A love letter to “Jane The Virgin”

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When I love a film, a new group or artist, a book I’ve read or a show, I love it hard.  I become obsessed and I want others to join me in my absolute excitement.  I want to read up on how it was created, and I want to learn more about anything and everything that is going on with it.

I was watching the Golden Globe Awards in 2015 when Gina Rodriguez won in her category.  She made a beautiful speech and I was immediately struck by her honesty, by her love of her cast and her family.

I wondered what it was about.

I googled it, and kinda chuckled to myself at this insane premise of a show.  (According to Wikipedia: It is a loose adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen. The series stars Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, a working, religious young Latina virgin, who becomes pregnant after being accidentally artificially inseminated.)

Critics seemed to love the show a lot.

I kinda forgot about it.

In December of last year here in Canada, Jane started its availability on Netflix.  When I saw it there, I figured it would a good time to check out this funny sounding show.  With so many brooding dark shows, I was anxious to see something that would draw in the light.

What I didn’t expect was falling in love with the show the way I have.

Let me backtrack for a second.  The shows that I am eternally loyal to are “Freaks and Geeks”, “Felicity”, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Friends” and “Friday Night Lights”.  When I speak about any of these shows, I am likely to trip on the words spilling out of my mouth because they bring me such joy.  Whether it be the acting, cast chemistry, or the writing these shows bring it back to a really pure place for me.

“Jane The Virgin” has now inched its way into heart so deeply now.

And because of this, whenever someone asks me “What are you watching on TV these days?”, I immediately pipe in with:

“Are you watching Jane The Virgin yet?”

And if they say no, I then say:

“You HAVE to watch it!  Like, you HAVE to!”

And I usually don’t let it go.

So here are the reasons why I love this show so so much:

1) A fresh perspective:  I’m tired of watching shows where the perspective is one that I’ve heard or seen before a million times.  I’m looking at you medical, forensic, law, police, hipster shows! With “Jane”, you’re getting variety of perspectives regarding age, class, race and gender. I find that as I get “older” (meaning I’m now in my 40s…whoa!), I don’t want to see stories about characters who are “too cool for school”, immature or superficial.  And as a person of colour who is the child of immigrants, this show speaks on many familiar levels.  I may not be of Latin descent, but family is family and that language can be understood by anyone. The characters on “Jane” are flawed but each is a survivor and has a story to tell. And it’s those stories that hold real value and truly are relatable to not just one type of audience.

2) Men can be sensitive, caring and kind: What a concept! None of the male characters on “Jane” are arrogant (and if they are for even a second, the women on the show are ready to give them a reality check!), clueless, misogynistic or chauvinistic for that matter! In fact, each of them (Michael, Rogelio and Rafael) are all played so entirely truthful and earnestly.   How often do you see male characters on television portrayed as sensitive and loving without them being seen as weak ? Refreshing I tell ya!

3) The women on the show are each a powerhouse! From the beautiful trifecta of Alba/Xiomara/Jane to Petra (who has masterfully been written from evil villainess to strong-willed mother),  Anezka and even Luisa and Rose – ALL of the female characters on the show have faced some sort of hardship but have come out on top and the better for it (well, maybe not Rose and Luisa entirely, but somehow the show still makes me root for them!) “Jane” is fueled by the stories of women.  And media needs more of this.  They (especially the Villanueva women) are the beating heart of the show.

4) Jane and Rafael.  No disrespect to Michael whatsoever (because I loved his character too – and Brett Dier!), but for me, I am waiting for Jane and Rafael to return back to each other.  Their initial connection (he being her former crush five years prior to being accidentally artificially inseminated with his sperm) is so ridiculously over the top and yet you couldn’t help but being sucked into their charm and their story.  And while Jane did ultimately make the right choice when she married Michael (as I am glad that all of her big “firsts” were with him), the fan boy in me is waiting for Jane and Raf to find their way.  It makes for great stories, and their chemistry together is so fantastic and COME ON, IT RAINED FREAKING FLOWER PETALS WHEN THEY KISSED FOR THE FIRST TIME! (I know what you’re thinking: that it snowed when Michael and Jane kissed for the first time.  But, that was brought on by a controlled circumstance aka a gun firing off into a ceiling.)

Yes, I know these are not real people.

5) Love.  That is the motivation of every single regular character on this show.  Love.  In all of its weirdness and vulnerability and honesty.  You find yourself supporting all of them throughout.  And the secondary characters who aren’t motivated by love, you can suss them out from the first second!

