Taylor Clarke: The Road to Hollywood

By Kat Lyzun

Early in the third episode of the documentary series Reelside, we meet a struggling Canadian screenwriter named Matthew Bass. Drinking vodka from the freezer in a tiny California apartment, Bass laments the harsh reality of his profession. But as the documentary rolls on, we see Bass swing from dejected acceptance of his fate as a low-tier screenwriter to selling his script and lounging poolside as he prepares for a meeting with a major producer.

The doc, directed by Thunder Bay’s Taylor Clarke, focuses on Canadian comedy juggernauts Seth Rogen and his writer/director partner Evan Goldberg, who initially struggled but eventually became entrenched on Hollywood’s “it” list with blockbuster hits and cult favourites like Superbad, This is the End,and Pineapple Express. The pair is endearingly Canadian and humble about their success, but there’s no denying they stand out from the crowd.

The lows and highs of the film business are all too familiar for Clarke, who splits his time between Toronto, L.A. and his hometown. He felt it was important to show Bass’s still-unfolding story as one that embodies what it really means to work in film. “I didn’t just want to show Seth and Evan and have people think it’s easy,” he says. “Seth and Evan are talented and amazing but they are an anomaly. It rarely happens so fast and for people so young. I didn’t want to just show success… [And] Bass seemed to perfectly encapsulate the struggle. I tried to make something for aspiring screenwriters. Something I would have loved and found insightful and helpful five years ago.”

Five years ago, Clarke was struggling to find a foothold as a comedy writer in Toronto’s television and film industry. In late 2011 he wrote a script about a notorious (fictional) celebrity chef named Grant Soto. On a whim, he created a Twitter account for Soto and began tweeting satirical and cutting remarks about the Toronto food scene. Much to Clarke’s surprise, Soto exploded. Torontonians loved it. The restaurant industry both loved and hated it. Suddenly he was invited to restaurants all over the city and the Toronto food scene was buzzing about this anonymous gourmand.

Eventually a food columnist coaxed him out of anonymity, and the exposure kicked his career into high gear. Production companies expressed interest in his script, he landed an L.A.-based agent and multiple projects started unfolding. His most recent screenplay, The Influencers, about the vapid existence and shameless publicity of certain lifestyle bloggers, is now moving to production.

Reelside was Clarke’s first mainstream directorial project, brought about by a longstanding connection to Goldberg, who has helped him with scripts over the years. He considers Goldberg one of the good ones: crazy smart, incredibly hard-working, and still willing to help out up-and-comers. Clarke is waiting for his big break, but if and when it comes he hopes to be much like Goldberg.  After all, he says, “you never know who will be the next big thing.”

Reelsideis a series of documentaries on Canadians working in film, airing on The Movie Network.