Friday, April 17, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- O is for Songs That Start With 'On' / 5 on Friday -- Set 268

Here we are at Day 15, where O is for On.

Just a note for anyone dropping in for the A to Z Challenge:

I'm behind by four posts this week, as I was actively working online on behalf of the film and television industry here in my province of Nova Scotia. To check out what's going on, you can read up here:

For today's blog challenge, let me introduce you to my regular Friday feature: 

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

This week's set is made up of songs that start with the word 'on'. They call us to take our places, to dig deep within ourselves, and to make the move from dreams to action. 

1 - On Broadway - George Benson 

2 - On the Good Ship Lollipop - Shirley Temple 

3 - On the Street Where You Live - Harry Connick Jr. 


4 - On My Own - Samantha Barks 

5 - On a Clear Day - Frank Sinatra  


Saturday, April 11, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- J is for John Knowles

Some days it's good to have a plan, and other days it's good to remain open to whatever shows up unannounced.

To wrap up Week 2 of the A to Z Challenge, I couldn't ask for a better windfall than my friend arriving in town from Australia.

On Day 10, J is for John Knowles.

That's John, second from left, top row. I'm second from right, front row.

We met in high school when we both sang in the Prince Andrew Chorus. We were fortunate to have a thriving arts community within our working-class high school. To me, it felt like we were in a Fame-style school, where our choir basically arranged our own end-of-the-year variety shows as well as performed in the Kiwanis Music Festival under the direction of our choir director, Jim Farmer.

We also took part in one large-scale musical production every year, which were separate from the plays produced by the drama department. Somewhere in there we also managed to squeeze in some schoolwork.

So, getting back to John.

If you look up the phrase "stole the show", well, that's John Knowles in a nutshell.

He and I were cast several times as the secondary comedy-relief couple. That started after our first foray into musical theatre, when John's tiny part in the sprawling Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat -- starring Not John -- quickly became whispered warnings to "Watch Knowles!" and "Here comes Knowles!" 

By our second year and our second musical, The Pajama Game, John was stealing the audience's attention away from center stage during Hernando's Hideaway just by making his 'extra business' the funniest material we'd ever seen.

By our graduating year, when I was sharing choreographer duties with Heather shown at right (that's me at left) John and I were the B-story couple of cowboy Will Parker and Ado Annie in Oklahoma!

John and I were good friends and we had great chemistry onstage. However, there was one aspect where John's performance style and mine did not line up.

I preferred to learn all of my lines, rehearse our scenes and know what to expect once we stepped out of the wings.

John knew the lines. He knew the scenes. He remembered what we rehearsed. He simply preferred to improvise, because that's where his light shines brightest. It's what made those "Here comes Knowles" whispers ripple through the audience.

As much as it personally freaked me out back in the day to be onstage dealing with improv when I'm not an improv person, when John moved from eastern Canada to his mom's original home country of Australia I wasn't too surprised when he proceeded to forge out a career doing theatre sports and improv theatre.

Fast forward to his latest trip to Canada.

Another friend from high school is involved with a live-performance theatre in the Annapolis Valley. He says to John, "Well, you have to do your show while you're here. I'll set it all up." 

My husband and I hop in the car and make a two-hour drive to the Evergreen Theatre in Margaretsville, close to Kingston and Canadian Forces Base Greenwood.

John proceeds to do his one-man show, pulling a rabbit out of a hat for a full house.

John settles in and begins regaling us with stories running the gamut from laugh-till-I-cry to tears of emotion. Some of the stories I know because of my friendship with John, but most of them I don't know and experience like any audience member.

He touches on childhood stories, on how he managed to survive some rather wild teenaged exploits and moves into rather touching manhood stories. He jumps through time back and forth with the story thread driving the evening, making it all seem like he's not in front of an audience at all but just sharing moments of his life with us over a coffee or a beer. Yet that's classic Knowles. His talent for drawing us in seems so natural that we forget he's actually constructing a verbal autobiography with the clarity of mature perspective.

I especially enjoyed the montage sequence at the end, quickly recapping the highly-charged bits like a movie trailer.

For those of you in the Sydney, Australia area on Apr. 28th and 30th / May 2nd all at 7:00 pm, and May 3rd at 6:00 pm -- John 's Storytiller one-man show is part of the Sydney Comedy Festival at The Factory Theatre

Friday, April 10, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- I is for Songs That Start With 'In' / 5 on Friday -- Set 267

Here we are at Day 9 already, where I is for In.

For today's blog challenge, let me introduce you to my regular Friday feature: 

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

This week's set is made up of songs that start with the word 'in'. They call us to enter, to surround ourselves and to experience. 

1 - In the Still of the Night - Ella Fitzgerald 

2 - In My Life - The Beatles 

3 - In Dreams - Roy Orbison 


4 - In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning - Frank Sinatra 

5 - In the Mood - Glenn Miller Orchestra  


Thursday, April 9, 2015

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today -- Join me for the A to Z Blog Challenge

Join me at The Popculturedivas for A to Z Blog Challenge -- H is for Hitting Milestones.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- G is for Gate (Film Camera Access to Light Exposure)

If you're a fan of watching the Making Of extras on DVDs, you may have encountered the phrase "Check the gate"  as the crew finishes a take on set.

What does that mean, exactly?

