Tag Archives: writing


Over the past few months I’ve learned a few things about an American playwright named Lillian Hellman:



“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions” – L. Hellman.


When I read those words I ponder… who says something like that? Or, more importantly, when she looked out through her own lenses at the world around her, based on what she saw, heard, tasted, felt, smelled and sensed… why did she make a statement like that?


I traced Austin Pendleton to a scene study class at HB Studio this spring to study a concentrated workshop called Lillian Hellman Scene Study. I can say through my experience of narrowing in on the tragedy of Martha Dobie in her first play called The Children’s Hour that Hellman plays are little mysteries; the best kind – there are little truths hidden like Easter eggs waiting to be discovered by a group of relaxed and present actors. For example… how do you cut a conscience? Why would you need to? Hellman’s autobiographies tend to give a little insight – but also tend to have a significantly controversial history attached to them. I borrowed my copies of her autobiographies as they sit on a shelf at the New York Library for Performing Arts .


Fun fact: I’m sitting on my sofa in New York right now listening to a YouTube recording of Ocean Waves wondering if any of the same insight that Hellman thought will run through the tide of my consciousness in this blog post.


That’s the thing about plays though – when brought to life they can’t but help to carry you through the playwright’s reflection of her time. You can’t (or maybe you can) imagine how nerding out with her plays on down time at my day job while New Yorkers stroll in and out to say hello all morning has inspired me. I’ve been looking up to find faces and voices talking to me with her plays fresh on the tip of my tongue. I can’t be quite sure if I’ve been grasping at a little something of what she saw – but residually – an undercurrent of life.


The best part about studying acting in New York – the very plays I’m reading and studying find their ways to Broadway stages! And sometimes they inspire groundbreaking endeavors; two talented female actresses alternating roles. The Little Foxes is playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre on 47th Street and is directed by Daniel Sullivan.




The Manhattan Theatre Club production has Laura Linney and Cynthia Nixon alternating the lead of power-hungry REGINA HUBBARD GIDDENS and her careful sister-in-law BIRDIE HUBBARD given the “blue” or “green” nights listed on their website. My imagination is mulling over what it might be like to do that – alternate roles within the same production. I just might attempt to one day after seeing these ladies lead the cast through the switch.


floating troubles

atop my

sea of hopes

stack full



my chest’s

rise and fall…


The emotional rises of REGINA and the emotional falls of BIRDIE are fascinating to witness. In this play, set in the South, the Hubbard family schemes and quarrels over pieces of their pie i.e. the distribution of money among each other. Regina likes to join in on the competitive schemes with her brothers; while Birdie escapes from any pain as much as she can. There doesn’t seem to be a medium among the two; they are either slowly lurking in charge, as Regina does, or lightly asking power to please step away, as in Birdie’s case.


…I feel

the barge



liquid thoughts


What struck me the most in this play was an examination of getting more. There is raw, gritty desire for more shares, more information, more time with a loved one, or more opportunity to banter about any of the above desires. Some desires seem to overshadow others when in competition – and some desires conveniently find symbiosis when necessary. An example being the scheme to arrange a marriage between Regina’s daughter ALEXANDRA GIDDENS and her gullable cousin LEO HUBBARD in order to ‘keep money in the family”. What a thought – who needs to sell shares when you can marry them? Or something along those lines.


…soft landings

brim my eyes


to feel the waves


to feel the waves

roll under…


Over time – as the play progresses into the Act III I started to see undercurrents that carried the characters along. There are colorful, hand-painted Easter eggs hidden underneath each character’s learned and necessary ability to cut a larger piece of a whole. These mysteries were tugged along and pushed to the surface every so often – memories of Birdie’s kind mother, Birdie’s ability to hide abuse, Alexandra’s piano duets with Birdie, Regina’s revelations of her true feelings to her husband even when they’re ugly, Birdie and HORACE GIDDENS’ opposition to his daughter Alexandra’s marriage, Leo’s subtle wishes to gain approval from his father and grandfather, and the final moments of the play which open up Alexandra’s mourning of her father. These mysteries, to name a few, seem foreign when they peak because they are only allowed every so often when the characters can’t help but notice a competing humanity.


…foreign mechanics

tug my mind

through the

natural rhythm…

 “Sea Of Hopes” in A Collection of Thoughts: Poems By Carrie Robinson.


WHAT IF Birdie and Regina were literally foxes? My wager is below. Respectively:



Tagged , , , , , , , , ,


Actor, Singer, Writer

To preview or purchase Emily’s CD “Blue Toothbrush” visit:


To check out Emily’s blog visit:


I truly felt like I was waiting for a pen pal. A mutual friend connects you up with a person you might have something in common with, and then you end up sharing your intimate thoughts over long distances… without ever meeting.

By the time I received Emily’s personally mailed CD, “Blue Toothbrush”, from New York City (and read her friendly little sticky note message to me), I’d already been directed to her biography.

