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fall 2015 / can$6.50 us$5.00
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T hi s p a ge : D av id C ro ne n b e rg o n th e s et o f N a k e d L un c h . C o u rt e s y T I F F R ef e ren c e L ib ra r y. O pp o s i te : B oa r dw a lk E mp i re . C o ur te s y B el l M e d ia
by Patr ick Fordham
Co ver pho to: Jenni fer Holness and Suddz Su therlan d
D I RE C T O R S G U I L D O F C A N A D A
pub lished b y t he
FA L L 20 1 5 , M o n ta g e
Spirit of Place
by Tim Southam
by Brian Baker A Reality Check Embracing change while remaining Canadian content providers
by Wiebke von Carolsfeld The Place In Between The outsider as artist
by Marc Glassman Paul Almond (1931-2015) A pioneering Canadian auteur departs
by Marc Glassman
11 18 24 36 39 42 44
FEATURES I N C O N V E R S AT I O N WI T H … J E N N I FE R H O LN E S S A N D S U D Z S U T H E R LA N D I n t e r vi e w e d b y MA R C G LA S S MA N T h e a w a rd - w i n n i n g t e a m o f d i re ct o r S u d z S u t h e r l a n d a n d p ro d u ce r J e n n i f e r H o l n e ss t a l k a b o u t t h e i r u p co m i n g C B C se r i e s S h o o t t h e Me sse n g e r a n d t h e i r ca re e r i n T V a n d f i l m “ WE S H O U LD H AV E C H A R G E D T H E B U I LD I N G ” : N O VA S C O T I A’ S FI LM I N D U S T RY I N C R I S I S by ROB KING A r a l l y o r g a n i se d b y t h e D G C i n H a l i f a x m a y h a ve t e m p o r a r i l y sa ve d N o va S co t i a ’s f i l m i n d u st r y, b u t i t s f u t u re l i e s i n a b e ya n ce . R o b K i n g co ve r s a p i vo t a l e ve n t i n A t l a n t i c C a n a d a ’s cu l t u r a l a n d l a b o u r h i st o r y S T I LL C R O N E N B E R G b y A D A M N AY MA N a n d MA R C G LA S S MA N K e y co l l a b o r a t o r s w i t h D a vi d C ro n e n b e r g co n t r i b u t e t h e i r i n si g h t s i n t o t h e w o r k s o f C a n a d a ’s g re a t a u t e u r, w h o i s t h e re ci p i e n t o f t h e 2 0 1 5 Li f e t i m e A ch i e ve m e n t Aw a rd . Fe a t u r i n g st i l l s f ro m C ro n e n b e r g ’s b i g g e st h i t s a cco m p a n i e d b y q u o t e s f ro m su ch n o t a b l e s a s co m p o se r H o w a rd S h o re , a ct o r / d i re ct o r D o n McK e l l a r, d i re ct o r P a t r i ci a R o ze m a , a n d m a n y m o re FO C U S O N P E T E R LE I T C H b y K I M LI N E K I N P ro f i l i n g P e t e r Le i t ch , t h e p re si d e n t o f N o r t h S h o re S t u d i o s, ch a i r o f t h e Mo t i o n P i ct u re P ro d u ct i o n I n d u st r y A sso ci a t i o n o f B . C . a n d w i n n e r o f t h e 2 0 1 5 D G C H o n o u r a r y Li f e Me m b e r Aw a rd R E LU C TA N T H E R O : MA R K R E I D b y MA R K D I LLO N T h e w i n n e r o f t h e 2 0 1 5 D o n H a l d a n e D i st i n g u i sh e d S e r vi ce Aw a rd f ro m t h e D G C , Ma r k R e i d i s a l o n g st a n d i n g D G C m e m b e r a n d h a s w o r k e d t i re l e ssl y i n t h e i n d u st r y f o r cl o se t o 3 0 ye a r s R E N C O N T R E AV E C LO U I S E A R C H A MB A U LT, C I N É A S T E A U X MU LT I P LE S TA LE N T S p a r MA R T I N D E LI S LE Mo n t a g e re n co n t re Lo u i se A rch a m b a u l t , r é a l i sa t r i ce d e q u e l q u e s é p i so d e s d e l a sé r i e T h i s Li f e . Mo n t a g e m e e t s w i t h Lo u i se A rch a m b a u l t , w h o d i re ct e d e p i so d e s o f t h e se r i e s T h i s Li f e C H R I S H A D D O C K : B A C K H O ME b y D AV I D S PA N E R C h r i s H a d d o ck , cre a t o r o f D a Vi n ci ’s I n q u e st a n d I n t e l l i g e n ce , re t u r n s t o Va n co u ve r t o h e l m h i s n e w C B C se r i e s, T h e R o m e o S e ct i o n
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viewpoint The numbers are not fully in, but all indicators suggest that 2015 will be the most lucrative year in the history of Canada’s screen industries. National revenues to our members are sky high. Our talented members are working on great projects in every conceivable genre across the country. Unless, of course, they happen to have been working in Saskatchewan or Nova Scotia, in which case they have either moved away or are making plans to do so as we speak. For their provinces have decided to cut tax credits for the local screen industry, causing production to decamp overnight to jurisdictions that have, well, a tax credit. Amidst the family hardship, the scattered dreams, the loss of high-end skills and well-paid jobs, there emerges a seemingly abstract lesson, but one with immense real-life consequences. On occasion Canada has built itself into pride of place in the world thanks to a complex synergy between its public and private sectors—a marriage of the public and private purse, which has allowed our small country to punch far above its weight in several sectors, not least the screen sector. Some in government disagree, preferring to throw their citizens to the mercy of the free market’s Invisible Hand. The Hand, it turns out, absolutely loves a good tax credit and proved it by waving goodbye to the two provinces that chose to eliminate theirs. This is the policy-maker’s conundrum: To act on one narrow set of numbers showing negative revenue to government coffers because of the tax credit. Or to believe another much larger set of numbers showing vastly enhanced revenue to the provincial economy as a whole, thanks to the multiplier effect from the same tax credit. In the end it comes down to values. The choice to apply the narrow measurement reflects a vision that will leave a government’s books standing in good order long after its creative community has been obliged to desert the devastated premises. The choice to apply the broader measurement reflects a commitment to attract opportunity to the community and see its creative economy flourish. We now have proof in our best year ever that the choice is that stark, and members of the creative community have spoken out loudly. In this election year we have had a chance to insist that our leaders generate a vision for Canada that reaches beyond bookkeeping, beyond the basics. We insist that they promote a vision of our country where building community, telling our stories and boosting the creative economy are as essential to our country’s health and well-being as pulling wealth from the soil and the sea. This is our torch to bear, come what may. TIM SOUTHAM PRESIDENT, DIRECTORS GUILD OF CANADA
editor’s note As Tim Southam so cogently states in his “Viewpoint,” this is an extremely important time in our nation’s history. With a federal election coming up very soon, it’s critical that DGC members—indeed, all citizens—vote wisely and well. Will future governments in Canada embrace their country’s creative communities, or will they cling to outmoded ideas about governance and the economy? Only a committed and informed citizenry can make a difference by the proper exercise of its democratic franchise. This issue of Montage is, as always, dedicated to our creative community at the Directors Guild. We’re especially pleased to have an important article by the DGC’s Rob King about the dramatic events that took place in Nova Scotia this spring when the provincial Liberals rescinded their tax credit system. “We Should Have Charged the Building” is a superbly structured piece, bringing the personalities of key members of the Nova Scotia guild to life as they deal with a crisis in their lives and careers. Rob, who is chair of the Guild’s National Directors Division, previously wrote a lovely “Spirit of Place” piece for us, “To the Horizon and Back,” about coming of age in Saskatchewan in the Spring, 2014 issue. Director and editor Wiebke von Carolsfeld is the latest DGCer to contribute to our long-running free-flowing column with a thoughtful, poetic look at her life as an outsider in “The Place in Between.” It’s my pleasure as editor to conduct the interviews for another long-standing Montage feature, our “In conversation with...” This time, we’re talking with the dynamic filmmaking duo of director Sudz Sutherland and producer Jennifer Holness. In a far-ranging conversation, film, politics and living and working together are all discussed—as is, of course, their much-anticipated new TV series Shoot the Messenger. The fall is the time for the DGC Awards and Montage is featuring articles on three honourees: Mark Reid, winner of the Don Haldane Distinguished Service Award; Peter Leitch, who will receive the DGC Honourary Life Member Award and David Cronenberg, who is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Kudos to all of them—and thanks to Mark Dillon, Kim Linekin and Adam Nayman for their able efforts in profiling these deserved winners. Montage may be the only film magazine in the country to feature articles in French as well as English. Martin Delisle contributes an interview—une rencontre avec Louise Archambault, réalisatrice de quelques épisodes de la série This Life. It’s intriguing to have a Québécoise director work on an English CBC variation on a show that is already a hit in French. Merci, Martin! Finally, veteran writer David Spaner contributes a piece on the return of noir auteur Chris Haddock to his native Vancouver with the new CBC show The Romeo Section. It’s good to see the CBC producing shows like Romeo, This Life and Shoot the Messenger. We wish all of you an excellent fall! MARC GLASSMAN EDITOR
Embracing change while remaining Canadian content providers
by BRIAN BAKER Change is upon the Canadian screen industries. Digital distribution is the new paradigm. “Adapt or die” is the new battle cry. The CRTC has recently concluded that in order for Canada to remain competitive in the global marketplace, major changes to the regulatory environment are needed. Quotas, genre protection and certification criteria are among the supposed relics of the past. They are even telling us that we don’t need Canadians to tell Canadian stories.
Really? Call us dinosaurs, but we at the DGC really think that we need to take a collective Valium and relax a bit. Yes, we get it. The increasingly popular online content streaming services are a disruptive technology that is upsetting the proverbial apple cart. It is getting a little challenging to actually be a country. But does the global rush to cultural homogeneity make it irrelevant to articulate community values and fight for policies that foster those values? We don’t think so. In fact, we believe that fighting for this idea is essential. The struggle is on to say clearly that for the world to understand Canada, Canada has to get behind what it presents to the world. The context may be new, but the dilemma of creating our own voice in the larger framework of a borderless world is very familiar to Canadians. Our proximity to the U.S. market has given us lots of practice.
