May 9, 2010

Best. Mom. Ever.

I have no discernible skills.   I have no degree; I'm not handy with tools; I can't throw a tight spiral and manual labour is not really my thing.  I make my living "being creative;" whatever that means.   Now that I have a child, I'm fascinated watching her own interest in all things creative, and I'm often thinking about how I can encourage those aspects of her personality which inevitably makes me think of how my own parents did this with me.  From an early age, I had an interest in story telling, often spending hours drawing heavily detailed pictures that told some fantastic tale. So in many ways, it's no surprise that a large part of what I do now, be it producing television or hosting a radio show stems from telling stories.   My father makes his living as a writer, but is also a very talented illustrator and knows his way around a few musical instruments as well.   He has a passion for movies and music, much like myself, and I think, at first glance, many people in my life assume that the road I've travelled down professionally is very much because I'm similar to him.   Which, in many ways, is true.   But that's only part of the story.   My mother was a model and an actress, and my earliest experiences in the industry I now work in were with my mother and many of my recollections of being encouraged in my passions for movies and the creative arts I can attribute to my mom as well.

Up until twelve years old, I was a steadily working child actor with a slew of television commercials to my credit (including one that I shared the screen with my mother, who, in a huge stretch, was playing my mother in the spot.)   My mom accompanied me to every audition and shoot and she was the antithesis of the stage mother.  It was all about me having some fun. My earnings from the television work I used to build a Lego Empire and my time on the set was never anything less then a ball.  It never felt like work, rather something cool I got to do with my mom instead of going to school every once in a while.  I had zero pressure; and was always told the moment I wasn't having fun any more was when I would quit.  In Grade Six, it suddenly became a drag to miss school to shoot a commercial because by then I had discovered girls.  After I shot two commercials in a little over a week, I told my mother I didn't want to do this anymore and that was that.   Thanks Mom.

At around this same time, I discovered horror films, and almost over night my room went from wall-to-wall hockey posters and pictures to a bunch of movie posters and grisly photos from Fangoria magazine.  I think a lot of parents would be alarmed by this turn - particularly the fact that I had pictures of people with axes imbedded in their skulls on my wall, but I never once caught any flack for my new found interest.  In fact, my mother would provide me with the $20 that I would truck off to my stores of choice to shop for new posters.  I would return with a Psycho III poster and quickly find it a place of prominence on my wall.   Thanks Mom.  

My mother also encouraged my burgeoning passion for movies by helping to feed my insatiable desire to learn more about how Movie Magic was created.  When I became fascinated with horror films and I became aquainted with a magazine called Fangoria that covered horror movies in the obsessive, nerdy way that helped me learn about screenwriting, direction, special make-up effects and all sorts of elements of the industry I was encouraged - or maybe "allowed" is the better word - to read this thing that most parents would not allow in their homes.  Because it was something parents dreaded, and was aimed at a niche audience, it proved to be quite difficult locating this magazine. My mom would give me money to head downtown to a little store called Dragon Lady, which was the only store I knew of that sold Fangoria, so I would take the subway down to Queen Street so I could buy this little gore bible.  Once I got a copy in my sweaty little hands,  I would pore over the issue for any mention of Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween or whatever my latest obsession was before harvesting the magazine for more pictures for the ever-growing macabre collage on my bedroom walls.   I think some parents would be concerned their child was reading a magazine that had a person getting their throat sawed open on the cover with plenty of evidence of the mess that sort of thing would make - and perhaps even more concerned about the fact that the picture ultimately would end up on my wall - but my parents knew they'd raised a child able to tell the difference between movies and real life, and while she could forbid me to read such a revolting magazine, it doesn't really make sense to discourage a child to read.   Thanks Mom.

In Grade 7, my interest in movies evolved into an interest in filmmaking, and I was spending my weekends making horror films in the back lane behind my house with a hockey mask and a handy cam. My mother dutifully purchased me red food coloring for blood, lights, extension cords, tons of make-up and countless other requests.   All of my early home movies carried the credit "Produced by C.L. Traynor."  I used my mothers maiden name because the credits already had my name all over them and I felt it looked more "professional" to have a different name up there.  The fact that the credits were written on a piece of paper with a magic marker never seemed to factor into my thought process in terms of looking professional.  I hope you're proud of the fact that you're the executive producer of A Visit From The Man With The Hat Parts I, IIIII.  You also hold that credit for Friday the 13th - Jason Returns, Friday the 13th Part VIII - The Curse of Crystal Lake and Friday the 13th - The Legend of Jason Voorhees.  (However, none of those films were ever finished.)  Thanks Mom.

It's not often that dudes sit around having a "My mom is cooler than your mom" conversation, but if it ever does come up, I have a story that should end that conversation pretty quickly.  In 1986, I was totally obsessed with the Friday the 13th franchise.   The previous year, Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning came out, and me and a friend tried desperately to sneak into a theatre showing it, but as 12-year olds, we were pretty conspicuous.  The closest we got was listening to the carnage from outside of the theatre in the old Imperial Six Theatre.  I had to wait agonizing months until it was released on video to see the film.  The following year, when Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives! came out we had figured out a work around.   The Drive In.   I don't remember where the idea originally came from, but If you buy a ticket to the drive in, once inside, you can park where ever you want, meaning "sneaking in" to a R-Rated movie is really at the discretion of the driver.  This sort of request should have been an extremely longshot, but instead, she readily agreed and amazingly, my mom loaded me and my buddy into the car and drove us to a seedy drive in where we settled into a double-bill of Wes Craven's Deadly Friend followed by Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives!   My mother, of course, has no interest in these kind of films, and is also known for her early bed times, but she brought a book and an Itty Bitty Book Light and did her best to ignore the screams coming from the screen while spending the better part of the next four hours in the last place in the world she wanted to be in order to allow me to see this (crappy) movie I desperately wanted to see.   Thanks Mom.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom.   Thank you for everything you did for me.   I love you more then you know.

As an aside, the images at the top of this post are from a National Film Board of Canada movie called "Caroline" that my mother starred in in 1964.  The gentlemen kissing her in the middle frames, is my father who was dating her at the time.  She was 20-years old in these pictures.

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