Definitely an inspiring young woman… shortly after moving to New York Emily was cast in Off-Broadway plays and popular television shows such as The Good Wife and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Her Broadway debut was as Anna in the Tony Award Winning musical “Spring Awakening” before she appeared as ‘Emily’ on The Big C (Showtime). You can also see Emily playing ‘Beth Greene’ in the second season of The Walking Dead (AMC).

While living in New York City, in between acting gigs, Emily wrote poems and short stories based on her own experiences and self-discovery. While on The First National Tour of “August: Osage County”, she found time by herself in hotel rooms and turned her notebooks into melodies about love, hope and sex.

Sex is dealt with daringly without losing, what I sense is a fun, sweet and sensitive girl, behind catchy and quirky tracks. Best yet, as an artist and a female I related to her genuine sentiments, questions about life and relationships. Listening to Emily’s voice felt like getting coffee or working on a bottle of nice wine with a girlfriend as we indulged in the details of our latest news and relationships; yet ironically managing to have a delightful time while covering things like heartbreak.

Another pleasant surprise that I found while listening to Emily’s album and realizing her commitment to honesty… I became excited to discover more of Emily’s work as an actor too!

I also asked her a few questions:


  1. What made you start making songs?

 I’ve always written little poems since I was little and I’ve always been so into music.  I would spend hours all by myself in my room listening to music and singing.  I played around with writing songs a bit in high school/junior high, but I was very judge-mental of myself and I quickly threw away the practice.  I felt the songs I was making up were silly.   However, I never really threw out the practice of writing poems and short stories.  I met Conrad Korsch doing a show called “Spring Awakening”.  We became good friends and when I went on tour with another show called “August: Osage County”, I decided to buy a guitar and teach myself a little.  Then, I started writing songs.  I started singing them to Conrad over the phone and he told me that they were good and was just so encouraging.  I started writing songs all the time on that tour.  I would say Conrad’s encouragement and friendship was a huge inspiration to me to start writing songs and really take it seriously.  Also, I saw a creative drive in him that I recognized in myself and I just wanted to tap into that.

Some of my best friends are also musicians and actors.  I go to shows alot, and watching my friends sing and perform at places like Rockwood, Living Room, Mercury Lounge in NYC has always been so inspiring.  Their boldness inspires me!


  1. As an actor, singer and writer how do you feel these different modes of expression are all linked?

 There was a time when I decided I really, really wanted to be in the theatre as much as possible.  I was just obsessed with rehearsing and plays and doing a show every night.  I thought to myself that I was first actor, and I sort of threw away a bit of my drive to train as a musician, but music was really my first link to performing and telling stories… and now writing my own material, I have enjoyed having the creative control in expressing an emotion and telling a story of my own.  So now I guess I think of myself as simply a storyteller, and if it’s through a musical or tv show, or through a song that I write and then perform, doesn’t matter to me as much as the quality and honesty of the work, and then finding which mode suits telling the story best.  Not all poems should be songs.


  1. Why the commitment to honesty in your work?

 I just think the best jokes, and the best plays and the best songs are the ones where you think to yourself,  “Wow that’s soo funny because it’s true, or that character is just soo much like my mom, boyfriend, etc……”  I write and perform and sing not only to express myself, but to connect with other people and their experiences and I just think the only way to do that is to be as honest as possible in your work.  Plus, in real life you don’t always get to say how you feel, you don’t get always get to have that moment where you freak out or explore another side of yourself.  Finally, i get to do that a bit in my work.


  1. What do you respect in a creative collaboration?

 What is so great about collaborating is that everyone has different talents.  Working with Conrad was awesome because he is a trained musician with sooo much experience and he’s really good with recording and computers.  I’m really not the best with computers!  He would have ideas about instruments to use or the tempo of the song that I would have never heard or thought of, but when we added a musical line or changed the tempo that song became this new thing that was so perfect.  It’s so fun to have someone to bounce ideas off of and it’s so fun to have someone to share in the joy of making a song.  I also trust Conrad and his ear and his judgment.  I think trust is important.  He’s not going to lie to me if he doesn’t like a lyric or doesn’t think something sounds right.  In theatre, If I’m on stage working with a director i need to know that the director is going to be honest about what is coming across to the audience and not just say, “that was great!”





Tagged , , , , , , , ,


Actor, Stunt Performer, Director, Co-founder of ACT Vancouver

IMDB Profile:



1. What were the first key moments in your life where you found yourself thinking, “I love acting”?

It was weird. I think I somehow always intuitively knew that it would be a part of my life, even before I officially did it. I remember the first time, I was in Junior High, and I was actually in a dance class, so I was always into performing, dancing and martial arts. I somehow just fell out of love with dance… I got caught in the hall one day by the Principal when I was supposed to be in dance class and I said, “No- ya I left dance class because I was going to come see you”. He was like, “Oh really?”. I said, “Ya, how can I switch into drama?” Because I got caught skipping, I got put into drama class and then it just kind of took off from there. I just felt really at home.