Now some, including the CRTC, propose that we place an even greater emphasis on international participation and open up our market—a bewildering analysis, considering that most of our public policy was created as a counterbalance to concern over the abundance of non-Canadian content already on our screens, music on our radios and books in our stores and online. The crazy thing is that there is no rationale that justifies the gutting of Canadian participation in key creative roles, or any evidence that this will lead to improved long-term growth for our industry, or, for that matter, better choices for Canadian audiences. As the world gets smaller, has the environment genuinely changed in such a fundamental and radical way that we must abandon the prospect of creating our own distinctive voice? Ironically, we do not have to look any further than the strategies of successful U.S.-based digital distributors—the Netflixes of this world, the ones that are supposed to be a threat to our existence— to find the essential elements necessary to creating great content: significant investment, a critical mass of activity and, of course, exceptional creators working with experienced talent in front of and behind the camera. In fact, the production of original, distinctive dramatic series has become a primary component of the strategy to “brand” services—both new and established—in order to stand out in an ever-increasingly competitive marketplace. Resources + Opportunity + Talent. No revolutionary ideas here.
As I write these lines, Canadians are just a few weeks away from electing a new government. With this in mind we have four simple suggestions that can serve as the building blocks of a progressive cultural policy for Canada’s screen-based industry.
A country where significant and consistent support of culture and screen-based content is entrenched. High-quality content production requires significant resources. Consistent, predictable support for Canadian-made screen-based content is essential and begins with key federal agencies such as the CBC/SRC, Telefilm Canada, the National Film Board and the Canada Council for the Arts; public/ private partnerships such as the Canada Media Fund and other independent production funds; and production incentive programs such as tax credits, along with measures to encourage private investment in our industry.
A production, distribution and exhibition ecosystem where all participants, regardless of platform, contribute significantly to the creation of high-quality Canadian content. All content distributors, including Internet-based services, should contribute to the development of Canadian content, including the creation and exhibition of Canadian films and documentaries.
Canadian content must be defined as content owned, controlled and made by Canadians. Building Canadian talent is the best long-term strategy for creating and sustaining a homegrown industry. This includes directors, writers, performers, editors, production designers, directors of photography and composers—the key creative roles. Subcontracting these roles
to others without the prospect of reciprocity makes little sense and will not contribute to our long-term growth.
The importance of screen-based industries should be recognised, with acknowledgement that cultural goods and services are not mere commodities or consumer goods. Tax credits and other public support mechanisms provide cultural and economic benefit to regions and to the country as a whole. Screen-based industries are unique and essential to our cultural and economic life. While they clearly stimulate economic activity—in 2013/14, screen-based industries contributed $7.5 billion to Canada’s GDP, stimulating capital investment and generating over 125,000 FTE jobs—they should not be thought of simply as commodity producers. Measuring the leveraging impact of taxpayer contributions is essential to accountability, and many studies have clearly demonstrated the important economic contribution that screen-based industries make. However, content production and exhibition also serves to promote cultural expression and cohesion and contributes greatly to the overall welfare of communities. “Adapt or die” is a perfectly sound survival strategy. As a nationbuilding statement, however, it falls woefully short of the mark. Embracing change makes sense. To what end we are embracing change is an entirely different question. The Internet is a fabulous, flexible tool for storytellers and is a welcome development. But the advent of this tool is absolutely no reason to throw the cultural baby out with the technological bath water. A reality check on the values we bring to the new digital media paradigm is due now.
Brian Baker is the executive director of the DGC.
SPIRIT OF PLACE THE PLACE IN BETWEEN
Many years back, sitting on a dock by a lake somewhere in the Kawarthas, a friend suggested doing a writing exercise. “It’ll be fun,” she said, and somehow we all agreed. So, exchanging cocktails for pens, we set down to our task: “In the home where I grew up…”
Above, top to bottom: By the lake; The Saver (Wiebke von Carolsfeld, 2015).
While I watched my friends scribble away like there was a Giller award waiting at the finish line, I was stumped. There is no home I grew up in. No one street. No one town. The first time I moved, I was three months old. By the time I reached fifth grade, I had been to five different schools without having been thrown out of one. I had gotten used to making new friends, explaining that “Wiebke” was indeed
my first name and not my last, and imagining over and over again what life would be like in this new, exciting place—only to be disappointed soon enough that while the outside had changed, the inside, my inside, had not. In Germany, where I grew up, this kind of itinerant lifestyle was highly unusual. Suspicious, even. After two wars, people were done with upheaval. Why move if you don’t have to? Different is not necessarily better. Steady wins the race. Most Germans are born, married and buried in the same place. For all the love that we have for travel, relocating, even across provincial borders, is not on most people’s to-do list. Finally, my parents settled down in Cologne, the place I call, when pressed, my hometown, even
Photograpy by Wiebke von Carolsfeld (top); Susan Moss for Prospector Films (The Saver)
by WIEBKE VON CAROLSFELD
SPIRIT OF PLACE
Beyond the numbers, a fractal is a striking mathematical pattern which repeats in ever smaller scales.
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though no real Kölner would ever consider me one. I was not born there, don’t understand the local dialect, and who cares that Kölsch is the only beer I like to drink. Still, it’s as close as I ever got to having a home, even if I could never quite shake that feeling of not fitting in there, of being apart, of being an outsider looking in. In my early 20s, I came to Canada. First for a visit, but soon to stay. In the first 10 years, I moved 10 times. A sun den on Brunswick, a cockroach-infested apartment in Kensington Market, Ossington before it was hip. I won’t bore you with the rest. Today, when I cycle around Toronto, I constantly come across places that used to be my local. Windows behind which I once tried to figure out what to do with my life. Stores where they knew my name. Streetscapes that used to be intimately familiar but that no longer are—though that really is another story. Along the way, I found a community of misfits interested like me in the arts, politics, eating, laughing and, eventually, film. My English improved and my accent softened, though that embarrassment only went away once I realised that Chrétien, the prime minister at the time, was struggling harder than I to keep his sentences afloat—in both official languages. Come home, my father said, every other time we talked on the phone. In Canada you’ll always be a fifth wheel. True, but in a city where more than 50 per cent of the population was born outside the country, that is not a particularly unusual feeling. Being an outsider, I discovered, does not mean being alone. Years later, I started making films. About women that I found interesting. About journeys that were compelling to me. About Agnes, in Marion Bridge, who returns home to Sydney, Nova Scotia, after years away in Toronto. About Abbey, a Canadian who ran off to a remote place in Ireland, trying to find a place to call home, to STAY. About Fern, a Cree girl who grows up disconnected from her roots in wintery Montreal, in my most recent film, The Saver. Struggling to make it on her own after her mother’s sudden death, Fern is determined, like all my other heroines, to lead life on her own terms. Each of them
is stuck in between. Looking for a community, a home. It is only in hindsight that I noticed the thread. At the time, these were simply stories that touched my heart. Stories that I needed to tell. Stories about people in flux, betwixt and between. Now I realise that every time I leave my house, read the paper or take a cab, a new story emerges. About love unable to break down cultural barriers. About a mail-order bride working triple overtime to support her family back home. A mother who thought Canada would provide a safe haven for her family, only to see her child deported. The stories are legion, but maybe because few immigrants become filmmakers, too many are yet untold. I now live in Montreal, an island of English in a sea of French. Yet another language to learn, a new set of friends to make, more cultural feathers to unwittingly ruffle. Here, every time I leave my house, language becomes a question. Should I ask for directions in English, order my coffee in French? Conversations start in one language but might switch to the other halfway through the sentence. One person speaks English, the other French. Or Urdu or Vietnamese. And while this might be annoying to some, a bastardization of language and heritage, I revel in this linguistic uncertainty. Finally, I am in a place where language is not a given, where everybody has to choose carefully which dictionary to reach for, not just me. The sense of displacement has by now become one that is most familiar to me. Even as a film editor, most jobs have been away from home. The Saver is the first movie that I shot while sleeping in my own bed. The constant movement between here and there shows up on screen, too. Right in the beginning of Marion Bridge, Agnes watches her hometown fly by. Everything looks familiar, but she no longer belongs. There is a similar scene in STAY, when Abbey arrives in construction-torn Montreal, though in the end she decides to return to Ireland, a place where her lover awaits. Fern, in The Saver, does not have a car or money to take a cab, so she walks from place to place. Stuck, like my other heroines, like me, in that place in between. Over the years, I have learned to embrace that feeling of not belonging. To cultivate it, even. I surround myself with people who share that sense. On the set of The Saver, French and English were spoken interchangeably. Characters
come from all over the country, the world, with no explanation given. Accents of all sorts were welcome. Difference celebrated. In a world as fluid, multicultural and fragmented as ours, it still surprises me how homogenous a lot of our cultural output looks. Actually, “disappointment” might be the more honest word. Looking back now on that sunny afternoon in the Kawarthas, seeing my youthful self sitting on the dock, jealous of my friends’ easy sense of belonging, I wish I knew then that being stuck in between would not only give me a life full of adventure and constantly new, shifting horizons but also my voice as a filmmaker. I now use my skills as an outsider, as an observer, to tell stories. Being from away gives the storyteller the freedom to probe deeper, to be independent, to speak about a place without strings attached. And having learned at a young age to easily connect to new people sure helps with making movies, often with a new crew, in an unfamiliar place, and in a language that is not my first or my second. Seeing that this is a story, I can end whichever way I want. So I am willing myself to get up from that dock by the lake and to walk away from my friends writing happily about the places they grew up in. I stand at the edge of the water, grateful for what brought me here, trusting that the journey ahead will be fulfilling—and then jump into the clear blue lake for a cooling swim. You never know where inspiration comes from. Sometimes it just might be from that place in between.
