Finishing my second script

It always feels a bit corny to be living in Los Angeles while writing a film script. It’s so cliché it makes me blush every time I think about it. While my husband and I didn’t move to LA so I could pursue my dreams with stars in my eyes and sunshine in my soul, it does help to live somewhere where movie making is always top of mind.

This second crack at a feature length screenplay has been a lot tighter and fluid compared to my first script. I was more organized and well researched. I outlined the shit out of the thing, which of course morphed and evolved as any story does into something slightly different.

My first script was based in-part on personal experience and ended up this cathartic experience that helped me let go of things from the past and was a good exercise in script formatting. I’m not discounting it entirely, I’d like to revisit it one day and revise it from a romantic drama to the rom com it really is. As much as I wanted to avoid that genre, after hearing film producer Lindsay Doran speak earlier this year I was reminded that it’s okay to write something that makes people laugh and feel good. Some of the films I go back to over and over have happy themes and endings. God knows we could all use some pleasant escapism these days.

The 60s and 70s are eras I’ve always been fascinated by. I often say I was born in the wrong decade, because the music, fashion and attitudes of that time are much more raw and sexy and interesting to me than anything that’s happened since. So naturally, last summer, I made the lofty decision to write a biopic based on Freddie Mercury’s life. Not at all ambitious or ludicrous. Of course, the film has been in the works for years with Sacha Baron Cohen set to play Mercury, until he backed out of the project over rumoured disagreements with the remaining members of Queen. I think more than anything it’s a story I’m dying to see onscreen, and I’m just too impatient to wait for someone else to do it.

While researching my debunked attempt at a biopic, I read the memoirs of two notorious American groupies: Bebe Buell and Pamela Des Barres. Never mind writing a story about rock stars, the women who inspired some of the greatest rock albums of all time deserved my attention so much more. So that’s what I did.

It’s the story of two women who become entangled with the same musician. Not entirely based on Buell and Des Barres, but absolutely inspired by them. I tried to write something that focused on the strength of the women of that era and how so many of them played muse to artists with little to no credit. How many of them went on to enjoy their own success as musicians, mothers, writers and artists.

One of my protagonist’s is based in LA and the other in New York, which made it really easy to immerse myself in the some of the scenes because so many of the places I wrote about still exist! Working title East and West.

When I was in New York in the spring, I managed to finagle my way into Gramercy Park (scene #12) after a kind older fellow caught me awkwardly taking photos through the fence. I stood in the crumbling lobby of Hotel Chelsea (scene #70) to soak in the energy of what was once a creative epicenter and a man came up behind me (seemingly out of nowhere) and said, “You know, everyone used to live here.” Then he kind of disappeared. Maybe he was a ghost?

A few weeks ago, photographer Baron Wolman was to appear at a gallery party in Hollywood to exhibit The Woodstock Years, now famous photos he had taken of fans during the iconic music festival. The reception was to be hosted by Pamela De Barres, so obviously I had to be there and luckily I had a chance to meet the woman who in part inspired my script. And she was warm and friendly and just as lovely as I imagined her to be.

When Baron was signing the book I bought of his amazing photographs, he looked me the eye and said, “You missed it, you know. The party’s over.” I guess that’s why I wrote about it.

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Legendary groupie, author and journalist Pamela Des Barres

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C’est fini!

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6 Songs by Summer

As the saying goes, it’s never too late to try something new. Or learn something new. You’re never too old to tackle something you’ve been wanting to learn, master, achieve or overcome. Leonard Cohen was 33 when he released his first album. Nora Ephron was 42 when she wrote her first screenplay. A good friend of my mom’s was 46 when she competed in her first Ironman. It’s never too late.

I’ve always fantasized about playing guitar. My dad and brother both play. My husband is a natural. My mother-in-law backpacked around Europe with a little acoustic in her 20s, no doubt charming her way across the continent. It’s always been one of those things I wanted to learn.