We staged a production of a play that we wrote that was putting humanity on trial. We had this really cool acting teacher, Mr. Cohen… he was always trying to get us to use drama to say something, to express ourselves as young people. And so we had this play where we put humanity on trial and I was the prosecution and I killed it. I totally condemned humanity to death. That is kind of where I found my stride and where it took off.

2. Where did you train?

Montreal Theatre Scene

After Mr. Cohen’s Junior High acting class I didn’t train for a long time. I started just doing theatre in Montreal. That was a great training ground and I was learning by doing. I knew I was still very raw. There was still a lot I didn’t understand about acting. I knew a lot of people liked watching me act and I’d get cast in shows. Montreal has a very vibrant theatre scene so you can get along doing art and not doing technically good acting. There is a lot of movement based theatre, expressive theatre and exploratory theatre and so I did a lot of that.

I started a theatre company because I wanted to do Shakespeare. I played Hamlet and found somebody to direct it. It did really well and that’s how I got into the professional theatre scene in Montreal. By starting my own company.

Formal Training

I took time off school and travelled. And then I came back to university and I studied religion for about a year and a half. I realized there isn’t much of a career in religion if you’re not going to be a priest or a professor. I switched into theatre and I saw a lot of parallels between religion and theatre… there’s a text and audience, a stage… I thought, “why don’t I get back into my theatre training?”

I trained at Concordia University for a little while. Even there… we were still very exploratory. I actually got an undergraduate degree for Drama and Human Development. It wasn’t a specialization in performance. It was still using drama to build community, to build theatres in the classroom and use it for educational purposes and human development. There was a lot I didn’t know, didn’t understand about the technique of acting. I was still doing pretty good. I was still getting professional gigs, but I didn’t feel 100% confident in my abilities.

I continued doing theatre and then I got into stunt work. I started working for film and T.V. with my athletics and martial arts background doing stunts. I wanted to cross over into acting in the film and T.V. world. It’s kind of a round about way into it. I started working but I was getting very limited casting. It was all action-oriented stuff. I knew I needed to retrain myself or go further.

I started auditioning for about 3 years for graduate schools in the [United] States to work towards a Masters degree in acting- it was a long process and I failed a lot. I’d travel to New York or Chicago or California and do these massive auditions and travel from school to school and visit and having some success- people would see my potential but I wasn’t there. When I met Kyra… [Co-founder of ACT Vancouver & Patrick’s wife] she had a very strong foundation in her undergraduate degree of Acting. It wasn’t until she coached me that the gates flew open and I had my choice of graduate schools to attend. I chose the University of California at Urvine. I studied there for a Masters degree specialization in Acting.

3. What brought you into the world of stunt performance?

Stage combat. All of my work in the theatre. I started being recognized as ‘that stage combat guy’ because of my martial arts background and my physicality. I would always play the sword fighting guy in the Shakespeare plays, or even if I wasn’t I would do the stage choreography. I studied stage combat, which is a formal stage fighting techniques. There is a Federation for that and I did a lot of those workshops.

In the theatre there is no difference between the actor and a stunt performer. It’s the character. If the character is a fighter then you as the actor have to fight. I looked at the film and T.V. world and thought, “well I can do that”. I was actually on the phone with Kyra one day, and… it just clicked for me at the moment that’s what I was meant to do and so I hung up and I called the union and said, “how do you become a stunt guy?” They said, “I don’t know! I guess the stunt coordinator does the hiring.”

It turned out at that time in Montreal it had been 15 years since any new stunt guys had been hired. It had been the same old guard since the beginning of the industry and no new guys were coming into it. I started my search and tried to get in front of these guys and meet these guys. I did and one guy gave me a shot. Luckily the first stunt day, they needed one of the stunt guys to fight and shoot guns and throw out some dialogue. I did that and it earned me respect in the stunt community.  Right from the very beginning in my career as a stunt guy I was recognized as this stunt guy that has the skill set, but that could also perform as he’s doing stunts.

In the stunt world, the way it’s structured, you can be a lot more proactive about finding yourself work. As an actor you have to do a lot of waiting. You can put your best effort forward but it’s really up to your agent to submit you, the casting director to call you in, the director to like you, the producers to approve you, the networks to approve you. You’ve got to wait on so many people to make a decision. In the stunt world, you just train, you acquire the necessary skills, you meet the person that does the hiring and they make a decision whether they hire you or not. You can continuously upgrade your skills and put yourself out there and meet these guys and so that career kind of took off before the acting career really did.

4. You played a Spartan in the film 300, do you have tips for actors preparing for a role involving an accent?

Go For It!

Yes… on top of everything else that you have to do as an actor in terms of your research to understand the part, your personal work to be able to connect to the role, to understand the material, to understand the style of the story that you’re telling and the directors vision- to be able to suit it, and memorization. On top of all of those things, working with an accent can so easily throw you off. You hear yourself and think, “that sounds like such bullshit and if you don’t believe yourself then nobody’s going to believe you, right?”.

