I was turning 13 during the summer of 1989. My family and I had been living in Holland Landing, in one of the new houses on Stegman Road, for just about a year. Our living room window looked out in the direction of the drive-in theatre where we could see screen one. Many nights I spent staring out that window with binoculars watching the first Michael Keaton “Batman” movie as it had just been released. I became very good at reading lips from this practice as, sadly, the radio signal transmitted from the drive-in died out about 100 m's from my home.
My family friend, Darren Robertson, whose mom was the lunch supervisor at H.L.P.S. for many years including during my time there, worked at the local hardware store. The Holland Landing Hardware Store as a matter of fact, then a staple (pun intended) of the Grist Mill Plaza. Today that unit is occupied by the E.G. Soccer Assn. and a political office if memory serves me correctly. Back then Lentini's Pizza was in the western most unit, where the Wild Wing now resides. The convenience store was still there, but larger (I would later work there for a short time) and there was also a doctor's office and the same pharmacy there is today.
Darren had worked at The Holland Landing Hardware Store for some time and one Sunday he called my household in bit of a panic:
“Matthew, it's Darren. Is Mark there?” He said urgently. He always called for my brother as the two of them were closer in age, 5 and 6 years my senior.
“No” I replied. “What's the matter?”
“Nothing, just get down here. You're never gonna believe this!”
“What? Why?” I replied, but he had already hung up.
I decided to listen to Darren, after all, he had never made a strange request like this before. It was just after lunch and both my parents were busy doing something, so I put on my running shoes and made the walk toward the hardware store, cutting through the park just east of the plaza like I had a hundred times before. I kind of expect a big hoopla when I got there: cop cars, an ambulance, something to mark the occasion, but when I arrived everything seemed normal. That is, until I got in the front doors.
There, standing at the counter, was easily one of the largest human beings I had ever seen in my life. I'd seen him in countless movies and on SCTV of course, but it didn't do him any justice at all. Later in life, when I read his biography, I learned that he was actually just under 6'2” tall and his jolly girth made him even more imposing, but you could tell within seconds of meeting his gaze that he was easily one of the sweetest human beings you would ever meet.
I think my heart stopped beating. I remember feeling flushed and warm all of a sudden. And really nervous. I had heard the rumours that he lived in the area, Queensville I think. Later I would learn his family owned a farm on Doane Road. But there is nothing quite like the feeling when rumours become reality.
There he was: John Candy at The Holland Landing Hardware Store. It just didn't seem real. What the heck was he doing there? Since first entering the store I found myself stashed in one the aisles, kind of peering at him between the merchandise. He was just standing at the front counter, shooting the breeze with the old guy who ran the store. He was wearing old looking leather shoes, really well worn, the kind you slip on without socks. No socks, obviously, khaki shorts and a big plaid shirt, brown and white I think. He had a shaggy beard and fedora like hat on top of his head.
He glowed with kindness. He greeted every person he saw. Spoke to them with respect and made eye contact with everyone. No Hollywood facade here. No entourage. No pomp and circumstance. Just a really nice person.
Apparently, he had offered to buy anyone in the store whatever they wanted. He offered to buy an old man the drill he was interested in, asking a pair of little girls if they wanted the water-wings they were bugging their parents to get for them, and purchasing what looked like gardening stuff for himself and his family. I was too shocked to take advantage of this opportunity, but there he was, star of the recently released “Uncle Buck”, “The Great Outdoors,” “Summer Rental,” “Splash”, the immortal “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” and my absolute favourite of at the time “Spaceballs.” I was in the presence of comedic greatness and the greatest influence in my later acting career and I was hiding behind shovels and hoes. Pathetic.
The time seemed to stand still but I'm sure it was just a few minutes. Eventually he finished his transaction and started for the door. I had to do something. I had to get his attention. For him to notice me. For me to tell him how much I loved his work. Somehow I managed to stumble back towards the door just as he was heading out. There I was, this gawky pre-teen, just standing there dumbfounded. He must have noticed me watching him because he paused before he left and I managed to put out my hand which he shock with great care and thoughtfulness. He asked me my name and I hopefully mumbled something accurate and he said he was pleased to meet me.
And that was it. He was gone. But not forgotten. My buddy Darren was standing at the counter with a funny look on his face. He had watched me go from a normal kid to a shy little bunny in the blink of an eye, but kudos to him for not making me feel bad about it. We stood there at the counter and talked about the experience for what seemed like hours. The whole store took part actually. It was no longer a place of work, but a celebration of a local celebrity that brought so much joy to us all. The best part was he was so nice, so down to earth, so Canadian. It was an experience I would obviously never forget.