I can read music. I play piano and flute, an instrument my mom kind of pressured me into because flutes get all the melodies, she would say. I always thought it was kind of girlie instrument until Beastie Boys released Ill Communication and obviously Ron Burgundy has given new life to the delicate woodwind. But guitar is much more badass, and given my taste in music falls on the edgy side, I basically wanted to learn something I could plug in and make a shit ton of noise with.

My dad and my husband bought me an acoustic guitar for my birthday last fall and my goal was to be able to play 6 songs by summer. They didn’t have to be perfect and they certainly didn’t have to be difficult. Just six songs I could play at the beach or around a campfire or alongside my husband.

After scouring the web in search of guitar tabs for some of my favorite songs I realized if you could play a C, D, F and G you can basically play 75% of rock songs ever written. Maybe throw in an A and E minor and you’re golden. Here’s my six:

I Won’t Back Down – Tom Petty
Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Old Man – Neil Young
What’s Up – 4 Non Blondes
Three Little Birds – Bob Marley
We Are the People – Empire of the Sun

I memorized all the notes, added all the tabs into my phone and practice practice practice. One day I heard the girls who live below us say quite clearly through our thin walls Oh god, she’s playing that song again. Yes she is!

If you’re a beginner like me, here’s a few more simple songs I’m learning:

Today – Smashing Pumpkins
Wheat Kings – The Tragically Hip
Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton

I’m not exactly ready to plug in and stomp on a distortion pedal, but for now I’m content strumming away at sunset. The other night I was at the beach and this cute couple was taking painfully awkward selfies so I asked if they wanted me to take their photo for them. They were from Milan so I reminisced a bit about when I traveled there and before they left the beach they asked if they could take my photo. That’s the other cool thing about playing guitar. Any instrument, really. It immediately breaks the ice, invokes a conversation and creates a sense of community.

When I walked back to where my bike was parked, two different people approached me to ask if I wanted to jam sometime. JAM? ME? Ha, not yet. But if you see my at the beach stumbling my way through my modest repertoire of songs, by all means join in.

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Dog Park People of LA

I’m not a people person. I’m not what one might call an introvert either, but I definitely don’t feel compelled to engage people I don’t know beyond high-level pleasantries. This isn’t because I lack manners or suffer from social anxiety. I’m just not interested in small talk. Next to filing taxes and getting my pikachu waxed, small talk is my least favorite thing.

You know what else I find tedious? Faking it. Whether it’s joy, an orgasm, or basic interest, I have a tough time putting on an act. It’s exhausting. Like, ask me to organize your book collection by color or to handwrite your Christmas cards for you. But don’t ask me to participate in anything that requires faking it.

I was never an effective networker (insert gasps and surprise). I’m the gal who strolls in, grabs a complementary glass of wine or five and vanishes. My friends and colleagues may find this hard to believe, because when I’m with my inner circle I’m the life of the party. I’m Frank the Tank meets Holly Golightly. I’m in my element. But strangers? No way. Stranger. Danger. Screaming my safe word all the way to the nearest safety exit.

The act of faking it becomes increasingly inane when it comes to mindless banter at the dog park. I have a dog. My husband and I adopted this little ball of fury eight months ago and I’ll admit, I’ve become one of those people. People who allow their canine to kiss them on the mouth, sleep in their bed and basically diminish any hope of having spontaneous sex again. Our idea of foreplay is getting the doggie into her kennel, or “luxury condo” as we have tried to convince her. I really love my dog. But despite being a reasonably good dog parent, I’m hopeless at the dog park.

I’ve never owned a dog in another city, so I may be attaching my experience to Los Angeles unjustly, but I suspect I’m not alone here. Dog park people are kind of basic, am I right? Interacting with humans is one thing, but conversing with another person via your pet is kind of fucked up.