A film gate is the access to light exposure necessary for an image to be captured on film. Covered by glass, it's located in the body of the camera between the film as it rolls by, and the camera lens which controls how much light passes through the gate to the film stock.

Because of the static created by the rolling film stock, there is a continual tendency for the gate to attract dust particles or the dreaded hair.

Due to the nature of film, where a take is the culmination of an entire crew of artists and technicians, all of whom must be paid, not to mention the cost of the entire production divided by each take, each shot carries a monetary value generally of thousands of dollars.

A director must be willing to shoot multiple takes in order to get what he or she needs. There is no value in doing all of the pre-production work, then giving all the effort for the scene only to leave before everything gels.

There is always a fine balancing act between knowing how much money each take is costing, and knowing that the film must be served.

One thing no one wants to do -- shoot another take because there was a hair in the gate.

Who gets the job of checking the gate following each take?

The 1st Assistant Camera person or focus puller has this critical job.

Here's a brief glimpse at ruined footage with a rather massive hair-in-the-gate problem.

Here's a quick how-to in avoiding this manageable problem. The camera used is a super-8 camera, but every type of camera used in professional film shoots will follow a similar procedure.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- F is for Film

It's Day 6 of the A to Z Challenge.

Here at A Piece of My Mind, F is definitely for Film. I graduated from Ryerson Polytechnic University's film program, so it's next to impossible for me to make up Top Ten lists like this one.

Yet, what's a challenge without an obstacle that truly tests my skills and resolve?

Here are my Top Ten Films From 2000 Onwards

I've grouped them by genre, so the numbering is merely to keep track of them and not to rank them against each other. They're basically my favorites in their genres, anyway.

1 - Night Watch (Nochnoy dozor) - (2004) / Day Watch (Dnevnoy dozor) - (2006)

2 - Watchmen (2009)

3 - Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)

5 - Gladiator (2000)

6 - Kate and Leopold (2001)

8 - Moulin Rouge! (2001)

9 - Hot Fuzz (2007)

Monday, April 6, 2015

A to Z Blog Challenge -- E Equals the Five 'E's for Creative People

Week 2 of the A to Z Blog Challenge opens with five elements that should be in every creative person's toolbox.

EQUIP Yourself

For a tradesperson such as a construction worker, what is one of the first things you think about when you picture this person? For me, the tool belt worn on the body, ready with the tools he needs at arms' length when walking onto the job site comes to mind.

For some reason, many people with creative dreams are hesitant to take that first step and begin to equip themselves with the tools they need in order to transform from the dreaming-about-it stage into the actually-doing-it stage.

Perhaps finances are a problem. Start somewhere -- save a bit here and there, but with purpose. You'll eventually have enough to purchase that first piece of equipment that starts you on the road to turning your creative concept into something tangible.

EMPLOY Assistance

As much as a creative person needs the world to stop while she gets down to working on her project, the world keeps right on spinning.

How do you carve out the time you need in order to write, paint, sculpt, take photos, sew?

The same way you would show up for a day job: make an appointment with your creative project and keep it.

If you need to find someone to look after your children for several hours so you can work on your book, head out with your camera or sit down uninterrupted at your sewing machine, book that time with a sitter. Ever hear the phrase 'put your money where your mouth is'? Take your creative work time seriously, as seriously as you would a pay cheque day job.

EFFECTIVE Use of Time 

So you've got your tools and you've carved out your time to work. Don't be surprised at a strange phenomenon -- you haven't chosen the right time for you.

This is something only you can discover.

It all comes down to whether you're a daytime person or a night owl. One of those two segments of the day will be your 'on' time, where the ideas are flowing easily and you feel like you're on fire.

If you're a daytime person and you try to be creative following your day job and once the kids are in bed, you will spend lots of time yawning and gazing at your computer screen while getting nothing accomplished. Try setting the alarm clock a few hours early and claiming those hours for yourself, before the rest of the world gets up.


This is a very difficult thing to manage, especially if you're not working full time in your creative life. Juggling family life, a day job, a social life and the day-to-day errands can use up all the energy you've got before you even attempt to work on your project.

This is where pacing comes in.

You may feel like a thoroughbred in the starting gates, bursting with ideas and energy. It's quite like the start of a love affair, finally working on your dreams. If we think of those thoroughbred horses, however, there are a few things to keep in mind about those high-octane athletes. They are trained carefully for stamina and speed, and then retired after only a few years of racing -- because they are already burnt out at three years old. They shine brilliantly but briefly at an elite level of athleticism. A creative person generally wants to run more of a marathon than perform at sprint levels.

If you burn the candle at both ends for too long, your creative work will suffer. Learn to conserve your own energy and to build up your stamina over time.

ENGAGE Your Muse

In order to have a creative well that you can dip into, you need to replenish that well regularly.

This may require blocking off time to yourself so you can simply be.

Sometimes this means a date with yourself, where you employ assistance so that you can head out shopping with a friend instead of working on your project. Perhaps you and your husband need a night out at the movies. Maybe there's an exhibit at the museum and you really, really want to see it.

Instead of thinking of these things as time wasters and frivolous indulgences, as a creative person you require inspiration in order to be in close contact with your muse. Give these renewal periods the same importance as you would your writing time or your sketching time. You'll find that you spend less time staring at a blank page when you and your muse have a healthy relationship.