Wiebke von Carolsfeld is a Montreal -based editor, writer and director. Her third dramatic feature film, The Saver, will be released in 2016.
on in c
JENNIFER HOLNESS &SUDZ SUTHERLAND fall 2015
Photography by Patrick Fordham
nw o i t a s
Montage: Marc Glassman Sudz: Sudz Sutherland Jennifer: Jennifer Holness
Entering the Hungry Eyes offices of Jennifer Holness and Sudz Sutherland, you immediately feel an upsurge of excitement and activity. The three people in the large reception area are dishing the dirt about TV, munching on late lunches and making sure that the Montage writer is feeling OK. Soon enough, I’m ushered into the corner office on the main floor of the solid 1920s Toronto building, with wood flooring and charmingly oldfashioned interior décor, where Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness greet me. As befits a producer, Jennifer is seated behind an imposing old desk while Sudz is perched on a seat on the other side of the room, writing on his computer. It’s a typically hectic day for them, with production beginning to gear up for Shoot the Messenger, their new CBC-TV thriller. Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness are life and business partners. Besides their finest project— three daughters—the duo have made award-winning TV movies and series for over a decade. Two longform TV movie series—Guns, about the proliferation of deadly weapons in Toronto and Home Again, about a draconian deportation policy which has forced overseas Caribbeans to return “home” to lands that are foreign to them—have provoked debate and garnered prizes. Sudz Sutherland and Jennifer Holness are passionate about their work, expert at their craft, and responsible citizens of Toronto and Canada. Montage talked to them about their new TV series Shoot the Messenger, making film and television work and representing their community (and beyond) in what they create. —Marc Glassman 12
Montage: Sudz, I know you’re the director and Jennifer is the producer, but both of you write and you are life as well as business partners. It’s the obvious question—and I’m sure you get this all the time—but how do you two work together? And, in particular, how is it working on your new project, the forthcoming CBC series Shoot the Messenger? Sudz: It’s always a collaboration. The biggest thing in terms of how we work is that the best idea wins. We both have good ideas and we both have strengths. Jennifer is amazing at story and amazing at character. We work together very well, and somebody’s got to take the heavy end of the lifting, so for Shoot the Messenger, that was Jen. This is a very large, voluminous story with a lot of twists and turns. We’ve done a ton of research. [The show deals] with journalists and cops and criminals and politicians, so there are a whole lot of different worlds of Toronto that we’re showing. It’s very much a mom and pop shop—it’s the two of us writing. We brought in other writers on this, but in the beginning we had to create a bible and the pilot, and we did that together. I’d write some characters, and she’d write some characters. Montage: As an example, in this case, which characters did you [Jennifer] take and which ones did Sudz take? Jennifer: I wrote Daisy, the journalist, who is the lead. Montage: There’s a cop, Lutz… Sudz: I did the first pass on the cop. We both know cops, and we do a lot of research, and we have cop consultants on the show, so at various times we’ll talk to these guys—girls as well—and have lunch, and ask, “Hey, how about this?” It’s really important to bounce stuff off of them. Jennifer: With Daisy, I had given thought not just to [her character] but also to her entire family and her dynamics. The process was, CBC gave us the green light to write two scripts, a bible and six outlines, so that the whole eight episodes would have some kind of creative development. I asked for a room for two weeks because we were writing the bulk of the show. Our outlines are essentially the biggest part of the script—we’re talking about 20- to 25-page outlines, not seven pagers. We hired
veterans who could help us develop the stories: Larry Bambrick, Carol Hay and Ian Barr, who is our story editor and who we’ve worked with on many projects. We came in with the character stuff; we had the bible done, and the story beats and arcs. We had a very clear vision for episodes one and two, and for the rest of it we had an arc. Sudz: When we came to the room, it was like, “Okay, where do we go with it?” We could have written it ourselves, but it would have taken us a year—we wouldn’t have been able to do any other work. That wasn’t really what we wanted to do. I make my living as a director for hire for movies and episodic TV, in addition to what we do in-house. In terms of developing the show, we also wanted the writers to feed in, because we think it’s a collaborative medium. Jennifer: We submitted our entire package, with revisions on the bible and some new characters, and in February CBC came back and said, “Your show is being greenlit.” But just before that happened, I was talking to a very good friend of mine who works in the U.S. at one of the big networks. I was pitching her the idea, and she said, “It sounds really, really good, but what’s the hook?” So I went back to Sudz; we had been talking about the fact that we liked Daisy, but we didn’t love her—there was something missing. Then Sudz said, “What if she had a habit, like a drug habit?” and my first reaction was, “I don’t want her to have a drug habit!” Sudz said, “I’m thinking more of something that she’s had in her life and that she’s dealing with.” So we started to game out the parameters of what that could be, and then we called back the CBC a day later and said, “We’re changing our baby! What do you think about this?” and they said, “Okay…well, let’s see it.” They were really good about it. Sudz: They didn’t want it to go super dark, and neither did we, but we wanted to have a character with some flaws. As Canadians, sometimes we are a little precious with our characters—we want to wrap them in bubble wrap. Montage: But you do that. In Home Again, the main characters had big flaws—they wouldn’t have been deported if they didn’t—and that’s true of Guns, too. Is the Daisy character partially inspired by Eva in Guns, who is a journalist who has a relationship with a cop? Jennifer: Guns wasn’t really about Eva; it centred [on] this young man trying to move forward in his life. Sudz: There were too many characters to really concentrate on her. This time, we wanted to do something that’s not too much of a big ensemble.
Montage: Shoot the Messenger is an eightpart series, so there is a lot of screen time for characters. Sudz: And that’s the great thing about what we’re doing, which is trying to mine those character moments. We have a very tightly serialized arc, and we’re able to actually spend time with Daisy and her family. Daisy’s father has had a traumatic brain injury, and there’s a whole host of things that go around that, and there are a lot of reasons why Daisy had a drug addiction. There’s a lot of stuff to mine—those two cataclysmic events affect the family in a huge way. We had to re-orient our brains to not write just a procedural plot-plot-plot-plot, as well as our concept of an act break to include character beats that move that story forward. Montage: How was it writing for eight parts, where you actually have to move your story along, leaving you somewhere hanging at the end of each hour? Jennifer: It’s a big story. It starts off with a murder, which seems to be a standard drug-related thing, but then as it grows we find out fairly quickly that there’s more going on. My brain is very analytical; that’s helped in terms of mapping out stuff. The difficulty is making sure that you are clear, and mining more of the character beats, because I can sometimes veer too far toward, “Look at the story! The story is so awesome!” Sudz has a great sort of bullshit detector in writing, so when something feels false, he’s always the first one to notice. We have the vision together and are supporting each other, whether in the room or elsewhere. It’s been a really great experience, but it’s been a lot of work, and it takes a lot of mental energy. I am one of the producers, and I actually put the financing and the distribution together for the show. For the first time in my career I’ve hired business affairs people, which is kind of nice but necessary. I ended up doing a lot more writing on the show than we expected, mostly because Sudz has been directing a lot in the past year—you know, at the end of the day, we have three children, and they like to be fed. Montage: So you’ve [Sudz] been doing a lot of episodic TV? Sudz: Yeah. It speaks to our relatively miniscule feature film productions. We’re going to be moving back to more feature films, but having TV as a base is really good, and hopefully we’ll have more seasons on Shoot the Messenger after this year. Montage: How do you expect to shoot the show?
and Steadicam. Our camera will be a participant observer, so you’re the third person in the room. The idea is shorter lenses that are wider and physically closer to the actors, as opposed to longer lenses that are further away. It gives you a proximity to the actor so that you can actually feel them a bit more. When you work on a shorter lens, more is in focus. I really wanted to have that fly-onthe-wall feeling for the audience, so that when we’re in interrogation or close proximity to the characters, you feel like one of them, or like somebody looking over their shoulder. Montage: And the Steadicam? Sudz: We want to go in spaces and really see Toronto. I’m thinking shorter lens on a Steadicam, with less depth of field, so you’ll be able to focus on the actor. It’s about freedom. In our lookbook, there are moments of that. Luther was a stylistic touchstone for all of us, because it was so freeing and so crazy. It was London in a way you hadn’t seen London shot before, and we want to do the same thing for Toronto. Montage: It’s so rare that people truly put Toronto in the stories. Were you inspired by what was happening politically, emotionally, culturally and socially with the previous administration in city hall? Jennifer: Absolutely. The most fascinating thing to me about the Rob Ford fiasco was the Somali kids. I was fascinated at how these young boys got in the middle of the world of the power brokers of this city. Sudz: Rob Ford is a bizarre sort of collective reaction from the suburbs to downtown. We even found that our family members voted for him. Montage: Really? Why? Jennifer: My mother’s from Etobicoke, and he comes to our door when something’s wrong… Sudz: Because they drank the Kool-Aid about downtown sucking up all the resources. It was this whole thing about the elites—us vs. them. Jennifer: The long and the short of it is that I was fascinated by that whole thing, and I am actually fascinated by politics. When I went to York, I got a degree in political science, and politics has always been supremely interesting to me. For Shoot the Messenger, we wanted to look at the city in a gritty urban drama. We’ve seen a lot of stuff with black ethnic groups, but I have never seen anything with an urban Somali community. Montage: How did you do the research?
Jennifer: Really? I would say it’s a big ensemble. Sudz: Everyone’s always saying, “You guys always want to do these big ensemble things— concentrate on fewer characters.” So that’s what we were trying to do, constructing the story around Daisy, Lutz and Simon, another journalist.
Sudz: We’ll use a handheld aesthetic. Our inspiration comes from TV series like Luther, The Bridge and True Detective, which aren’t handheld, but do have a less formal way of shooting than conventional shows. Generally here in Canada, we use a tripod—as a director, you’re on a dolly. What I wanted to do was liberate the camera a bit. We’ll be using a mix of handheld
Jennifer: We talked to young Somali people and discovered that we knew very little about their community. They cocoon themselves off a lot more than other cultural groups. There were only a few in the Somali community that were willing to talk about what life was like here—the hopes and dreams and the failures. It fall 2015
Photographs courtesy Hungry Eyes Film & Television Inc.
