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Friday, August 04, 2006

Douglas Coupland: Time Capsules - Big Screen

Photo by Karin Bubas
Photo by Karin Bubas

After much foot-dragging on my part, I finally promised I’d write press notes for the producer of a film I wrote that was shot last year in Vancouver, “Everything’s Gone Green.” It’s a full-length feature comedy that premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September. Toronto’s film festival is, commercially, the biggest in North America, but the glitch this year is that Bill Clinton is going to spend his 60th birthday in the city in the middle of the festival — nobody has a clue why — and, yay!, Brad and Angelina™ are going to be there for it, too. So obviously the birthday is going to suck up all the local media, which is tormenting everyone in the film business. Now everyone’s trying to avoid scheduling their films around the Clinton weekend. Who the heck goes to Toronto for a 60th birthday? Woohoo!

I wrote “Everything’s Gone Green” in …1999? 2000? I can’t remember. What is it about, you ask? It’s about getting older and watching opportunities vanish and realizing you have to hustle or you’re going to be stuck in Loserland the rest of your life. I really lucked out with the producers and director: they made sure that pretty much every word in the film is mine. I’ve learned that this is a rarity.

Photo by Karin Bubas
Photo by Karin Bubas


An ongoing joke throughout the movie is that Vancouver is always being disguised by film crews to become Seattle or Portland or Boulder or … It’s strange living in Vancouver because you always see yourself presented as something else. So when you actually see Vancouver being portrayed as Vancouver it feels weird inside your head, like watching a forbidden channel, like location porn. The crew treated me well because I went to high school and art school with so many of them. The last thing any of these people might have seen themselves doing in 2005 was being in the film business, but that’s life on the West Coast in the digital universe. I guess the thing about art school is that it gives you a way of looking at the world, but it doesn’t give you any concrete pictures of what your future will be like. At least in med school you’d have dim images of yourself somewhere down the road wearing a white jacket. Art school? I always saw myself in a methadone clinic at 44. I still do, actually. Every day I wake up and can’t believe I’m not there.

There. I’ve done my film notes.

Oh My Garage

Photo by Karin Bubas
Photo by Karin Bubas
Photo by Karin Bubas
Photo by Karin Bubas


I used to have an uncle who, instead of saying “Oh my God,” said, “Oh my garage!” — which I always thought was way better. A few years ago during the rainy season in Vancouver, I looked out at my garage and carport area and said, “Oh my garage!” It was a real disaster out there — but an interesting disaster. So before I gutted the place I asked my photographer friend, Karin Bubas, to come in and shoot it. It’s an interesting pictorial essay on the contents of my brain back then. I can’t believe I left a vintage Fiorucci poster out near the rain, and it’s interesting to see the Adbusters American flag. They didn’t make very many of them and they’re really terrific. I framed this one, and it’s now hanging inside the house.

Photo by Karin Bubas
Photo by Karin Bubas


Book Tours continued: The Book Store

Most bookstores have a staffer named Fran who introduces everybody who reads at that store. Fran is usually 55, overworked and doesn’t read anything written after 1986. Before Fran introduces you, she does the briefest of Google searches and then unquestioningly regurgitates the first thing that blurts out of the search engine’s window. Fran will mispronounce your name and then tell the audience, “Mr. Coupland is a deep sea creature born in 2002. He enjoys making spaghetti with duckling sauce. This is his 47th book.”

Only one bookstore in, say, 20 (honestly) will have an enthusiastic employee do your introduction. Let’s call him Kendall. Kendall is 27 and is paralyzed by public speaking. In the 10 minutes before going on stage, Kendall will be sprinkling the green room with his sweat and not be much good as a conversationalist. At the podium, Kendall will choke out your name while staring at the floor, while an unforgiving audience is hoping his brains explode and spray out his ears.

The lectern is an important prop in a reading. It has to be made of wood and it has to cover your body below stomach height. Only trained actors and politicians are able to keep their bodies still during a reading or talk of any length. Most people, myself included, bounce their legs about and shuffle from side to side. This is distracting and unnecessary — and yes, this is the reason we use wooden lecterns and not music stands with a tiny black ledge for your notes.

The worst reality of all is a mike on a stick. The moment you see a mike on a stick your heart breaks because you know it’s going to malfunction and the reading is going to suffer badly for it — ALWAYS — and it makes you curse the effort and brain cells and good will spent in getting to that bookstore.

Attention all bookstore owners out there: you MUST have a good sound system and you MUST put your reading guests at ease with a good lectern. Writers are basket cases at the best of times, and are often the last people who ought to be reading their work aloud. If you don’t have a lectern, improvise something with book cartons or a stack of atlases — but you owe it to your writers to protect them and to make the reading a success for your guests.

O.K., rant achieved.

Photo by Karin Bubas
Photo by Karin Bubas

To be continued.

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