Sunday, May 31, 2020

Picturing: Dandelion Fields Toronto

Poem: It's In the Eyes

"Don't Show the Monster Too Much at the Beginning"

A sick and dying cockroach
traversing a wet cold roof
Old Man’s lot in life
is an empty lot

his mind made of mucilage
in a detritus of thoughts

eligible for citizenship
in a nightmare country
lying peacefully in agony

land mounds built away
from progress of waste

The sun slides silently back
Aurally and visually stunning
Promising a mourning rise

These hills have
Gary Mitchell eyes


Simon St. Laurent


Posted as "Don't Show the Monster Too Much at the Beginning (Poem)" on August 29, 2019.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Roger Corman on the Hook

"You can make a movie about anything, as long as it has a hook to hang the advertising on."

From the man himself.

Roger Corman on Making a Film

"I've never made the film I wanted to make. No matter what happens, it never turns out exactly as I hoped."

Making a film is a form of uncontrolled mayhem....uncontrollable mayhem.

Roger Corman on the History of Horror

"When you're talking horror or sci-fi, you're working in a genre that has loosely certain thematic elements, or, you could even call them rules. But rules are there to be broken. I think that young filmmakers should go all the way back to the history of horror, from silent films like "Nosferatu", and through to today's horror films, so they understand the history of horror films and what has been done. Understand that, and then add something new or original."

Yes, don't just watch recent movies. And don't just watch movies. (A form of cultural illiteracy.)

Roger Corman on Scares or Laughs

"The safest genre is the horror film. But the most unsafe - the most dangerous - is comedy. Because even if your horror film isn't very good, you'll get a few screams and you're okay. With a comedy, if they don't laugh, you're dead."


Friday, May 29, 2020

Is "2020" The Joke?

What a year. One thing after another.

There's something about "2020". That form, that sequence. Why did we not suspect it was a numeric Trojan Horse? What invading gifts it has brought, past our protective shells.

Our defences are seemingly weak: insufficient; decrepit; ignorant.

What are we going to do about it?

Time for a good cup of coffee.

It's 8:08pm. (Numeric symmetry.)

It Is Friday Again

We just had one. This insanity must stop!

A friend of mine is a particle physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. I will try to arrange an interview with him. I need answers.

Check back here soon....which will be here soon enough!


First published as "It's Friday? Again?!" on March 16, 2018.

"He Scored That?"

Yesterday a friend reminded me that it was film composer Jerry Goldsmith's birthday "today" -- he would have turned 89. Also, actor Jonathan Frakes tweeted that Goldsmith is one of the most inspirational artists he has ever worked with.

What impresses some of us about the late great film-music composer is his body of work. Take a step back and look at the variety of scoring. From horse operas to space operas, with small and intimate films in between: Wild Rovers to Star Trek - The Motion Picture, with A Patch of Blue and some Gremlins. From television: signature themes for Dr. Kildare, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and The Waltons.

I met Goldsmith at Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in November of 1990. He had three concert dates where he played a sampling of his movie material. While I chatted with some people in the lobby after the concert I overheard an older gentleman telling another regular concertgoer (they were dressed like season ticket-holders) his feelings: "I was very impressed . . . it must take an incredible mind . . . that's a lot of music."

"Mr. Goldsmith, I finally get to meet you. I've been a fan for twelve years." I remember the slight smile on his face. Oh yes, another nutty fan. (I was one of many nutters in that lineup.)

I was uncharacteristically a little nervous. Big name, small name, I don't care. But. I'm thinking: "This is the guy who wrote Ave Satani !"


First published as "Film Composer Jerry Goldsmith (1929 - 2004)" on February 11, 2018.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Second Time - Rewatching Flicks

There are movies I watched and thought, "it was okay" -- often in cases where "critics agree". ("Give me a break.")

When I watched these flicks a second time, months, sometimes years, later, I liked them more, even raved about them.

Cinema Paradiso
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Pulp Fiction

Perhaps it's time to give these guys another chance.

The Shawshank Redemption
Forrest Gump
Saving Private Ryan
Blood Simple
The Joy Luck Club

After a few watches, still nothing ("I don't get it").

Blade Runner

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Poem: Whenever (Again)

My mind waits
on the day

While in the
daze of sleep

my mind
wanders in
a nightie
and slippers


Simon St. Laurent


First published as "Poem: Whenever" on March 12, 2017

The Stones of Somewhere Else


First posted as "My New Sketchbook: Stone Cones (Film Design)" on September 3, 2016.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

No Need to Rush Here in Toronto

Out of stamps! Shoppers Drug Mart is still open; it has a Canada Post outlet.