This page: Guns (Sudz Sutherland, 2008)
was surprising for me. I was born in Jamaica and came here as a very young kid and spent most of my life here, so I always thought that I was in tune with a lot of the culturally diverse groups in Toronto, and particularly with the ones who are black. Sudz: We weren’t looking at the folks we talked to as giving evidence of black criminal pathology. Our research did get culturally specific at a certain point, though. We developed key plot points from our research into culture. You’ll see in the first episode that there is a cultural misunderstanding that is a cause of Daisy’s great error. We’ve been on a journey of exploration, and I’m glad that we’ve gone outside of our cultural comfort zone, because I think it’s been a rich journey so far. Montage: If we can stay on politics for a bit longer, how do you feel now that Ford is gone? There still are a lot of racial and cultural issues here. Has Toronto changed or is the city simply putting a different face on things that haven’t changed? Jennifer: The face is certainly a lot slicker and I think more trustworthy. I am more lenient to a society that really takes care of its people, so I don’t know if I’m seeing that, to be honest, but it’s early days yet. Sudz: Anybody would be a better mayor. He provided many people with lots of laughter and lots of fodder for stories. Rob Ford is the gift that kept on giving. Montage: Does it provide material for Shoot the Messenger? Jennifer: We really aren’t doing his story, but there are so many elements to Ford’s years that you can actually cherrypick some things that are interesting to dramatise. Sudz: He opened the door to say that people up here on this stratum can mix with people down here on this stratum, and the lines that we thought were so absolute and would never cross are not really so. The great thing about Shoot the Messenger is that you’ve got these people bumping up against each other, and then when the full mystery is revealed, you’ll see exactly how it all works. And that’s a great thing to see because it’s a window into the world behind closed doors, something that you never thought would happen. Montage: You had a bit of this in Guns too, right? Jennifer: Absolutely; this is the world we love. Shoot the Messenger is about a sex scandal. It doesn’t start off feeling like a sex scandal, but then it becomes this gigantic thing: there’s politics, there’s sex, there’s crime. The people in the different strata are bumping up against each other, and you realise that we are actually part of a connected city, and what you think is the case—that these people are not interacting—is not true. So when we think about social justice and about how we want to live, if we continue
to have disparities in income, we are inevitably going to bump up against these people. I think I’m probably a bit more political in that sense, but I never try to make it weigh down the work. Sudz: Jen is a very empathic person, so it’s not just coming out of a political will to do this or say that, but more out of a conviction to bear witness to the truth. People are walking around with their visions of the world but too often they’re looking through blinders. I think that our job as artists is to say that the emperor’s got no clothes—Rob Ford is doing crack—that’s the real, true thing. Montage: This is a question for you two as parents as well as producer-director-writers: why Toronto? What makes this the city where you’ve decided to be located, to be with your kids and to do your work? Jennifer: That’s a very good question, because I sometimes struggle with it. I came here as an immigrant as a little girl, and I remember people making fun of me because I had a Jamaican accent—I was five, maybe six—but I also remember playing at Christie Pits and having friends of all different stripes, and that was fine and nobody cared. I feel such a warm, loving feeling towards this city; I love being here and I want to contribute in some way. I want to contribute in saying that we can do better, for example, and potentially through the work we do. We’re raising three daughters, and we have great schools here. We have a beautiful home; we have wonderful friends, and my entire family is here, but it’s not lost on us that most Canadians who become very successful in this industry have done it south of the border. We have certainly struggled with it, but every time we look around at this beautiful community and how warm and how truly embracing a lot of this city is—we don’t want to leave! Damn it, Toronto! Sudz: I think Toronto’s cool. We can talk about this city and be specific but also universal within that specificity. Those borders are the old ones that people had, and this new generation is ready to blow those borders away. Those old ideas about looking “Canadian” are gone now. We can do great work here, telling stories about people who live in Toronto. Everyone says “Write what you know,” and my mantra is “Write who you know.” I think that really you’re writing characters you grew up with; you’re writing characters you interact with—memories of real people are showing up constantly in your writing. I want to be honest to that in our storytelling. We love this city, and we want to do some art in this city. Montage: What would you like to see happen in the next five years, for yourselves but also for this city and this country? What would make a difference? Sudz: [For us,] I’d like to see greater artistic success—being seen on a global level. We’ve been kind of a secret in Canada for a while and so we want more people to see our work here and in the U.K. and the States. In terms of the city and the country, for years our filmmakers in English-language cinema have been getting
their asses kicked by Quebec, story-wise and aesthetically. I think that we are now coming into a place where our stories are getting better, both in terms of our television and in terms of our cinema. I want to see English-language cinema flourish. Jennifer: And I want Sudz to be a part of that in a bigger way, of course, because I think he’s tremendously talented.
He provided many people with lots of laughter and lots of fodder for stories. Rob Ford is the gift that kept on giving. —Sudz Sutherland Montage: As a producer, Jennifer, are things changing? As much as we say it’s the golden age of television, and it is fantastic, how are things really working as a producer in terms of television and feature films? Where are we at in English Canada? Jennifer: I do think that in some ways it’s tougher, and that’s because we have a federal government that doesn’t always see the value in the industry. The cuts to Telefilm, for example, and the cuts to the NFB and the CBC hurt. Whatever you want to say—yea or nay or whatever— CBC-TV, CBC Radio, and even the new plan that CBC has been unfolding, all of this is because they really believe in and are trying to support Canadian creative and business talent. So with these massive cuts, it is super challenging. The reality is, a lot of Canadian producers who don’t have giant production companies are having a difficult time. We are extremely lucky to be given the green light on this show. Guns was in 2008, you know what I mean? Since then, we’ve made Home Again and She’s The Mayor, but there’s nothing consistent. In some ways it’s a bit terrifying actually. There have been successes—for example, I’m tremendously pleased to see all that Temple Street has been able to accomplish, and Shaftesbury continues to do well—but it’s very, very tough. I’ve never wanted to be an independent producer [with] a massive company. The whole notion of having ten things in production at any given time is terrifying to me, because I’m committed to being a mother as well. So as a producer, when you are trying to make quality work that will stand the test of time and that has a voice, it can be difficult to find people to buy in when the resources are shrinking. The good thing is that unique voices now seem to be what people are looking for, and I think we’re poised to do very well because of that. I’m not fooling myself into thinking it’s not difficult, and on the feature film side… Sudz: It’s gone down to nothing—not nothing, but now it’s just kind of a token thing. I think that we’re at a situation where the wheat is being separated from the chaff. fall 2015
Top to bottom: Love, Sex and Eating the Bones (Sudz Sutherland, 2008); Shoot the Messenger (Sudz Sutherland, in production)
Montage: You two made Love, Sex and Eating the Bones, which won the Best Canadian First Feature award at TIFF in 2003 and received prizes at festivals in the States. Since then there have been some great TV projects like Guns and Home Again, but have things progressed as you hoped they would? Sudz: No, they haven’t. After Love, Sex and Eating the Bones, we very quickly said, “Okay, let’s go into television,” but it wasn’t because we weren’t trying to do feature film; it was just where the opportunities opened up. Now we’re turning our eyes to serious, serialized productions with Shoot the Messenger and we’re also developing some film properties. We are cognizant of the fact that this is a golden age of television, and we are making television that attempts to have some sort of artistic pretension. One of the things that I loved last year was watching The Affair, and I thought that that had moments of art in it. Montage: Brilliant acting, mood and characters.
Photographs courtesy Hungry Eyes Film & Television Inc. (Love, Sex and Eating the Bones); Shoot the Messenger 1 Inc. (Shoot the Messenger)
Sudz: I loved it. They swung for the fences, and there were some choices there that were just superb, so we want to do a similar thing. We know that Shoot the Messenger is not a cable show. It’s a murder mystery. But after seeing these high watermarks in television, we’re aiming for the same thing, because we want to contribute something to the conversation. Montage: When you two started out in this business, the NFB and the CBC had a lot of power. That power has been diminished and it seems that especially with the current federal administration, there is a real rancour toward the CBC—perhaps not so much toward the NFB. I’m wondering about your thoughts on the election: what would you like to see happen after this election? What kind of cultural changes would you like to see? Sudz: Of course I want to see a new administration. I think that’s painfully obvious. I think you want to see something where people are saying, “Okay, we’re going to actually invest in the future of [this country’s culture],” and not have this animosity toward organisations like the CBC and the NFB, which really make us Canadian. Jennifer: I feel the same way. In addition to the creative voice and the presence that this kind of work gives the world, it actually employs a lot of people. In Ontario, the film and television industry is important. We’ve lost manufacturing, and sure, the digital industry is building up, but this part of the creative industry is significant, and why would you destroy people’s livelihoods? We bring jobs—there’s so much that’s brought to the economy of Ontario through film and television. I know it’s a national thing, but there seems to be a particular vitriol toward Ontario and Toronto. Montage: So, Shoot the Messenger—is it cast? Sudz: Elyse Levesque has been cast as Daisy, and we’re very excited about her. She’s been on Cedar Cove and Stargate Universe and she’s re-
ally ready to have her career take off. We’ve got Lyriq Bent from The Book of Negroes and Home Again playing Lutz. For Simon we have Lucas Bryant from Haven. We’re very excited to have him. Montage: On shows like Home Again and Guns and now Shoot the Messenger, you shoot a lot of scenes on location. Tell me how you prep, because it’s different from shooting in-studio. Everything is a little bit at play—you’ve got a script, but you have to deal with what’s happening with the weather, what’s happening when people aren’t quite doing their lines properly, if something isn’t happening technically… Sudz: You just have to roll with it. You have to think in the moment and remember, “Be here now.” I am a big believer in the flow and that state of being that we call flow. When everybody is working in concert and we are moving, and just executing—that’s what I live for. I’m trying to direct people to their best possible performances; I’m trying to set that stage up and put all of the blocks into play so that people can do that, wherever in the world we are. I make it a quiet work environment, and make sure that we all know what it is, so we can block it very clearly. I’ll say very clearly what the shot is so that everybody knows what we’re trying to do and what’s going to be in the rectangle. Montage: You’re very good with action, and not everybody is. You’ve obviously been working on it for a number of years. Do you have ideas of how you block? Do you visualize a lot of it in advance? How much of it ends up being a bit improvised? Sudz: I use some pre-visualization tools. I have a computer programme that I use, and I draw as well. I’m trying to learn through life-drawing classes how to draw better. Montage: So you sketch out shot-by-shot sometimes. Sudz: Sometimes, yeah, I’ll do that. Just to be very clear, if it’s a complicated stunt sequence, then I’ll have it all on a black card so that everybody will see what the shots are going to be. The crew and cast will have their shots—especially if we’re doing four or five cameras—so that everybody knows what they’re getting. Even in terms of the script, I write in a very visual way. One of the things that I contribute is breaking a script down, so we know how it’s going to be shot. That’s one of the things that you learn from reading scripts. Paul Haggis, for example, writes in an incredibly visual way, and I borrowed a lot of his style from scripts like Million Dollar Baby and Crash. Montage: What have you learned from directing episodic TV? Sudz: One of the big things you learn is that you have to have the script ready. That’s why we want to give the directors we are hiring for the episodes I’m not doing on Shoot the Messenger a chance to see the scripts so that they can contribute something visually to it. That’s one of the big things I’ve learned—just get the scripts ready,