Dog park person: Oh hello! Who do we have here?
Me: Uh. Abby. Her name is Abby.
Dog park person: Hi Abby! This is Peanut. So nice to meet you Abby. Peanut wants to know what kind of doggie Abby is?
Me: She’s a rescue. Not really sure.
Dog park person: Peanut thinks she’s part Chihuahua mixed with Fox Terrier.
Me: I’d say whatever mixed mongrels wander the streets of Long Beach, where she was found. But good guess Peanut.
Dog park person: *quickly drags Peanut in other direction*

The human-to-dog ratio where we live in Venice feels like it could be 2-1. That means 50% of the folks in my neighborhood own dogs, for the math prodigy’s out there. So unless I walk our dog at off peak hours – which I always endeavour to do – the chances of me running into someone with a dog are highly probable. In particular a few people, which despite my best efforts, I can’t seem to avoid.

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I’m a happily married woman. I’ve bought into the whole monogamy thing. Which is why I don’t need toned, tanned and highly fuckable young men walking about shirtless and barefoot and fancy free. Like this one fellow who is on the same human avoidance dog walking schedule as me. Strutting about with his dreads tied in a bun a la Citizen Cope, abs glistening in the hot SoCal sun. It’s too much.

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One day a woman with particularly plump lips among other fake body parts approached me and knew my dog by name. She asked if I was my husband’s girlfriend. I said no, actually, I’m his wife. Ever since, she seems to emerge every time I walk by her place so either she’s hot for my hubby or I’ve got a single white female situation on my hands.

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The most aggressive of the dog park people is this older gal with a southern drawl who sips wine from a to-go cup and let’s her dog run around off leash. Every time I see her she tries to convince me to join a Facebook Group for our local dog park, even though I’ve explained to her that Abby thinks Facebook is lame.

I know you’re supposed to socialize your dog and I do, among people I enjoy who also happen to have dogs. Otherwise I’m going to pretend to speak another language. I’m going to cross the street when I see you coming. I’m going say I’m late for a meeting, I left the stove on or my dog has fleas. Let’s spare each other the false pleasantries, let our dogs sniff each others bottoms and carry on with our day.

Follow my dog Abby on SnapChat @abby.dog and Instagram @abby.spike

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I slay. All day.

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Jim Morrison & Venice

James Douglas Morrison was one of my earliest rock star obsessions. My formative years took place during the tail end of the 80s hair band phenomenon through to grunge and alt rock, but bands of the 60s and 70s were ever-present in our house growing up. My dad’s vinyl collection was a vessel into an era of music so familiar to me it’s as though I was there. Maybe I was? In a past life, anyway.

I began listening to The Doors in my early teens, memorizing every poetic word of every song while listening to my Best of The Doors double CD set on repeat. I would make beaded necklaces that matched the necklace Jim Morrison wore in Joel Brodsky’s iconic “American Poet” photograph like an obsessed groupie. I even stole a huge sign from our local cinema promoting Oliver Stone’s The Doors, which hung above my bed until I moved out of my parent’s home.

In 2008 while in Paris I visited his grave at Père Llachaise Cemetery alongside other Morrison obsessives like me. Then, to top it off, I moved to Venice and live a short walk away from the home he lived in when the band came to be. That all probably sounds pretty creepy, but I swear I didn’t land in Venice just to channel the spirit of the Lizard King and lust after leftover hippies in leather pants, but it further proves my fandom is legit.

A lot of people come to Venice to be closer to Jim and the birthplace of The Doors, either as part of a larger pilgrimage or to relive the days of free love and flower children lining the boardwalk. And its true, his spirit is everywhere. Whether it’s in the form of a portrait by a sidewalk artist, part of mural or the sound of a Doors song blasting from a cyclist’s boombox on the bike path, remnants of Morrison are literally everywhere you look. I wonder if he had any idea how transcendent his words would be 50 years later.

One of my favourite Doors fan rituals was to sit outside Venice Bistro on the boardwalk Sunday nights just before sunset to listen to Peace Frog, their longstanding Doors tribute band. Gentrification has led to new ownership and the band has since relocated, not too far away though, at another bar in Santa Monica.