Good. Just one lady ahead of me. And one person at each of the two 'wickets'. Line up. I'll be through in no time at all.

I had failed to notice that each of those two people had bags of parcels to mail. No rush. No panic.

The line did not move after the woman lined up in front of me was called. About six or seven people had stacked behind me by that point. They entertained themselves with their smartphones. (How did we entertain ourselves during transit or waiting in line before those electronic devices came along?)

I had been stationed at the "next" position for about ten minutes when the middle-aged Asian gentleman in the process of being served turned to me and asked: "Do you want to go through?"

"No problem, sir. I'm in no rush at all."

About another ten minutes passed with me getting no closer to my postage stamp. Just one person from the lineup had ejected by that point. The rest stayed and waited patiently.

The Asian man turned to me again and asked if I was sure I did not want to sneak in. I was fine with waiting. He then addressed the whole lineup and said, "if this was Hong Kong everybody would be yelling at me".


The above piece first appeared as "The Attitude of the Toronto People" on February 2, 2018.

Monday, May 25, 2020

A Forever Question: A Skillet or a Frying Pan?

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question.”

Sir. Which tastes better, Bacon and Eggs or Eggs and Bacon?

The Eisenstein Effect

Google Search reminded me yesterday that it was the great Russian film director's birthday. Sergei Eisenstein lived from 1898 to 1948 but in his career built a significant body of work, including the feature-length films: Strike (1925); Battleship Potemkin (1925); October (1928); Alexander Nevsky (1938); and Ivan the Terrible (1944).

I've seen all of the above except for Strike. Eisenstein's pictures were wide-screen though they weren't wide-screen, epic in scope, passionate, and always about people. Emotion was always present, whether the themes were about fighting for individuals' rights or battling in defence of the beautiful motherland.

Back in 1988 or 1989 I attended a screening of Battleship Potemkin at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) here in Toronto. I had seen the film before, but like many a great film, it revealed something new. The famous "Odessa Steps" sequence, famous for its staging and editing, and emotive power, hit me with great force. The picture was moving. I realized I was watery-eyed. Violence shown as being exactly what it is. Senseless.

Although a 'silent' film, of course there was a music score. It was not the original Edmund Meisel score (quite probably the version with a compilation of Dmitri Shostakovich material) but the sequence's power was heightened nonetheless.

Which reminds me.

In November of 1989 the Toronto Symphony Orchestra played a couple of special performances: As Alexander Nevsky rolled in Roy Thomson Hall its score was played live-to-picture. A 'sound' film, Nevsky had been designed by Eisenstein in a such way as to avoid having music tracks playing under dialogue, which meant that in this live concert hall presentation the orchestra could light up between dialogue sequences. Director Eisenstein worked with composer Sergei Prokofiev to make cinematic magic -- the melding of music and image, each serving the other. This score is, in my opinion, the greatest of all film scores. The absolute peak.

The presentation that day was magnificent. A showcase of how image and music fused as one becomes another art.

I should sit down and watch Strike.


The above piece first appeared as "Sergei Eisenstein and Film Effects" on January 23, 2018.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday Fun: The Tomorrow People - Titles

My introduction to the British children's television series The Tomorrow People (1973 - 1979) happened in the mid-1970s when CBLT here in Toronto ran episodes for a year or two.

Produced by Thames Television and aired by the ITV (Independent Television) network, the show's utilization of a predominantly live-to-tape production method made for some stagy stuff at times, but concepts presented within its thirty minutes could be heady stuff for a so-called "children's" series.

Note must be made of the opening title graphics and Dudley Simpson's theme music. The electric combination seared into one's brain, never to be forgotten, even if one's memory circuit might have discharged individual storylines through the passage of decades.

While The Tomorrow People ran for eight 'series', just 63 episodes were produced. However, it was a success on British telly....and in the States. Series creator Roger Price moved to the U.S. and helmed a three year run (1992 - 1995) of an Americanized version, produced at Nickelodeon Studios in Florida. ("Jaunts" to the Caribbean would be less exotic this time around.)

Saturday, May 23, 2020

A Movie Break?

DVD spines reveal movie titles.

Multiple Maniacs
Female Trouble
Radio Days
Battle of Britain

My motivational coach, me, suggests I keep focussed on my creative stuff. But this evening is laid out before me, and it's easy to get lazy.

I was more productive years ago. Probably because many years were laid out before me, and it was harder to become lazy.

Who Said Math Isn't Fun? (Applied Mathematics)

One day last week it dawned on me that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be out of the playoffs right about now....had the COVID-19 lockdown not happened.