My number one tip for somebody working with an accent is to go all out. Go for it. You have to just throw yourself at it and it is going to sound like crap to you, but you’re not performing for you. You’re performing for someone that’s never heard you speak before. You never know what they’re going to believe or hear, so you have to trust and focus on everything else. Try the accent and just throw yourself at it and trust that it sounds believable. That’s if somebody walks in right now and said I got this role for you, do the accent right now.


On the other side of the coin, train… train. There are some very specific techniques to acquire an accent and there are a lot of paths to get there, but all of them require a lot of time and commitment because speaking is a physical activity. You have to retrain the muscles of your mouth to do what they do. It’s like when you walk, if you put your left foot forward, your right hand is going to swing forward. Then when you switch, it’s the opposite hand and leg always. It’s like all the sudden someone came and said, “well I need you to walk but when your left foot comes forward your left hand comes forward”. Now they want you to walk like this and it’s going to feel really awkward and unnatural at first.  You have to just keep training at it until it feels natural because once you’re out there performing you don’t have time to think about the accent.

Be Ready to Make Adjustments

The tough thing is that you have to be so adept at working with an accent that when they come to you and ask you to make an adjustment, because often that’s what a director will do. He’ll come to you, “okay more accent, less accent, can you not roll your ‘r’ on that…” You have to be able to now adapt to the notes that are coming in.

It’s a two-fold answer: Train and spend a lot of time on it. Listen to it obsessively. Pick a technique or get a coach- someone that’s going to be an outside ear and help you get there. Then spend the time repeating it, repeating it, repeating it. Then once it’s show time go for it.

5. What inspired you to start your acting school, Vancouver Actor’s Centre for Transformation?

A couple of things. It had always been a long term goal for Kyra and I to start a school that was more than just a place to train… we wanted to have our own kind of artists community… we love working with actors and developing artists. We wanted a community centre where we could keep developing ourselves as artists and collaborate with other established artists, but also help pave the way for the next generation of artists.

…We felt that there was a need for us to offer our approach to acting, our understanding. We both taught at the highest level- at the University level in California. There’s a progression to teaching acting and there’s a technique in place for a reason…

We wanted the Actors Centre for Transformation to be a place where young artists could come and fully develop themselves as artists. To work their voice, their movement, script analysis, understanding of dramatic structure, work their ability to express themselves as a human being. Then, understand the technical aspects of the camera, film and T.V., coverage and angles, editing and all the other things that go into making a movie.

6. How have your experiences working as an actor inspired the way that you coach other actors?

A lot goes into helping an actor get to where they are going. I say this in my classes all the time: I operate in 3 capacities. Sometimes I’m teaching, sometimes I’m coaching, sometimes I’m directing. Each one of those is a very different thing.

If you’re asking specifically coaching in an audition situation- getting someone prepared for an audition or a performance, I think I’m an encourager of actors. I’m an encourager of their choices. Because I’ve had so many experiences as an actor myself, I try to learn from what works for me and then I try to provide that for the other actor. It’s not always my opinion or my take on the scene that’s going to help the actor best. As a coach, my job is to cheer them on, encourage them to live up to the choices they’ve made. Sometimes an actor will make an intellectual choice, but they’re not living it. As a coach my job is to help you get what you intend to do.

If you were in my movie and I was directing it, my job would be to encourage you to make the choices I want you to make- right? So as a coach I try to focus on what they’re doing that’s positive and encourage them to go further on that, so they neglect what they’re doing poorly or weak, so all their focus is on what they’re doing well so they go in that direction. And then I try to send them in a direction rather than bring them to a destination.  I say, “Let’s see where that goes” as opposed to, “do it like this”… [which] is an end result and then you have a puppet up there, and not a living, breathing human being anymore.

I ask them questions because I find for me when I’m being coached, if I can spark my creative juices more magic happens and that’s what I try to provide for the actors that I’m coaching. Magic.

7. Can you tell me a bit about the short film you recently directed, The Letter and why it’s special to you? 

The process of The Letter for me was different from any other film I’ve directed because it didn’t come from me. I didn’t write it. I didn’t produce it. It was brought to me and I was asked to be a part of it so I could bring something very specific to the project. I think what I was there to bring was my vision of what that story was, but also to make sure we had the performers in place and the right team in place and for everyone to live up to their potential. In a sense I was an encourager. From a technical side, that’s why it was special to me. It was different. I was there for a very specific thing. I wasn’t there to oversee the whole project. I say I didn’t write it- I wasn’t the creator of the story, but I did help write the final draft that we ended up shooting.

The story that was in there was probably one of the most meaningful things that I’ve gotten to work on because it speaks to a very specific community. It was very specifically grounded in the Aboriginal culture. It speaks very specifically about 1 family, but in as much as it’s extremely specific and it’s unique to those characters, it also applied universally to everyone and every family and every culture.