and then you can ask people to contribute. Montage: In Shoot the Messenger and Guns, you’ve written major characters who are newspaper reporters. Why do you love old-style journalism? Jennifer: I love old things. I love old furniture; I love the craftsmanship. I look at some of the most important points in our history in terms of knowledge that’s been downloaded to a public, and a lot of that came out of journalists. I get the newspaper, and I love reading the newspaper. I love the actual tactile nature of opening it up. Even as uncomfortable as it is in terms of flipping the page, there’s something really organic about it. I can’t imagine reporting on the news ever being dead, although the form it takes may change. Montage: A final question for both of you, and I’ll ask Jen first: what’s the craziest thing about working with Sudz? Jennifer: That’s a hard question. It’s not crazy, to be honest. I have a very supportive partner. We do have conflicts for sure, and I am very strong in my opinions, and I really try to be as open as possible. I am not a person who obfuscates stuff; I am very clear, and it’s sometimes really challenging for him, because I demand that from him as well. Sudz: Jen does so many things very well. Most people can do the business side or the creative side, but not both. But she does both very well, and that’s sometimes kind of overwhelming. You asked about the craziest thing—it is kind of crazy, because sometimes it is confounding. Since we are different genders biologically, and we’ve been socialized differently, I think that one of the great things that Jen brings to the work is a female point of view. She’s smart enough that she can analyse everybody in the room and see where they’re all coming from. She’s very good with motivations and the deep psychology that’s required for the shows we do— all of that stuff is ricocheting around in her mind very fast. That’s sometimes confounding, too, but I’m not an idiot—I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. That’s an incredible asset to have; it’s great to see it and great to be around it. Also, when I can try to make the script or the characters better, it really has to work before she’ll accept it. That is another confounding thing, but I think that’s because for a long time in my own life as a man—and I’m still grappling with this as I’m getting older and hopefully better—emotionally, it’s not like I had the language to talk about how I was feeling. I think a lot of people look at us from the outside and wonder, “How do you guys work together as a married couple?” We had big fights early in the game, but I think the best idea wins. We get better at it every single script and every show that we do. Marc Glassman edits Montage and reviews film for Classical 96.3FM. He is the artistic director of the Pages UnBound literary festival and teaches in Ryerson University’s Documentary Media programme. fall 2015
“WE SHOULD HAVE CHARGE THE BUILDING” NOVA SCOTIA’S FILM INDUSTRY 18
Rain hammers the highway on the way into Halifax. This is a tragic The taxi driver tells me there are a few important ﬁlm people coming in and out of town. Tom Selleck was story about how just there. Ellen Page is on her way to make a movie, or so he’s heard. When I ask how business is going, the Nova Scotia he tells me there are two conferences in town runhim ragged. He can’t ﬁgure out why folks are government made a ning so worried about tax credit cuts. “Nobody subsidizes he says. mistake and relied on me,”I know the challenge of selling ﬁlm employment tax credits to the average, hard-working Canadian. For 20 scanty research in the years I made ﬁlms in Saskatchewan—that is, until the government cut the programme and closed name of austerity. It’s provincial the ﬁlm commission. I uprooted my family and moved with no job in hand and an undying faith also an inspirational tothatToronto the rest of the country believed in both the culture the industry of ﬁlm. story because the film andAbout the same time I moved to Toronto, the Liberals took control in Nova Scotia. It was their ﬁrst victory people they dismissed since 1998. During their campaign, they vowed not to touch the ﬁlm employment tax credit until 2020. It had all the tools to was a good promise because it meant there would be within the industry. Nova Scotia was lookrise up, organize and consistency ing to stem the ﬂow of young people away from the province, and ﬁlm was a career that interested young strike back. people. Nicole Feriancek was one such person. She had —Rob King studied journalism and then moved away from Nova
Opposite page: Nova Scotia rises up!
Scotia. Homesick, she came back and landed herself a job on a ﬁlm as a production assistant. Because there was a lot of work, she soon became a trainee assistant director. Nicole felt at home her ﬁrst day working on a ﬁlm set. She loved the controlled chaos, the free coffee and candy. More importantly, she realised that every moment of every day, no matter what the task, counted for something. She had to be ﬁring on all cylinders. Like a lot of youths who feel undervalued in the traditional workforce, it was exciting to her. That tax credits helped make her new career possible wasn’t high on Nicole’s radar. Just trying to explain them to her friends caused their eyes to glaze over. But that isn’t uncommon when trying to explain them to most people, outside or inside the industry. Nova Scotia had an extremely competitive tax credit that quickly built a vibrant, culturally signiﬁcant and proﬁtable industry. But the austerity hawks began to circle. In March of 2015 there were rumours that the Liberals were looking to revamp the tax credit programme. People got a little nervous, but both the premier and the ﬁnance minister assured everyone that any changes would be small. When the budget came down on April 9th, the small changes turned out to be wholesale cuts. The province immediately shut down its ﬁlm commission. Between these two catastrophic moves, the Liberals gutted the ﬁlm industry. When the Saskatchewan government announced it was canceling its tax credit, I was sitting in an editing session. I remember the sense of disbelief, as if an old fall 2015
Photography by James B. Nicholson
ED ”: S RY
by ROB KING
Photography by James B. Nicholson
Clockwise from top: Actor and director Cory Bowles with the mic; John Dunsworth rallies with other Nova Scotian film industry members; Matt Likely (left) and John Hencher rock signs and a Hobo With a Shotgun shirt
friend had suddenly died. After 20 years of helping to build an exciting and valuable industry, the news was paralyzing. Nicole Feriancek was on a holiday in Jamaica trying to pick up the news via a spotty Internet connection at her hostel when she saw a headline announcing the death of the Nova Scotia tax credit. She couldn’t download most of the article, which made it even more difﬁcult to process what was going on. Suddenly she didn’t want to be in Jamaica. She wanted to be back home, helping in any way she could to reverse what was surely a mistake in judgment. She’d been a full-ﬂedged, card-carrying member of the DGC for a month. Shauna Hatt was working in hotels in 1997 when a ﬁlm crew rolled into town. The industry was in its infancy and crews were recruiting locals while they worked. It was sort of like the circus, only these crews knew they had to build their numbers to attract more work. Shauna had a lot of organizational skills that became apparent to James Nicholson. On his plea for her talent, she signed up. Over time she became a production coordinator and production manager. She also serves as the Chair of the Atlantic Regional Council (ARC) of the DGC. James drifted in and out of several roles in ﬁlm. When the business administrator position with ARC came open, Shauna and her board hired him. The day the budget dropped, it was James who called Shauna and told her the news. She says he was understandably upset. In that moment, she was struck by a tragic sense of irony. It was the voice of her friend James Nicholson that ﬁrst recruited her into ﬁlm, and now it was that same voice telling her the amazing journey they had been on was coming to an end. But already a ﬁght was brewing. The provincial ﬁlm industry association had been recently rekindled and renamed as Screen Nova Scotia. It had a strong board in place: key industry producers, members from every union—people with lots of experience and good ideas. Within 24 hours of the budget being announced, Screen Nova Scotia struck several committees to lead the battle: communications, political action, metrics and a rally committee. The government had made what many of us felt to be a rash decision and then followed it up with a series of misinformed and somewhat callous statements about the value of ﬁlm to the economy, never mind the culture. A shallow economic analysis had failed to take into account all the new money, services and jobs generated by tax incentives. Nova Scotia’s shadowy bureaucrats also miscalculated the blowback. The very people whose livelihoods were now being tossed aside were in the business of creating and presenting powerful messages. Now those skills and a whole lot of passion were about to be turned, like heavy cannons, against those who made their living at the legislative building known ofﬁcially as Province House. James Nicholson was on the rally committee. It met in earnest on a Sunday. The plan was to have the event happen that coming Wednesday. It was a daunt-
ing task but they enlisted what James refers to as a “dream team” of experienced production managers and assistant directors, who treated it like a ﬁlm shoot and not a rally. James says that “for a few days we could have run the entire country.” The plan was to run a great, long variety show on the streets surrounding Province House. There were to be ﬁlm people telling stories on stage, musical acts and large screens projecting these images and running clips from various news programs and local productions. Film trucks would be parked on the south side. A camera dolly that people could ride would be placed on the west side. There would be petitioners, a hotdog stand, ﬂush toilets, placards and a continuous march to be shepherded around the entire building. The glue for the day was to be Jonathan Torrens, actor, producer and director. He would be both light and serious, review facts, update the crowd on any developments, introduce guest speakers and remind everyone that the action of one person can add up to a lot. Jonathan Torrens called the day “a rally with a call sheet and craft services.” The event was to last seven and a half hours. The question as to whether the rally committee could sustain the variety show for that long was a big weight on everyone’s minds. The weather would be critical. The day before the rally, there was still snow piled up over the windows in the airport and the temperature was low on the thermometer. The big challenge was to get a permit to close off Granville Street on the west side of Province House. While they waited for their application to be processed by the police, various members of Screen Nova Scotia attended a closed-door meeting with government ofﬁcials. The meeting was hardly encouraging. As soon as it ended, the ﬁlm representatives in attendance were asked if, given the discussion, the rally would still go ahead. The answer was yes. Thirty minutes after that, the police turned down the request for a permit, citing safety concerns. It so happened that someone on the rally committee knew the chief of police. She called him to say, permit or no permit, people were going to rally. With trafﬁc trying to ﬂow on the street, odds were someone would get hurt. The chief agreed to issue the permit. I remember the sun shining the day of the rally. I had turned up with several other people from Toronto to lend support. Having led the rally in Saskatchewan, I could see that Screen Nova Scotia had a full-scale production going. As I grabbed a placard and started following the crowd around the building, I felt an odd mix of forgotten anxiety and an amazing sense of hope. These people had a powerful, positive vibe happening. Nicole, who had arrived back in Halifax the day before, showed up early to offer her services. Someone put her on the petition table. She gathered signatures and asked people why they were there. A lot of them had nothing to do with ﬁlm. But they believed it was a vital part of their Nova Scotia culture. 4,200 signatures were gathered. Nicole says it was amazing. People offered her bottles of water or hotdogs. She managed one bathroom break the entire day. What really irked John Houston that day was that after so many years of ﬁghting hand over ﬁst to gain a foothold and then build a vibrant industry, people were being forced to ﬁght again. John has been part of ﬁlmmaking history since 1979, when he cajoled his way into a DGC membership and found himself in a wonderful series of adventures across northern Canada and down into Halifax.