Now that I've involved my TI-1250 electronic calculator, I've come to the mathematical projectionist conclusion that the beloved Buds finished their playoff run weeks ago.

"The Leafs' playoff run" makes no sense. (A kid with a slide rule can tell you that.)

Yep, even in the mirror universe, 2 + 2 = 0.

A Dirty Future in Charcoal for Film

Johnny Shortwave is a black-and-white feature length film that was shot in late 1988 and early 1989.

Early in the design phase I grabbed a stick of charcoal and quickly whipped up what I called an "Atmosphere Sketch". As depicted in the screenplay, the future is not rosy in more ways than one, which is what I tried to convey in the drawing.

I'll have more material from Johnny Shortwave very soon....


The above piece was first posted as "Film Design: The Atmosphere of Johnny Shortwave" on May 12, 2016.

Friday, May 22, 2020


She dumped me.

"I'm leaving you for another man."

I was crushed.

"Just kidding!"

I felt much better.

"I'm leaving you for another woman."

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Wear - a - Mask

Early yesterday afternoon I took a walk to pick up some things and was amazed by how few people were wearing face masks. Perhaps one in ten citizens wore one. We are not back to normal. Certain businesses were allowed to open here in Ontario this week with some conditions. Unfortunately too many folk think we're back to normal, even with all the education through social media and media services asking us to don proper gear at this critical time.

It reminds me of what my late father would say from time to time....

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Bomber Screenplay

As I've noted a few times on this blog my late father was a gunner on Lancaster bombers during WWII. What experiences he related while I was growing up got me interested in the subject of aerial bombing (and warfare in general).

For a few years I toyed with the idea of writing a screenplay about a Lancaster bomber crew.

Through my twenties I researched the subject in a serious way. This entailed not only plowing through more than a few books, but speaking with Bomber Command veterans, many of whom were still around.

One vet in particular was a member of the Royal Canadian Military Institute (located on University Avenue here in Toronto) and he gave me "guest" status which allowed me access to the organization's substantial library. The only demand was that I snap into sartorial mode.

Yes, out came the shoe polish and the nice suit and the briefcase. Not only did I feel like a million bucks, and no doubt looked even better, I felt as though I was doing important work. For a while I would make a quick trip down to the RCMI, which was just a few subway stops from my residence, where a pleasant chap by the name of Patrick would sign me in for the day.

Eventually I produced what I thought was a solid script, at least from a historical and technical perspective: "Bomber."

Even then my consulting Bomber Command veteran used a good portion of his pencil in order to set me in the right direction. Some pages were covered with his notes.

I made some adjustments and submitted a copy to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's "Movies and Miniseries" department for consideration.

They rejected it, through a nice letter. Fine. That's part of the game: Rejection.

The wonderful explosion (pardon the pun) in film technologies would allow a project like "Bomber" to be done at a much lower cost than if it had been made in the 1990s.

The big questions are often asked:

What is Canadian Culture?

What are Canadian stories?

Well, going to battle in a cramped Lancaster bomber loaded with high-explosives and being shot at by German night fighters and 88mm flak guns, when you're in your late teens or early twenties, could certainly qualify as one. And if my father were still around, I'm sure he would agree.


The above piece was first posted as "The Bomber Story" on May 25, 2016.

Television Set Design for a Toronto Indie Feature Film

In the autumn of 1986 I was in my last year of Humber College's "Film and Television" program but I managed to find time to work as an art director on a feature film called The Dark Side.

During production the producers asked me to design a "video tunnel" set as they were in negotiations to get a loaner of many televisions. These would be incorporated into the structure. No problem; I designed away.

Not too long after I submitted my initial concept drawings I was told the deal had fallen through.

Note the tube televisions. The loading would have been something I would have had to take into consideration when designing the set framing. It goes without saying that a set like this would be much easier to do today -- and a lot cheaper. Now I would use LED flat-screens. ("Really? You would?")

(Pardon the decaying colour photocopies. As soon as I find the originals I'll destroy the evidence.)


The above piece first appeared as "Set Design: Television Tunnel" on May 12, 2016.

Set Concept Art for an Unrealized Television Series

Most proposed film and television projects do not get past the writing and development stage, which is okay. It's a big leap to go from that to a "green-light".

In 1987 I sketched the above set design concept for an episode of a proposed television anthology series. The idea was this would not be any ordinary and contemporary bank vault but something more 'hi-tech". One sliding panel is opened to reveal safety deposit boxes.

Even though this particular project was unable to get interest from a broadcaster, my involvement was hardly a waste of time. They rarely are; it's all in the name of improving and flexing one's craft.