At the base of it, at the heart of this story, the main conflict really is alcoholism, substance abuse, is a family struggling to keep it together in the face of adversity. Alcoholism has affected so many lives and particularly in the Aboriginal community here it’s a huge issue- and yes in the Aboriginal community it’s a central issue and in our story it’s a central issue, but the same is true for other Native communities, the same is true for other cultures in other countries where they feel they have a particular propensity to alcoholism, or where alcoholism is a particularly destructive force for that culture. In as much as we recognize it as a specific Native issue, it’s a specific cultural issue for a lot of Nations, not just Native nations, but around the world.

Tackling that issue, tackling what it can do to the nuclear family, and what individuals have to do to kind of overcome the effect that it has … the road to exploring that topic is at times very personal, but also very public. It’s touched everyone… It was special in that we were telling a story that’s touched everyone in a very specific way. Anytime you can be doing something that’s more than a just a piece of entertainment, more than just a piece of literature, it’s story that might hold a mirror up to your life or make a comment on a very real issue, it’s important. We were working on something that was important.

Then what was special in the shooting of it was the family that came together to shoot it. You were a part of it and everyone that was a part of it- somehow it felt like we were all a part of a family. Everyone gave so much. It was one of the most generous casts and crews that I’ve ever worked with. The cast was unbelievable and they pulled out all the stops. Those actors went as far as they could possibly go and were willing to go further. They were constantly trying to contribute more. Everybody on the crew was so generous and trying to give as much as they could. In itself it was an incredible experience just shooting it.

8. What do you find challenging about directing and how do you overcome the challenge?

The main challenge about directing is making decisions.  Everybody is there to realize your vision. Everybody is trying to crack your head open to see what’s there and present it to you. In as much as you can have a very specific vision, you can see it in your head, the challenge is to then communicate it and help people materialize it- everybody from the costume designer, to the set designer to props. Then you have to communicate to your camera operators, and then to your editor and to your sound designer and to your visual effects creator- and everything rests on your vision. It’s like waking up from a dream and then somebody says, “what did you dream?” and you’re like, “Uh… I kind of know, but I think it was a mermaid, maybe it was a car…” To you that makes sense in some way, but trying to communicate that to everybody is the main challenge.

How do you overcome it? You make sure the story is being told. You know your story as best you can and in the first few meetings with the crew and the team you make sure to communicate it in as much details as possible. You hope that their understanding of the story and their vision falls in line with yours. As you get closer to go time, you have to make a lot of concessions. Maybe you’ve never seen that colour jacket before, but if it fits into telling the story then that’s your vision now and you have to internalize that. That’s how you overcome all the obstacles- is making sure, knowing the story that you want to get out there, and then making sure the story’s getting there. If what ends up happening on that day isn’t exactly what you dreamt, then it’s okay because it was part of their dream and now you’ve inspired their vision and now you’re collaborating with them to tell the story; which is really the important thing. You’re really just a guiding force for the story.

9. What do you respect in a creative collaboration?

Collaborating with artists who understand the priority. The priority is not to win an award, is not to be thought of as cool or creative, the priority is never to be commended for your great idea. The priority in the instance of a film is to tell the story. I love collaborating with filmmakers- and when I say filmmakers it could be props, the gun wrangler, the guy painting the sets all the way to the actors- I love collaborating with people who have story at heart. If they come to me as a director, or as a fellow collaborator and say, “well I think that this is what really tells the story… it started out it was about this, but really it’s about this.” As long as they’re coming from a place where they’re trying to tell that specific story, then we’re on the same page and I’m going to love the idea. If it’s something I’d never thought of or something that’s totally out of left field- if it’s coming out of left field and I think it’s ego driven… it’s tough because that’s not falling in line with the momentum of the piece.

If someone brings me a three-headed monster and tells me they think it tells the story then… awesome! Let’s shoot that then! It’s really having everybody’s common thread being in line, everybody’s motivation being in line. In the case of a film it’s always the story.


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Writer, Lawyer, Farmer


Wheat Fields:


White Snow Blackout:


Of Great Character: 



1. What inspired your latest novel, Wheat Fields?

I wrote WHEAT FIELDS in order to tell what I thought was a compelling tale on human nature. The story is drawn from the hardships arising out of the last great depression. Life was filled with values gleaned from hardship and poverty.

Yet within this sometimes stark existence there developed a security in their own known world. “We may not have much but it is ours,” describes the ethic. Change, even change with hope for a better future, was viewed with suspicion. Thus, the introduction of mobile combine harvesters were seen as disruptive to the hard working life of the farm. Therein lies the fodder for compelling storytelling.

The book is really about the steady stream of opportunities that we have to connect with God, even in the hard times of our lives. Much as with the wheat farmers, the question arises as to whether we even recognize those opportunities to connect with God, or whether we are too occupied with temporal concerns to even notice them. But the real puzzle then is that God is a temporal concern living in our natural lives. Our preconditioning that God is supernatural may add difficulty to our reception to notice that god is there with us in the natural world.


