Sunday, May 26, 2013

Behind-the-Scenes Stories from "The Movie Years"

Technical crew in the Trenton studio, 1927.

Occasionally, I still get asked to speak to a group about that time in the history of our town, Trenton, Ontario, when it was home to a flourishing movie-making industry.

The reason for this is the small book I wrote about it back in 1989. Although it was never a bestseller, it continues to sell locally, and once in a while someone who is interested in early Canadian film requests a copy from my dwindling stock.

A person from the audience once told me, after one of my presentations, that it was the little behind-the-scene stories he most enjoyed. It was as if I were "telling secrets." Now I make sure to include a few in every talk.

Like the one about the cameraman from Universal Studios in California who kept a wolf in his backyard while he was here in Trenton.

Or about Tyrone Power Sr. who came to town in 1919 to star in The Great Shadow. He brought with him a "beautiful lady." His secretary, he called her, but the locals had other ideas. Especially when he used to like to borrow a yacht from the local pharmacist in order to take his lady out on the water for a bit of sightseeing.

And there was Louise Cardi, the actress who played the temptress, the estaminet girl in Carry On, Sergeant!" (1927–1928), who comforts the lonely soldier. Cardi had had no previous acting experience before this movie. She was a shop girl the director's wife had spotted in a New York City department store.

The early film stars were familiar figures on the streets in town, shopping in the local stores, looking for rooms to rent. And if you happened to own a coonskin coat you could sell it for almost any amount to one of the movie people. Or so the story goes.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

More on School Visits. My May Events.

A successful author visit.
"I trust you are still expecting me to make a presentation at your school next week."

If you're a writer who does school visits I hope you've never had to send an email like the above. I have, and it's most uncomfortable. All the arrangements had been made a couple of months prior to the date of the event, and then — nothing. I was left to wonder if it was still "a go." I'm sure I'm not the only one this has happened to.

In my opinion, one of the most important elements in a successful author visit is frequent contact between the host and the guest. Every couple of weeks is good. Don't worry; you're not bothering me. It gives us both the opportunity to make sure we know each other's expectations.

How many students will I be talking to? Which grades? Where will I be speaking? For how long? Will I have the use of the school's digital projector? A Smartboard? Are the students familiar with any of my books?

I would like to suggest the contact person be someone other than the administrator or principal. She already has too much to look after. The librarian or library technician, even a classroom teacher is a better choice.

If you are the contact person at the school, remember to let your guest know where they may park, which door to use (many schools keep doors to the outside locked). Hopefully, the guest author has told you her ETA. It's a great idea to have someone at the door to greet her, perhaps a responsible student. The greeter might show her where to hang her coat and sign in, and then take her to the place where she'll be presenting. Remember to introduce her to any staff members present.

A memorable visit with school classes at Campbellford Library

The best visits are when the whole school is aware that there is an author in the building. It creates excitement. How lovely to be greeted with huge smiles in the halls. "You must be the author!"

I've visited schools where they've even posted a "welcome" on the outdoor display, or hung a banner in the entrance hall. But even a mention in the morning announcements over the PA is special and makes the author know she is appreciated.

And here's a tip to presenters who are new to this game. Get the matter of your fee out of the way early on in your conversations with the contact person. I hope they will ask you outright what you charge, but otherwise, it's up to you. It's the professional thing to do.

My May Events

Reading from Growing Up Ivy at the Community Living Book Club
Wednesday, May 8th. 1:30–2:30
3rd floor Meeting Room. Belleville Public Library. Belleville

Presentation on The Movie Years, my book about Canada's Film-making capital, Trenton ON, 1917–34
Brighton Probus Club
Wednesday, May 22, 11 a.m.
King Edward Community Centre, Brighton