6) The writers have a plan. Nothing makes me happier when I watch a TV show and I know that the writers have a clear direction as to where they want to go.  Jennie Snyder Urman (#powerhouse) knows her end game, knows these characters and their integrity so well, that as a viewer you know that you’ve being taken down a road with trust.  Also, it’s clear that the writers respect their audience’s intelligence.  Similar to my beloved “Friday Night Lights”, “Jane” knows where is going and it makes the ride so much more enjoyable.

7) Gina Rodriguez.  That’s all really.  She will rule the world at some point in time.

This list could go on and on.  But I won’t.  And while I don’t know whether “Jane The Virgin” has like a gazillion seasons ahead of it, I do know that whenever the day comes when the show ends (besides ordering about a dozen Kleenex boxes for the occasion), the journey that viewers will have been taken on will be one of absolute clarity and, yes, love.

And might I also add that following each of these brilliant, wonderful actors on social media is a thrill.  That love within the show clearly plays into their real lives as well. They all genuinely are supportive of each other, and use social media as a tool for positivity and awareness and connection.  Follow them everywhere! They’re awesome!

If the creators and actors could see my heart when I think of “Jane The Virgin” (to borrow a brilliant motif that the show uses over again), it would be glowing and lighting up the room.

Season 4 can’t come soon enough.

 

 

 

 

Snapshot

I felt this surge of excitement in my chest.

I was sitting on the basement floor of my sister’s house in Keswick.  I came into town to help her move into her new condo and I was surrounded by boxes of letters and photographs and memorabilia; I was surrounded by memories.

I grabbed a box in her storage area that was quite hidden in the corner and brought it into the main area of the basement.  Envelopes of old negatives and photographs were piled into it.  I reached in and three Super 8 boxes found themselves into my hand:

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I recognized my cousin Horace’s handwriting right away.  From the titles of each, it seemed to focus on certain points in my life. Of course that wasn’t the reason why I was feeling this excitement.

It was the idea of actually seeing my father, moving.

All my life he’s been a photograph, an unreachable thing.  But should everything be in tact on these films, I would actually see him alive and breathing and (in a weird way) confirm the idea that he did exist.

The void of not having my father around has always been something that I’ve carried. When Lea was born, a lot of those feelings became less intense but it still kind of lingers.  It’s like this wave of never truly knowing him that comes in and out of my life.

But this.  This could potentially be a bit of a puzzle piece waiting to be put in place.

I got home, found out that there was a place 5 minutes away that did do DVD transferring for Super 8.  When I went to the photo store, I told him that I wasn’t sure whether the images were in tact.  He told me that where Super 8 is concerned, as long as the film itself wasn’t exposed to harmful conditions, it would stay.  The process would take about 3 weeks to complete.

So I set about my anxious waiting and wondering.

April 17, 2017, I got the call saying that the DVD was ready. I rushed to pick up the disc and came home.  Watched it with Lea and Mara.  There was no audio, but I was transfixed by the images.  Of me, of my siblings, of my mother and father, of the clothes, of everything.  You could feel love watching it, you could feel the sense of family and closeness.  As I watching the footage, it struck me that I had pictures from the events captured.  So my mind started turning in that I wanted to incorporate this footage along with the pictures I had.

When the footage went to black in the end, I found myself wishing I could dive into the screen and remain in that time capsule, to be present and watch everyone interact with each other still.  That maybe if I could get in there, time wouldn’t go forward.

I was struck by my mother’s open face and how effortlessly she smiled.  She still smiles these days, but now I can really see how life’s weight can change that.

I was also struck by how much younger I truly am compared to my grown siblings, but also how with age that gap closes in a bit.

I was struck by how the film captures my parents, as newcomers to Canada, still entrenched in their roots and their traditions.  Granted, the footage is shot about 10 years into their life in Canada, but you can see that they were very connected with who they were and where they came from.  And also you can see their connection to others who also were going through (or had gone through) the same experience of being a newcomer to Canada.

That close-knit connection to ancestral roots, I found, didn’t necessarily continue on after my father’s passing. I know that I for sure felt a bit of that disassociation growing up….

More than anything though, I’m struck by time.  And that merely a year after my birthday footage part, my Dad wouldn’t be there anymore.

Shortly after I found the boxes, I kept articulating to a friend of my sister’s about how funny it was that I had found these after all this time.  And without missing a beat, she replied “Maybe your Dad was the one who allowed you to find them now – because you were ready to see them.”