2. How did it feel to be selected for the E.J. Lajeunesse Award being presented by the Essex County Historical Society?

I will receive the Lajeunesse award for significant contribution to history in October 2011. I am very grateful to win this award, and I am most appreciative of it. I am also surprised, because there are so many great contributors to history in the Essex Windsor region that I never considered myself to be a candidate for such an award.

Writing these books for me is a work of love. It goes to show though that if perform works of love, you never know the directions those works will lead you in.


Check out an Interview with Kim Hutchinson, from Our Windsor, about the award:



3. The novel deals with the effect of the purchasing of a new mobile harvest combine for a family farm during the Great Depression – how does farming equipment create social change in your novel?

Farm equipment, specifically the mobile combine harvester creates great social change in the novel. Before combines and tractors, family farms were constituted of large families, with eight or ten kids being commonplace. The kids along with the parents spent long days toiling on the farms. The work was so prevalent that the farm was actually the main place where lives were lived. The family worked there, socialized there, and played there. There was seldom disconnect from work.

The wheat harvest was no exception. It was a labour filled affair, wherein the wheat straw had to be cut and hauled to a threshing machine where the wheat was separated from the straw. Both were then again hauled away.

The combine stopped all of the haulage and much of the hand labour. The combine rolled through the standing wheat as it cut the straw, and separated the grain from it, in one operation. This meant ultimately that there were more kids on the farm than were needed there. Many therefore found jobs off the farms, causing great social changes. Fast growing cities, and reduced numbers of farmers are examples.


4. While the characters in your novel experience this social change, their experiences also present the question of how human beings find connection to a natural goodness, or higher power, and recognize its influence within our day-to-day lives – why did you feel it was important to write about this?   

It is important to write about “how human beings find connection to a natural, or higher power – and recognize its influence within our day-to-day lives,” because life boils down to contests between good and evil. Each of us has that basic choice to make.

There are many complications in life and it can be difficult to maintain our focus, even once we have made a choice. We need the power of God with us. That power of God is available to us in our natural world. A simple example of it is when people connect the good in them with the good in others around them toward a positive purpose. This quickly becomes a culture of good, or God, with enormous opportunity to achieve those positive purposes.


5. What are your hopes for this novel in the future? 

There is great possibility for this book to be told as a movie. It already has the attention of some filmmakers.

I also plan to engage a speaking tour, to meet and engage with the many good people in this country.

I hope to continue writing books on the theme of human interaction with Divine as a natural phenomenon. The actual subject matter will be varied. My next book is entitled OUR INSPIRATION JIM MAHON. It is about a hockey phenom who met with death at the age of nineteen. Yet his accomplishments as a truly good and caring person inspire still, even now, forty years after his death.


You may also access the books of Joseph Byrne at the following websites:










Tagged , , , , , , , ,


Filmmaker, Singer, Engraver, Printmaker


1.    What engaged your interest in filmmaking?

Previously to filmmaking I was singing, but for the same reasons. Because of all the troubles I had going to school I wanted to change that for our own children. I didn’t quite know how to do it, but I thought, “I have to have access to speak to students.” I started singing professionally in the early ‘60’s and even previously to that I sang for Scouts and children, groups of children, often. By telling stories, talking about our history, and later on I started writing songs and chants in my language, in French and in English. I started to do organized tours in different schools across Canada, I did a lot of schools, and in those days I did a lot of residential schools, but also regular schools, public schools, universities and high schools, jails. I started being part of concerts and art centres and things like that- and folk festivals. This was to try to influence change in the educational system and among people at large- to tell them about ourselves.

In the early ‘60’s I was doing a campaign to build a swimming pool on my reserve for children and from there a man named Ron Kelly made a film on what I was doing. From there, this appeared on Telescope, it was a prime time television program, and some producers at the National Film Board saw me and invited me to come over to the Board. From there, the first time they sat me in the theatre and they said, “tell us stories like you tell children” and all the producers and directors were there. It was from there that eventually I was asked to be a consultant on a film. I quickly knew I wasn’t going to do that again because I realized I was just being used to open doors and this wasn’t very good. Because education was my main concern I started working there in a studio, which was called Multimedia, and everything they made was film strips for teaching in the class room. That is how I started working there. Some people really encouraged me to do this at the Film Board because they said to me, “these films are going to go on their own” and, you know, I didn’t know anything about film. So this was my school there and I learned there how to do it.

At first I would work with one nation and do all that was most important to them in terms of their history. I did two of those educational kits, one in Quebec in Manawan and one in B.C in Mount Curry. After that I started doing all kinds of films, but the first film that I made was Christmas at Moose Factory with children in this residential school in James Bay. That’s how and I’ve been in film ever since. That’s 42 years ago.

2.    Why have you created so many documentary films about First Nations people?

Because it’s really the strongest and the most powerful place to be in terms of establishing a history of a people, and to hear their voices themselves, and to have a way of teaching through films because many people don’t have access to libraries, it’s changing now, but at that time it was very poor in that sense. Through film you can teach anybody anything- it’s very powerful.

3.    That leads to my next question, which was do you feel there is power in filmmaking as a storytelling method, and why?