If you’re coming to Venice to get your Doors fix, here’s a good place to start:

  • Swing by Jim’s old Venice apartment, an orange building with a mural of Morrison himself, on the corner of 18th Avenue and Speedway, one block from the boardwalk.
  • See a show at the Whiskey a Go Go, where The Doors were the house band in the 60s until they were discovered.
  • Catch Peace Frog at their new residency at Zanzibar. The lead singer bears a striking resemblance to Jim, leather pants and all.
  • If you have time, spend a few nights in Mojave, ingest some hallucinogens and channel the spirits of Jim and Ray. Ride the serpent, man.

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The Doors’ John Densmore and Robby Krieger playing with Foo Fighter’s Taylor Hawkins and Stone Temple Pilot’s Robert DeLeo during a tribute to Ray Manzarek.

Now the soft parade
has soon begun.
Cool pools
from a tired land
sink now
in the peace of evening.
– Jim Morrison

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Venice’s Mosaic Tile House

It’s no surprise to stumble upon an unusually decorated home in Venice. Colourful murals adorning garage doors, alleyways brought to life with artful graffiti and decades-old artefacts lining pathways into overgrown gardens. It’s common to see artists using their home as an extension of their artistic expression here. But none as elaborate and ever-evolving as the Mosaic Tile House at 1116 Palms Blvd.

More of a love story than a tourist attraction, the enchanting 1940s house brought to life piece-by-piece over the past four decades, is the home and story of Cheri Pann and Gonzalo Duran. Married for over 20 years (Cheri mentioned Gonzalo was her third husband I believe), both around 80ish, their relationship and artistic partnership seem to have the fiery energy of a couple of 20-year-olds. His studio displays mechanical sculptures and multi-media pieces that challenge the meaning of devotion and love while her studio displays a floor-to-ceiling gallery of portraits of her beloved in various moods, expressions and color palettes. In a way, the place feels like a mutual shrine between the couple, but in no way do they make guests feel as though they’re intruding.

You can book an appointment to visit the Mosaic Tile House for $12 and Cheri offers a guided tour, sharing a few stories along the way until she disappears to let you meander through the home, studio, garden and surrounding yard – everything but the couples bedroom – as long as you like. Gonzalo was there too the day we visited, working on various projects in the front garden. He was kind enough to take a few artistic snaps for my husband and I, ricocheting our image from a reflection in one of their tiny, mirrored mosaics. My husband took a stab at it himself (last pic below) and did a pretty bang up job.

Our timing, luckily, was impeccable as we arranged to drop by in late March when the wisteria was in full bloom – an annual event that only lasts for about 2 weeks. Their front gate is dripping in the pretty purple blossoms, which made the visit all the more magical and colourful. Aside from the intricate detail and the incredible energy of the place, I was most surprised by the kitchen and bathroom, which are both completely covered in mosaic tiles and other curiosities. You would assume it would make the home look messy, but somehow the chaos of it all felt very neat and tidy. Even the hot tub in the backyard is decorated with a mosaic archway, you guys. It’s really a sight to behold.

Los Angeles has a lot to take in, if you’re traveling through, but if you crave something a little offbeat and local, stop by and soak in the kookiness and beauty of this place. Cheri and Gonzalo couldn’t be more friendly and gracious; you’ll feel like family by the time you’re saying your goodbyes.

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Looming deadlines and accepting feedback on a script

Have you ever set a goal right down to a certain day and time and instead of feverishly attempting to hit said goal, you sat at your desk with a glass of wine watching the minutes tick away? Letting your heart skip a beat – quite literally – with each passing hour until your deadline is nigh? No? Well, I don’t recommend it.

I set a goal to complete my second feature film script by TODAY in order to submit it to the 2016 Academy Nicholl Fellowship competition. Yes, that Academy. While I have completed my first draft (huzzah!), I need time to edit and revise and refine the thing so instead of killing myself to get it done (entries must be uploaded by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time tonight, tick tock) I’m going to blog about not getting it done. How’s that for productivity?

