Keep Reaching Everyone
Jan. 7, 2022

James Donison (From Canadian TV Producer to Australian Tram Driver )

James Donison (From Canadian TV Producer to Australian Tram Driver )

A brief introduction to where RFTM host, James Donison came from, how he went from Canadian Television to driving a tram on the Gold Coast, Australia, then back to his passion of video production and photography. He'll also discuss some of his failures and successes in between. (more info in show notes)

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As it’s the first podcast of 2022, and since I didn’t do it in season 1, I thought it appropriate to tell all you fantastic listeners about the host, James Donison. That’s me!

It’s a brief introduction to where I came from, how I went from Canadian Television to driving a tram on the Gold Coast, Australia, then back to my passion of video production and photography. I’ll also discuss some of my failures and successes in between.

As I expect from most of my guests, I didn’t do a lot pf preparation for this podcast. Although I quickly wrote a script for most of the episode, I didn’t go back and edit or censor myself. Some of it is raw, some just had to be said, and some shouldn’t have been said at all.

Listen. Like and Subscribe on your favourite podcast platform.


References and Links:

JimJamPro Creative Services:

InDefence Personal Safety Specialists:

Movies With Regina mentioned in them (Deadpool, Barely Lethal, Goon):

SNL Sally O’Malley skit:

James Donison’s first weather forecast on Breakfast Television Vancouver:

NW Computing:

True Romance movie:



RFTM theme - My Life, Absolutes

Ballad of a Leavin Man, Cast of Characters

Lions, Ian Kelosky

Bunji, In This World


Podcast Links

Follow RFTM on Instagram for exclusive photos and videos of guests:

RFTM YouTube Channel:

Hosted By: James Donison at JimJamPro Creative Services

If you enjoyed this episode please SUBSCRIBE and give Reaching For The Middle 5 STARS on your favourite podcast platform. Thanks :)


Keep Reaching Everyone


0:00:07.7 S1: Hey, welcome to the Reaching For The Middle Podcast. This is the first episode of 2022. I'm your host, James Donison, and today's guest will be me, I think it's time to tell you a bit about myself and about my journey through life on a podcast, I think it's important to get to know the host and where he or she comes from, and frankly, why I am the way I am? But don't worry, this episode will be somewhat short since I don't have a narcissistic tendencies, it's hard to sit in front of a microphone and talk about myself, so... Let's get into it. 

I grew up in a small city in Canada, Regina, Saskatchewan. That's right. It's a pronounced REGINA [REE­GINE­UH], I think it was supposed to be Regina [REE­GENE­UH], as that pronunciation is Latin for queen, but somewhere along the way, perhaps it was the ­40 winter temperatures that froze their tongue, someone started it pronouncing it Regina and it stuck. 

There's even a quote from Canadian Ryan Reynold's in Deadpool that sums up the cities unfortunate lady bit sounding name. 

0:01:11.3 S2: Hush falls over the crowd. As rookie sensation, Wade Wilson, out of Regina Saskatchewan, lines of the shot. That's why Regina rhymes with fun. 

0:01:24.4 S1: I was brought up in a lower socio­economic environment by my mom with a sister who I later found was really a half­sister, no thanks to my alcoholic grandma, who had enough of her stopping by for visits to ask for money, new clothes, or to complain about how tough life was because our mom wanted her to stay home during school nights and not get drunk with her 14­year­ old friends. I digress. I think I still need to unpack more about that relationship. 

I finally met my father when I was 8 while at my grandparents farm, no not the same alcoholic grandma, this grandma was as tough as they come, although she once told me about one of her late night walks along the country road amongst the wheat fields, she had to take a comfort stop while she was crouched beside the road, she realized she wasn't alone, an angry badger was making its way towards her, and she ended up running down the road with her pants around her ankles... What was I talking about again? Yes. Meeting my father for the first time. All I could hear from the farm, was the rumbling, He pulled up on a chopper motorcycle, long hair, as cool as they come, and after getting to know him, I guess my sense of humour comes from a mixture of both of my parents, I guess you would call it weird, but effective. 

0:02:31.4 S1: I have two other sisters, thanks to my father, who are more in line with my brand of humor and life outlook. 

You're probably thinking at this point, Dear God, he's going through his whole childhood... Don't worry, I'll skip ahead a bit. 

I entered preppy Catholic high school as a headbanger and left high school in some weird transitionary fashion phase, still trying to find my identity. 