I’m proud that I was able to sew this together, and in turn, bring it into the present.  Because even though this footage is from over 40 years ago now, its contents remain part of the story that is being told today.

 

 

See You Tomorrow

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“See you tomorrow”

was the last thing I said to her

Sometimes I replay that moment

over in my head

It’s been a long time now

since then

One foot ahead, the other planted still on that rainy saturday

Seconds of every day where I flashback

to those kids we were

My head lowered, smiling, teary.

See you tomorrow, one day, my friend.

 

30 things I learned in my 30s

Haven’t blogged in a while!  Haven’t blogged since the journey to the screening of my film was complete.

What a year so far this has been.

Finishing my film and sharing with people is a feeling that I carry with me every day.  I’m pleased to mention that my film will be a part of the Picture This….film festival (a disability arts fest) in Calgary in early 2017.  This is only the beginning for this film of mine.  A second screening in Montreal this Fall is also in the works.  There’s still a lot to do.  And I am so excited about where it may be able to go.

It’s quite fitting to me that all of this is happening during the year I turn 40.  Today is my 40th birthday.  My 30s are officially done; the decade where I got married and became a father – nicely completed.  And now I move into a new set of 10 years where new projects, life lessons and who knows what awaits!

There are no coincidences.  Things align themselves when they’re meant to.

In my typical, introspective, annoying way here’s my list of things that I learned in my 30s that I know bring into my 40s. I wrote one for each day in August leading up to today:

Aug 1:  Having appreciation and understanding for the sacrifices my parents made for us.

Aug 2:  Watching your collection of friends go away, and treasuring the ones that didn’t.

Aug 3: Firmly believing that you must leave what you know and go somewhere new and relearn life in the way that you want it to be.

Aug 4: Embracing all parts to who I am: my skin colour, my race, my past lives.

Aug 5: Being sensitive is my suit of armour.

Aug 6: Yoga will always serve as my connection to the universe.

Aug 7: Never doubt your instincts – they’re always right (well, mostly)

Aug 8: Having a partner in your life doesn’t define me, but rather it grounds me

Aug 9: Love became something bigger when my girl was born.

Aug 10:  Words will always be my grandest source of plugged in inspiration.

Aug 11: Be comfortable in your own shoes, and wear comfortable ones.

Aug 12: Music will always be an outlet that speaks when I can’t.

Aug 13: I laugh loudly and without breath.  That is a good thing.

Aug 14: Use every chance you can to tell someone you love them.

Aug 15: Stay true to that tiny voice inside you.  That voice makes the best decisions.

Aug 16: Walk outside and breath the air.

Aug 17: I’ve learned to talk less and listen more – or at least try to.

Aug 18: Sometimes it’s ok to say no.

Aug 19: Unless you’ve actually lived in another person’s shoes, don’t pass judgement.

Aug 20: It’s never a bad thing to stand up if you think something is not right.

Aug 21: Appreciate all the good and bad stuff that brought you to this point.

Aug 22: You can control your life.  Nothing will fall into your lap unless you make it so.

Aug 23: My being kind to people isn’t the same as being clueless.

Aug 24: Everyone is still trying to figure out who they are.  No one has it down.

Aug 25: There is always two sides to every story.  Don’t be so quick judge.

Aug 26: All the things I think that are weird about me, make me me.

Aug 27: I have anxiety.  I cover it somewhat well.  But I learn every day to breathe through it.

Aug 28: I’m a lot stronger than people might think.

Aug 29:  I used to lower my expectations on myself in order to accommodate others.  Not anymore.

Aug 30:  Bring it!

I’m ready for ya, 40!

A dream

5 days ago, my film was screened at the Guzzo Spheretech theatre.

While I’m completely so much more relaxed these last 5 days than possibly the last 5 months combined, I find myself still riding a wave of kindness and confidence that I received from so many people.

April 28th was a dream.  It was a night that I am still processing.

Earlier in the day, I was able to be interviewed, along with I Can Dream Theatre cast member Samuel Lewis, for CTV News Montreal (Sam was a complete pro, completely genuine in his excitement at being on TV and beaming with pride as being the one to represent the group in this fashion) and then solo with CBC Radio Montreal on their Homerun program.

I have learned that I am not a self promoter by nature. It’s something I need to work on.

