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Packing and All the Little Things

To my dear Slightly Scattered and Not Wholly With-it Self, as you wake with a start and realize that life is not a rehearsal and you're leaving the country very soonly, for two months,

You do realize don't you, that as you're lazing back in a king-sized bed at the house-sit you've been staying in for 3 weeks, with an artificial fire in front of you, laptop on the lap, coffee with cream, and toast with butter beside you, this picture of comfort and luxury won't last forever.

Outside it's windy and rainy, and normally if you weren't looking after a dog, you'd be taking your beloved beach cat for a walk.

In a little over two weeks, you do realize that the scene will be totally different? You will be in hot, dry Brazil, listening to the endless chatter of a million morning birds, reading your Bible, eating eggs from the farm and drinking black strong coffee filtered through a stocking. Hopefully still writing.

I cannot remind you often enough: two weeks. Is not. A lot. Of time.

The walk around the block with Chili, the rescued street dog, looks like this.

I'm not panicking, but I'm certainly not ready to go, either. This is the period before leaving when everything must get done, and all the little loose ends I've forgotten about must get wrapped up. Buying Brasilian reals. Finding my old phone with the Brasilian SIM card. Buying lenses I keep ogling but not committing to. Organizing my kit and making sure I have absolutely everything, including lots of batteries and plug ins and audio equipment and plastic baggies and tripods and all the little mounts and things needed to attach all the doo-dads and things together.

Get my harddrive back from my old laptop so I can take the music library that I accidentally deleted when formatting my new laptop.

Hard drives. Oh Jesus, the hard drives!! So much sorting needing to happen before I go. Transfer everything off the little portable ones on to big internal ones. Put all the work that I will need to take with me, back on the little ones. Back up stuff. Make lists of where everything is. Ahhhh.

Taxes. Corporate and personal. Receipts from the last Brazil trip I haven't dealt with yet.

Gardening. Throw more seeds in the ground. Clean up the cabin I rent and make it presentable for the landlords to come back to. Clean deck from old leaves. Get Secret Dan to mow lawn. Get my poor cat to the neighbour's to look after. Pick up blueberries from my ex's and re-pot before they die.

Horses. Make lists of all that needs to be done for them. Bake cookies for the open houses this weekend so everyone can meet them and I can wrangle more help for chores. Sign people up. Get phone numbers and emails. Make sure I have a line on hay and supplies. It's only two horses but by God they will be looked after thoroughly when I leave!

Work. Finish one sports sizzle reel. Finish another cheesemaking promo that's been in the works for a year. Finish a house builder's showreel. Polish, export, invoice.

Invoice for the other work I keep forgetting to invoice for, and make up new contract to log another filmmaker's footage WHILE I'M IN BRAZIL shooting another documentary and also editing the Dorothy documentary.

Clothes. Fuck. I may actually need a whole wardrobe, as I don't have anything but Irish wool sweaters and barn jeans left. What is a tee-shirt, again?

And food. Taking all the powdered vegetables I can carry because everything is poisoned with Round-up and pesticides down there. Also drinking all the beer I can because it's a dry farm. And that's not helping with the focus, Tobi. Come on. You know better.

Better get going. First order of business, as always, feed the horses. Then everything else will fall into place.

I hope.

Love from your Future, Hyper-organized Self in Total Control of All the Little Things

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The Bringer of Ideas

To my dear Incomplete Self, as she is wondering if she will ever finish one of her great ideas:

Fir tree, Saltspring Island, 2016

Fir tree, Saltspring Island, 2016

What's the difference between completion and finishing? Someone posed that question on Facebook yesterday, and it struck me as being true: we don't have a satisfactory definition in the English language that distinguishes one from the other. 

Completion: the action or process of finishing something; the state of being finished. 

Finished: an action, activity, or piece of work having been completed or ended; a person having completed or ended an action or activity. 

I would say that this fir tree ably demonstrates the act of finishing, with its broken off branches scaling upward, and also completion at the top, where it rose to meet the sun. Not all the branches survived the journey - they finished their task of providing nutrients and energy to the tree as it grew. But its larger mission was completed once it pushed upward and reached the light. 

Either way, I've had very little experience with either of those words when it comes to my own projects. 

I tend to be a very, very serious person. Somehow, I never acquired the ability to lighten up and accept the moments in life as they come, as randomly assembled bits of life that don't necessarily have to make sense. Instead, driven perhaps by the messaging from my Christian upbringing in which I learned that "God has a plan", my Big Brain uses an awful lot of its hard drive power to ponder how it all "fits together" and "am I accomplishing my mission in life" and "what the hell does this project have to do with the other" and trying to figure out how I will "get it all done" before I die.

Seriously, that is a fear that I have. That I will die, like my mother, with boxes and boxes of unsorted photographs and unfinished projects. Her projects haunt me, and my own quietly hiss at me from my 40+ terabytes of hard drives. There are literally thousands of hours of footage I haven't looked at yet, waiting to be turned into a work of art, if I could just get around to it. 

It's like I took my mother's love of taking photographs and quadrupled the challenge, brought it to the 3rd dimension with moving images and sound, and thus ensured I would be shackled to my projects for the rest of my life. 

A photograph from Brazil, at Fazenda Cavalos Selvagems (Wild Horses Farm) where I've been shooting a documentary since 2010. The amount of footage is amazing. Daunting. Just like the skyscape.

A photograph from Brazil, at Fazenda Cavalos Selvagems (Wild Horses Farm) where I've been shooting a documentary since 2010. The amount of footage is amazing. Daunting. Just like the skyscape.

