by Dave Stewart
And Yet I Blame Hollywood
Horoscope for Islanders
To revisit my history with The Buzz, I have to go back to my history with Peter Richards. A modest fellow, he won’t like this, but in order to be accurate it’s necessary.
I first became aware of Peter when I turned of age in the tubular 80s and started attending dances at the late and lamented Montage Dance Theatre. Along with Pat’s Rose & Grey and The Dip, it was a venue of choice for anyone and anything even vaguely countercultural.
It was at the Montage that I first saw Peter’s band Rella Bella play, and it was an eye-opening experience for me. Amongst the joints being passed back and forth between tables, here was a band in Charlottetown playing Patti Smith and Talking Heads songs. Like a stereotypical bass player, Peter was the quiet one, propelling the songs along without a word but with lots of precision.
I don’t remember how I became friendly with Peter. It must have had something to do with Sunday Cinema, a once-a-week matinee that Peter instigated and managed so that Islanders would have the opportunity to see the latest from filmmakers like David Lynch and Lars von Trier. These were held first at the Prince Edward Cinemas, then at The Charlottetown Cinemas, both no longer in existence.
While Sunday Cinema was in its heyday, I left to study film and TV production at Humber College in Toronto. When I returned three years later, Peter talked to me about his idea to open a video store in Charlottetown that would do the same thing as Sunday Cinema, but on a daily basis. He asked if I’d be interested in working there, and naturally, I was.
Off the Wall Video opened in a basement storefront on Richmond Street. We catered to open-minded movie fans interested in classics, world cinema, and underground atrocities, all presented on glorious VHS. As an employee, I got to cram our catalogue into my subconscious while mingling with customers who were, for the most part, like-minded people from all walks of life.
This was the background against which Peter began discussing his latest idea, a monthly publication that would cover the Island’s arts and entertainment scene. Not long after, Peter published the first issue of The Buzz with my friend Rob MacDonald as its first cover boy, dressed in Annekenstein garb, and featuring my first ever professionally published piece—an overview of emerging independent filmmakers.
That was twenty years ago. Over that time, The Buzz has grown from a slim newspaper (8 pages) to a two-section publication that is not only an invaluable schedule of upcoming arts and entertainment events, but it’s also an essential archive of the Island’s cultural life. As it’s changed, so have my contributions.
Initially, I’d submitted text pieces—interviews, movie and music reviews—but I eventually wanted to try something different. I wanted to attempt a cartoon strip that was a movie review, but one that also commented on the experience of going to the cinema and of the act of movie watching itself. Taking a phrase that my friend David Moses and I used to refer to movies that we didn’t like, I wrote and sketched my first And Yet I Blame Hollywood strip and presented it to Peter who agreed to publish it.
A couple of year into doing the strip, Campbell Webster’s Copie Zero TV + Media partnered with Fat Kat Animation (now Loogaroo) in New Brunswick to adapt the cartoon and turn it into a series of 26 animated shorts with me writing. The concept was sold and the cartoons were shown nationwide on CBC TV’s late night show ZeD over a season. It was a thrill for me, and it was a detour that I’d never have experienced if it weren’t for Peter and The Buzz. Not only that, but my participation in Peter’s print project was the true gateway to what was to become my career.
With the experience I’d gained in contributing to The Buzz, I developed my writing skills and was getting published on a monthly basis. While on a trip to Hong Kong, I responded to an ad in their version of The Buzz—HK Magazine—and presented my portfolio that was built entirely on Buzz pieces. As a result, I was hired as a freelancer for Cathay Pacific’s inflight entertainment magazine, Studio CX. I then spent the next year and a half, while still contributing to The Buzz, researching information about Chinese celebrities and making sure any attempt at humour translated both in language and in essence.
All this, in turn, gave me the skills and confidence to have my writing appear in two outlets I’d long loved – www.RetroSlashers.net and Rue Morgue Magazine. Currently, I’m awaiting publication in Rue Morgue of an interview I was lucky enough to have conducted with one of my idols, Brian Clemens, the man behind TV shows like Thriller and The Avengers, movies like Hammer’s Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter, and a recent recipient of the Officer of the Order of the British Empire designation. Again, a thrill for me.
While some of this is just icing on the cake, a piece of information that will further inform this reminiscence is the fact that I could never figure out what I wanted to do career-wise. To be honest, I was lost. I could never understand how some of my friends knew from high school that they wanted to study law or go into oceanography and took steps that led to these careers. While they were doing that, I was busy bouncing from job to job. Little did I know that the skills I was developing through my connection with The Buzz would lead me to discover not what I wanted to do, but what I am. As it turns out, I’m a writer. That’s what I do by day, crafting ads and content at Graphcom Group, a design/marketing company here in Charlottetown. That’s what I do at night, freelancing for magazines, organizations and websites. That’s what I do in my free time when I write scripts, music, and any other number of projects I could name. This is a satisfying discovery, one that gives me a sense of purpose that I’d been lacking. It’s something I think of a lot, and it’s something for which I give Peter and The Buzz credit.
A major influence on my life to be sure, but what else has my continuing connection with The Buzz meant these past twenty years? The Buzz, Nancy, Yanik, Maggie, and most particularly Peter have joined forces to provide me with a training ground, an outlet, an employer, a friend, a support, a sounding board, a direction, a resource, and a opportunity. As not just a contributor, but a reader too, I’m lucky enough to have seen the ever-changing effect that Peter has had on the arts scene on the Island, some of which I’ve documented here. His contributions have been absolutely invaluable to its perseverance, rise in stature, and its growth. Still working somewhat silently behind the scenes propelling the song along, simply put, Peter and The Buzz are two of the things that make living on PEI worthwhile.
Dave Stewart is…
A grad of Humber College’s Film & TV Production program, Dave Stewart sketches about movies, fakes a monthly horoscope with his near-sighted 3rd Eye, and interviews movie types for The Buzz. He also writes about horror flicks for www.RetroSlashers.net and sometimes Rue Morgue Magazine. His Buzz writing dates back to its first issue—an overview of emerging independent filmmakers. Dave provides commentary and reviews on a freelance basis for CBC Radio, and he was a writer for Cathay Pacific’s inflight entertainment publication, Studio CX. 26 episodes of And Yet I Blame Hollywood, his Buzz movie review-in-cartoon-format, were broadcast nationally on CBC TV’s ZeD. Florid, one of the short films he directed and co-created with Rob MacDonald, was the recipient of the 2004 Viewer’s Choice Award at the Reel Island Film Festival. An ad man/writer at Graphcom Group, Dave is one half of Chimp, a ponk rock duo with MacDonald making up the other 50%. Their debut CD is Thundercrack!. Dave and Rob are at work on their latest movie project, Shoot or Be Shoot. This August, Dave is also curating and participating in Arthole, an art show at The Guild featuring interesting artwork by interesting Islanders.