The above piece was first posted as "Set Design: A Bank Vault of Some Tech" on May 13, 2016.

Bedroom Set Design Concept

(Pardon the decaying colour photocopy. As soon as I find the original I'll destroy the evidence.)


The above was first posted as "Set Design: Bedroom" on May 12, 2016.

A Set Build of Blinking Lights

Five years ago, this month, I started building a set -- the control bridge of the "Starship Jefferson" -- for a web series called Tights and Fights. I blogged about the show not long after I finished the job: here

The following sequence of photographs shows the rear control panel in development, and the completed bridge set in the studio.

First, a lighting test:

The panel is finished; awaiting the blinky-lights installation:

The set is in the studio, ready for filming; series art director Darren Pickering adds some bits:

Producer/writer Scott Albert makes an adjustment:

Major Faultline at his station:

···  ··  −−  −−−  −·

The above piece was first posted as "Building a Starship Bridge Set In Pieces" on March 3, 2016.

Dover Castle Hosts "Hamlet" (1990)

As I wrote on November the 17th of 2009, edited slightly for this introduction:

While visiting England back in April of 1990, I made sure I revisited Dover Castle, a well known tourist attraction in those parts. I had been once before, as a wee-one back in 1967, so it was time, twenty three years later, to make the pilgrimage.

When I arrived at the main gate the security guard, a rather pleasant older chap, said to me with no hesitation, "you're in today for free, mate". Of course, I asked could not have been the fact that I looked, walked, and quacked like a Canadian, especially since I had not even quacked at that point.


"Franco Zeffirelli's filming his new movie here."



The above piece was first posted as "Hamlet is Being Filmed at Dover Castle" on January 22, 2018.

A Film Set Goes Up By Design

The Hyper-Reality script called for a bar, a "hangout" for the four young police officers. I designed it in the style of a standing set that you might see in an old cop show.

What starts as a rough sketch ends up in the studio as a fully realized set -- it's a rewarding experience.


The above piece was first published as "Film Design: Bar Set Under Construction" on December 21, 2017.

The Magic Of Irwin Allen and His Influence

If you've seen the old Irwin Allen television shows Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space, or Time Tunnel, you probably remember what I refer to as "The Irwin Allen Panel". In the early 1960s the 20th Century Fox studios prop department bought surplus U.S. Air Force equipment and made some modifications, including taking the indicator lights and hooking them up to a series of chaser-boxes, thereby producing sequenced blinking lights.

The equipment was already "old" but that did not stop producer Irwin Allen from utilizing them for his futuristic television programs. (Makes sense; 1960s aliens in silver face paint no doubt would operate 1950s Earth equipment.)

By the way, the panels appeared in the television series Lost. My guess is they are still available for rent.

When designing my (as of yet uncompleted) short film Hyper-Reality I used the panels in question as a guide. The story requires a retro look.

The photo affixed above features a crew member operating a piece of projection equipment.


The above piece was first posted as "Behind the Irwin Allen Panel on Hyper-Reality" on December 6, 2017.

Looking Back at a Toronto Film Screening Series

(click on image to enlarge)

From the archives:

The Canadian Independent Film Series

It's a bad flyer when there are no dates affixed.

The venue: The Bloor Cinema, Toronto

On the "New Voices" part 1 plan:

The Front Seat  - 4 minutes - black and white - D: Barbara Mainguy
Someone to Love  - 15 minutes - colour - D: Shawn Goldberg
Good Night  - 4 minutes - colour - D: Rick Palidwor
Crucero/Crossroads  - 28 minutes  - colour - D: Ramiro Puerta

CIFS was run by Rob Cosgrove and Chris Dwyer. The programs were well done but the series as a whole was short-lived.


The above piece was first posted as "CIFS Screening Series Flyer" on December 4, 2017

Dunkirk, A Film With No Name

Two days ago I got around to watching the 2017 Christopher Nolan "epic", Dunkirk. Generally I was unimpressed.

While watching the film I got the impression that director Nolan did not know his story, or he lost it during the production or editing phase.

There is some parallel cutting that, while fine on its own as an exercise, adds little to the greater narrative.

There are some interesting bits -- like an appreciation of a fighter-plane's loitering time, and what happens when a ship sinks -- but the film as a whole flies over what happened on that beach. Where are all the ships and aircraft? And soldiers?

By the way, Junkers 87s did not release their bombs like that. They were dive bombers. Also, level bombers could not hit ships with the frequency depicted in the film.

The various characters read and resonate as real people -- Nolan has stated that he wanted to render a documentary feeling. There's a downside. As is so often the case with war films -- men in matching uniforms and haircuts -- it's sometimes hard for the audience to keep track of and quickly identify the characters.

