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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Friday, November 09, 2007

careers not attempted

Last night Kimmie and I attended a reception at the Vancouver Art Gallery to highlight the work of two local photographers, Stuart McCall and Angela Cameron. Pressing through heavy traffic in the moist, dark warmth of the evening, we found parking up on Hornby Street and made our way to the gallery, situated right at the center of downtown in the old courthouse building.

The reception was tucked away in a small room beyond some service stairs at the southwest corner of the building. There about 30 people sipped wine and nibbled chocolates and cashews, talking and viewing the selection of large prints. I've known Stuart since 1980, when he used to work at the Eatons camera counter with my friend Brad. Not long after that he set up a studio with a couple of partners in Gastown, and has been plying the photographic trade ever since. He's an artist by nature, but his bread-and-butter work is industrial photography: he enjoys photographing hydro dams, coal mines, factories, and the like.

Only one of his photographs last night was truly industrial: a steaming mill in Fort McMurray, Alberta. The others were striking and vivid scenes from around the city, and neighborhoods where he's lived. Kimmie and I both especially liked a shot of his old 'hood in Kits Point in the 1980s: a night shot, with colorful old houses shrouded in snow, standing behind gnarled, black, naked trees.

I talked with a few people there, including Peter, Stuart's former photography partner, who left to become a crime-scene photographer in London. He's spent a bit of time in Los Angeles hobnobbing with Hollywood types, and is also working on a screenplay. Knowing about the success of The Odyssey, he wondered why I hadn't gone down to L.A. to try to launch a career there. For his part, he'd found that he fitted in very easily in the social scene there. But he's extroverted, engaging, and handsome (I'm only engaging and handsome).

It's not that I never considered it. But in my heart of hearts, I didn't have a desire for a Hollywood career. I didn't see myself going down there to hustle projects, or to seek work--any work--on other people's shows. At the least, I would have to have a script in hand that I wanted to shop--a project I really wanted to get made, and was willing to do anything to make that happen. I just wasn't in that situation. As I said a couple of months ago to Michael Chechik, producer of The Odyssey, "I don't want to write shows that I wouldn't want to watch."

Interestingly, my own father faced the choice of "going Hollywood" himself, years ago (probably in the 1970s or 80s). He was already a career TV guy here in Canada, a producer with the CBC. In talking with an agent down there, he found that he could very likely get lots of work directing commercials and TV episodes, and do very well at it. He was tempted. He thought about renting a small apartment there, and commuting from Vancouver. But he realized that developing a career there would likely mean, among other things, entertaining people, which would require a bigger, better place, and spending more and more time there--until it would be his whole life. And he didn't want to live in L.A., or, especially, to bring his family there.

I feel similarly. I know it's not me. I can write scripts--I'm sure I've got more good ones in me--and when I do write them, I'll do what I need to in order to realize them--including shopping them in L.A. But I want to stay on the beam of doing what I really want to do--and what only I can do. It's very hard to explain what I'm doing or why--even to myself. But I do have a feeling that I'm doing what's right for me.

When it comes right down to it, I don't even want a house in Bel Air or a Ferrari. So I should leave those on the table for others.

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