Becoming a successful filmmaker or "movie star" are things that have become synonymous with living in Los Angeles. Or living the in U.S. in general. Often Canadians who pursue careers in entertainment are cautioned that there's only so far you can go in Canada. If you really want to make it big (obviously, that benchmark means something different to everyone) you have to break into the U.S. market. Go south or go home.
Living in Los Angeles for over two years now, it's become clear that Canadian kids across the nation have been fed the same message. I've met more Canadians than Americans since moving here, although that could be caused by the infrared maple leaf we all have implanted into our foreheads that only other Canadians can detect. It could also be that the our pleasant demeanour and "hoser" dialect may act as a transmitter that subconcsiously compels Canadians in close proximity to congregate. I'm not sure. But I suspect it has something to do with the sheer number of Canadians with stars in their eyes and hope in the hearts that relocate to L.A. in hopes of making it big.
Earlier this year, I completed a short script that was entirely based on a little shop in a neighbourhood of Vancouver. As I sat down to begin work on the first draft, a vibrant depiction of my story's location floated above my laptop. But common sense kicked in and I quickly erased Vancouver as the location and replaced it with New York. Then London. Then I left the location blank and began to write.
We shouldn't wait to be discovered, we should discover ourselves.Mike Myers
Right around the same time, a friend of mine -- another Canadian transplant living in L.A. (because transmitter) -- gave me the book Canada, written by Mike Myers. Myers wrote in great length about wanting to integrate Canadian stories into his work, most notably the character of Wayne Campbell. If you really pay attention, nearly every single character, cultural and geographical reference in Wayne's World is inspired by Myers' Canadian background, but he was forced to adapt his story to resonate with American audiences. Aurora, Illinois, the location of the film, is actually based on his hometown of Scarborough, Ont. Stan Mikita's donut shop is based on Tim Horton's. The character of Wayne Campbell didn't debut on Saturday Night Live, but onstage at Toronto's Second City followed by a CBC series called It's Only Rock & Roll.
Then something Myers said in his book really resonated with me, a Canadian living in L.A. who has consumed both Canadian and American pop culture and media her entire life. Which was that "we shouldn't wait to be discovered, we should discover ourselves." In other words, why not make stories about Canadian people and things and feelings, and have them actually take place in Canada?
I completely appreciate the economics of it: 327 million potential viewers in the U.S. vs. 37 million in Canada. And the fact that American kids simply don't learn about us, as Myers also aptly points out in his book. Despite being each other's largest trading partners, sharing the largest undefended border on the planet, being NATO allies and North American counterparts. Nothing in American media has ever suggested that Canadian culture is worthy of exploration beyond Bieber and really delicious back bacon. But we are. We're a country rich in diversity, cultural icons, historical events and unique stories that could fuel the film industry for decades to come.
I'm going to shoot my short film, which ended up being based in Vancouver, in the city that inspired it. I look forward to telling my story from a Canadian perspective. And who knows. Maybe it will fall on deaf ears south of the border, but I'll always be proud that what inspires me most are the characters, quirky nuances and flat-out hilarity that originates in my home country of Canada.
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