I'm not... And never was religious, but my choices in schools in the neighborhood were abysmal, I could A choose to go to a local high school that violence, racism were at a high but academics were low. Or go Catholic, where academics was held high, but at least at that high school acceptance of 

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'different' wasn't readily accepted, and I don't know if I ever ever really was readily accepted at that school. 

I'm not sure if all Catholic schools were like mine, but there seemed to be a bit of skewing of facts going on, for instance, told by religious studies teacher... Sperm is finite. There are only about 100,000 sperm, so we shouldn't waste them by masturbating. Another Religious Studies teacher who claimed to have received personal messages from Jesus after he hid out at monastery run by silent monks while rehabilitating for a nasty drug habit. 

0:03:39.6 S1: He showed the class of 14­year­olds photos of what he said were aborted fetuses in the back of a garbage truck, and claimed Henry Morgentaller, who was the abortion poster boy at the time, was pure evil, what? ! ! 

I tried to acclimate myself to the teachings, I really did, but after I approached the same religious studies teacher after class and asked him, "What if all the world religions stem from the one word of God, they all have similarities like love and reaching a better place if you live your life in a certain way. Push all the other stuff aside. And it's all one religion, right?" He looked me straight in the eyes and simply said, NO, and walked out of the classroom. That was the beginning of my path to atheism, thinking, "Why can't I just be a good person and good to others without all the pomp and circumstance?"... Sorry, that's the last I'll speak of religion, it's like speaking about COVID, very polarizing. 

It wasn't until a university that I was honoured with my close­knit group of friends, partly and thanks to former Reaching for the Middle guest Geoff Wilson, who started the introductions back when we were 16, working at the now defunct clothing store, Randy River. 

0:04:46.0 S1: Oh, how I miss those silk pants and silk underwear we used to sell lesson, though don't combine the silk underwear with the pants. I learned a hard lesson in a night club where part of me was a bit more excited to be there then I, and most people would have wanted. 

0:05:01.3 S2: [film set sounds] 

0:05:06.0 S1: I studied film and video production with a credit short of a minor in Psychology at the University of Regina, and I think I still am the first person on my mom's side of the family to achieve a higher education game, Yay me! , and thanks to my low income upbringing, I have student loans to thank for paying for it. I earned money for living and partying during Uni by working for a music store, which I gave deep discounts to friends or the shopping center sub­shop employees who traded me foot­longs for CD discounts. My apologies to the now bankrupt Music City. I hope it wasn't me who did it. I also lived and worked for a college based on the university campus, Luther College was almost the opposite of my Catholic school experience. They were kind and inclusive people. While studying, I was a resident assistant, library assistant admissions assistant, and prior to convocating, I was offered the position as a Residence Manager and aggressively targeted for the role of Entrance Counselor when my boss, the lovely Lorianne Butterfield was promoted at Luther College. 

All my friends moved into different roles after university, policing, politics, sales, academics, 

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management, we truly believe that what's kept us close after all these years and kept us grounded, by learning from each other's skill sets and perspectives, I never really felt grounded in the actual city of Regina, so as I do, I followed my heart and gut instinct and moved to Calgary, Alberta with my dad and two sisters, and got a job as a Video Editor in the news department at a TV station, eventually moved to Vancouver thanks to the urging of Geoff Wilson. 

0:06:37.4 S1: I attempted, and failed, at acting, I also got a job working in TV, starting off at CKVU13, now CityTV as a News Editor, I realized these are my people, and I found life­long friends there as well, surrounded by surly cameraman, eager reporters, show anchors, producers and techs, now, I'm not intentionally being sexist when using the term cameraman, the camera department was mostly male­dominated back then, it wasn't until perhaps my 8th of the 11th year at that TV station that we got to Jen Benoit, our first camerawoman, more appropriately called camera person. It also might have been back in the day, cameras were really heavy, many of the elder statesmen of the department still suffered from back issues. I eventually took on a fill­in producing role for Breakfast Television, helped produce a really funny comedy program called The CityNews List, hosted by four of Canada's up and coming comedians. Eventually I ended up the CityTv, Vancouver web and social media producer, and was a weather host for a while until I realized talking about weather wasn't really a passion. 

0:07:35.9 S2: [BT Vancouver News Anchor Mark Docherty] James, how's it looking in the weather because it sure felt like winter out there when I was driving home from the Kooteneys. [Weather Host: James Donison] It is nice this morning yesterday though. Wow, it certainly felt like more than 17 millimeters of rain yesterday, but... 

