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••• The International Writers Magazine - 22 Years on-line -

Summer 2002- Hot Sweats at a Cold Read- Nights at the Anza Club
• Sam North  

Writers at work

There’s something quite special about Vancouver and the people in it, although I don’t think I should mention it in case they become self-conscious and as snarky as the rest of the world they inhabit.

It occurred to me when I was attending the weekly Cold Reading Series at the Anza Club on Ontario St. Just for the record, this is ‘shit hits the fan’ in the shape of writer’s screenplays given to actors ‘at random’ five minutes before they go on and act the darn thing. This is heart attack time for the writers and astonishingly, the event is terrific. The writing is almost always great, often very funny, the acting amazing, considering there is no rehearsal and shows the importance of giving description and direction in a script.

The atmosphere is noisily supportive, nurturing, enthusiastic and afterwards everyone gets together to drink and talk about it. It’s so simple, and this has been running for nine or ten years already. There’s another similar event but more formal event called Alibi run across town and the quality is equally good, although the critical comments can go on a tad too long.

So why isn’t this happening in London I ask myself?

I belong to the New Producers Alliance and have suggested we do this, but people cast their eyes wildly about the room and shuffle their feet as if you have suggested they smear margarine on their genitalia. The Writer’s Guild would rather die that get writers and actors involved in an ‘activity’ other than debating a crisis in publishing. The Script Factory has it so organised and exclusive, it is neither fun, nor useful and it happens only about four times a year. It takes about a year to get a script read and who knows what it takes to get it accepted. In the UK every producer bemoans the fact that there are no good scripts and no place to hear them if there were. They hate reading scripts, so a place where they could hear and see them would be great. They are right. Outside of film school or a screenwriting class, there is no genuine venue such as exists in these two places in Vancouver.

Sure there are poetry readings and book events in London, but yawn, you wouldn’t get a producer with connections to one of those now, would you. All you are left with is trying to pitch to someone as they cross Golden Square in the hopes they aren’t an accountant or worse, another writer.

The Anza experience is a revelation. Support, good writing and good acting. There is such a pool of talent here, it quite belies the fact of the city being a ‘small place’ compared to London or New York. If you are a budding producer forget London, fly here buy these scripts. Better yet, make them here. With the 24hour Film series and the 48Hour Film series, there are tons of experienced, competent, highly skilled camera pros here. There are experienced crew and props, all who have worked on some TV show or another. Great soundmen, directors, you name it, you can find them here.

Vancouver is a film town and the one thing it really lacks is oddly enough, producers with ‘money’. It’s one of those typical ironies. A town full of talent and yet everyone has to send their stuff to Toronto or LA. Better yet, these scripts aren’t the usual Toronto ‘Troubled women must tragically die’ fare. In the UK we have come to expect that all Canadian produced films are gay subjects or about sports. Vancouver doesn’t even feel Canadian (though that might upset them to hear that.). It’s ambition and talent base mirrors San Francisco and there doesn’t seem to be that general bitchiness and back stabbing that holds London back, or a entrenched media mafia who just make the same damn movies every two years.

The talent in Vancouver is here in-depth. Good writing, singing, acting, art, sculpture, photography and dance, and there are tons of good places turning out more artists such as the William Davis Centre, BCIT, Emily Carr Institute, or Vancouver Film School and getting the kids trained early at Arts Umbrella on Granville Island. There is just a wealth of accessible learning opportunities here. Just this Wednesday at the Celluloid Social Club hosted by the funny and personable filmmaker Ken Hegan, actress/director Rae Dawn Chong showed her new short movie 'Mary's Stigmata' at the Anza. Best film of the night was the funny "Swimming Upstream' director by Bonnie Benwick, both films part of the' Crazy 8s' Films sponsored by the Director's Guild of Canada. It's amazing who turns up and how democratic it is and being creative is really important to people and no one is sitting back and saying ‘poor me, no one has noticed me’. You have to be proactive and show your work.

The next step would be to somehow hook up all this talent with the famous producers with who are in town right now making major Hollywood films. The Anza Club might be a tad rough and ready but this is talent in the raw and it wouldn’t get any better with air-conditioning.

I like it the imaginative spirit here, applaud it and will put my own scripts where my foot is any day now. If you can survive a cold reading you can probably open a door somewhere. Who knows where.

The Cold Reading Series is at
The Anza Club 8th & Ontario
Thursdays at 8pm. All summer long.
Meet Actors, Writers, Filmmakers

Come to the Vancouver Music Festival August 1st to 11th

Summer Theatre Festival
July 24th-August 30th One Act Plays

Sunshine Coast Festival of Written Arts
Every famous Canadian Writer (except Douglas Coupland) still living in one place…
Aug 8th- 11th Sechelt.BC. TeL: 604 885 9631

And lastly
The 6th Annual Wreck Beach Bare Buns Race August 10th. - Dare to be bare – no talent actually required here.

© Sam North August 2002 - Managing Editor

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