Self-loathing aside, Los Angeles is a great place to be if you’re learning how to craft and develop a script. Not great in the sense of risking everything to be here just to pursue screenwriting. Don’t do that. Great in that there are so many resources for writers, whether you’ve been at it a long while, or you’re brand new to the game. Live reads, lectures, table reads with your nieghbors, you name it. Hell, head to the Venice Boardwalk and read it aloud to passers-by. Fuck it, anything goes in LA.

Before diving into the joy of editing – and I do mean that sincerely, editing is the fun bit – I decided to take this time to review the notes I was given on my first script, which I submitted to the Nicholl Fellowship competition last year. My very first script, a story based in part on real events in my life followed by a whole lot of fiction. A story about a girl who is dating a boy who is horrible to her who a few years later turns out to be gay and in a strange turn of events moves in with the girl and her husband temporarily until one day the girl dies and in the end it’s all very monotonous, save a few surprising plot twists sugared with punchy dialogue. Obviously, I should stay away from writing my own film synopsis and/or movie marketing.

Here are a few notes I found helpful and not completely soul-shattering…

Title: However Unlikely
Genre: Romantic drama

However Unlikely has an interesting premise. In a reflection of modern Los Angeles society, a newly married woman helps out her gay ex-boyfriend by letting him stay in their home. After a while, it all makes complete sense and they all become close friends. There’s a certain so-crazy-it-sounds-true to the story.

The dialogue is real, the characters are not all well rounded, but they are all believable and enjoyable.

The writing is adequate and has energy at the outset that quickly diminishes. The descriptions are visual enough for the little action. The high point moments of dialogue are snappy and humorous. Unfortunately it can’t make up for the lack of action.

Here’s the thing. This is such a fun, cute, fresh premise. I really like the idea. The trouble is the execution. This script needs to go back a few steps and be restructured and tell the story it means to tell. And then there will be something really nice here. As is, there’s a lot of obstacles that get in the way of a good idea.

Good advice for any script. I may revisit that story at some point, but for now I’m submerged in something new. This time the story is set in Los Angeles, New York and London in the 1960s. This time the story is not based on my own experiences, but the memoirs of two notable women of that era. This time I’m really trying to knock it out of the park. Sorry, looming deadline, I’m gonna have to let you go.

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The funny thing about creativity and screenwriting in Los Angeles

I didn’t move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. This question comes up almost immediately when meeting new people here. I’m not surprised, LA is the epicentre of entertainment. But I have to admit, when I’m at a party and stumble upon people with “regular” jobs, it’s almost a relief.

My husband and I moved here for every other possible cliché you can think of. To escape the dismal Canadian winters, for a new adventure, a change of scenery. To do what most people wait until retirement to do – spend our savings on living our dream now, while we’re young(ish). Despite my “regular” job and my pure intentions of enjoying the spoils of an eternal summer, it doesn’t disguise the fact that I’m plugging away at screenwriting in my spare time. *Insert eye roll here*

I didn’t move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry. But, I happen to love film so it’s not so bad living in the epicentre of entertainment. Moreover, I’m fascinated by the art of creating a script. Stringing words and dialogue together to make people feel something, whether it’s inspired or angry or balling hysterically into a box of popcorn. Film is one of the most powerful communication vehicles in the world. Why wouldn’t I want to take a crack at it, even if nothing ever comes of it?

I’m a big proponent of creating things, even if no one ever sees it. It’s still an outlet. The act of being creative can be a reward in itself, if you train your ego to give you the freedom to enjoy it.

This has always been my mantra. There’s no reason why you can’t lead a creative life, just because you don’t make a living from being creative. Which is why my best friend – a singer who has struggled to find balance between his creativity and what he deems successful – recommended I read “Big Magic”, by Elizabeth Gilbert. *Insert second eye roll here*

I don’t have anything against Gibert, other than the fact that a popular book she wrote transformed Bali from a lesser-known island paradise I traveled in the 90s to a mecca for middle-aged women writing their own memoirs of divorce and enlightenment. I digress; I needed a fun read to get me through a flight from LA to New York a few weeks ago so I picked up her new book.

