Caught on 35mm.
Photos of my bubble on 35mm and 120mm from 01/21. xo
Weed shops have been deemed an essential service, thank God, and remain open for business. That being said business is growing! The new One Plant Kensington had me out to shoot some product and promo for their brand new store. Here is a little tease of the campaign to come. xo
We got a call from our pal Delroy the next morning inviting us out for a night on the town. He would pick us up at 8PM. With our evening to look forward to we set out on the jitney for another island adventure.
Love Beach is tucked away down a secret staircase off of Compass Point resort. Because of its hidden entrance it is often empty. An entire stretch of pristine white sand and turquoise ocean all to ourselves. We felt safe and free. We stretched our muscles in the sun, floating around, feeling the divine weightlessness that comes with salt water submersion. I was so full of gratitude for the friendship of these two incredible women. This trip is just the most recent chapter in the evolution of us. It is the scariest chapter, but not the craziest. I look forward to reminiscing about all of it when we are old and grey. Hopefully, our love for each other will only have grown. Long friendships are rare and so special. There is no one else in the world I would rather have had a near death experience with. For all the shock and terror, we handled ourselves calmly and efficiently and managed to come out the otherside unscathed but for a bit of residual PTSD. Connie and Jenny, my ride or die babes for life.
Back at the house Delroy and his friend arrived right on time. They drove us over to Lyford Cay, the very wealthy, very private end of the island that Prince Andrew, Michael Jackson, Oprah Winfrey and Robert DeNiro have all enjoyed. The gated community on steroids was in the news just before we arrived because Canadian fashion mogul Peter Nygard was just busted for using his oceanview mansion there to run a sex traffiking ring. We pulled up the long dirt road to Philosopher’s Smokehouse, an outdoor party complex with twinkly lights, picnic tables, a cute DJ, and what smelled like delicious BBQ. Under the sweetest protection of our generous friends we wiled the night away dancing until we dropped. I made a gorgeous new friend who looked like a Bahamian Queen. Her name was Cornelia and she had been Nygard’s personal assistant until the week prior. I was dying to hear stories, but we parted ways with promises to get in touch for a brunch that never happened. Connie, Jenny and I stumbled back into the house for a nightcap on the upstairs patio. Everything was alright.
Jake and I hopped a train from Paris back to Brussels where I said, “Goodbye.” It was an epic sibling Eurotrip and I was sad to go. Jake’s contract at the wind farm had him there until August so we made plans to meet up back on Canadian soil at my wedding on Vancouver Island planned for August 8th. Exciting times!
I set out to the Brussels airport at 4AM. There was a wet, heavy snow falling beautifully in the lamplight. Jake said that’s the first and only time he saw it snow there. At the airport I got chatting with a South African gentleman who said he was an epidemiologist. His work seemed very focused on Malaria, despite my urgings to shift the topic to the Corona Virus. He was en route to a conference in Russia where he was hoping to get more information about it. He didn’t seem alarmed in the slightest. It was only when I reached customs in Toronto on Feb. 26th that there was warning of the virus. All the staff at YYZ were wearing masks and gloves and inquired if I had been in Wuhan in the last 14 days.
Back home, I was welcomed by a very sick fiancee. He had a high fever that broke my second evening home. I figured it was a bad flu and was happy he appeared to be getting better fast. Maybe he had Corona? Maybe not. We were not able to get tested either way and he recovered back to perfect health. We were very lucky.
I did my pile of laundry and packed my bags again, this time for my bachelorette party which was happening in Nassau, Bahamas a few days later. The news about the virus in China was alarming, and there were a few more cases in Italy, but still nothing too out of the ordinary. I figured I was fine to take off. And off I went…
Jake and I were delighted to be putting our bust of an evening in Prague behind us as we boarded yet another flight, to Paris this time, on the first day of Paris Fashion Week. The streets were vibrating with excitement as designers, photographers, models and celebrities descended upon the City of Love. Fashion Week is a bit like hunting season, except the hunters are shooting with cameras, not guns, and the pray are not wild animals, but wild young giraffes of the human sort with cheekbones that could cut glass. A model in the wild is an easy thing to spot. The six foot tall waifs in their Instagram-approved outfits stand out of the crowd like attention-hungry peacocks in mating season. Jake deftly observed that the paparazzi vying for their “street style’ photos were decked out in flashier garb than their lithe working prey. The streets are the runway during #PFW. All you have to do to get published on the international fashion media outlets is go for a stroll in your favourite haute couture. Jake and I were unprepared in the outfit area so we played ninja and stayed out of the limelight. We strolled around the city, pausing to act as voyeurs to the scattered fashion events popping up around town. One particular square was full of posing fashionistas and skaters. We posted up on the steps in the sun and soaked up the glorious scene.