One thing I particularly liked about Dunkirk was the casting of appropriate-age actors. Those guys were young. My dad was a teenager when he flew on Lancasters with RAF Bomber Command.

Dunkirk could have been a great film. Perhaps someone should try again with Dunkerque.


The above review was first posted as "Dunkirk" Beached" on December 28, 2017.

Lining Up On a Toronto Backlot Film Shoot

Director of Photography Glenn Orr and me.


The above was first posted as "Hyper-Reality Film Crew Discusses a Shot" on December 22, 2017.

Filming on the Studio Backlot

Lensing exteriors for Hyper-Reality on Pardee Avenue here in Toronto. That building on the right is 23 FPS Studios' stage 2.


The above bit was first posted as "Mitchell, Me, on Pardee" on December 5, 2017.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


There's a curious manner of answer I first noticed a few years ago. When there is a question and answer, as in a host and guest on a radio or television public affairs program or talk show, the answer to the question often starts with a simple word: "So." It's used as some kind of punctuation, but without emotion. A lead-in to a complex answer, or a simple one.

The guest or interview subject can be young or old, man or woman.

HOST: Is this your first published book?
GUEST: So....

HOST: Do you think society as a whole can be a contributing factor, can be held accountable to some degree, for this ill?
GUEST: So....

HOST: Are the Toronto Maple Leafs doomed to fail every year?
GUEST: So....

Now that I think about it, I have my own story on "so".

ME: Would you like to get down and boogie, tear up the dance floor?



The above piece was first posted as "So....What's With So?" on December 23, 2017.

Monday, May 18, 2020

New and Improved - Blog Header Picture

A Blog Header Picture

Mister artist here decided it was about time I render an original blog header, instead of defaulting to the built-in one provided by the blog "theme" that I picked a few years ago.

The background is a photo I took of one of my notebooks. Look at that first-draft squibbering.

Television's Death Probe

News this past week of actor Heather Menzies' passing made me think of the science fiction television series Logan's Run. Even though I had seen her in 1965's mega-hit musical feature film The Sound of Music, it was in that television show that I took note of her. Then I remembered that I almost never watched it; when I did, it was in a casual way, unfocused and in little bits. (At the time I felt the series never lived up to its potential.) I ignored Logan's run simply because I was growing out of watching television as appointment television.

When does one slow down on watching television? I'm speaking of American prime time dramatic programs -- or sitcoms, which I almost never watched. Even with the litany of kids' things many of us in that time of our lives still managed to clock a lot of TV. But the ritual stops as we discover other things on our road to maturation. Or whatever.

I started to drift away in my mid to late teens. For example, this once regular viewer of The Six Million Dollar Man didn't watch the show's fifth and final season (1977 - 1978). I remember popping down and into the rec room one evening to grab a book from the bookcase and caught my siblings watching the follow-up episode to "Death Probe": "Return of the Death Probe." I turned to them and said, "you're still watching this?". Their even more youthful faces than my own beamed enjoyment. There on the television rolled what appeared to be an armoured go-kart, somewhat like the first model.

An admission: I enjoyed "Death Probe", even if it featured a cruder version of machine compared to the sequel vehicle of destruction. This then youth knew the Death Probe concept was rubbish, but, as was the case with more than a few Six Million episodes, there was a fun comic book vibe to "Death Probe".

But, my times were changing.

One day in 1995 I got a nasty wake-up call. A few of my coworkers emoted shocks and 'tears' as they recounted the latest episodes of Chicago Hope and ER. I stood in awe and bemusement as my mug of coffee got cold.

"Death Probe", first or second story, started to sound appealing.


The above piece was first posted as "I Missed the Return of Death Probe" on December 30, 2017.

A Brian Johnson Space: 1999 Influence?

Back in November of 2009 I wrote a piece about my experiences designing a set for the 1987 Canadian horror film Graveyard Shift. I mentioned building a 'table top' miniature on spec to show the film's producers that I could design and construct one in just a few hours, and, just as importantly, for next to no money. (In the first, and later abandoned, production there was a need for scenery in miniature form.) The above diorama took four to five hours to design and construct. Afterward I took a series of snaps, which I presented to Graveyard Shift's production manager and producer.

The punchline is I got the job. I like to think that my model job helped me secure the gig.


The above piece was first published as "Pop Up Demo Miniature Scenery" on November 15, 2017.

A Forever Question: Doggy Paddles

“Since before your sun burned hot in space and before your race was born, I have awaited a question.”

Sir. When dogs swim, do they ever do the front crawl?