It is the place to be and at this time all young people want to do is look at T.V., you know, it’s a media and everybody is very attracted by that. If you are able to do things that have value that they can show on television, it brings up the sense of who they are, and the importance of knowing your family, who you are, your language and all those things.  I don’t know of any other more powerful place.

4.    What is the importance of research and attention to historical detail when you are making a documentary film?

It’s most important. Research is very important and very exciting. I do all my own research. Discovering and finding out all kinds of things- it’s like a big puzzle. You’ve been through many things in your life and for a long time you don’t understand how you got there, and you know, when you start reading and doing research and talking to people, you find out things that- it’s like your mind is just so- it’s so incredible what happens when you’re learning. It’s just- the most important thing in life I think is learning and listening.

5.    What sort of role does ‘compassion for your subject matter’ have in your films?

I think that you have to love. The documentary world is very difficult and very long to do, but it’s wonderful and fascinating. You really have to love people and be patient and really love what you do, and really listen for hours and hours with each individual that you’re working with. Of course, you develop a relationship that lasts a lifetime.

6.    On the other side of the coin, what do you respect when working with another person on a creative collaboration?

It’s very important to develop a good relation with your crew because if you don’t it’s a lot of trouble.  You have to be careful who you work with and who you bring with you. In my case, I go to a lot of isolated communities and I have to trust the people that I’m with. I don’t want them to start talking loud, or- when you are interviewing somebody if somebody comes in and asks a question, it turns and you can ruin your whole interview. All this dialogue has to be done before going anywhere with them. They always know what I’m doing and why I’m doing it so they’re part of what I’m trying to do. That’s very important.

Also, it’s very important to have a very good relation with the editor that will be working with you because an editor can switch and change the story very easily. I have an incredible editor that I trust like my own sister, so it’s wonderful. That’s very important.


Tagged , , , , , , ,


Actor, Coach, Writer, Producer



1. What inspires you to be an actor?

Well, there’s a couple of things. I didn’t necessarily want to be an actor in the first place. I just kind of fell into it. I was originally singing in a band in Atlanta. I came home and a friend of mine just said that, “You should try this because I think you’ll be a natural at it”. I just found that it was easier to be an actor than it was to be a musician. That’s originally why I did it.

I think what inspires me to continue to be an actor is the creativity and the people. I love that authentic connection that you get when you are creating with somebody.

2. What is the best part about what you do?

Besides being on T.V.?

I think it’s the community part. It’s getting to create and really having fun with people in the process of it. When I teach, or when I coach… personally, it’s seeing their growth creatively, and just as a person too. I feel that acting is just a process of getting to know who you are. The more you know yourself, the better actor you are.

3. Who do you admire?

I admire people who really just go for it. I admire anyone who really sees their vision, or really taps into what they love to do and just totally goes for it. That’s the kind of person I just really love, and those are the kind of people I like to surround myself by, and create a community of that around me. I guess if I were to choose a person… I don’t know. I guess people who fall into that aspect of it. People who are just really good at what they do.

4. What films, books or other works have had a major influence on your own acting or writing?

I went to go see Lily Tomlin, almost 7 or 8 years ago, when she was touring with a 1 woman show called The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life In The Universe. Seeing her play, I think, like 15 different characters in an hour and a half! I was just like, “holy cow! That was really, really cool”. She was one of the major influences on my creativity.

Also, music as well. The first person that comes to mind is Michael Jackson. His Off The Wall album is so amazing.

5. Have you seen any films lately that you really liked?

I just saw Win Win with Paul Giomatti. It was a little Indie that he did. That was really great. It was just about… he was a lawyer, and through a series of events, there was this kid who comes to him who is this amazing wrestler. That was really good.

What else have I seen that I was absolutely inspired by?

There’s so many. I recently saw Waiting For Guffman. Have you seen it? It’s awesome. It’s shot, kind of, documentary style. It’s just such a ridiculous comedy about a community theatre troupe who produces this event for their centennial town. It’s pretty awesome.

I saw a movie with… Hilary Swank. The movie Conviction was really great too.

6. What motivates you as an actor?

The first thing I was going to say was money!

I don’t want to do anything else so I’m constantly thinking, “Okay, what can I do next?”. I was actually thinking about that this morning, “What can I do next?” I have a few ideas.

So… money and not wanting to get a day job really motivate me to be better.

7. You seem to enjoy comedy a lot, what do you find is really important to remember when you’re involved in a comedic work?

I think really committing to the ridiculousness of it and totally not being afraid to look really stupid, or to offend people. That’s important, says the woman who wrote something about Jehovah’s Witnesses! I think with comedy you have to fully commit to what you’re doing and do it 110%, or else it’s not really funny.

8. You mentioned you created something about Jehovah’s Witnesses? What was that?

It’s a short called God Squad. I did it a couple of years ago. My girlfriend and I wrote it. It’s basically a group of rogue Jehovah’s Witnesses that go door to door and have unusual tactics to get you to become a Jehovah’s Witness. We put it in the Vancouver Short Film Festival a couple of years ago. I won Best Actress for it.