He explains the hit to ﬁlm this way: “A bunch of inexperienced, rookie Nova Scotia Liberals backed into our space with blinders on and started swinging their arms around and breaking our furniture.” John went to the rally with his camera. He wanted his contribution to be the documenting of people in struggle—“amazing people whose lives were being threatened.” In one shot, he captured an IATSE member waving a big banner. Experimenting with social media, he got over 100,000 re-tweets for that single, long-lens moment. His eyes go misty and his voice nearly cracks—he pauses—when he recalls a young boy sitting on a dolly, his face up to the eyepiece of a camera. A camera assistant is showing the kid how to pull focus. To John, the resulting photo tells the story of a skilled craftsperson passing on a bit of hard-won knowledge to an upcoming generation. “Shame on them for having no understanding about what they are tromping on,” he says. Elizabeth Hagen is a production accountant. She shares a house in Dartmouth with her sister, a script supervisor. She describes the government’s decision to shut down the tax credit programme as “uneducated.” Quiet and reserved, she says they made a “real fuss” at the rally. What she remembers most, what really got her heart pumping, was late in the afternoon when Cory Bowles crossed Hollis Street with a drum. Cory is an actor, writer, producer, director and dance choreographer. He plays a hapless and much beloved character, also named Cory, on Trailer Park Boys. He also sits on the provincial Arts Board. The day the budget came down, he was at the hospital in Truro where his mother was getting chemotherapy. The news came on the television. There were nurses standing around watching as Cory’s mom looked over at him and said: “You better go to Halifax.” The ﬁrst thing Cory thought about was all the friends he’d made on ﬁlm sets: the transport drivers, the locations and art department people, camera operators and wardrobe assistants. He thought about their families and what would happen to all of them. He didn’t really see himself being a leader in the ﬁght to come. In fact, he wasn’t even sure he’d say anything at the rally. He came from a marginalized community and he knew that people rarely win ﬁghts like this one. But he’d created a buzz on social media. People wanted him to speak. So he agreed “I wanted to keep it short, keep it true, but maybe also keep it a little light in tone,” he says. Around 4 p.m., the politicians were making their way out the backside of Province House, to their vehicles for a quick right-hand turn on Hollis Street—away from the people being directed by ADs and police to the far sidewalk. The placards and the musical instruments were readied. And out they came. Cory’s friend had brought along a drum. Cory started banging on it. The beat carried along the packed street, rose above the sound of trafﬁc passing by and emboldened the crowd. After six hours of speeches and marching, of emotions running high and then low, people like Elizabeth Hagen felt a surge go through them. And then out came the minister responsible for culture, the guy who was supposed to take advice from Cory and others on the Arts Board. Cory crossed the road with his drum. He went up close to the minister. A policeman moved his bicycle between Cory and the car. And then, as Cory describes it, the man who was supposed to represent, to stand up for ﬁlm, looked away—the wrong way on a oneway street—and drove off. Cory suddenly felt everything shift. He realised the minister had abandoned his post, had ignored fall 2015
Left column, top to bottom: Rob King, John Houston. Right column, top to bottom: Cory Bowles, Nicole Feriancek, James B. Nicholson, Elizabeth Hagen, Shauna Hatt
Leaving Halifax, I am taken to the airport by Crissy McDowd of Crissy’s Car Service. She tells me her father started the business in the early 1980s. His ﬁrst client was Salter Street Films. Unlike the taxi driver who brought me into Halifax two nights earlier, Crissy says ﬁlm and television make up 45 per cent of her income. She reckons she can wait until the beginning of 2016 to decide what she’ll do with the company. What she doesn’t get is why this happened in the ﬁrst place. “I don’t know about politics, but I do know my business and this isn’t good,” she says. Two months after visiting Nova Scotia, I ﬁnd myself in Lithuania, working on an international co-production. I doubt such an opportunity would ever have come my way had I stayed in Saskatchewan. The truth is, after three years in Toronto, I have still not landed a directing gig. It’s a big centre but still a closed shop in some respects. I am recovering from this displacement but life still exists in fragments, not quite pieced together. And then I think, the industry in Canada is such that many of us traverse the globe looking for somewhere to ply our trade. We tell stories that often resonate further aﬁeld; we are respected more away than at home. How do we generate a nationally recognized homegrown cinema—a sense of national pride in our work—if we cannot make ﬁlms in regions we know and love? I hear from John Houston, who is far away in Nuuk, Greenland. He tells me that as of today, the new program in Nova Scotia has so far processed only one application. He’s hoping the industry-commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers study will add some fuel to the ﬁre, but only if the government doesn’t get its hands on it ﬁrst and begin to spin the results in its favour. He thinks the real story won’t be clear until March of 2016, when the smoke has truly blown out to sea. Bill Fleming is looking at professional opportunities elsewhere. He describes his mood as generally pessimistic and he’s worried about the complexity of the application process for the new incentive fund. For Shauna Hatt and James Nicholson, it is the continued efforts of industry people—the “brain trust,” as they refer to it—which gives them some small measure of optimism. As for Nicole, she is moving on. Her partner was going to study law at Dalhousie in the fall, but now they have decided to chance life in Ottawa, where there is a small ﬁlm production community. Nicole’s greatest wish is to leave for a few years, enjoy and explore another part of Canada and then return to Nova Scotia. In that dream, she hopes her home province has found a way to value and embrace a ﬁlm industry. Staring out the window at the rain falling in Vilnius, I think this is a tragic and bewildering story about how a government made a mistake; how it reneged on a promise, ignored its own youth agenda, took bad advice and relied on scanty research in the name of austerity. It’s also an inspirational story because what the government of Nova Scotia didn’t factor in was that the people they dismissed had decades of passion in their veins—and all the tools to rise up, organise and strike back. And they did it not just for economic reasons, not because they loved the lives they had, but because they believed the work they did was culturally important; that it would or will leave a lasting legacy which reaches past the ﬂeeting memory of one political reign to generations of citizens and future ﬁlmmakers. Once a Saskatchewan-based ﬁlmmaker, Rob King now lives and works in Toronto and is chair of the DGC’s National Directors Division. fall 2015
Photography by Dan Callis
his sworn oath. He felt betrayed and then he spoke. Now it was an angry speech. The lexicon completely changed. He shouted, “We are culture!” The phrase rippled through the crowd and across social media. I remember that moment on Hollis Street too. I remember the electricity that ﬂowed through me. A few months later, Cory sits across from me in a local coffee shop. He’s been waiting for the rain to quit so he can ride his bicycle the ﬁve hours to Truro where his mother is doing better and the Trailer Park Boys are waiting for him. He levels his gaze at me and says: “We should have charged the building.” Bill Fleming is a production designer, writer, director and producer who lives in “The Valley,” about an hour from Halifax. He started young in theatre in Toronto and quickly began working on stage productions, TV and ﬁlm all over the continent. He was working on a gig for Salter Street in Nova Scotia in 1989 when he decided to buy a house by the water. Bill had been tracking the pre-budget town hall meetings and brief press stories about budget rumours. He wrote a letter to his MLA and then another to the federal Liberal MP, Scott Brison. He later heard Brison had met with the Premier, who told Brison that Finance was only making a small change to the tax credit. When the real news hit, Bill kept up the letters and managed to get a face-to-face meeting with his MLA. He was told the industry had failed to make its case to the government. In retrospect, most people involved on the ﬁlm side acknowledge that they should have kept closer ties to the government. But the damnable thing is that the Liberals had promised to leave the tax credit alone until 2020. It was a promise that got them votes. Now they had broken that promise and were blaming it on the victims. Not long ago the government commissioned a report on how to create a more viable future for the province. It concluded that Nova Scotia needed a greener economy and more knowledge-based industries that could lead the province out of the past. Houston sees the cuts to ﬁlm and the subsequent methods of dealing with the furor as old Nova Scotia politics—the kind of thinking that has always focused on extraction-based industries and pork-barrel administration of its funds. The rally had been brilliant and the government was forced to respond. Their ofﬁcial offer is a 25 per cent incentive fund, based on a project’s overall spend in Nova Scotia. While Screen Nova Scotia has said that people can now get back to work, many are still confused as to how productions can access the money. As of June 1st, the government said they wanted to keep talking. But then the legislature adjourned for the summer. People are starting to ask themselves what to do with their future. People like Anita Reilly-McGee. She was shooting her ﬁrst feature in Newfoundland when she visited the set of The Shipping News. That day she met the man she would marry. They’ve lived in Nova Scotia since 1992. His ex-wife and her new partner are also in the business. “Together, we could make a short ﬁlm,” says Anita. The four of them share two children and if, as some say, three out of four ﬁlm jobs will leave the province, it means three of members of this extended ﬁlm family will be unemployed.
According to Anita, what happened after the rally was maddening. “The rhetoric about refundable versus non-refundable tax credits confused the general public. People thought the ﬁlm industry was 100 per cent subsidized. Even The Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star got it all wrong.” Anita and her husband had renovations planned for their home. They are going ahead with these dreams. Not so they can enjoy them, but rather so they can put the house up for sale and move on. She loves making low-budget features and producing them for others. But in the predicted future of Nova Scotia, these projects will suffer the most. Shauna Hatt measures her future in Nova Scotia with a certain pessimism. She can’t trust the politicians anymore. And what really makes her angry is the disrespect ﬁlm people continue to get from political leaders and bureaucrats. Cory Bowles says, “Until I see the for-sale signs on the houses and families headed for the airport, I’m still in ﬁght mode.” He thinks the government didn’t smarten up; it just got scared, and that’s why they are keeping the door somewhat ajar. Given the way a lot of governments now work, an economic argument will have to win the day. Designing a new programme would allow the government to say it listened and came up with something better. But the government in Saskatchewan also said it was willing to talk. None of their proposed ideas made any sense. Eventually the talking stopped and the industry dried up and blew away like formerly fertile soil during the Depression. I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, we have all been champions and victims of an argument fraught with danger, despair and the whims of ruling parties and shadowy ﬁnance bureaucrats. In the 1950s, John Houston’s father, James, convinced Ottawa to put some money into a plan to market and sell Inuit art. As he saw it, Inuit art evolved from and represented a deep heritage, ﬁlled with stories of struggle, adventure, heroics and spiritual beliefs. He used an economic argument to propel Inuit culture forward to the world and saw its artists proﬁt from their work. For more than 50 years, John has believed in that strategy. But now he tells me it was a mistake to sell culture via an economic argument. The politicians bought it and now they use it like a hammer. The numbers can work for or against ﬁlm, depending on who’s counting and what ideological agenda needs serving. Instead, says John, we Canadians should accept culture for its own sake and do our utmost to defend its intrinsic social value. No government should oppose it for monetary reasons. It should only be an addendum to say: “What’s cool is that it pays for itself.” In June, I visit James Nicholson, who is still at Screen Nova Scotia, checking in on the last productions that still employ DGC members. James and I accompany still photographer Dan Callis to John’s, a famous ﬁsh joint in Dartmouth. We eat fried clams and chips. Later, we go up the road to a little peninsula of ﬁshing shacks. The tide is out. Someone is digging for fresh clams. At the tip of this peninsula, a mini ﬁlm unit is getting the last few shots needed to complete another “Jesse Stone” TV movie. Nicole Ferniacek is working the shoot. She looks like any young person newly minted in the AD department: bright-eyed and ever ready on her walkie. We get a photo of her. When she wraps up the day, she’ll be moving onto Mr. D, which is in pre-production for a summer shoot. After that wraps, no one is sure what’s going to happen.