Of course, we indulged in coq au vin, steak frites, and the finest, cheapest beaujolais in the world. I got so excited about finding one of my favourite wines for four euros that I dropped my bag full of wine bottles and smashed them all to bits, but that is neither here nor there. Jake cheered me up with a replacement bottle asap.
I wonder what the world of fashion will look like after this pandemic recedes. Will there still be room in the global economy for the frivolity of fashion? Germany has rolled out a staggering €50 billion aid package for small businesses that boosts artists and galleries. CBC had a two hour program on last week discussing how out-of-work artists should be bailed out by the government.
On the one hand, arts and culture bring an extremely important element of humanity to this strange time of social isolation, but on the other hand, you could say being an artist is a complete luxury undeserving of government funding that could be used more effectively in the social sectors. When you sign up to be an artist don’t you automatically agree to put the sharing of your work with the world first and hope to syphon a few dollars off the top to feed yourself and keep a roof over your head? Being an artist is risky business. Often we are working on a contract to contract basis without any safety net. We sink all our money into our work and then hope and pray people find it valuable. There are no guarantees. We must be creative in our work and also, in how we get paid for our work. Now that we are in this new era, it’s time to reassess our streams of revenue and use our creativity to imagine where we can go from here. I was flabbergasted that artists were getting so much airtime when it seems like our healthcare workers, government workers and grocery store employees should be getting our undivided attention. What do you think? Should the government put a special stimulus package together for the freelance artist community? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Bidding a sweet adieu to Budapest, a land of wonderful parties, spas, food and vintage Korean clothing, Jake and I embarked upon our next stop; an overnight in Prague. We were to arrive around 11PM and had a dinner reservation at a neat-looking restaurant in an old clock tower for 11:30PM, a 20 minute walk from our $30/night Air Bnb. That was the plan anyway…
We were flying Czech Airlines for the first time. Again, we breezed through security and customs without a hitch. No one was wearing masks or gloves or taking any precautions yet regarding Covid-19. When we reached our gate, Jake took a peek at the plane we were about to take. It was a smaller propeller plane built by Bombardier. Jake mentioned he had worked on the design for this particular model at his stint as an intern at Bombardier last year. In his words, “I hope it doesn’t fall out of the sky.” And with that promising warning, we hopped aboard, sanitizing everything in our sight, of course.
The hour-long flight was peaceful up until our approach to landing. There was a torrential storm hovering over Prague. Out the window all we could see was horizontal precipitation in the flashes of light caused intermittently by the plane’s caution lights and the actual lightning bolts touching down all around us. The little plane felt like it was being tossed around by a bored giant and many people around us emptied their dinners into the lovingly provided barf bags onboard. Then the news came that we were unable to land for 45 minutes due to the weather. So we proceeded to circle in this storm for the next hour as our anxiety levels soared right up to our current altitude. I said to Jake, “If this is it for us, I just want you to know I love you, man.” And Jake said, “You know, it’s not such a bad way to go. We’ll be worldwide! The two Canadians who perished on the crashed Czech Airlines flight. We’ll be infamous!” It was a moment completely out of our control, so we relinquished ourselves to the machine. Finally, we were cleared for landing, which was rocky, but we survived.
Back on solid ground with our nerves totally shot, we set out about getting to our AirBnb. We missed the public bus, and splurged on an Uber. The keys for the AirBnb were at a sketchy shawarma spot down the street. We got the keys, dropped our bags, and hurried over to the bell tower restaurant to try and rescue the evening. If the walk there told us anything, it’s that Prague is haunted. The streets were deserted. It was a great scene for a murder. The looming clock tower could have housed Frankenstein back in the day. The troll woman who manned the lift up the tower refused to let us in, saying the restaurant was closed despite the numerous signs around posting the closing time as midnight, which was still a half hour away. Turned down and discouraged, we headed back to the shawarma spot and proceeded to get drunk on cheap beers and lebanese food. A slew of very drunk English tourists kept the joker guys behind the counter busy and entertained as they fed them and charged them way more then was fair. I went to order another dish and they said because I was Canadian I wouldn’t mind paying more than the fair price and charged my card without asking. What had been funny until that point then turned gross as we realized the racket these guys were onto every night. I plead karma and one of the cooks said he had twelve children, so fuck karma. Point taken. We retreated back to our AirBnb and got in a couple hours of sleep before our early flight to sweet Paris…
The flight from Brussels to Budapest was as smooth as a Corona-infested stainless steel countertop. We checked in online and sailed through security and customs. No one even checked our passports. No one was thinking about Covid-19. Life was still normal.