I was so incredibly nervous all the days leading up to Thursday, April 28th; just thinking of all of the things that needed to be done and the things that could also go wrong.

Then Prince died.  And surprisingly in a weird way, he helped me calm down a little.

In listening to his tunes (because I refused to listen to anything else), it eased my nerves and in a weird way gave me some perspective on how I was viewing this entire experience. Rather than put this pressure on myself, view it for what it is: a golden moment which might not happen again so take it all in, feel confident in the work and what the message was.

When the film was being shown, rather than sit and watch in one of the cinemas (because I physically couldn’t – ants in pants syndrome), I went between them and paced back and forth to see how the film was playing. I was texting my brother in Calgary giving him the play by play.  At one point he asked “Shouldn’t you be in the theatre watching?”.  I told him I was too antsy and I couldn’t sit still.

But perhaps that was a good move, because I was able to speak to people properly afterwards because lo and behold, I was in the lobby all by my lonesome. 🙂

And once it was done, I felt a wave of calm. After all this time.

What I love the most was that the film was finally shared and it started a conversation with many people; prior fans of I Can Dream Theatre now seemed to love the group even more which was amazing.  People who had no idea who they were before the film were clamoring for info as to when their next show would be taking place.

I had friends tell me that seeing cast members in the lobby of the theatre after the film felt like a celebrity sighting to see them in the flesh.

And, best of all, conversations were started about points of view – and how people’s minds had been changed.  I had a person in her mid to late 70s come to me in thanks for giving HER an education with my film. How mind blowing is that!

I was just articulating to a friend of mine that I am reluctant to take on the title of documentary filmmaker (or filmmaker for that matter) that seems to have been thrust on me through our little media coverage. I’ll take on the mantle should I decide to make another film but until then, I feel like I am just someone who wanted to share information with others and communicate about something good going on in the world.

That’s why I wanted to make this film.

I don’t think there is a word that fully describes just how much it means to me that people connected with it. Thankful just doesn’t cut it.  Not even lucky.  Whatever that word is, that’s what I’m feeling.

And now we’re at the stage of planning out just how we can share this film with everyone. This is really exciting to me, because we can take whatever approach we deem fit for it.   It’s exciting to be on the cusp of something bigger than anything I could have ever imagined. Because that’s how I’m feeling now.  That’s the bigger thing to know that I can be a part of transmitting a message of tolerance, of understanding, of change in some small way.

Let’s see what happens next.

Thanks for reading.  And let’s keep on keeping on together.

CBC Homerun

CTV News Montreal

Purple

In high school, I was shrimpy, big glasses wearing, brown kid who connected to music in a strong way. And one of those artists who stood out for me, and whose music just clicked in me was Prince.  In high school, he was my everything.

I was just a kid of 8 years old when “Purple Rain” came out, and I even remember as an 8 year old thinking Prince was the coolest being I had ever seen in my life.  I remember watching the videos for “When Doves Cry” on Friday Night Videos and trying to imitate that leg swivel thing he does towards the end of the song.  I remember singing “Let’s Go Crazy” at the top of my lungs (my own garbled, misheard lyric version) in the back of my cousin’s car.

He was like this creature that made it ok to be whatever you wanted to be.

For a long stretch of time in the early 90s, Prince would release an album once a year. ONCE A YEAR. I was obsessed with his creativity. I longed to see his endless vault of music he had unreleased. I remember my brother picking me up the “Diamonds and Pearls” cassette for me (with its hologram image on the cover) and the “Love Symbol” album the following year.

I remember being obsessed with his back catalogue and wanting the tapes of his early work. I remember buying his “Lovesexy” album and making sure to never show my mother the album cover.  I remember taking my brother’s “1999” album and making a dubbed tape of it so that I could listen to “Little Red Corvette” and the title song over and over in my room on my boom box.

I remember freaking out that it was Prince who wrote The Bangles’ “Manic Monday” and sought out other people he wrote songs for.  I remember being made fun of because I bought Martika’s second album, “Martika’s Kitchen” because she worked entirely with Prince.  I remember how excited I was that he wrote a song for Paula Abdul called “U” off of her second album.

I remember thinking “Gett Off” was the coolest shit I had ever heard, and thinking how hilarious it was that he showed up at the MTV Video Awards with ass-less yellow pants.

I remember devouring his three disc greatest hits set when I had started CEGEP and having parties in my basement where that was the soundtrack.  I remember blaring songs like  “Erotic City” and “Raspberry Beret” and “Alphabet Street” and “U Got The Look”.