At the time I wanted to be a major league baseball player. Made a run at it too. But a major injury ended all that. During my recovery I watched a lot of TV. A lot of “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and a lot of SCTV. It would inspire me to actually study at the world famous Second City Toronto, the same place John Candy had trained. I even got to grace the stage at the old fire hall location where he and the other greats of his time had cut their teeth. You could feel their presence there. Later I would start my own comedy troupe: the Canadian Improv Showcase and as homage to John and his contemporaries, I auditioned my talent just as they had detailed their experiences. It just seemed the right thing to do.
Some years later I read the biography “Laughing on the Outside: The Life of John Candy” by Martin Knelman and learned a lot about this larger than life individual. One thing that stood out to me was that he apparently was not interested in being apart of the film “Spaceballs.” That he shot it because of a contractual obligation. Well, today, if a star does something they don't want to you would know all about it. It would be all over the tabloids and in the media. But John Candy was a professional. He was so professional that he put on a spectacular performance in a movie he didn't even want to do. I'm sure he had a change of heart with how well the film did, but it speaks volumes about the nature of his character. In this day and age of “Character Matters” in schools and whatnot, that type of character needs to be celebrated and that is one of many reasons why I have made it a personal goal of mine to have Mr. John Candy immortalized in our community in some way. A street, school or perhaps a theatre named after one of the greatest men in all of Canadian entertainment history.
It has been way too long since I last blogged. But life does that too you doesn't it? As an actor and entrepreneur and husband, many times little things that matter get forgotten.
But there is no time like the present!
A lot has changed since my last blog, I've left my long time agent and am now a lone wolf you might say and my entrepreneurial efforts have taken up a lot of my time.
I'll admit, I was very trepidations when my agent and I parted ways. It wasn't really my intention to leave him when the conversation started via email, but it became clear to me very quickly that it was time for a change. Silly me, I thought I'd jump ship and be with another agent in no time but the industry has changed a lot since I first started making a fool of myself for the world to see. I ended up going the traditional route of putting myself out there and seeing what agents were interested, but none that were the calibre that I needed showed any interest. I was not about to start all over again with an up and coming agent who less standing in the business than I do, that would be a waste of my time. I hope that doesn't sound pompous, I just have to put my needs a little higher up these days and if I had done that sooner, who knows what might have happened.
I did find an agency that I really liked, but they feel I can't compete with their existing talent so they suggested I add some more credits to my resume and keep in touch. I kind of liked that: she presented me with a challenge! I took it and started representing myself and I've done better than I have for the past 3 years in the first three months. It couldn't have come at a better time actually because, unfortunately, my family has had a string of emergencies since the beginning of the year. My Mom has been in and out of the hospital, my Mother-in-law has suffered a stroke and is on the long road to recovery and my beloved dog Gandalf passed away just last week.
But with the bad comes the good and I am always striving to be an optimistic person and keep that mentality. My businesses have been doing very well, especially the Knights in the Classroom which is expanding at a more rapid rate that I first projected it would. With it, the improv troupe should also see a surge but that's another challenge in itself. The live theatre industry is changing. More and more people are staying home and watching TV and are less interested in a live performance unless it is presented by a majorly known talent. Sadly, many of those major talents have inflated ticket prices to the point where theatre is becoming an elitist venture reserved for the very well off. But instead of curling up into a little ball and disappearing, I am actively changing my strategy to make things work. Rolling with the punches. Insert whatever cliche for not giving up you want. But it all takes time and a lot of effort and if it takes too long, history suggests that my amazing talent will lose interest, become less available and move on. That's okay, because if someone doesn't know the value of my efforts, then it's better if they just move on. There are a lot of talent out there who would love to be a member of the Canadian Improv Showcase.
I can honestly say that I'm rather content right now. Busy as hell. But actually rather happy with the control I now have over my acting career. With the family emergencies I don't know how fair it would be to any agent to be booked out sporadically and at the last minute. It's probably best I rep myself. Funny enough, one of my friends suggested I start my own agency and I might just do that. I've started by trying to gain full access to the major casting sites for my own purposes and with a little help from a few kind and compassionate casting directors, I should have that hurdle jumped. I already run a management company helping my wife's publishing pursuits, perhaps I'll just expand that.
I better redesign that logo...
Wow! It has been way longer than I intended it to be in between blogs. Even though I'm not confident that anyone is actually reading this stuff, I have made it a goal for myself to write regularly. You see, I used to write all the time. It was a passion of mine and I very much wanted to be a writer or perhaps a journalist.