CRONENB E R G
David Cronenberg is the Great White Whale—the Canadian Moby Dick—for film critics trying to hunt down and harpoon some idea of a “national” cinema. No university survey course on the history of Canadian cinema is complete without a unit or two of Cronenberg studies. This is partly because, through its sheer longevity, his career serves as a textbook illustration of how a Canadian filmmaker crawled out of the primordial muck by splicing his DNA with American genre models during the Bmovie big bang of the tax shelter years, which served as the Genesis of our entire industry. Cronenberg’s own personal evolution from cheapjack shock artist to critically acclaimed radical—a shift at once belied and reinforced by his genial intellectual persona—offers a perfect litmus test for the auteur theory. Since the late 1990s, when the international media furor over the visionary J.G. Ballard adaptation Crash placed Cronenberg in the vanguard of culture warriors alongside his pal Salman Rushdie, it’s become a regular pastime to question, and in some cases carp about, whether his star-filled co-productions are still sufficiently “Canadian.” It’s a debate whose stakes are either very high or beside the point depending on your point of view. For many, Cronenberg’s penetration of the global art film market, to the point that he can convince the shiniest vampire from Twilight to ride shotgun on Cosmopolis, is a success story to be emulated, but there are those who fret that it’s all part of an elongated process of “losing” one of our own artists to the bastards across the border. When Cronenberg made his biggest hit, The Fly, he placed the action in an undisguised Toronto; last year’s Maps to the Stars, meanwhile, found him relocated, for the first time, onscreen and off, to Hollywood. Of course, Maps to the Stars is no more of a “sell-out” than any of its predecessors, and it’s worth considering the fact that most of Cronenberg’s non-Canadian-set films share a theme of encroaching un-reality: whether it’s the meticulously stylised Tangier of Naked Lunch or the slyly Kubrickian New York City of Cosmopolis, they seem to be taking place in some remote, cloistered suburb of eXistenZ. The argument could also be made that the director’s work is so interior—think Spider or Cosmopolis again—that the external settings are an afterthought. Arguably, this makes him a sideways inheritor of the Canadian literary tradition described by Margaret Atwood: faced with the harshness of their immediate environment, Cronenberg’s characters burrow into themselves (and some get turned inside-out, like a monkey test-piloting a malfunctioning Telepod). From the seductively beckoning TV set of Videodrome to the ladder perched over the walls of an asylum in A Dangerous Method, Cronenberg’s films are filled with potent images of escape. They can stand as metaphors for the artistic and economic freedom that he’s earned after five decades of filmmaking, making him a truly liberated Canadian artist. And yet his choice to almost always stay close to home, working with a close-knit group of collaborators, suggests that he harbors no desire to separate himself from a filmmaking tradition that he helped to codify and promote perhaps more than any of his peers and predecessors. The more that David Cronenberg’s films change—or maybe the word is “mutate”—the
— Adam Nayman
Adam Nayman is an editor for Cinemascope magazine. He teaches film at the University of Toronto and Ryerson University.
Courtesy David Cronenberg
more they stay the same.
As a tribute to David Cronenberg, who will receive the DGC’s Lifetime Achievement Award this October, Adam and I engaged in a hunt of our own. We tracked down some of Cronenberg’s colleagues, friends and relatives and asked them to respond to a still from one of his films or a portrait shot of the great Canadian auteur. Among those who responded were: composer Howard Shore; cinematographer Peter Suschitzky; producers Justis Greene, Victor Solnicki, Gabrielle Martinelli and Jody Shapiro; costume designer Denise Cronenberg; actors Stephen Lack, Sarah Gadon and Don McKeller; set decorator and latterly art director Elinor Rose Galbraith; first assistant director John Board; director Patricia Rozema; and editor Ron Sanders. Their candid quotes accompany images from Cronenberg in this unique celebration of the director and his work. — Marc Glassman
JUSTIS GREENE, PRODUCER: Viggo Mortensen holding a gun in A History of Violence (2005). David not only knows the workings of everything that has to do with film—the camera, the lights, the lenses—but everything else as well. What brought that to mind was that picture of Viggo holding the gun. I accompanied David when he walked into the prop room and started to walk through what weapons he wanted for A History of Violence. “Character one will have this weapon in this scene,” etc. The prop master laid them out, and David walked over and chose every weapon for every scene by name. This is a room full of weapons. I’ve worked with other directors like John Frankenheimer who are very knowledgeable about weapons, but David was absolutely specific. It wasn’t about the colour of the weapon; it wasn’t about the shape of the weapon. David would say, “Okay, for this one, we’re going to go with the Glock, and in this scene, we’ll go with this,” and so on. Anyway, we were in the meeting, and sometimes those meetings can last all day, but I doubt if we were there for even an hour. Some of the weapons for some of the scenes, David said to Frenchie, the weap-
ons master, “I don’t see anything here for that scene, but what I’d like is a so-and-so.” It was not a double-barrelled shotgun, it was a specific weapon—it was this calibre, this weapon, this length, this style, this colour. Even though it wasn’t in the room. So anyway, we were walking back across the lot to his office, and I was laughing and I said to him, “I’ve been in a lot of these meetings”—and I happen to be a guy who loves weapons; I love shooting, and I know a fair amount about them—“and I’ve never been with anyone who knew this much.” He told me that earlier in career, he had a project that involved some weapons. At that point, he wasn’t particularly interested in weapons so he chose them for whatever [reason]—the colour, the shape, the way most directors choose them—and David said that when the film got released, he received comments, because the character in the film wouldn’t have used the weapon he’d chosen. He decided at that point, in typical David fashion, that he needed to know everything there was to know about weapons, and he simply went out and did it.
SARAH GADON, ACTOR: Rosanna Arquette in Crash (1996). David often uses the deterioration of the body to explore human emotions. Recurring themes within his films centre on the human body and its relationship to the machine. This is always a fraught relationship forcing man to ultimately confront his own mortality. What I find interesting about these themes, as an actor performing in his films, is that the body becomes a site of repression, sexual angst, regret or frustration. As a director he never overtly leads you to an emotional response; instead he supplies the scenario and you simply respond. It’s interesting that when you watch one of his films you might think, “Wow, this is an impossible circumstance or unbelievable series of events.” Yet there are undeniable emotional themes that allow his work to become accessible. As an actor you realise that the emotional catharsis you are experiencing is universal and I see this when an audience watches his films. His films cut you open and force you to look at what’s inside.
David will have these incredibly intense conversations with actors. We had some very powerful actors on that film, like William Hurt and Maria Bello, who was very strong and opinionated, as she should be. I watch directors all the time, and they’re confronted with these things during a shooting day, about tomorrow’s work, and they all handle it differently. David just simply listens, and then very quietly tells them how we’re going to do it. It’s really wonderful to see, because the respect is there, but also the strength is there. And it’s not just an experienced, strong actor that can cause a director to waver; an inexperienced actor can
cause a director to waver perhaps even more, because their questions are not coming from knowledge; they’re coming from insecurity. It’s the director’s job to steer that conversation and that performance, and it’s brilliant to watch David. He’s absolutely in charge. It is intimidating, but it’s not an unfriendly intimidation. It’s not even a manipulation; there’s just no one who knows the material better and there’s no one who knows the direction of that scene better than David. Some of the scenes that need to be played out—just because they’re emotional or physical scenes—David lets them play out, but every single nuance of that scene, he knows.
Photos courtesy TIFF Reference Library
Viggo Mortensen with Maria Bello in the farm house in A History of Violence.
JOHN BOARD, FIRST ASSISTANT DIRECTOR:
Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone (1983).
The Dead Zone was very interesting, just full of ideas. I had a producer call me after it was over and tell me that he had heard that Christopher Walken couldn’t repeat what he did in take one. I said, “No, whoever was watching didn’t understand.’ Chris’s character was a bit smarmy—romantic, a king, but over the edge a lot. So David would have Chris give the scene more emphasis and then less, so there was a selection that could be edited. Chris never did a take that wasn’t what David asked for. He was perfect in that role.
James Woods and Deborah Harry in Videodrome (1983).
payback, real quick. I remember Debbie Harry, who was a musician, not an actor, saying, “David, I have no idea, but I trust you.” She really didn’t know about being an actor. She did trust him, and he made a good performance with her. We had to do some running shots on University Avenue [in Toronto], and I was in the sidecar of the lead cop so that we’d go through lights if we needed to and I could tell what the traffic situation was coming either way. When we finished, we pulled over to the curb outside Osgoode Hall, and I opened the door for Debbie, and she said, “Well, Sidecar, how was that?” And that became my nickname.
Photos courtesy TIFF Reference Library
James Woods was ideal as an actor—he could think intelligently; he could discuss his character’s motivations if he had to; he understood what David was doing. I had some really interesting moments with him. I remember on one set he was telling a joke, and I finally yelled up from down below, “Jimmy, I’m going to shoot now; I’m rolling camera!” He wouldn’t finish his stories, but he was a very affable guy, and he finished the scene perfectly. The next shot we had to do with him was in the same place, just another little segment of it. I quieted everybody, and when I rolled camera somebody dropped a nail, maybe, or a pin, and he said, “Jesus Christ, John! How can I act in this noise!” I said, “I’m sorry, Jimmy,” but that was
RON SANDERS, EDITOR: Roy Scheider in Naked Lunch (1991).
