*Welcome to readers from the Tyee and CBC’s Early Edition*

One of my options

As much as I love the city of Vancouver, I have an equal fondness for Toronto. (I’m a rare breed, I know.) Since I’m in Ontario visiting my family, I figured I might as well take the Roadshow with me. So starting today, I’ll be looking for some roadshow stops in this lovely, albeit (insert expletive here) freezing city. If you have any suggestions, or want to invite me to work, contact me here. I’m in Toronto until January 5th.

Also, I have the final list for the Roadshow Readers’ Choice. Here are the most popular (mixed in with some of my favourites.) I’m leaving it up to you to make the final decision. Contact me here to cast your vote, or to add a few more to the list!

Flight Attendant
Embalmer
Adult Store Attendant
Stand Up Comic
Chicken Sexer
Carney
Mascot
Zookeeper

The Roadshow will resume with its regular-scheduled Roadshow stop posting in the New Year. Next up, Kung Fu fighting!

*Welcome to readers from The Tyee*

Roadshow stop: Carbon Project Solutions
Roadshow mentor: Joseph Pallant

Joseph Pallant, President and CEO, Carbon Project Solutions

Of the few things that stand out from my high school education is a video that I watched in my OAC World Issues Geography class. (My reference to OAC may give some indication of just how long ago this was.) In high school, videos usually meant nap time. But for this particular flick, I was compelled to stay awake. It was all about the environment–specifically global warming–which was still more than a decade away from being a household word. The video, set in a utopic future, was a mockumentary on how the world solved its environmental and social issues, such as pollution, poverty, and even war, through carbon trading. It seemed so simple–wealthier countries that exceeded their worldwide regulated carbon output quota would invest in clean energy production in developing nations. This created a reduction in the greenhouse gases pumped out into the atmosphere and stimulated economic growth in countries that needed it. Even my apathetic 18-year-old brain thought this made sense. Both my geography teacher and the video were way ahead of their time.

So why all this nostalgia about my first encounters with carbon management? It seemed appropriate, in light of the recently finished (and mostly disappointing) United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15) to post my Roadshow stop with Joseph Pallant, the president and CEO of Carbon Project Solutions. Because Joseph is all about carbon. His company, Carbon Project Solutions, helps businesses, governments, and organizations access the carbon market and develop emission reductions projects. And he works both sides–he helps companies offset their carbon, as well as companies who have offsets to sell. (For a definition of carbon offsetting, have a look here.)

Contemplating the many facets of carbon managment

For my day at Carbon Project Solutions, Joseph approached things a bit differently than most Roadshow stops. Usually I’m given a task that requires an extra set of hands. But ever the entrepreneur, Joseph took a close look at my skill set to see how he could use it to his advantage and created a task designed specifically for me, which was to write the copy for his website. It was definitely a challenge. Because Joseph speaks and writes in “carbon-ese” or carbon jargon. But his website needed to make issues such as carbon offsetting, emissions reduction, carbon management, and what role Carbon Project Solutions plays in these issues, accessible and easy to understand by non-carbon-ese speakers. (Admittedly, this wasn’t completely unfamiliar territory for me, as one of my roles at the David Suzuki Foundation was to do exactly this. I translated complex scientific environmental issues into relevant and compelling messages that prompted people to act–specifically to donate.)

After much back and forth, Joseph and I developed a script that we both felt represented him and his company–and was concise in its message. It was a job I was happy to do. Because I believe Joseph, and individuals like him, are part of a greater movement that will make the utopic picture painted for me as a pre-adult become a reality. Sure, it may be an overly optimistic attitude, especially in light of the COP-15 outcome, but even when I wasn’t napping in high school, and currently still today, I’ve always been a bit of a dreamer.

Oh..and if anyone remembers what video it was that we watched in Mr. Annett’s OAC World Issues class circa 1995, please send me the name!

Joseph Pallant
Carbon Project Solutions
His blog: lilcarbon

My Soapbox (It’s my soapbox and I’m going to stand on it!)
A few breakdowns and discussions on the disappointing outcomes of COP-15:
desmogblog.com
The Flopenhagen Accord
greenpeace.ca
The Guardian -George Monbiot
The Guardian – John Vidal, Allegra Stratton and Suzanne Goldenberg

What you can do to help reduce your carbon footprint:
How to Go Carbon Neutral
A Guide to Purchasing Carbon Offsets

Other overall awesome sites dedicated to the environment:
treehugger.com
huffingtonpost.com/green
tcktcktck.org
grist.org
avaaz.org

A cool environmental design company:
goodfore.com

Boozy Poolside Lunches

December 15, 2009

Brightlight Pictures is located at the Bridge Studio

Roadshow stop: Film Executive
Roadshow mentor: Liz Levine, Brightlight Pictures Inc.

