Town Hall Meeting

I decide to go to a town hall meeting tonight. The only reason I am taking time out of my busy busy life right now, with three scripts due by the end of January, is because a nice rather handsome fellow asked me if I was going, since it was about the film industry. And I never make time to connect with people outside of my circle. I should. I should make an effort. So, I write to tell him “I’ll go!”

Of course, you know how this story goes…I rush dinner to put effort into looking effortlessly beautiful and…he doesn’t show. He just genuinely thought I should I suppose.Unknown-3

The other reason I come is because, of course, I care about the BC film industry. I don’t feel all that informed and the panel is amazing: MLAs Bob Davis and George Heyman, Tom Sholte (a colleague I have admired for years), and heavy hitters and heroes David Spanner, Leonard Schein and Tracey Friesen. No easy answers. Lots of opposing thoughts. But it is wonderful to hear such accomplished people speak from their perspective. To see them care enough to come out. To patiently sit through long winded citizens who use the microphone to go on and on and on…Unknown-4

One of the citizens who does go on is an elderly Chinese woman in a heavily beaded green dress with sparkly leprechaun shoes and perhaps a top hat from New Years Eve that she had saved and hot glued a few glittery silver silk lilies to, stuck with an elaborate glass hat pin. She comes in with someone who is probably her son. He is meek and very respectful of her. You can tell there is love in the way he gently guides her around, makes room for her, lets her have the stage she most obviously wants. He even takes a picture of her up at the mic. She speaks for quite a while and rather articulately, actually, about Chinese Canadian heritage and the importance of documenting history.  However, she repeats herself a great deal and goes on about a history of her own family in a way that also reveals she isn’t very socially attuned, she’s narcissistic or perhaps just a bit batty. I am wondering how long she is going to go on before someone on the panel asks her to wrap it up.

A brusque thick fellow beside me grabs his jean jacket, stands up and blurts out, “Oh for God’s sake, we’re not talking about China, we’re talking about Canada. Don’t use this as a platform for yourself! It isn’t about YOU.” The gender-ambiguous artist beside me gasps and says in the lady’s defence, “What are you talking about?!” And the blurter marches out in a huff. The green lady’s son stands meek and silent. I would say: a bit horrified. To her credit, the green lady continues to speak, apologizes, clarifies what she means and wraps it up herself and leaves, dignified if not a bit hurt. MLA Bob Davis then speaks, he’s kinda jokey, but ties in the importance of documentaries and Canadian content, validating what the green lady was saying without patronizing her. The room hums and affirms. It is quite something to see that respect for an elder, however eccentric. To see that kindness from everyone. It’s at this moment I realize all of this kindness is for the green lady, but also for her son. I see his humiliated shoulders start to inch back a little taller again. Unknown-2

Once the evening is over and people start milling out, I see the green lady make a bee line for cutie pie Tom after the meeting. He is stuck. There is no escape. I was going to slip out but I feel I should save him. He’s a busy family man who’d probably just like to get home.

So I watch and chuckle at his expense for a moment and then I intercept and call out, “Tom!” And he gives me a big hug like I’m an old friend he hasn’t seen since the war (we barely know each other) and green lady is sufficiently diverted and turns her gaze to an MLA. Not so bad. Politicians get paid for things like this. You know. Living in community.

Tom, probably still grateful for the save, offers to sit and chat with me over coffee sometime about crossing over into film which is very generous of him. I can’t imagine he has any spare time.

I drive home and think about the odd lot of storytellers that were in the audience tonight. There were very young film makers with hip hair and ripped pants talking about digital platforms. There was Malcolm and his gloriously British white whiskers talking about theatre. There were educators and librarians with knitted vests and knitted brows. Politicians with cards, jokes and well rehearsed closing statements. Quiet Telefilm man who spoke rapidly and hushed about paperwork. Several women producers who spoke frantically, which I suspect is how they always speak because they may not have slept in years…my ambiguous neighbour was so incredibly organized and articulate with her questions and suggestions to the panel (they never answered) she got a round of applause. I’m sure what she was hoping for, however, was change.Unknown-5

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