Filmmaker Bruce Royer drove through Topanga Canyon in 1988 and instantly fell in love with the place. “I knew—with absolute clarity and passion—that I was going to move to Los Angeles and when I eventually got there, I would have to live in Topanga. That’s what I was going to do. And I did,” said Royer, who moved from Montreal to Topanga in 1993. He lives here with his wife, Teresa, and their dog, Charlie Brown.
The Royers soon established themselves as members of the community, with Bruce serving two years as president of the Topanga Chamber of Commerce. Royer has produced 120 short films in his 30-year career, but also gets to do some of the fun stuff like flying drones and shooting and editing the footage.
As the filmmaking side of the business continued to grow and thrive, the Royers built a side business on their compound, Tuscali Mountain Inn, a high-end bed-and-breakfast.
“Teresa was looking for a new career that would keep her off the freeway and we could do together. Never in my life had I thought I would have anything to do with the hotel business, but my wife is a great entertainer and she was able to bring it all together.”
Tuscali Mountain Inn launched on May 1, 2008, two months before the recession hit. “But we found that people who had money still had money. And they kept coming,” said Royer.
They served hors d’oeuvres and wine at sunset, then a gourmet breakfast the next day, and received many five-star reviews on Trip Adviser. Teresa handled the day-to-day running and Bruce’s job was to shake hands and drink wine with the guests. “The magic of it,” he said, “is that the people we met through the bed-and-breakfast were extraordinary people who came from all over the world. They now make up 85 percent of my filmmaking business.”
This includes artist Sean Diediker with whom Royer is producing his biggest and most ambitious project so far, a TV series: “Canvasing the World.”
Royer explains how they met. “At least three times a month, we’d get requests from travel bloggers asking for free accommodation in return for writing a blog about Tuscali. I always pressed Delete. One night, I couldn’t sleep, so I checked my e-mails and there was a request from this artist’s assistant saying Mr. Diediker had created a TV show called “Canvasing the World” and if you put him up for a couple of nights, he will feature you on the show. My finger was hovering over the Delete button as I read, ‘or Mr Diediker will trade you for his art.’ I looked at his website. I could hardly wait for the sun to come up so I could call and tell him to come over.”
Four days later, Diediker arrived. Royer told him he could stay whenever he wanted. Royer would keep a track of the times and as soon as a certain amount of money was reached, he wanted an original Diediker oil painting.
“After a year, we became friends and started traveling together. One day, Sean suggested I produce ‘Canvasing’ with him. I love travel. I love movie-making. I told him I was in,” said Royer.
The premise of the show is that Diediker travels the world looking for unusual and extraordinary people doing unusual and extraordinary things. He writes the narration, hosts and paints. Royer does everything else.
A professional painter for 20 years, specializing in figurative narrative painting, Diediker explores new cities and shows viewers how painting has evolved. He believes art still has a place in these Instagram times. “Throughout history,” he said, “the level of a country’s culture is equated with the quality of the fine art it produces. If you look at the Roman and Byzantine empires, people put value on art. But in the 1950s, critics made the general public feel stupid for not understanding why, say, the paintings of Rothko were valuable. I think people were put off and there was a disconnect. I’m hoping that ‘Canvasing The World’ will be a bridge to connect the general public with fine art once again.”
Diediker wants to show viewers what’s going on in an artist’s mind before he starts painting the subject. “So, the viewer gets to have a relationship with the subject before the painting is executed,” he said. “Then when they see the finished work, it’s much more potent.”
The filmmakers found writer Cecilia Moriarty (pictured) at Shakespeare and Company, the famous Paris bookshop, which is a refuge for writers and poets who can write and even sleep there if they volunteer in the store for two hours a day, seven days a week.
In Bali, Diediker met three brothers who all have glass bone syndrome. “Interviewing those brothers was one of the highlights of my Bali experience,” said Diediker. “All three are artists and they share an optimism about life that is contagious on the highest levels of humanity. While they are small in stature, their smiles cast a light far beyond those of us who have not been betrayed by genetics.”
With nine episodes of “Canvasing The World” already shot and seven edited, Royer and Diediker are now pitching the series to networks and streaming media specialists like Netflix and Amazon. (canvasingtheworld.tv) (royerstudios.com)