Over the past decade I’ve worked on many independent Canadian film and television projects. It has been my privilege to work with dozens of new voices and faces. As I approach a 40-year milestone as a professional actor, my sense of responsibility has intensified. Last year, I represented ACTRA on Parliament Hill, became a member of the IPA negotiating team, and I am currently running for ACTRA Toronto Council.
The Canadian Film and Television industry has matured. We are no longer emerging, we have arrived. We no longer pander to our own Canadian-ness. We are comfortable simply being who we are. Audiences are responsive, appreciative and opinionated. They are listening to what we have to say. And our stories matter.
Last year I was returning home from the US and arrived at the Canadian border checkpoint. I was in a hurry, I inadvertently jumped the line and stalled my car all in one go. After a fierce glare, an excruciating pause and a couple of questions the immigration officer turned to me and said, "Are you Bucky Haight?"
Not only was he a fan of a small, indie Canadian film, Hard Core Logo, he knew it well enough to remember my character’s name. Then he told me how Hugh Dillon and Callum Keith Rennie had passed through on his watch, and listed half a dozen Canadian musicians as well. The film was cool, it was Canadian and it spoke to him. It was over 15 years old and an essential part of who he was.
A small episode but one which resonated for me.
Our audiences are responsive, appreciative and opinionated. They are not passive. They are surprising. They are ready to claim ownership of the characters we portray and the stories we tell. But even at the best of times our careers as actors are unstable. A fair wage and a safe and equitable workplace are essential. The growth and sustainability of our profession is the bedrock of our industry. In this regard, ACTRA is essential. Our industry matters, and is changing rapidly. A technological revolution has meant the way our stories are being seen, our likenesses are being broadcast, is changing daily. There are many challenges ahead, many difficult discussions. Ongoing issues of equity, diversity and representation to be addressed.
It is a meaningful time to be an actor in Toronto’s film and television industry. That’s why I’ve put my name forward for consideration as a Councillor in the upcoming ACTRA Toronto elections. I’m proud of who we are and where we are as an industry and as a union of professional actors. I recognize the need for a strong and participatory membership. There’s much work to be done, it’s time to be involved.
Every couple of weeks I stand on a ladder and lunge at my hedge with cartoon shears, keeping Nature in check one snip at a time. Passers-by look up. A church-parade of nods and smiles: "Lotsa work eh?", "Looks nice", "Keep goin'!"
I realize I'm 'that guy in his garden'. I think of unshaven men at the Botley Allotments back in Oxford. Not me surely. But I'm probably their age now. And just as odd.
A child runs by and a young woman follows on high alert. Her sweeping eyes latch onto mine. They blink, and flicker, then her face ignites. "Oh my God, I LOVE you!" Cascades of laughter. The child looks back, grins as they link hands and skip down Beaconsfield Avenue. A Supernatural fan! She loves my work! A moment of immortality. I am Relevant and Tall. But I know as I wobble atop the A-frame, this unruly privet will outlast me.