I remember being 20 years old, visiting Minnesota for my sister’s university graduation. I remember being out with her friends and them not having anything to do one night.  Me being underage, and not able to really go anywhere suggested “Let’s drive to Prince’s house.”

For some reason, they agreed.  And we drove.  And we made it to the front of his house. There was a big gate. And I got out of the car, and saw a beautiful purple light shining down in the front. And I remember digging my feet in my shoes and taking that moment in.

In 2000, I finally got to see him at Place Des Arts.  Back then, he was known as The Artist. In what is now his typical fashion, he announced the show 2 days before.  I commuted to Place Des Arts early that morning and sat down on the ground in line with others.

He ended up performing on his birthday.  I remember people holding up big scenes behind us that said HAPPY BIRTHDAY with the symbol he had created on it and him yelling “Put those damn signs down!”

At that time, he wasn’t into doing his hits and I remember him sitting at his piano and playing bits and pieces of “Purple Rain” and all of us in the audience going wild.  But, then he would veer off and go into another riff of some sort, leaving us all waiting.  He baited us in that crowd, and I loved every second of it.

To this day, I say his Super Bowl performance was the best one I’ve ever seen.

He’s just always been there.

I don’t know the man one bit.  But, his music just engulfed me.

And even when the intensity of my love for him dwindled with time, my eternal love and respect for the man didn’t.

I always loved to see what wild thing he would do next in order to share his music unconventionally with people.

I don’t understand how life works.

Today felt like my head was in a cloud of disbelief and memory.

I think I have only recently accepted the fact that Michael Jackson is gone.  I haven’t reached that point with David Bowie yet.

But Prince? This is different.

It bothers me that we now have to talk about him in the past tense.

My head is heavy.

The man should be spoken of for the genius he is. He now needs to be brought up in the same breath when people speak of Elvis, The Beatles, Sinatra…

He never got tired.  He was always moving.

 

I may not have ever known him in real life.  But that shrimpy kid knew him.  And loved him.

And I love him.  I will love him always.

If there’s anything we learned from him, it’s that it’s way better to go against the norm, and to pick the road no one walks on. And preferably with heeled shoes.

There will never be anyone else like him.  I don’t know the world, I don’t know what the future holds.  But, no one else EVER can replicate that man and what he gave to those who would listen.

I’m so glad I listened.

I’m still listening.

 

 

 

And so it is…

Yesterday afternoon, my friend (and social media compadre of all things I Can Dream Theatre) Chelle and I went to technical test my doc at the theatre where it will be screened in a week’s time.  The test itself went well. There were some tiny hiccups but we seem to be all set for next week.

I hadn’t watched my film in more than a week. We needed a break from each other. It’s a great feeling knowing that your film is finished; knowing that you’ve said what you needed to say so you can leave it alone. A tiny door finally closing after over a year of being open.

When I watched scenes flicker in front of me on the big screen yesterday, I felt like I was keeping my emotions in check and not really taking in where I was at that moment. I mean, here I was in a movie theatre – a setting that I have worshipped and adored ever since I was a kid….watching my film being shown. I wasn’t taking that in at all. I was in troubleshooting mode to make sure all details were confirmed and organized.

It was about an hour later when I had left and was sitting down that the realization of all of this hit me.

Perhaps this golden moment will never happen to me again. So it’s important to me that I feel and breathe in all of these moments.

The first piece of footage I ever filmed for this documentary  was on January 10, 2015.

The last sequence that was tweaked and signified the end of this film was on April 11,2016.

I made this film with a simple video camera, and on my personal laptop. Let this be a lesson to anyone else: if you want to make a film, you have the capacity to do so!

It doesn’t have effects or super crazy editing.

All that’s left is seeing how people receive it.

Thanks for reading all of these posts and following me on this road. It’s not a road that is fully traveled but just a part of this journey is done.  I look forward to seeing how this film will keep moving.

Hope to see you at the screening. Make sure to come and say HI and let me know what you think, good or bad.  I might look like I’m in the moon that night so a good way to get my attention is to yell my name. Or wave your arms in a circular motion…if anything it’ll make me laugh and alleviate any anxiety or stress I’ll be dealing with that night. 🙂

Consider this film my pushback to the universe; me sending out a positive heart shaped signal.

Speaking of hearts, I hope the film speaks to yours.

April 20th 2016 (6)