..So obviously at some point my Filmmaker mind kicked in and said - Hey I can produce this live show and capture the story too!" And so that's what we did. This 10 minute short is but a miniscule portion of the feature length version which you can look forward to a a release from sometime in the future. It also features killer music by then supporters of the cause and a fave of mine, Sean Stephens and the Chaos System. I still love their music. Here's the latest morph of their Ride My Bike a song also in A Thin Pink Line, featuring some clips from the same sex show.

Are they the best I can do? Not yet, but the best stories. And I've worked much bigger budgets for films like Hansel & Gretel with Taylor Mumsen and Howie Mandel or Miracle Dogs with Kate Jackson, Ted Shackleford, Stacy Keach, Wayne Rogers and Betty White in the Retrievers etc. But it's not always about the Film or even the Actors, it's the subject matter, and sometimes the subjects aren't pretty, but that doesn't make the messages any less important.

Shoots Scores teaches we've come a long ways in identifying mental health as a disease and that circumstances can lead to disaster when coupled with it and for recognizing the rights and treatment of  victims and sufferers. A Thin Pink Line reminds there was a fight for the rights for transgenders, gays and lesbians and all people to marry and of the importance that such films be made.
Lest ye forget. A Thin Pink Line.

Congratulations TPE! - May 28 at Newmarket Theatre 7pm is the awards gala for the festival with TP getting a nomination for an award which will be followed by an after party at Main St. Tequila 185. Tickets are available through TixHub

Mother's Day...The Mother of all Days for Restaurants

Holy crap, Mother's Day is almost upon us and like many a guy out there who procrastinates the heck out of everything important it seems, you have nothing special planned for mom. Sure you could get her a great flower arrangement from a long time florist in town maybe Cassidy's on Main St Newmarket, which do have some Mother's Day Special arrangements going on, but is that really enough for Mom on her special day? I mean come on. Flowers are a given. Pick some up at the farmer's market if you have to but do do flowers! Hey...that doesn't sound too good out loud. Anyway do flowers! And a meal!

Mom's Choice on Mother's Day
But don't give mother another one of your special BBQ's or pretend to cook something you know she will take over - take her out to eat! Newmarket & surrounding area have a lot of places to go, whether you want dining and entertainment or just dining, with even a few new restaurants in town.

For my money, I'm taking Mom somewhere I know she'll like..providing my sisters let me, but that's another story. LOl. Let's just say sisters rule mom's time come Mother's Day in my house, with us boys outnumbered and out aged by the older sisses...Truth be known they deserve first crack as they are much more in tune and touch to mom's day to day stuff, much more than I anyway, but my brother might have a case. Over to you bro!

At any rate, one year I took my mom to what was then called Deli House Brunch, now more branded as Stellar Hall, still Deli House Catering fresh, but with  some new kitchen staff and crew, still all hands-on supervised when possible by Johnny and now wife Marcel of course...and my mom had a great time.

It wasn't the food she raved about, although as I recall it was quite good with various stations set up to make or serve some fresh hot dishes to order, while others were set out buffet style or crepes, pasta station etc. We got mom her plate I think and picked out for her, but Johnny took the time to come around and spend time welcoming her I guess because later on she actually was quite taken by it, mentioning it several times. And my mom is no easy cookie to please! But she raved about it. Trust me..she can be quite vocal if she's displeased somewhere, so I pay attention.

" Who was that fella," she'd said, " The owner I think. A really nice chap.....You know I really liked him. He was such a nice person"...I don't know what Johnny did or said, but I do know he recognizes hospitality is a big part of being successful in a business where you rarely can please everyone. And he's genuine. My mom likes that.

I first met Johnny Cutrone when I was a bartender at Newmarket's Glenway Country Club, now an abandoned lot, when we both served fine dining night, as they were not set up for that and I'd had some experience.  I showed him french service...Zee rest eezz heeztory! Lol

 They've come a long way since opening that first deli shop on the corner of Yonge and Mulock slinging breakfasts at 6 am to get by, along with his mom and dad. His Dad only recently passing away from cancer..and a great guy himself. Definitely give you the shirt off his back if he could..

View from Stellar Hall Window
So maybe that's what mom saw. just a raw welcoming spirit and some darn good food she likely would normally have found something wrong with!

Happy Mother's Day all. Go where you want but go... I do know Stellar Hall is putting on an extra special Mother's Day deal this year with something for everyone..omelet stations, carving stations..the works! I'm drooling just writing this. Oh..and some good old fashioned hospitality! Egads!
Mom the nest builder