It’s pretty obvious from some of my previous posts that I watch too many movies. Or, more accurately, I’m prone to conjure unrealistic fantasies about particular professions based on their on-screen depictions. (See News Reporter or Stockbroker.) I know I’m doing it. And I know it’s wrong. But I can’t help it. Movies often create such a romanticized or ridiculous version of reality that it’s sometimes just hard to resist.

It is because of my willingness to succumb to these film fantasies, that I approached the Roadshow’s next stop with some apprehension. I was going to be a film executive. I wondered if seeing the behind-the-scenes action of this position, which in itself is a behind-the-scenes kind of role, was going to dispel or perpetuate my unrealistic notion of this job. Was I going to wine and dine actors and attend fabulous Hollywood parties? Would I get to zip around the studio lot in a golf cart? Might I discover the next big hit? Would I sacrifice a budding young director’s artistic vision for the sake of making a box office blockbuster? Or was this all just purely the media portrayal that I had bought into?

Just like in the movies--the studio's gated security entrance

I was going to find out while spending a day at Brightlight Pictures, which is located at the Bridge Studio. Before I even stepped foot in the Brightlight office, my film fantasies were reinforced. I pulled up on my scooter to a gated security booth, (just like you see in the movies) and gave the security guard my name. She looked it up on a clipboard, and after verifying my identity, directed me to a parking spot–which had apparently been reserved for my scooter. (I suppose in my film fantasy of this, I would be in a more luxurious vehicle, like a Volkswagon Golf or something.)

Reserved just for my scooter

Brightlight is a Vancouver-based production company that makes independent movies and TV series. They’re probably best known for shows like The Guard and movies such as White Noise, 88 minutes, and The Wicker Man. My mentor for the day was Liz Levine, the Executive Director of Development. Liz has been in the business for more than a decade, and started with Brightlight eight months ago. Her job at Brightlight is to find new concepts and scripts, assess them, and push them forward to production. For some projects she sees them from concept to completed and released product.

Liz’s office was filled with stacks of scripts–all potential projects awaiting their fate. The bound pages representing the heart and soul, and talent, of the author. The number of scripts Liz receives is overwhelming. They are sent in by agents and from people connected to individuals at Brightlight. There’s no way she can read them all on her own, so she’s helped out by a team of creative executives. They write “coverage”, which includes an overview of the story, the reader’s opinion of the script, and a recommendation to Liz on whether or not the project has any potential at Brightlight.

Executive Director of Development Liz Levine

After setting up my laptop on Liz’s leather sofa (which she assured me was not a casting couch), I was given my first script and asked to write the coverage. I had never read scripts before but I know from personal experience that writing dialogue is tough. In fact, I would say it’s one of the hardest things to write well. People tend to write exactly as they speak, and that doesn’t always translate. In a script, so much of the story has to be conveyed in conversation–the plot, the character development, the tension, the themes. This is not an easy feat.

My first script was a TV show–a fast-paced political intrigue drama. And it was pretty good. As I flipped through the pages, I could hear the dialogue, see the characters, and was pulled into the plot. I wanted to know what happened next. So I wrote a coverage that said as much.

My next script was the complete opposite. It was a poor attempt at a TV comedy. I found this genre harder to evaluate, since so much depends on the timing and delivery of the actor. But even the most talented of comedians would have trouble making the lines of this script entertaining, or anything more than shockingly offensive. I wrote a scathing coverage that indicated as much. But as I jotted down words like infantile, cliche, unoriginal, I couldn’t help but think about the editor who passed on Harry Potter. And how quick he was to dismiss the manuscript. It made me second-guess my decision to so easily write off the script as crap. Just because it didn’t appeal to me, didn’t necessarily mean it was a flop. I wondered, was I fulfilling one of my preconceived stereotypes? Was I the ruthless film executive who couldn’t see the artistic vision in front of me?

