In Ottawa’s touristy Market district, a rare driveway-width alley runs almost unnoticed directly off of Murray Street. Between Navarra Restaurant and Not Your Father’s Barber, it leads to a tight and gravely patch of uneven land that is home to four parking spots and one story, all but windowless, beige, stuccoed, crisped edged box of a building. Once a dance school, the building that Ottawa Brands calls home couldn’t be better situated and better suited for Donald Lanouette’s needs. He’s the company’s owner-manager. Insulated by surrounding buildings, it is very quiet back there, in spite of being downtown.
Entry is through a steel door. Unusual for commercial properties in Canada, there is no vestibule. When you’re in, you’re in. The ceiling is high, and the space is open but divided, almost evenly in half, by purpose. A couple of offices and amenities are on one side, while a green screen sound stage occupies the other. Physically, the end of the industrial carpeting helps to define the delineation between the two, but for me, the border is more assuredly noted by the short ribbon of masking tape on the cement floor directly in front of the carpet’s edge. I’ve always assumed it to be a mark that was somehow related to filming.
I meet with Donald at his studio on Saturday afternoons for update discussions on the Alexandra Forever project. He supplies the coffee. With the artist, Steve Legge, having found his groove a while ago, and with our recent meetings leaning more toward next steps, it has quite often become just the two of us. More times than not, we have our chats within the ever-changing landscape of the soundstage. (At the best of times, even Donald’s personal furnishings are nomadic.) There is a very definite after hours feeling. A lamp or two from the office section is all that lights the place and we sit in whatever ambient radiance reaches us. During the summer the entry door is left open for the breeze. It doesn’t really do much for the internal lighting situation, except to provide a section of door-sized sharp contrast on an otherwise dim stretch of wall.
This past Saturday was a little different. We were joined on the soundstage by Donald’s partner Karen and my ex-wife, Jacqueline. The emphasis, for this meeting, was to be strictly on marketing. Artistically, we have a rough idea of where we are going over the course of the upcoming year. There is now enough backlog of work to keep Steve busy into autumn of 2017.
We have been chasing the completion of the graphic novel for a while. From inception, it took roughly two years to find an artist. Steve came onboard sometime around March 2014. The earliest dates of Adobe files showing his preliminary sketches date back that far. More-or-less, he’s been working on the project ever since. Donald had started talking about the end being in sight in late spring of 2015. And there it remained until the autumn, in sight but out of reach. Very recently, however, I saw inks of scenes close to the end of the story. Alas, it does seem that we are down to the short strokes.
It was with a mindset of preparedness that I wanted to shift gears towards marketing. Though I have every confidence in Donald and Steve to put together something amazing, I am not so naive as to think that the graphic novel will find its market simply by being awesome. Awareness is the key. During that Saturday meeting, I laid out a loose marketing plan for the graphic novel and my ideas for cross-pollination to other offerings like animation and the upcoming novella.
Almost off the cuff, Karen mentioned that there was no point in launching anything from November twenty-fifth to the end of January. There was no need on my part to fact check her. For starters, she’s a smart lady. However, even ignoring the specifics of the date range she gave, common sense dictates that promoting anything during the Christmas lead up or during the subsequent wallet hangover was foolish.
Whether we are ready at the beginning of December, middle of December or sometime in the following month, it doesn’t really matter. We’ve missed our launch window and we won’t get it back until February 2016. It took me four months to write a script that will have taken four years to get to market. When I say that we’re playing the long game, trust me, we are.