I was in town for the Tribeca Film Festival but also to soak in the energy of that grand old city and recharge my creative battery. Despite living in the epicentre of entertainment, LA can really suck ones inspiration dry. The beautiful weather we moved here for is an inconvenient distraction. How could I spend a Saturday inside with my laptop when I could be frolicking at the beach? I’ve heard people joke about how New York is where you go to write and LA is where you go to pitch your script. I’m starting to get that now.

I was halfway through a screenplay that, in large part, takes place in New York. Set in the 1960s amidst some of the most iconic locales of that era, I needed to physically be there to be sure I was getting it right. How can you write about Hotel Chelsea if you haven’t loitered in its lobby, taunted its ghosts or stood below it’s failing façade, held up by precarious scaffolding? How can you describe an afternoon in Gramercy Park if you haven’t lingered by its gate, hoping to sneak in behind a kind key holder? I appreciate not all screenwriters have the means to travel to locations where their story takes place just to soak it all in, but I guess that’s one of the perks of having a “regular” job.

Back to Gilbert’s book, I was at a place in my script where I needed a spark to get the thing done and one section really kicked me in the ass. The theory that ideas float around the universe until they land on a human being they can confidently collaborate with; a channel to transform them from idea to physical thing. And if the human doesn’t act, it will eventually float away until it can find another person to collaborate with. I realize we’re edging on mysticism here, but she had real life examples to back up her theory plus who cares what or who ignites a creative spark in you. Hold on tight and go with it, people!

I’m close to completing the first draft. Whether it was New York, Elizabeth Gilbert or the universe giving me a break, I’m not sure. But sometimes your creativity needs to be confronted. Sometimes you need to shake things up to shake out your story. Sometimes you need to get the hell out of LA, instead of letting an idea passively slip away while you lounge poolside posting Instagram pics.

One morning while I was in New York I was walking over the Brooklyn Bridge when two ladies behind me mentioned Vancouver. Excited to hear some Canadian accents I immediately struck up a conversation, declaring I too was from Vancouver but currently living in Los Angeles. One of the women asked me if I was an important actress they should know about. Immediately I replied god no, I have nothing to do with the film industry. Not yet, anyway.

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Coming to America

I’m not really much for milestones. My husband and I don’t really celebrate our birthdays beyond dinner and handwritten cards. Ditto for wedding anniversaries. Professional milestones come and go, more or less unnoticed, and I’m certainly not acknowledging the fact the my 20-year high school reunion is this year, although that’s more of an I’m-too-young-how-can-this-be kind of thing. It’s just not my jam. But today marks one year from the day we arrived in Los Angeles to embark on a brand new chapter, and I can’t help but call it out.

The hours leading up to our departure from our hometown of Vancouver, BC are so vivid, it’s like my psyche secretly tucked away those final moments because it knew I’d feel sentimental 365 days down the track. And wouldn’t you know it, my own subconscious was spot on. We had a great life that we were uprooting. But as I’ve written about before, that life became cyclical. Our friends were moving on to new adventures, many of them starting families and moving out of the city. California was our next step. Our foray into the unknown.

Two pieces of luggage each, some precious family photos that don’t exist digitally and a little black and white photograph of Vancouver that I ripped from the front of a tear-inducing farewell card a friend gave me were all we had room to bring. The first 6 weeks were spent bouncing between Air BnB’s while trying to figure out where we wanted to lay down some roots. Luckily, we followed longing over logic and settled on Venice, a neighbourhood in the midst of intense gentrification driving the cost of living through the roof. Nothing new to a couple of Vancouverites and we didn’t come to California to be landlocked. We needed to be near the sea.

In the past year we’ve created a home in a neighbourhood we love alongside neighbours we adore. We’ve made lifelong friends, established our careers here and adopted the cutest rescue pup you’ve ever laid eyes on (total crazy dog lady bias). We’ve road-tripped all over this great state with so much more to explore. We’ve built a life here.