I had that intention, after giving up on archaeology due to the whole getting my hands dirty thing - plus I hear it is very much like being an actor anyway (constant begging), and deciding it would be a good idea to have something else as a back up in case my baseball career never took off. Do you have my rookie card? Did you ever see one of my many home runs? That's because I never got past rep ball due to injury. But that's another story for another day.
I kept this thought in my head all the way through school. I wrote constantly in elementary. One of my favourite things to do was write sequels to movies I loved. I remember in the later grades writing a sequel to the first Michael Keaton Batman movie. It was 900 pages long (small pages) and I introduced and killed every Batman villain I had ever read or seen on the Adam West TV show. Wow, I would have been every studios nightmare!
In high school I took every English class I could. Along with art, drama, computer and phys. ed. But most of my credits were in English. I'm sure anyone who now knows of my love of the medieval period would find it surprising to know I disliked History in high school. My grade 9 teacher at Denison, Mr. Richie was awesome, but my grade 10 teacher (who will remain nameless now that she entered local politics) spoiled the subject for me due to the fact that she would ask a question and pick one of the people who didn't have their hand up to answer and then ridicule them for not having the correct information. Oh what a peach she was!
My idea in high school was to become a journalist/photographer/novelist. I did two job shadows in grade 10, thanks to Mr. Salloum for humouring me. He let me job shadow the editor of the local newspaper. Did I mention I lived in a really small town? The job shadow was a bad idea: it made me think journalism was going to be very boring. How I didn't figure out that it was due to the fact I was in a very small town, I have no idea. Temporary stupidity on my part for sure. My second job shadow was awesome and all hush, hush: I got to job shadow a Playboy photographer. No, really! I was so stoked but my teacher swore me to silence ahead of time so he didn't get any flack. I still remember getting to the studio in Toronto and meeting the photographer. That's really my only memory because after that I saw the girls (3) in robes and everything else was a blur. They were very nice to me, but could see how nervous I was so they had some fun with me. I didn't have a particular job, but someone thought it would be hilarious if I was responsible for touch ups on set on the naked girls. Oh my! Sounded awesome at first but I was shaking like a leaf! "Oh, I need some powder on my bum!" one would say and I would do my best to do it. I didn't get to enjoy it the way I had fantasized, but that's pretty normal for a teenage boy of 15 I would think. It didn't turn me off photography the way the other job shadow did, but it did make me even more nervous around girls. I do remember distinctly finding it fascinating how they covered those girls in paint and called it make-up. No wonder they were so comfortable nude, it was like they were dressed other than you could see every contour. What a day that was!
So as the end of my grade 12 year came I had to decide what I was going to do post-secondary. I thought I would go to college for journalism. Well, a recruiter from Centennial College said that writing was a thing of the past, that newspapers would be obsolete before I finished my course because of this new 'internet' thing. I took him at his word and quickly looked at my skills. What were my best skills and what did I love most? Writing, art and creativity. What do you get when you put those three skills together? Advertising! I applied to 4 schools and got accepted at all 4. I went to Georgian College in Barrie and graduated with honours and top grades in my class. I went onto work in a few agencies, many firms and several marketing departments and I can honestly say that it wasn't exactly what I expected, but I learned a lot. The skills I learned in school and on the job really helped me build the four companies I now own and operate. I continue to use those skills on a daily basis.
So what is the culmination of my literary pursuits that lead me to college and now beyond? I was nominated by the Georgian College Alumni Association for an Ontario College Premier's Award for Outstanding College Graduates.
And I still love writing. I've written a few spec scripts, sitcoms and screenplays in the past few years but nothing has turned into much yet. I've managed my wife's publishing pursuits by acting as her agent, manager and even publisher! She now has two books out and we are in the research phase of a historical thriller which we're going to try and write together!
It's amazing how these things work out... MRL
I'm not really a very politically minded person. I don't vote in one particular way. I weigh the options and issues each and every time and exude my democratic right to like or dislike any political party at any given time. I also rarely weigh in on a given topic... until now.
This whole situation with the Ontario Government and the Teachers unions has got my ire up! Now, it could easily be said that I am not an impartial individual in this matter as my wife is a teacher and a great deal of my livelihood comes from the education system, but I consider myself a pretty levelheaded kind of guy who can be objective and call a spade a spade.
That being said, in this case, the Liberal government is completely wrong. Bill 115 is an utter waste of time. I understand the government needs to save money, but there are other ways than denying a particular group their basic constitutional rights. You cannot take a groups right to strike and make it illegal. What many people, idiots who like the sound of their own voice or morons who are jealous that they don't have as good a job as a teacher, don't realize is that if Bill 115 stands and the provincial government is able to take away a teachers right to strike and eliminate collective bargaining, then they can do it to everyone else. It's like when Hitler took over France and they did nothing to stop him (well, not nothing, but historically they did very little). The fact that they put up so little a fight only strengthened his regard for battle and he continued on his marry way. I know that's a pretty strong comparison, but you get my point. It just can't stand!
