This feature appears in the May issue of Q&Q.
As a teenager, Alex Jansen, founder of the boutique publisher and multimedia company Pop Sandbox, had one goal: to produce a feature film before turning 25. He achieved this goal with nearly two years to spare when he was hired as co-producer on the 2001 Canadian indie film Walk Backwards. But the experience wasn’t at all what Jansen had expected.
It was incredibly disappointing, Jansen says now, though it’s hard to imagine this upbeat, fast-talking entrepreneur taking a blow. Funded on credit cards, filmmaker Laurie Baranyay’s personally inspired story of sexual-abuse survival was accepted into the Toronto International Film Festival and later received a broadcast distribution deal. The producers made their money back. But despite the partnerships Jansen helped develop, Walk Backwards disappeared. I thought it would reach the audience it was intended for, he says. It just faded away.
Jansen’s early disillusionment with the film world eventually led to his first experiments in publishing. In 2008, burnt out and in need of a break following almost four years working for film distributor Mongrel Media, Jansen took a three-month sabbatical with the intention of doing nothing. But one night while shopping for a new bicycle bell, he met notorious Toronto eccentric (and brazenly prolific bike thief) Igor Kenk, owner at the time of a ramshackle bike shop on Queen Street West. Excited by the idea of documenting the Slovakian-born socialist, but understanding the financial realities of filmmaking, Jansen thought he could produce the story more quickly as a graphic novel.
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