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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

An Overnight Success... in Only 25 Years!

This post is all about being in it for the long haul.

Let me tell you about my dear friend Stephen Ayres. (Remember that name. You'll start hearing about him soon, I promise... and not just here on my blog.)

Cheers to Success!

I met Steve in our first year at Trent University in 1986. He was relatively shy compared to my general 'out there' self, but we were in a lot of the same classes and the same residence hall. He came to see me in a terrible play I was in during first term, and we both worked on a production of Othello later in the year: him backstage and me 'out there' as Emilia. We also ended up doing some short films around campus-- just 'cause we wanted to.

Steve was-- and is-- a 'film guy'. He loves movies. He has a quick wit, a great eye, and a way with storytelling. He's always wanted nothing more than to be a part of it all. After earning his BA at Trent, he moved on to Ryerson for film and the shy guy really blossomed.

Jump ahead a few years.

Steve met and married a lovely Australian woman, Kim. They ended up living Down Under in Sydney and have two great kids... now teenagers. Kim works in health, and has become very busy in her career with a cancer foundation and the specialty training of nurses. Steve ended up working in banking and finance for years, and all but put the idea of filmmaking on the back-burner. Where does the time go?

Yes. Where does it go? And what about the idealistic dreams and goals we have in our younger days? Do they ever entirely vanish, even as people build a family and a home, and make all those realistic tough decisions along the way... like getting a 'real' job? Who was that clean-shaven guy in the mirror wearing a suit and heading out everyday to a job he loathed in the core of Sydney's financial district?

So-- a few years ago-- a very unhappy Steve decided to give himself a little time to get back to screenwriting and see what he could do. Kim's job is good, and he took a package from the bank when he left. It was enough to buy some time: not indefinite, but a bit of breathing and writing space.

He sweated over ideas and honed scripts. Pitched to agents and producers. Felt hope. Saw hope dashed. Made his kids' lunches and ironed their school uniforms. Cooked dinner for Kim and did the laundry and the yard work. Soul searched. Nearly gave up but never did. Got into some prestigious Australian screenwriting programs, and inched further ahead toward that elusive dream.

Finally, a couple of years ago, a big producer finally took proper notice of one of his many scripts. Su Armstrong produced a little movie called Good Will Hunting. You may have heard of it.

Wow. Surely this was the proverbial 'it'. Any second now his film would be shot and hit the big time, right?

Not quite.

It still took a lot of back-and-forthing. A lot of pitching to get a director and a cast on board. That meant chasing a lot of dead ends and the heartache of schedule conflicts. Even with the main players falling into place, funding still needed to be secured... and that meant getting an international distributor on board to win the funding bodies' confidence. It's a long, slow state of limbo with no guarantee.

But? He kept that hope alive through some very dark moments.

And we don't get there alone, folks. His family and friends stuck by, and enough people along the way believed in his writing to make it happen. And now a distribution agent is backing the film... and suddenly it's a go!

I am THRILLED to be able to tell you that my pal's screenplay 33 Liberty Lane is going to be shot this summer directed by Peter Hewitt. Yep. That's the Hollywood Reporter carrying the story. And yes, those are the incredible women who are starring in MY old buddy's first produced script! Not too shabby.

I am so, so proud of Steve. For over two decades I've watched-- from up close and at a distance-- as he took baby steps forward and got shoved back time and time again by bad luck and circumstance, and the vagaries of the film industry, and real life and family being more important. Here we are at last!

This story is an example to all of us who struggle to keep that spark of hope alive through the darkest of times. We can do this. We CAN.

Now go follow your own paths, and I'll stop blogging and get back to my novel in progress.


  1. This is a fantastic tale. Yay! As an author friend just the other day, Nice guys may finish last but they have the most people waiting for them at the finish line :D

    There's nothing wrong with being a late starter. Yay for Steve!

  2. I count myself a very lucky woman for being able to call myself a friend of Steve's. Thank you Ruth for putting together such an insightful and moving portrayal of what Steve has gone through, I'd hate for anyone to forget the hard yards once his fame is legendary.

    Luv ya Steve!