What makes matters worse is that the teachers have already agreed to most of the concessions on the bargaining table. They've agreed to the wage freeze. They've agreed to new rules for new teachers, which is unfortunate. They just have to work out the sick days, which they are trying to cut in half and delete all the stockpiled days teachers have which was a major bargaining chip in previous contracts, and settle matters with their pension and benefits. The teachers are not being unreasonable. Morons who talk about their sicks days and holidays and two months off a year need to visit their local proctologist and get their head out of their asses. Teachers don't get paid during the summer - duh! And for those morons I say this: I challenge you to spend a day in an elementary school and tell me at the end of that day if teachers deserve any less than they get. I challenge you!
Now, not all teachers are created equally. Not all schools either. I'm sure there are areas where things need fixing. But the education system in Canada is one of the best in the world and a big reason for that is because the teachers are valued and paid well. All you have to do is look to our neighbours to the south to see the ramifications of not taking education seriously. Everything else in society spirals from there. Without a good foundation, society crumbles and teachers and education are a big part of our children's foundation.
The saddest part of this whole Bill 115 situation is that this whole scenario has already played out in western Canada. It went to court, where Bill 115 is headed, and it was struck down by the Supreme Court. Why bother wasting more money when this whole thing was supposedly about saving money in the first place?
Is that an interesting title or what? I just came up with that this morning. I was going to do the whole "actor's blog" Star Trek stuff again, but it just didn't feel right. Besides, the date is just under the title anyway... So what shall I blog about this time? I don't know. I decided to put the activity in my planner for today and I think it's important to do what I set out to do. I just hope it doesn't suck.
Perhaps that is what I should blog about! I could go on about the acting industry, about what it's like to run several small businesses or many other meanderings as I do have the gift of the gab. Don't get me started on the whole teacher thing (as my wife's been an educator for 27 years) but I think today's blog should be about getting shit done!
I think the hardest thing about being 'self-employed' is getting shit done. Obtaining a sense of accomplishment is very important to humans, at least to ones that aren't stoned or drunk... And being self-employed that can be difficult. Now, being in the arts doesn't help matters because we can literally go months without working in our field. I am now up to over one full calendar year without work from my agent (opps! there I go on about the industry again), but being self-employed does offer a real interesting ball of stress. All the pressure is on you to be successful. All eyes are on you to see if you can do what you set out to accomplish. Will you sink or will you swim? Sadly it's almost always in between.
Running your own business is awesome! (I thought I wasn't going to blog about this this week?) You work for yourself! No one to boss you around! No bullying! You can work in your pajamas (I currently am) and make your own hours. However, those hours can be endless! It all depends on the person.
I am a Virgo. Ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you that many 'typical' Virgo traits I possess.
http://www.astrology-online.com/virgo.htm defines the traits of the Virgo to be as follows:
Modest and shy
Meticulous and reliable
Practical and diligent
Intelligent and analytical
Fussy and a worrier
Overcritical and harsh
Perfectionist and conservative
Now, modest and shy I can be. In large groups of people I don't know I am very shy. Some might have a hard time believing that but it's true. As a kid I would spend hours not speaking at all, until it felt like my lips were glued together. It wasn't until college that I really came out of my shell. Most of my friends from high school would contest to being surprised that I'm now an actor, I'm sure.
Meticulous and reliable I am to a tee! That is totally me. Practical and diligent too. As well as intelligent and analytical. Fussy at times, a worrier on occasion. Overcritical and harsh? Only of myself. Perfectionist and conservative? Perfectionism is very passe for me. I'm over that. Only during moments of weakness do I struggle with that and it's always of myself, never of others. Conservative? Depends on your definition. I have never done any drugs, nor do I have any desire to do so (not that I damn anyone who does, it's a personal choice. Don't judge me and I won't judge you), but I wouldn't call myself conservative. Simple at times, maybe, but considering what I've done on stage and on camera over my acting career, I would say no.
So what does being a Virgo have to do with running a business? Well, those traits impact how I run my businesses. For the improv troupe I think it's fantastic. My cast members can rely on me and my judgement because of those traits. They know I'm safe on stage and that I always have their best interest in mind because it's those interests that are best for the company.
Same goes for my Knights. But it goes even further there because we are dealing with weapons and combat so safety and reliability are paramount.