The novelty of biking everywhere, walking around barefoot every day, having fruit grow on our trees in winter and watching pink sunsets adorned with silhouettes of palm trees from our kitchen window doesn’t get old. Not yet, anyway. I hope it never does.

I miss Canada, but mostly Canadian things. Like the CBC and maple tress in the fall and people who understand what I’m on about when I throw down a little French (you don’t realize how much you do it until you leave!). I miss Canadian values. I miss our families and our friends, who luckily are only a short plane ride away. I miss my girlfriends and the feeling of collective world domination that comes over me every time we get together and polish off a few bottles of wine. I miss writing from our “perch” in Yaletown, overlooking our rainy city. I think of those things often.

But as I write this, the sun is pouring into our little beach pad and the smell of orange blossoms is everywhere and I’m grateful. Grateful to our wonderful American friends, who despite what’s going on in the media at the moment are some of friendliest most welcoming people on the planet. I’m grateful my husband is just as happy as I am here. It’s been a wild ride, Cali. And we’re just getting started.

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Extreme close-up family selfie.

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Addict-turned-artist to Hollywood’s A-list: An Interview with Lincoln Townley

From facilitating lavish parties and lap dances in London’s seedy Soho district to portraying some of the most complex, celebrated and tormented souls in Hollywood, British contemporary artist Lincoln Townley has transformed his life through his art. Known for his ability to capture the turbulent energies of the unconscious mind that push the most creative and successful people to the edge of destruction, Townley has been commissioned to paint many of the world’s biggest stars, exhibiting his work in galleries all over the globe, including the National Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts in London and Art Angels in Los Angeles.

You began your career working in the commercial vehicle industry, then you were offered to head up marketing and publicity for London’s infamous gentlemen’s club – Stringfellows. Today, you’re exhibiting your artwork all over the world, including Art Angels in Los Angeles and were commissioned by BAFTA LA to paint six honorees of the 2015 Britannia Awards. That’s a remarkable evolution! Have you always identified as an artist and when did you know this was the path you wanted to pursue?

I have always painted, even in my darkest moments in Soho I would paint horrific images, which I felt helped me with the deep anxiety I would suffer whilst using drink and drugs to such a degree. Then, 5 years ago, the painting took on a life of it’s own when I decided to get sober and take my art to a new level. I never thought it would hit this level at all, but hard work, talent and lots of luck and perseverance is my key to success.

Your book The Hunger chronicles your battle with addition to booze, drugs, women and really an ultra excessive lifestyle working in, as you describe it, the underbelly of London’s Soho neighborhood. What was the moment or instance you realized you needed to make a change?

I wanted to change because I found purpose; purpose in my painting and in my relationship with my wife, Denise. We had what we referred to as our “year of madness” together and I saw that what we had would get lost if we continued to drink and use drugs, so I gave up and three months later she followed. Denise concentrated on getting back to acting as she is an award-winning actress and I focused on my art and began to paint and position my work in shows across London which now continues and stretches across the world, which is incredible.

Did your sobriety influence your transition into the art world?

Absolutely without doubt my sobriety changed my life; I took control for the first time in many years. The art world is extremely hard to get in to and I’m still not “accepted” as a real artist. It’s crazy as, 5 years ago, I hammered on so many doors when I decided to show my work. I visited dozens of galleries and they would even laugh at me when I asked to talk to the gallery manager…but who’s laughing now? I’m constantly being asked to join shows across the world and show my work in galleries – it really is a fairytale story but it’s not been an easy transition. I’m now opening in galleries in San Francisco, New York, Dubai and St Petersburg as well as showing in Mayfair at Maddox Gallery and Art Angel in Beverly Hills.

Your ICONS Collection, a portrait series of iconic figures in the entertainment industry, is a mix of commissioned works as well as celebrities you have chosen as your subjects. What is it about a person, or in some cases their persona, which inspires you to portray them in your work?

It started as a project to paint people I felt had the ICON status (in the world of entertainment) but I wanted to choose famous people who I admired for their vision and determination to succeed in such a chaotic environment. I now have a whole collection of ICONS and it has organically grown into the position that I find famous people asking me to create their image in my style, which I am very honored to do if the face fits!