0:07:50.5 S1: I worked with some very smart and fun people, we worked hard and partied harder, if social media was as prevalent back then, we'd probably all be careerless or cancelled, it must be hard to grow and learn as a person these days being in the public eye, there's no room for mistakes, less someone capture it on video or photo. Let Ye Who Cast the First Stone? Is what my Catholic teacher said, right? 

We were like a family, a dysfunctional family, there would be arguments, dustups and tantrums, but there was also laughter and happy tears for each other's successes. 

I also met a lot of celebrities. And the big reveal, they're just people like you and I, some are really insecure and others are over­confident, But, come on, if I was put up on a pedestal like that, I would probably fall to one side of the spectrum or another... There are good people and bad people, egos and nutty personalities in all industries. I'm sure you know one, we just don't put that crazy assistant manager we had from back in our retail days, who used to wear home clothing he never paid for, and fornicate in the stock room, up on a pedestal like we do celebrities. 

0:08:51.7 S1: During my time working at Citytv in Vancouver, I met my first wife, she was intelligent, witty, and at first really fun to be around, she also suffered from depression and was bipolar, which doesn't quite make for a happy living situation, especially for someone like me who likes to talk things through, instead of letting them lie. At times they were true, at others I felt less of a man. Here's an example, when you mention to someone that you love that you're feeling a lack of respect, and they respond by saying, "You've gotta earn my respect", it's a little soul­crushing. 

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Against my better instincts, and my belief of not giving up, I ended up following her to Australia. 

Just prior to departing, after 12 years of training and teaching, I received a black belt in the martial art, Brazilian Jiu­Jitsu, but as the saying goes in the BJJ inner circles, a black belt is a white belt who never quit. I think that's why the concept of reaching for the middle resonates with me so much. You can reach what's perceived as the top, but when you get there it never feels like you thought it would, and there's always more to learn or people who are just a little better as one thing or another. Perhaps the middle is a great place to be. Sure, I'll reach other peaks, but my comfort zone and life balance is more centred, somewhere in the middle. 

0:10:05.6 S1: After a month living in Australia, my ex­wife and I separated, after telling me I need to be more of a man, I asked what she meant, she said, "You don't even clean the gutters"... I replied. "We live in an apartment. We don't have gutters." Can you see what I'm talking about? Oh, and don't think the downfall of our relationship was all her fault. I was a dick, quite a few times. And If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be where I am today. After hiding out in shame, in self isolation for a month in my little Cairns, Qld apartment. I finally reached out to friends and family to tell them what happened. A good friend, Elliot who I met in Canada, thanks to once again, Geoff Wilson called and offered me a room in his beach side apartment to stay for free of charge for up to three months. So after taking a 10­day solo trip down from Cairns, I ended up on the sunny Gold Coast, learning to surf and slowly healing. 

There weren't a lot of media gigs back in the day on the Gold Coast, so I worked at an Apple reseller store, and at a front desk at a family resort. 

0:11:07.0 S1: In 2014, not only did I get a job as a tram driver at the soon to be completed stage one of the Gold Coast Light Rail, but thanks to the growing popularity of online dating, I met the love of my life, future wife and mother of our beautiful daughter, Kirsty. See if it wasn't for the rollercoaster ride with my first wife, my journey may not have been as successful. 

I believe when life happens, whether it's good or bad, we're all faced with a choice, we can learn and move forward, or we can blame our circumstances and the people involved, stay static, and never progress. I'm so happy I move forward. Now, you can ask my wife, Kirsty about learning. I'm still holding a lot of baggage from my first marriage, but thanks to her kind, soft, nature, I'm working through it, and perhaps becoming a better husband and the father every kid should have. 

Just checking in. Are you still there? It's almost over. 

During my interview for tram driver, I told the interviewer, I only plan on being in the role for about a year. I then wanted to move into a training and development role, and so I did... 

0:12:04.7 S1: I was a tram driver and worked in the control room, and about a year later, I was a part of the HR Department as a trainer, teaching employees and contractors about rail safety, office ergonomics, and drug and alcohol policies, alongside a fabulously zany and highly intelligent co­ trainer. For some reason, the Molly Shannon SNL skit of character, Sally O'Malley. 

[scene from show] 

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0:12:24.3 S2: Reminds me of her. 

0:12:32.8 S1: The HR Director who hired me is no other than a former guest Melissa Stone, who lays claim to the throne of my favorite boss that I've ever had. If you want a great leadership style, I highly recommend her. 