As a fledgling manager/publisher, currently handling my wife's writing career (www.amazon.com - look up Andrea Hertach and buy, buy, buy!) being a Virgo can only be a good thing. MRL Management is slow to catch momentum, but I think that is only because of how little time I have to work on it. Money is unfortunately a necessity in today's society so I spend more time on my companies that are established and can generate income easier. But it will take off soon. My wife's writing is fantastic! It's only a matter of time before it really takes off. That's where my diligence comes in handy.
I do wonder sometimes if being a Virgo impedes my acting though... I am a creative person, but the shyness doesn't help sometimes, especially during awkward audition situations. And my modesty almost cost me my first interview with Talent House way back when. If it wasn't for my amazing wife Andrea, who tooted my horn when I couldn't, the kids and I (we were going in as a package deal) probably wouldn't have been signed on. Luckily she was there to save the day. I don't know if my modesty has cost me gigs, but it's just so hard to tell. One of the worst things about being an actor is the "why not?" factor as I call it. You do an audition, it went amazing and yet you don't get cast. Why not???!!! You almost never find out. In 15 years I was told once. I was at Jigsaw Casting. Shasta brought about 6 of us in for a commercial (I can't even remember what) that was shooting that afternoon. We had to do this physical thing where we went to close our car door and our hand was stuck to the handle. It was a great mime activity and I thrive in mime! (On some level that is rather sad I know...) The audition went superb and I nailed it. We sat in their subway style waiting room and she came out to tell us the news, only because we had to go from there to wardrobe pretty much right away. I was addressed and told
"Matthew, you did a great job, but you're actually a bit too young looking for the spot."
I'll take that any day!
But that was the only time I ever found out why and I think it's that why factor that really kills some actors. It eats them up inside and I completely understand it. Luckily I've been able to adopt a bit of a mantra that really helps me out:
Show up prepared. Do your job to the best of your ability. Take note of the shoot dates so you're available. And forget about it as soon as you leave the room.
That is the only motto I can use and stay somewhat sane in this industry. It's simple and I'm sure I wasn't the first person to think of it, but it works for me and it keeps my head held high while I keep trucking hoping for my next opportunity to do what I love - act...
Actor's Blog: star-date 10 09.12...
Okay, that was revealing my uber-geekness pretty early on, I've got to admit. Truth be told, I'm not a huge Star Trek fan either, but when I planned this that was the first thing that popped into my head so I stuck with it.
Funny enough, I've had the idea for a blog for some time, but kept putting off. I don't really know the purpose of this blog, other than to get writing again. I know this is my 'acting website' but if there is one thing I've learned in 15 years of acting it is that the phrase "jack of all trades" was inspired by an actor.
Actually, it probably wasn't. It was probably first used during the medieval period when people had to do virtually everything themselves to survive. Yeah, I'm a medieval geek too. Have a sword collection and the whole bit. I even travel to schools teaching the medieval period and sword fighting with some of my acting buddies. I even own a few sets of armour...
So where was I? Oh yeah! Why I'm writing this blog: to get writing. Yes, I'm an actor and improviser (touring with the best short-form improv troupe in all of Canada, the Canadian Improv Showcase) but as an actor you have to be multi-talented. You have to do whatever you can to make ends meet so you can be available should an acting gig actually arise. So many of us actors write. I know many that do. I have been an avid writer for many years; started when I was a little kid. Back then it was all about the "and then" and the "suddenly" but I strive to be a bit more complex now. I remember in grade 8 writing a story about Batman. It was to be a sequel to the first Michael Keaton BATMAN movie and probably would have made a better plot then the actual sequel did. But there was one major flaw: I killed all of Batman's enemies in one storyline. Yep, if I was in charge Bruce Wayne would have hung up his cowl years ago! Hilarious...
So if I'm trying to get back into writing, why am I writing a blog and not a screenplay or sitcom? Well, I dabbled a bit in that, and fully expect to put more energy into it, but for the time being only have the time to do this. You see, I did a few spec scripts, put them down and worked on a few original sitcom ideas and even pitched one! But it sank like the Titanic. Luckily there was only one casualty: my ego... I picked up my spec scripts and wasn't pleased when I re-read them. So I put my writing on the back burner to pursue stuff that actually made me money: the improv troupe and my amazing medieval group: The Knights in the Classroom. Not only that, my lovely wife Andrea (www.andreahertach.com) just so happened to have not one but two children's novels get self-published on Amazon.com (Swamped and the soon to be released The Monster Mob) so I put my energies into managing those pursuits.
Basically I haven't had time to write.
But I'm trying to change that.
So if you'll excuse my cheesy openings and shameless self-promotion (that's what these are for!)...
I'll try and blog whenever I can.
~ MRL ~