Of all your portraits, which subject did you relate to or identify with the most?

My meeting with Charlie Sheen when I delivered him his portrait was the most exhilarating experience. He got the vision I had when painting him and connected with the portrait immediately, telling The Independent “I had captured the essence of addiction.” We chatted for ages about the depth of the portrait and the feeling I had whilst painting it as I watched YouTube footage of his expression and feelings. I could really identify with his anger and feeling of being lost in the madness of addiction.

Sheen isn’t the only hard-partying actor on your ICONS roster. You’ve also painted the likes of Mickey Rourke, Nick Nolte and recovering addict-turned-activist Russell Brand. Would you say that your art saved your life?

My painting continues to keep me grounded and focused on producing art, which touches people. My ICONS collection is growing and my choice of ICON is based on the energy and charisma of my subjects. When I explained my methods of painting to BAFTA LA they fully understood my feelings behind the image itself and I feel that’s why they have continued to want to use me for this year’s Britannia Awards and I’m very much looking forward to see who they are honoring.

You’ve donated many of your pieces to help raise funds for the ABR Trust, for which both you and Brand are patrons, and A Sense of Home, an LA-based charity dedicated to creating homes for young people aging out of foster care. How important is it to you to be able to give back to these causes?

I adore both charities and they both have different places in my heart. My patronage at The ABR Trust with Russell is fabulous and I have raised tens of thousands for them and they continue to help and guide people who need help with drink and drug related issues. I will continue to paint portraits to raise awareness and funding whenever I can. Russell plays a huge role in getting the good of the charity out there, through his social media voice. I was introduced to A Sense of Home through Max Kennedy of the Kennedy family in the US. I have not only painted portraits for them but I have rolled up my sleeves and assisted some of the young amazing people they help to create homes for, and hung the odd mirror and even grabbed a paint brush! I think the energy of both these charities is motivating for me to give back and help those less fortunate than myself and I will continue to do so.

Keanu Reeves Portrait by Lincoln Townley - NEW

Keanu Reeves Portrait by Lincoln Townley

Robert Downey Jnr Portrait by Lincoln Townley - NEW

Robert Downey Jr. Portrait by Lincoln Townley

Venice Walk Streets

When I travel somewhere new, I’m always on the hunt for something way, way off the beaten path. Places where only the locals go. Sometimes, you’re lucky enough to discover these places all on your own. A wrong turn that transforms into a serendipitous discovery. An inadvertent tip from an overhead conversation in a coffee shop.

There’s a place in Venice that, for some reason, no one really talks about. It’s not as iconic as the Venice sign or as colourful as the boardwalk but it’s a welcome retreat from the crowds and turistas.

The Venice Walk Streets, a set of pedestrian only inland walkways dating back to the 1900s, were originally part of Abbot Kinney’s vision to create a city in SoCal modelled after it’s Italian namesake. When the walk streets were first developed, mostly entertainers and people who worked at the Venice Pier lived there. Today, the streets are lined with some of the most expensive real estate in Los Angeles. Julia Roberts lived there until recently.

Despite the influx of affluent residents, the walk streets have managed to maintain their magical appeal. Elaborate gardens, gateways and kitschy artefacts adorn each property as passers-by try to discreetly take a peek. A tree canopy keeps the walkways mostly shaded, making it one of best places to go for a stroll during the summer months. It’s a bit like falling down a rabbit hole and stepping out into another era, psychedelics not necessary.

Although a friend – and long time local – told me about the walk streets, I’m sure I would have found this part of Venice eventually. It’s easy to lose track of time wandering around this wacky neighbourhood. You never know who or what you’re going to find.

The walk streets are Nowita Place, Marco Place, Amoroso Place and Crescent Place. I recommend beginning at Lincoln Boulevard next to Painted Ladies and following Nowita all the way to Shell Ave.

Venice Walk Streets

Venice Walk Streets

Venice Walk Streets

Venice Walk Streets

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