The Vancouver Observer gets Heganized
Several years ago I began attending Vancouver's Celluloid Social Club. Every now and then a ghostly figure would emerge from the shadows, glide onto the stage, and slay us with his natural wit.
It was always one of the highlights of the evening listening to funnyman Ken Hegan reiterate stories or banter hilariously as he introduced the next group of artists.
Eventually the multi-talented Hegan relocated to The Big Smoke and the club shifted gears. I thought we'd sadly seen the last of him.
A few months ago when I heard that Hegan was in town for an event, I couldn't pass up the opportunity
for an interview. Many months and just as many emails later Hegan delivered and he didn't disappoint.
WD: Could you please tell us a little about yourself.
Weight: 177 lbs
Skin: Freckled and handsome
Home town: Kamloops
Current city: Toronto
Hobby: Left-shooting power forward on my beer league hockey team, the Winnipeg Wheatfield
Career: Screenwriter, director, humour journalist, travel writer.
Writer of four feature comedy scripts.
Writer/director of five short films that have screened at over 100 film festivals including:
Tribeca, VIFF, Whistler, and L.A. Shorts Fest.
More than fifteen TV series as writer, director, or producer, broadcast on CTV, CBC,
TSN, The Comedy Network, CNBC/Slice, W, and Discovery.
Over twenty-five awards/nominations for my articles, scripts, and films.
My column: I write the Self Helped humour column in The National Post. The concept; to fix my
deeply flawed life. I’m following a series of self help gurus. I won’t stop until I’m
Home: I live on the west side of Toronto with my dog Kyle. But my future is a big beautiful
question mark, so I could follow my work to L.A., New York, or Vancouver.
Last home: Vancouver for seventeen years where I hosted the Celluloid Social Club for ten years.
Born: Kamloops, BC
Interests: Watching film noir and living film noir. Yelling at CNN.
WD: What are you working on right now?
KH: Writing a travel piece on Cuba for The National Post. Polishing my feature script, Action Figures, for a Toronto production company, creating a sitcom pilot with my Vancouver co-writer, and doing an obscene amount of push-ups to make up for all my post hockey beer.
WD: What excites you about the path you've chosen?
KH: One of my favourite moments was premiering my short film Heart of Whistler at the Whistler Film Festival. Picture over a thousand people in a packed theatre on the festival’s opening night, middle of winter, snow on the ground.
I was sitting nervously in the front section. I turned around to watch the crowd laughing at my film’s jokes and satirical action sequences. Norman Jewison was in the theatre. More importantly, my whole family, including my late father, were all with me. It was an amazing experience – and it was all finished in less than 7 minutes. That was an incredibly powerful feeling…being able to move a crowd to cheers.
WD: What was the first significant (present position related) job you landed? And what's the journey been like?
KH: My first TV writing job was for a CBC Vancouver arts show called Zero Avenue back in the ‘90s. Great gig. I wrote/narrated links and host dialogue for the show and my exec producer was kind enough to let me direct my own segments. He suggested I keep it simple as it was my “first time up river”. Great advice but I forgot to take it. Instead, I directed an elaborately epic short film called Farley Mowat Ate My Brother. It was based on my 3-minute CBC Radio play of the same name.
Based on an untrue story, Farley Mowat Ate My Brother opened with me sitting in a radio studio, telling the radio audience a chilling story about how I battled for my life with that great Canadian children’s author. It was a parody of classic CBC radio dramas and as the story unfolded, you saw wild flashbacks of me heading north to avenge my brother by killing the crazed Canadian cannibal, Farley Mowat. Oh, and my dog sled team? A bunch of stuffed animals that also included an Alf doll. It was truly a weird film and became a hit on the festival circuit.
That film lead to tons of work as a writer and director. Work breeds work.
What’s the journey been like? It’s been up, down, hard, fun, exciting, rewarding. I work in TV, print, film, and radio, so I’ve got multiple career streams. This splits my focus but enhances my overall value and job options. Overall: it beats working in a bank.
WD: Who has inspired you along the way?
KH: Hunter S. Thompson for yelling truth to power, Steven Soderbergh for his creative work ethic, and of course, that unnamed kid who stood in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square.
WD: What accomplishment are you most proud of, and why?
KH: I’m a huge Hunter S. Thompson fan so I’m proud of achieving my childhood dream: getting published in Rolling Stone. So far I’ve published three RS feature stories about campus porn invasions, mascot beatings, and the Rock Paper Scissors Championships. They were tightly-written, thoroughly researched, and really entertaining. They were great US-magazine debuts for me, and these articles opened up a world of TV and print opportunities in New York, Hollywood, and Toronto.
WD: How can we access some of your work?
KH: Google me or visit my website at www.kenhegan.com
I'll be updating the site soon with my short films and radio performances.
WD: What would be your dream job?
KH: Directing my own HBO series and/or feature films on location in Vancouver with a local crew and Hollywood money.
WD: What do you think the industry in Canada will be like in five years?
KH: Same as now: five years from now, the film industry will be incredibly competitive. Hard working people with the right combination of hustle, perseverance, contacts, and the best ideas will win. Also, I can’t wait until everything is in 3-D, especially softcore Swedish porn.
WD: Do you have any advice for up and coming people in your field?
1) Show up every day.
2) Don’t reveal your work to the public until it’s so good it’s undeniable.
3) Here’s a revolutionary idea: Don’t be a dick.
4) Respectful perseverance. I sent my articles to The Georgia Straight every month for a year and a half before they finally called me back. Then my first assignment for them, a cover story about mascot abuse, won the National Magazine Award for Best Humour Article. I then re-wrote that article and got it published in Rolling Stone, which directly lead to me getting hired to co-write the epic Opening Essay for CTV’s coverage of the 2010 Olympic Games that was seen by a record 13.3 million viewers.
But if I gave up on the Straight after they ignored my first few article submissions, it never would have happened.
5) Funny is money.
Hegan never slows down for a moment. His energy and determination are inspiring. Word has it he's headed to the Banff World Television Festival this year. Look out Alberta, you're about to be Heganized (that's a good thing).