A friend said to me yesterday, “We lived in the time of large gatherings.”
Our first stop in Budapest was the Szechenyi Spa & Baths, the largest spa in Europe. Imagine Versailles, but switch the gardens for hot spring pools. We proceeded to sweat and cold dunk on repeat with trips to the outdoor pools in the interims for heavy waterfall massage pouring out of ancient fountainheads. Groups of excited people were celebrating their bachelor(ette) parties there as the bar was selling mulled wine and the shining sun kept everyone’s spirits bright. That evening there was to be a Sparty, the infamous spa party, but Jake and I decided as neat an idea as that was it could become a literal cesspool of germs. We decided to go dancing instead.
We stumbled into Akvárium Klub where Rebekah was spinning and proceeded to dance for hours to her high-energy, driving, mechanical beats. The club was wall-to-wall packed. The crowd was swept up into a trance and time was suspended as our feet left the ground.
We escaped both large gatherings unscathed and Corona-free thankfully. Looking back, I wonder when we will be able to hit the spa and party again. I am feeling a little less free than just a week ago. Our next stop is Prague…
Jake, my crazy smart little brother, got an amazing contract working at a wind energy company in Brussels for the year. I knew I had to visit him at some point during his stay there, and, with the film industry being in its slow season and my photography exhibit over and done with, late February seemed the perfect opportunity. My flight was booked for a February 19th departure. The day before I boarded the plane to Brussels, my mother, an avid viewer of CNN, showed up at my place with three ziplock bags full of face masks, medical grade wet wipes and rubber gloves respectively, with very stern warnings of the Corona Virus and detailed instructions of how to keep myself safe on my travels. At the time, we knew that the virus could live on surfaces for concerning lengths of time and that it could be avoided by wearing gloves, frequent handwashing and refraining from touching ones face. Armed with my Mom’s love, I masked up and flew to Europe.
Jake was awaiting my arrival at BRU. We strolled around the beautiful city in the rain as I reveled in the wonderful street art, new and old, like the tourist I am. We stopped in at the Delirium Brewery for a pint. Delirium is my favourite beer of all time. It’s perfectly balanced, delicious, and very strong. After one Jake and I had quite a buzz going and the conversation took a turn toward gender fluidity and online dating. We needed some fresh air! And food. Back out in the rain, we went to a lowkey, well-priced restaurant specializing in traditional Belgium dishes recommended by one of Jake’s friends. We shared a main course of delicious beef stew and decided to try a popular, pricey place for another course. The decor and the architecture at the second spot were impressive, but the chocolate foie gras was dry. The lesson to revisit is to always trust a local’s recommendation over internet hype. Still pouring rain, we traipsed back to Jake’s subterranean bachelor pad like two excitable fillies in Springtime. The reflection of the lamplights on the rained-upon cobblestone streets interrupted by the octogonal shadows of hurried umbrellas gave the evening a special filmic quality that can only be found in old Europe.
We discussed the virus. Jake was worried about staying in Brussels as it began to spread around Europe, but honestly, no one was really ringing the alarm yet. Life was still normal. We packed up Mum’s precautionary supplies and readied ourselves for our flight to our next stop: Budapest!
I know. I know. It’s already January 8th! It has been a whirlwind holiday and New Year! I was on a deadline to finish my most recent directorial foray; an acid barbie music video for my friends in Mexico City who did ‘Pachanga.’ Look out for that video in the post to follow and take it as my excuse for the tardiness of my year-end wrap-up. 2019 was full of abundance on all fronts! And extremely busy. So let’s get to it. My top ten professional highlights of 2019:
Now, this was my #1 highlight last year in anticipation of publishing this book much earlier than October 2019. As it turns out, getting a book out into the world is a long and arduous process. I worked with the wonderful people at Bookart in Montreal and we brought the book to life. The final product ended up being 11″ by 16.5″ aka HUGE with 90 silk pages wrapped in a paperback cover. The book features the full photo series of The Goddess Array each accompanied by a sonnet detailing the myth of each Greek goddess. There is a perforated tear-out print of Nike Goddess of Victory in every copy numbered and signed in a very limited edition of 62. I am so pleased with the result. The presale saw half of the books go and the remaining half will be for sale at a proper book launch early February in Toronto. Keep an eye on this space for your invitation! The book is available for purchase at the following link as well: https://jennifertoole.com/Shop-2
2. Acceptance into the International Cinematographers Guild
The application process is long and the interview was stressful. I was sure I had bombed it when I got a call one day in April from the coordinator offering me acceptance! Then she said, “Are you available today?” And all of a sudden I was on the set of Titans! I worked on three big shows in 2019 which I will tell you about below. I have been a creative freelancer my entire working life and now, with a union behind me, I feel a new sense of support and security. It is blissful.