There's "The Trapper of Peace River", surrounded by oil and gas and forestry, watching his beloved wilderness be gutted by industry. That one, started in 2009, I have to admit I will probably never finish, though it's a subject that continues to both fascinate and grieve me. 

There is "Wild Horses" the documentary about my amazing horsewoman friend Ingela Larsson Smith, as she and her husband Richard take a band of unruly orphan boys and try to turn them into leaders and good men, through mentorship and horsemanship. Started in 2010, I have roughly 400 hours of footage, and hundreds of thousands of photographs to sort through. 

There's "Between Wood and Water" my current project about the oldest sailboat in Canada, Dorothy, set to sail again (we hope) sometime in the near future. It's her 120th anniversary and I've been waiting for progress on that front since 2014. Have given up a few times but again, the story is too good to quit on, even if it has been 5 years. 

These three projects have consumed me, by turns obsessed me, traumatized me and caused me to weep, at regular intervals over the last 7 years. It's been a long, hard road, and like the fir, I have many broken off branches to on me. 

And that's not even it. I seem to be born to generate new ideas. I want to start a media co-op on the island. A film school. An artists/production space. A tool-sharing workshop. A tiny house building series. And I have many many more ideas for community development and interactive projects. Ways to make life better for people. Strategies for all of my friends' small businesses. Every time I talk to someone I have an idea how I could help them, what they could do to grow or expand their business to fit the shape of their life. 

I have begun to suspect that I may not have enough time to do them all. I've often said I need an executive secretary to tell me what to do every day, and an army of workers to help me carry it out. I bring the ideas. But I can't do them all. 

So I've begun breaking off my own branches. Saying no to some things (and yes to still others - horses, WTF am I thinking, argghhhhh). I've said no to clients, to exciting opportunities, to people who want my help. I've largely become a hermit, housesitting up here on a hill in a beautiful house with the beautiful Winnie dog, because it's all I can do to just focus on my own work and not get distracted by having other people around. With every new conversation, I have a new idea, and then I'm off... on someone else's tangent. 

So our conversation on completing things will, of course, be continued. I have some other strategies for reaching the sun, as it were, that I'm slowly putting into place. But I just wanted you to know that it's ok if you haven't finished a project or 5, or you have so many ideas that you know you can't do them all... because I'm in the same boat. And I believe there is a way forward, a way to complete things, a way to have a beautiful life and not die with everything still unfinished. 

I'll let you know in the next post. 

In true form, leaving this conversation incomplete, but finished for now... 

love Tobi

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Welcome

Journal: Letters to the Artist is a collection of personal writings from my journey to becoming an artist and independent female filmmaker. It's a raw, honest account of the internal and external resistance and obstacles I encounter, the heartaches and setbacks, the lessons I'm learning and the anticipated, dreamed of achievement of actually, this year, maybe getting some work done. That's my only goal. Just get the work done and let the cards fall where they may. 

So this blog is not a promotional vehicle. I'm not going to sell you my stories or ideas. Just sharing as I work to become a healthy artist with a vibrant, balanced life, one who is not martyred or obsessed with the work, but who produces art in harmony with my life.

The threads of my art and life are inextricably entwined. I've found as a documentary filmmaker that I become so caught up in my subject and what I'm learning, I become either part of the story, or the story becomes part of my life, or both. In "Between Wood and Water", I document the restoration of the oldest functioning wooden sailboat in Canada, Dorothy. I also fell in love with her shipwright, had a tumultuous relationship with him over 3 years, and am emerging on the other side with some more wisdom, a 15-foot wooden sailboat of my own called Golden Eye, and some emotional bruises I'm still healing from. In "Wild Horses" I document the journey of one of Europe's premiere natural horsewomen as she leaves her professional career to teach a bunch of orphaned and neglected boys in Brazil the secrets of the horse. Over the 7 years I've been documenting the story, I've become wedded to the family and stayed on the fazenda not just as a filmmaker, but as house momma and friend. And I've acquired two horses of my own by rescuing them from neglect and potentially death in winter 2016. 

So this Journal is not just the story of my Stories, but the Story of us as we all weave a tapestry of beauty from the many colourful threads of our lives. 

It's going to be personal, raw, unfiltered and unprofessional. You will not find tips and tricks for shooting in certain kinds of light, because honestly I have no idea how to get the sometimes magical images I come away with. Almost nothing in my shooting career is pre-planned and thought out, I just launch the boat from whatever shore I'm standing on, and we go from there. Sometimes I have partners, mostly I work alone. Most of the people I've partnered with along the way have gone their own ways for various reasons - the one main reason being is that I can be demanding, exhausting and challenging to deal with. I keep my own pace, and race against my own clock. It's part of the magic parcel. But I'm hoping one day I'll find a tribe I can work with so I don't die alone. Ha! The existential fear that I'll no doubt keep coming back to explore. 

So I don't know what this will be like. Sometimes I will write to myself, letters to my own artist. Sometimes I'll write to someone else, as if I know you and what you're going through. Sometimes I'll have advice, mostly I'll have questions. I make no promises. I simply want to make art with integrity, and to live life in a way that supports my body, mind and heart. And maybe you want to do that too so perhaps this series of letters will be a medium of communication. Feel free to comment, post your own stories and share your journey. 

My one rule is that I be real, not fake/professional/cutesy or overly smartass. Though I will allow myself to cop an attitude on occasion. I will endeavour not to use exclamation points as I feel I used up my quota in my twenties. 

This is just me. Period.

Welcome. 

 

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