9. How have your experiences as an actor informed the way you coach other actors?

That’s a great question… I steal from my teachers. I’ve been really blessed to have some amazing teachers in my life who have really pushed me both creatively and personally.

They taught me to be unapologetic about my work. I find that a lot of… my sense is that a lot of Canadian… it’s just a part of our culture- is that we’re so polite, right? A lot of actors here are very apologetic about their work. Very, kind of, afraid to take up space. That’s one of my biggest lessons that I’ve learned and I try to impart that on my students and kids, or people, that I coach. To just not be apologetic. You deserve to be big, you deserve to be seen, you deserve to be talented and be acknowledged for it.

10. What do you admire most when working with a fellow actor?

I admire most someone who is really easy to work with, actually.

I worked with Cuba Gooding Jr. and he was so down to earth. He was really, really cool and made me feel really comfortable. You know, and I think there was no diva-ness about him. At one point, we were supposed to be having an argument and he was like, “This is really hard because we’re getting along so well. I need to be mad at you”. I turned to him just before we were supposed to go on, or start our take, and said, “Well you didn’t deserve the Oscar”. It’s like having something… you know, being able to say that without getting kicked off set… knowing that that’s okay.

So… that’s what I admire is just a sense of ease and grace and… humility is good.

11.You are also a humanitarian. What social cause are you involved in?

Right now, there’s a group of us who put together an organization called Munay Wawa. It’s to help support the community of Chinchero in Peru. They have a lot of, kind of like, a lot of First Nations. Basically, like anywhere on the planet, their Indigenous people are going through exactly the same thing that’s happened here, and what is happening here in Canada.

We just got together a group of really amazing people and started raising funds to send the community of children to school. To educate them… not necessarily in the Western point of view, which is really important because it’s not necessarily the right way. What eventually we want to do is build a school that teaches a basic curriculum of Math and Spanish… your fundamentals and their culture as well. If they do choose to leave the community then they’ve got that support system where they can read and write in Spanish, or English as well. Also, they’ve got that foundation of their own culture as well, and their traditional language in Quechua.

Munay Wawa means ‘beautiful children’ in the Quechua language. Check it out!



Tagged , , , , , , , , ,


Writer, Director & Producer




1. What inspired you to become a writer? A director?

It began with photography for me when I was thirteen. I always had this desire to capture moments and make them last. I began making videos relatively late, in university. At that moment, what inspired me was Truffaut, Charlie Kauffman, The Mexican New Wave and like any young guy, Tarantino. I still thought it wasn’t possible, though, and it was my sister, Deborah, who really pushed me to go for it.


2. What is the best part about what you do?

I get to tell stories for a living.


3. Who do you admire?

People who persist in doing what they love, even though everyone around them is telling them they can’t. Xavier Dolan, for example.


4. What is your favorite film? What is the reason?

That’s a really tough question. In different stages of my life, I’ve had different favorite films. Growing up, it was ET, because it inspired me to dream and to believe. In my experience, that’s what every little boy wanted to do. NETWORK is always near the top of my list, as is BOOGIE NIGHTS, JULES ET JIM, PICKPOCKET, PULP FICTION, Y TU MAMA TABIEN, AWAY FROM HER, WALL-E and oh my, it continues…


5. Do you have a favorite book or play? What is the reason?

I’m a fan of Tennessee William’ work, which I discovered through Film (Streetcar Named Desire) for its raw emotion and incredible voice. Authorial voice is a big thing for me when it comes to writing, whether in books or in screenplays or stageplays. Joseph Boyden is a Canadian Author I really admire for his ability to capture voice so well. (Through Black Spruce is one of my favorite books). And Jonathan Swift is great, as is Dickens and Shakespeare… all people I look to for inspiration when writing. Contemporary playwrights: I like Tracey Letts and Zach Helm (though I believe he’s only done one play, but I really enjoyed it!).


6. What motivates you as a writer? As a director?

Seeing great contemporary films still coming out and reading great stories.


7. Can you tell me a little bit about what your inspirations were for the ‘Red Song’ music video you did for Hey Rosetta!?

It started with an idea I had for a present to my friend who was getting married. I thought I’d make them a really nice wedding video, pretending it was just the two of them off for a wildly fun day. Alas, that never worked out, but a year later when Hey Rosetta approached me, I thought the idea could be melded quite well, with a little more story involved, to the ‘Red Song’.

Noah Pink’s ‘Red Song’ Video won 2009 Best Canadian Music Video – CBC Radio 3 People’s Choice – check it out!




8. How do you generate themes for your films?

Lots of thinking things through, usually. For ‘Red Song’, it percolated for a year.


9. What do you admire most when working with an actor?

Collaboration, and when actors can bring a performance out in a character that one cannot put into words.


10. What key advice would you give to a beginning actor?

Practice, study and don’t give up. Too many people do.



Tagged , , , , , ,