I spent a very interesting, perhaps even tumultuous weekend in Toronto this past week. Currently working out of North Bay, I was sent an invite to a black tie gala in appreciation of those who supported the creation of the soon-to-be-hit web series, My Roomate’s An Escort, created by and starring Katie Uhlmann, and Trish Rainone.
Those regular readers of Swept will perhaps have seen the previous articles published about the show: its cast, and its crew, and therein lies the reasoning for my invite. Taking the five hour bus ride to Toronto warrants staying more than one day, so I figured to make a weekend ordeal of it. Thursday afternoon, Ontario Northland (true to its saddening and decaying reputation) had me on a bus that broke down not thirty minutes out of North Bay. Meaning to reach Toronto by 6:30pm, I was rather put out by the wait, to say the least. A second bus arrived, and while the WiFi would continually cut out, as I attempted to work…at least there was something partially functional about this ride.
It had been over half a year since I had moved from Toronto, to go up North where I found the air more invigorating, and the pace not so purposefully break-neck. So reaching the city in the stifling, pouring rain was perhaps the most apt, and vindicating way to arrive. Waiting for my Uber (a wonder of transportation that doesn’t exist in North Bay), I was met with what the general population of the city would call a “crazy”, who came charging up the sidewalk, screaming at the top of his lungs, laying waste to the condiments of the burger stand to the right of the Greyhound station entrance.
7:00pm, my Uber Pool arrives. for the next forty minutes the thankfully calm, patient, and surprisingly forgiving driver navigates the city through the pouring rain (which tends to increase the daring stupidity of many a driver downtown), and rush hour traffic. Travelling with a pair of gentleman, and eventually one exasperated, but very friendly woman, picked up from Union Station, we all hailed the accountant in the back for his Rain Man-like abilities when it came to knowing area, and postal codes from damn near anywhere in Ontario.
Arriving at the Revival Film Studios down on Eastern Avenue (after circling the lot for a few minutes as the only customer left in the car), I wished my driver the best of luck for the rest of the night, and strode, in denim and leather, to the entrance of the gala. Thankfully, before many people had arrived, I had time to change into my dress pants, black and purple shirt and tie, and red velvet jacket. And then it began! Almost immediately Katie and Trish came to greet me, offer me boxed water, let me know when the bar would be open, and then introduced me to their Executive Producer, David Carruthers who was very generous with regards to my previous article, and who had what seemed to be a genuine smile on his face the whole night through (not something I’ve been accustomed to in this industry).
Trish then pulled me to the red carpet where (I thought) we would have a photo…that was until she pushed me forward, as she started walking away. Not the most engaging, or comfortable person in the world at events like this, I called her back, and she thankfully pulled Katie along for what is a much better photo, solely for having them in it (if only my hair looked as nice as theirs that night). Trish then introduced me to Saverina Scozzari, an internet personality who interviewed me about my support for the show. An interview which, if she has any sense of production and promotion value, will not end up being posted.
But then the bar opened, and over a few glasses of wine, and bubbly, I met some very interesting people from all over the country (and indeed met up with some old friends I had not seen for some time). Walking around, trying to get an idea of what people thought of the web series, I received some surprisingly mixed feelings. There were those who loved the first few episodes, but lost interest further down the line. Those who were not hooked by the first half of the series, but fell in love with it by the end. There were even those who actually had not watched the series at all, and just heard there was a party at the studio, and figured free drinks were each good enough reasons to crash.
Of course, if I happened to be walking the studio lot, and turned to see Katie or Trish in their gorgeous dresses, that might also incline me towards the party. Dresses, I might add, granted them for the night by Narces, a Toronto-based women’s formal line by designer Nikki Wirthensohn Yassemi. If ever there was an escort you would hope to be your roommate, it would have to be one dolled up in a Narces dress.
Regardless, I managed some time with Trish amidst the four hundred-strong hoard of actors, directors, producers, journalists, photographers, writers, spouses, and so on, and we chatted a bit about the future of the series.
I asked her about the writing process, which was soon to start again, especially with a literary agent on board, and leg work for a pilot episode for television in the works. “The first time was in a coffee shop, and it was a good writing session. And then next time I went to her place with wine…and we still talked about the characters, and we still got work done, but I think we realized we got more done over coffee.” As a writer myself (and a long-winded one, some might have noticed, it was wonderful to hear that the day after the gala, the two ladies would be doing what Trish enjoy the most: getting down to the writing again.
There was something wonderful that weekend, knowing that, while I continued along on a rather debaucherous tour of the city, making up for lost time with friends, special friends, and whisky, these two wonderful women were working, and continue to be working on what will hopefully be a resounding success in My Roommate’s An Escort. Reflecting on my time in Toronto, I realized that as difficult as pounding the pavement to create, and network, and get even just a toe in the door (without it being slammed and broken) may seem to be…it’s actually far easier than one might think. Even in my somewhat socially uncomfortable way, I still managed a small collection of new friends who link, one way or another, to certain people and places where there is wonderful art being created.
If nothing else, I’d say that black tie gala showed me how very reflective MRAE could be, of the business in which it is housed. Up all night, scraping for that dollar, willing to do a lot for the right amount, and easier than some people might think. But don’t think that’s necessarily an insult. Why is it that easy? Because over four hundred people, whether they knew it or not, came out in support of a project that, before last year, only two people had even humoured the idea of. It’s that community of artists that no matter how vapid, petty, competitive, or confounding they may be, can manage to come together and briefly spend some alluring time with an escort called success.