3. Suits: The Final Season
I guess I can spill the beans now that it’s all over Netflix. Mike comes back! 🙂 Working on the camera team of Suits was an incredible challenge for me as it was my first big show stint. I had a real learning curve to overcome. It was also my first foray into the lengthy hours film people work. 14 hour days are considered “not bad.” I was curious if I could muster the stamina and I did. It was a joy to work with Katherine Heigl, Gabriel Macht, Sarah Rafferty, Amanda Schull and Dule Hill. They are all seasoned pros and made the work easy. Rick Hoffman, however, is such a delight to be around and had me and the rest of the crew in stitches laughing all the time, which is the best medicine. He made the days shorter, that angel.
4. Tiny Pretty Things: Season 1
“Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed series featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.” – Google Reads
This series is going to be FIRE! I can’t talk about it as it isn’t out until Autumn of 2020, but be sure to watch it on Netflix when it does come out. The scandal! The drama! The dancing! I’m excited to watch. The Tiny Pretty Things set was a dream to work on and the camera team became my family for a couple of months. It was an experience I will never forget. Here’s a pic of me slating:
5. Good Witch: Season 6
Now, I’m not a big fan of the show or the Hallmark channel in general, but it is the top rated station in the U.S.A. so millions of people love and appreciate it. Personal opinions aside, this show was a joy to work on. It’s a well-oiled machine being in its sixth season and the camera team members were relaxed and eager to teach, which was awesome. As my third show of 2019 it was eye-opening to witness and compare the wide variety of styles of lighting and shooting from three different DOPs. As I watch, I learn and soak it all up like a sponge.
6. Blenders Pride Fashion Tour
I got the awesome opportunity to work with the elegant and hilarious Priyanka Chopra on this Blenders Pride commercial last winter. It was shot by the legendary DOP Robert Richardson, who’s CV includes all your favourite films like both Kill Bills, Platoon, The Doors, Natural Born Killers, JFK, Aviator, Inglorious Bastards, Casino, Django Unchained, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood etc. If you don’t know of him look up his catalogue and be entertained for days. It was quite the experience hanging out with Richardson for the week. He is one of Hollywood’s elite. If you buy me a glass of wine I’ll tell you the whole story. 🙂 Amber Fairlie of The Manor Salon in Toronto came through in a hair emergency and saved the day. Many thanks to P.M. Lisa Ericsson for giving me this opportunity. It was a blast! xo
7. Vogue Italia
The fashion bible published two of my submissions in 2019 to PhotoVogue.
The first photo features jewellery by Mindham Jewellers on model Teesh. It’s called “Still Life w. Canary Diamonds” and was styled by Asia Vickovic.
The second image is a black and white 35mm still of my little brother River Rae and his snake at an abandoned women’s penitentiary in Davie, Florida.
8. Poppies to Remember
To commemorate Remembrance Day, the team at The Manor Salon put together a beautiful shoot featuring gorgeous headpieces by Fresh Floral Creations with an emphasis on the poppy. The photos turned out to be quite regal as the models balanced their enormous crowns while teetering on the side of a highrise. We added some couture into the mix and got some powerful photos. Take a look:
9. I AM IN THE WORLD AS FREE AND SLENDER AS A DEER ON A PLAIN
I received my first camera credit on the big screen for this sensitive look at the cold, dry experience of coming of age in the era of online dating.
“A young woman (Micaela Robertson) begins to figure out what she does and doesn’t want from the men in her life in this evocative piece from Toronto writer/director Sofia Banzhaf…” – NOW Magazine
After discovering the pleasure a CBD massage candle can bring to aches and pains, I decided to make a bunch so that all my friends could have the same experience. Then I thought I would test my marketing skills with a commercial for the product starring dancer Alison Keery, and much to my suprise, the Goddess Massage Candles infused with CBD were a hit! I sold out and even had them carried in a store on my block. I had to put a stop to the whole thing as my focus is on filmmaking not candle making, although now I have something to fall back on if times get tough. 🙂 Here’s the ad campaign:
I am currently developing my first dramatic short. I wrote the script when I was 20-years-old and thought I would bring it to life on screen. It is a dark, abstract exploration of a young woman’s sexual perversions and their roots in her childhood trauma. Should be uplifting! I am excited to share it with you.
Here is a photo of me for good measure, taken after the Good Witch camera wrap dinner a couple of weeks back:
Here’s to an abundant and fabulous 2020! Thanks for reading. xo