Jay Baruchel: on keeping the creative spirit alive

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by Tieja MacLaughlin

Canadian icon Jay Baruchel spoke candidly to a sold out audience last night, as part of the In Conversation With speaker series at the TIFF Lightbox.

The 33-year-old, best known for his breakout role in Million Dollar Baby, comedic lead in This Is The End, and co-host job on the 90’s television hit Popular Mechanics for Kids, shared his thoughts on a diverse range of topics including film, hockey, and dating.

Unique as the range of topics were, one binding theme surfaced throughout the conversation - the theme of creativity, and the creative spirit.

“As a concrete first step in any artistic endeavour, just find a way to do it,” said Baruchel, in his unmistakable voice glossed with a nasally undertone.

“It’s one of these things that sounds obvious, but just isn’t,” he said. “Find a way to create it. Find a way to do it. An idea without anything realized is meaningless.”

Baruchel spoke of his start in film, and openly discussed exercising a variety of means throughout his career in order to gain exposure. Finding a balance between his passion and ‘paying the bills’, so-to-speak.

“Acting was always my means of getting on set,” he said. “I wasn’t in movies because I loved acting, I was in acting because I loved movies.”

The sacrifice of fulfilling a less-than-ideal position to afford yourself the opportunity to pursue more enriching creative experiences, is the key message.

“There’s an opportunity to be found in everything,” said Baruchel. “Every shitty job you work you’re going to meet some other cool, likeminded artist who’s just doing their time, clocking in like you are. Then you could go on to work with them.”

Stooped and contemplative on a sofa chair at centre stage, Baruchel’s penchant for all things Canadian shone through with his classically Canadian sense of humility and blue-collar-esque motive to make, create, and actualize ideas.

“There’s no reason to not always be doing it. If you’ve got a weekend you should be writing, or making a short film.”

And that’s exactly what Baruchel has always done – the peak of his uninhibited creation occurring in 11th Grade.

“That was the year we made movies every weekend,” said Baruchel, his insight and intelligence juxtaposing his lanky and somewhat awkward demeanour. “I hate to sound like hacky artist dude, but we made them for us - our friends, and maybe their parents and the teachers, and that’s about it.”

He didn't necessarily concern himself with his audience, or attribute his success to a paycheck. He simply created.

Baruchel’s ‘just do it’ mantra and tenacious spirit continue to play a leading role in his current life, and his lifelong objective of directing recently came to fruition in his upcoming directorial debut in Goon 2.

“I’d have shot that movie in our production office if I had to,” he said. “It would have looked like shit. Our stadium would have been our kitchen. But I would have found a way.”

Tieja MacLaughlin