After a couple of years as a trainer, I started getting the bug for video production again, I pulled out edited a proposal I submitted to Melissa a couple of years prior. Since the Commonwealth Games were coming to the Gold Coast for 2018, the company decided to budget itself, for my role as an in­ house video producer I captured promotional material for marketing, and video'd the hell out of the Commonwealth Games light rail related activities which was used by our parent company, the Queensland government, and helped us win an award and rail bid or two. After that I was promoted to Media Production Manager, but a year later, cuts were called for and three of the managers roles were made redundant. Spoiler. One of them was mine. But if you've been listening to my story, you know that I don't run and hide, or run back to Canada with my tail between my legs, I learn and move forward. With the support of my wife and my two­year­old daughter, although she couldn't say it at the time I know she was thinking, "Do it, daddy, I support you". 

0:13:42.0 S1: That's exactly how she's at... 

I started a production company called JimJamPro Creative services here on the Gold Coast where I do photography and video for corporate, private and real estate clients. It sounds like a bigger company than it is, but it's really just me as a sole operator, and then I hire people when need be. At the end of 2019, I landed a great client who signed a contract for production of three videos, unfortunately, covid landed after only completing one of those videos, but the company like my work and ideas and hired me on a six­month contract to produce social media content for them. That six­month contract had long inspired, but the client and I still work together in the same capacity, I might as well give them a plug here because NW Computing has been great, I love their management and the culture, and they pay on time, which for small business is grea. They're all over Australia, and in Auckland New Zealand. So if you need a Managed IT Provider, look no further. Okay NW. 0:14:34.2 S2: That's all you get. This is about me here, not you, although you're a pretty great company. 

0:14:39.8 S1: Have I mentioned I won free coffee for year at McDonald's? I'm up at 5AM most mornings, and head over to my local 'Maccas' [that's what we call it here in Australia] to drink coffee and do about two hours of work before most people leave their houses. The promotion is about to run out, but if you know anyone who works high up in McDonald's, let them know I'm looking for sponsorship, my listener numbers aren't huge right now, so all I'm looking for his free Java, and I'll say something like, "The Reaching For The Middle podcast is fueled by McDonald's coffee... " 

I've also been teaching Brazilian Jiu­Jitsu for the last four or five years now on the Gold Coast, I contract for a company... Well, you probably know them, it's through Ash Gard, my former guest. He and his wife have a company called InDefense Personal Safety Specialists. They do things like Krav Maga, bodyguard, security, corporate training and things like that. They've been great friends 

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to me and gave me a great opportunity, and I had gained so much joy from teaching again, 'cause I was in a pretty dark place for a while, and I didn't train BJJ for about four years. 

0:15:46.4 S1: I'll wrap up this episode by saying The COVID pandemic has been hard for us all, some have taken a bigger hit than others. In the grand scheme of things, my wife and my rescheduled wedding and honeymoon, that had to be canceled three times now, is small in comparison to businesses gone and lives lost. Thanks to great companies like NW Computing and the bubble of a real estate market, I've been relatively unscathed. Although, I'm probably not where I should be at this point. I think the key, at least for myself, during these crazy times is compassion, approach everyone with a degree of compassion, keep an open mind. Listen, learn and move forward. As with my first marriage, there were lessons taught, mistakes made, fun to be had, and I look back and think I wouldn't change a thing, because what if I did? I may not have this gorgeous and intelligent wife, beautiful daughter, a tiny one­eyed arthritic dog, a growing business, and this amazing podcast where I learn more from each episode, so thank you for listening, subscribing and supporting myself and my guests, if you learn something from one of them let us know, if you disagree, let us know that too. Just remember to show a little compassion, our next episode with an actual guest will be out soon, You don't want to miss that one, so make sure you subscribe and like. 

I'll leave you with a quote from my favourite movie in university True Romance. [don't show it to kids under 18]. 

0:17:03.0 S1: So for me and my family here in Australia.
0:17:09.4 S2: [Quote from Clarence, aka actor Christian Slater, in True Romance] 0:17:13.8 S1: Keep reaching everyone. 

The reaching for the middle podcast is produced by JimJamPro Creative Services, specialising in corporate and real estate photography and video, social media content, and now podcasts. Located on the sunny Gold Coast of Australia. JimJamPro serves clients worldwide. For more information, visit Jim Jam Pro dot com. 

James DonisonProfile Photo

James Donison

Former Canadian TV Producer and Editor, James Donison moved to the Gold Coast, Australia and became a Tram driver. He is now a video and photography professional at JimJamPro Creative Services, teaches Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for InDefence Personal Protection Specialists, and has a beautiful wife and daughter.