Just one of the many stacks of scripts in Liz's office

Just one of the many stacks of scripts in Liz's office

I expressed this to Liz, in between her countless phone calls, and she explained that’s why scripts are all read and vetted by at least two people. But even then, it’s sometimes difficult to determine what’s going to be a hit and what’s going to be a bust. Because it’s not just about the script–there is so much more involved in making something a success–the timing, the actors, the director, the producers, the current market, the intended audience. But according to Liz, one thing can be guaranteed:

“If you start with shit, you end up with shit.”

That’s why she advises people to “read, read, read–the more you see the easier it is to identify quality when you see it.”

I decided to trust my gut and give my honest opinion on script #2–that it was “shit”. And hope that I wasn’t passing on the next Arrested Development. (I found out afterward that the second reader also found the script to be an insult to the written word.)

The Bridge Studio's alternative to a fleet of golf carts--a fleet of cruisers

For the rest of the day, I sat in on Liz’s countless meetings. There are so many pieces to putting together a film or TV series–schedules, budgets, talent, marketing–just one film is a huge operation. And Liz and her colleagues work on multiple projects at once. In one breath Liz was trying to fix historical inaccuracies in a dramatic period piece’s script, in the next she was figuring out how to cut millions from an over-budget production plan. And while it wasn’t exactly the Hollywood glamour that I had conjured in my mind (there were no boozy poolside lunches with the talent), it was still exciting. (I especially liked that Liz and all her co-workers referred to actors on a first name basis–dropping names like “Dustin”, “Jamie-Lee” and “Robin”.) The day’s activity didn’t pander to my fantastical notions, nor did it really do anything to dispel them. It just made them a bit more realistic. A film executive has a fast-paced, enthralling job–but it’s not all parties and premieres. They actually have to work, and work hard, in order to get their schmoozing, cutthroat movie and TV counterparts up on the screen.

The Bridge Studio's sole golf cart

Last week I asked readers for submissions to the Roadshow Readers’ Choice. I figured you, the reader, would come up with a bunch of great ideas for a stop on the Roadshow. And I was right — the suggestions have been funny, interesting, terrifying, and weird. Here are some of the jobs that have been proposed for me to do so far:

Flight Attendant
Overnight Security Guard at a half-built condo complex
Dog trainer
Cell Company Customer Service Rep
Engineer
Skytrain Employee
Braille Translator
Boom Operator
Embalmer
Pageant Judge
Adult Store Attendant
Union Rep
Childcare Assistant
Zookeeper
Stand Up Comic (this one scares me the most)
Oyster Floater
Parade Float Dismantler
Logger
Carney
Taxi Driver
IMAX Screen Cleaner
Mascot
Chicken Sexer
Organic Farm Inspector
Port-o-Potty Empty-er

Keep the suggestions coming! If you haven’t played guidance counselor yet, be sure to think up a job for me. (Visit the rules before making your suggestions.) You can email me your ideas or comment below. Send them in by December 16th. To recap what jobs I’ve done so far, visit my resume. Once all the submissions are in, I’ll compile a shortlist of the most popular and most interesting (and possibly the most terrifying) and have readers vote on what job they want to see me do for the Roadshow.

Your Choice

December 1, 2009

I’ve been on the Roadshow for just over two months and I’ve done a total of 14 different jobs. While I haven’t yet surmised where I want my career path to go next, I have gleaned an inside look at many interesting professions. So far, most of the Roadshow stops have been through referrals or people contacting me. Now I’ve decided to put my fate in the hands of my readers. Yup, that’s right: you. I want you to pick where I go next. Because I believe you will come up with jobs that I never would. (Think of it as a chance to act out your secret desire to be a high school guidance counselor.) So if you have suggestions on what type of work I should do, or a particular organization or company that you think I should work for, send me an email or leave a comment.

I’ll take the most frequently suggested and best ideas, put it to a reader’s vote, and then try to arrange a Roadshow stop doing that job. Please send me your ideas by Dec. 16th.

Just in case you haven’t, be sure to visit the Roadshow Rules before making your suggestion. And in particular, pay attention to Rule #1. And as a recap, I’ve so far done the following:

Jewelry Designer (upcoming post)
Carbon Project Developer (upcoming post)
Film Executive (upcoming post)
Dog Walker
Personal Trainer
Software Developer
Acquisitions Editor
Film Swing
Sous Chef for an Underground Supper Club
Stockbroker
Transportation Planner
Business Reporter
Graphic Designer
Line Cook

Looking forward to your suggestions! Send them here by Dec. 16th.