DON McKELLAR, ACTOR: Above: Cronenberg (far right) with Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh on the set of eXistenZ (1999).
eXistenZ was a particularly unique film because I think it was about acting. That’s what I learned on the set. He picked a bunch of people that he enjoyed and he really wanted performances. I remember talking with the other members of the cast at the time and asking, “Is this too much?” I was doing this accent, and he was really pushing me on it. He didn’t want to hold back. It wasn’t about naturalism. That’s sort of the trick of the film, when you realise how much it’s about performance. The experience of being an actor on the set is like the central allegory of the movie—feeling the limitations of your ability to act and to perform. I think there’s a metaphor there.
It was a suit. It was a Monique Mercure suit that Roy Scheider was wearing. So we had to cut to her and then to something else and then back again. Naked Lunch was fun to work on because there were so many practical effects—things that were built and operated. There was an especially good set, as I recall. We were going to go to Tangier but there was some problem. It was going to be too difficult to get insurance to go there. So Carol Spier built a set of the street with shops on it that you could go in and out of, and she kept building onto it all the time. When it was finished, it was amazing. But in that shot, it was a guy in a suit. Now they wouldn’t bother. It would be CGI. It would be a VFX shot. In those days, it was more realistic to do something practical. In most cases, it still is.
Opposite page, centre: Cronenberg checking a shot. I remember when I first asked David to act in my short film, Blue. I was terrified. I couldn’t believe that he would do it. I asked him why and he said he felt that he had to find out what it was like to be on the other side of the camera, to get some empathy with the actors. He thought that was important. His directorial side is mostly empathetic. The most striking thing about him, from an actor’s point of view, is how at ease he is. How unforced it is. How relaxed. It’s almost unnerving when you first come on the set because he doesn’t tell you what to do. He tells you to do the scene, you do it, and you hope that it was right. It puts a kind of pressure on you. He’s almost so relaxed and so welcoming that there’s this pressure. fall 2015
PATRICIA ROZEMA, DIRECTOR: Jeff Goldbum in the pod device in The Fly (1986).
I’m seeing this picture of Jeff Goldblum in a very sophisticated-looking pod, which was made out of something that wasn’t steel and was very wobbly—one of our biggest concerns was to have it not look wobbly. Jeff was a little maniacal because he was just drinking water all the time. He was the first person I ever saw drinking bottled water. Nobody had bottled water—what’s that about? There’s water in the tap; what’s your problem? But he had to do nude shots, so he had to be buff. He was just peeling away any kind of tiny little extra ounce, and he was slightly crazed, but very funny. David was very respectful of the actors. Actors often want to be more likeable, and I watched him kind of dodge that expertly, because it’s not a popularity show; it’s a story about people who are flawed.
HOWARD SHORE, COMPOSER: Jeff Goldbum in the pod device in The Fly. That’s Brundle in the Telepod. The Fly was my fourth collaboration with David after The Brood, Scanners and Videodrome and it was our first truly symphonic score. I was working with the London Philharmonic and we recorded at Olympic Studios in London. I was using techniques in this score from opera to develop
the story in a more epic way than was usual for the genre. David and I have always felt like we were going beyond the genre in The Fly and the story for this film eventually led me to writing the score for an opera based on The Fly, which David directed in 2008.
DENISE CRONENBERG, COSTUME DESIGNER: Jeremy Irons and his double with
It was a turning point for me. It was a way to work with this great orchestra. Previous to that, it had always been chamber orchestras or electronic productions. The Fly is a live performance by a great orchestra, which is what I was hoping to achieve.
the room, one for each twin, filled with their individual clothing. Each day I would go and decide what I felt was needed for each twin, talk to David, and then discuss with Jeremy Irons the choices I felt worked. It was discussed day by day as there were so many costume Heidi von Palleske and his double in changes. Mostly he agreed. Only one time did he disagree and wanted to wear his own clothDead Ringers (1988). ing from Brideshead Revisited. I did have to In looking at this photo I am reminded of how go to David to help me convince Jeremy that it I chose to set up the wardrobe room on Dead would not work—not an easy thing to accomRingers. There were two racks on either side of plish. One wrong choice for each of the twins
and it would ruin the flow of well thoughtout costuming for the whole film. Really scary for me. In this photo, you can see that one twin was in very relaxed dress and the other more formal. Just to achieve that end took a lot of discussion. To keep the flow of individual style for each twin throughout the entire film was a huge responsibility, which I loved. In the photo, the clothing and body language give you the complete style of each twin. Looks simple, but definitely was not.
PETER SUSCHITZY, CINEMATOGRAPHER: Cronenberg directing Ralph Fiennes in Spider (2002). He’s talking to Ralph Fiennes on the set of Spider. Although he has never said this to me directly, I think he believes that the most important thing for a director is to get the casting right, and that means the casting of everybody: actors and key creative people, production designers, directors of photography, etc. David is a gentle manipulator; he doesn’t tell people what to do but, having chosen them carefully, he gives than a lot of freedom, unless he feels that they are going off in the wrong direction. He won’t normally tell the actors what to do and won’t give many directions once we have had an on-set rehearsal. He may have said that it would be better if they, the actors, were in one part of the set rather than another. He will answer questions that the actors may have, and some have more than others. Fiennes probably had plenty of questions about the scene and his character—and David always had an answer. The spaces were not easy to work in, the rooms being very small at David’s specific request, but David, as is his usual way, gave Fiennes a lot of room to bring what he wanted to bring to the part.
GABRIELLA MARTINELLI, PRODUCER: Peter Weller in the Interzone in Naked Lunch (1991).
Photos courtesy TIFF Reference Library
While making Naked Lunch, you felt like you were in another world—you were in William Burroughs’ Interzone. Peter Weller just totally embraced that, and I think it was the best thing he’s ever done. With David, he was able to embrace the character of Bill Lee, and he became that on and off the set. [Because of that], Weller became very strange. Originally, we were supposed to shoot in Morocco, and then we couldn’t because of the first Gulf War. That was why we ended up doing everything in Toronto and recreating the Casbah. We did go location scouting there, and then Carol Spier created the Casbah—an imaginary one. David said, “I’m even happier now, because we’re in this hallucinatory world.”
VICTOR SOLNICKI, PRODUCER: Cronenberg in black and white on the set of Videodrome (1983).
When David first brought in his treatment for Videodrome, I thought it was brilliant, particularly at that time when there were all these little TV stations popping up all over the place—in Toronto there was City and so on. He took it to the next level and said, they don’t have much of a budget, so they have to mix in pirated material with the ones they’ve licensed. I thought the idea of a guy scanning the airwaves and pulling in shows, and finding this bizarre programme where torture and murder is
the essence of it to be quite fascinating. David knew what he was doing—he was always quietly confident about his own taste and his own judgment. He was inventing his own genre, so he knew more about it than anybody and was following his own instincts. As a producer, I was smart enough to step back and not try to push him into a conventional kind of rut. Everything that he brought to the film was highly original and highly imaginative.
STEPHEN LACK, ACTOR: Stephen Lack preparing his own exploding head from Scanners (1981).
Photos courtesy TIFF Reference Library (Videodrome); Stephen Lack (Scanners)
How did I prep for having my head explode? Well, I didn’t want any Exorcist cups put over my eyeballs. But the first shot of my head in the “blow-up” scene was inadequate, because of time and technology constraints, so they brought Dick Smith in. (Note: Smith was the makeup artist on The Godfather, The Exorcist and Little Big Man.) They devised a better process whereby my head exploded, and they recast my head, Dick Smith style. When I met Dick, it was a Sunday morning and I wasn’t a very happy puppy but I was cracking jokes with the crew and—they froze my eyeballs and cast the head. But one of the bladders that Dick Smith had invented was malfunctioning; there was a leak somewhere. Dick was under a lot of pressure and looked like he’d like to slice my head off. I said, “Why don’t you submerge the bladders under water, put air in them, and that way you can visualize where the leaks are and repair it?” He looked at me and said, “Brilliant!” So the bladder was fixed and the shoot went swimmingly, and he gifted me the head. I may be the only one in the world with a Dick Smith prop.
GABRIELLA MARTINELLI: Jeremy Irons in Dead Ringers (1988). Jeremy Irons totally trusted David. Jeremy is a consummate actor, and a real class act. They spent a lot of time on set differentiating between the two characters—the Mantle brothers—that he was playing. David was always absolutely clear on where he was going with both of them. And you’re dealing with weird stuff—I mean really weird stuff—in Dead Ringers. I mean the gynaecological equipment, from my woman’s perspective, I was like, “Oh my god.” But Jeremy was amazing—and it was based on a true story.
STEPHEN LACK, Group in circle from Scanners. Looking at that still after all these years, the first thing that comes to mind is my own ignorance, because the idea behind Scanners is so brilliant. It’s like when you line up computers or electrical capacitors to make them more powerful; that was what was going on in our group-think, and that’s the idea behind what David was applying in the film. It’s a good thing that I didn’t even think that deeply—I just looked at the lines and what I had to speak and why, because the thinking behind each scene was always so great, it would have been a distraction to me at the time. I would have been taking David aside and saying “You’re so smart” instead of “What does this mean?” David is a master manipulator. He manipulates us all in the participation of each scene, and it is pleasurable. I enjoyed my experience—probably more than David, since he had to clean up all the scenes later in the editing room.
JODY SHAPIRO, PRODUCER:
Cronenberg in 1983 with a view of Toronto behind him.
I’m trying to figure out where that picture was actually taken. I think that’s the CN Tower at the very back right of the frame. It must have been shot in Yorkville. It’s an appropriate shot because David Cronenberg has made such a stamp on this city as a filmmaker. Working with him was a real treat. That would have been 2000, for the 25th anniversary of TIFF Preludes. He did a short called Camera, and I produced it through Rhombus Media. Our time working together was short but very intense, and we had a lot of communication.
Of course, I was incredibly nervous. Really my job was to let him do what he wanted to do and support him in any way I could. I built a little team around him for a very short time. He was completely fascinated with the new digital, non-linear editing that was happening, and you’ve got to remember that this was 15 years ago, so the machines were just starting to become mainstream. He really wanted to edit Camera at his place, and of course that’s the way it’s done now. I remember being amazed and impressed that he’d embraced that side of the new technology so quickly.
ELINOR ROSE GALBRAITH, SET DESIGNER: Peter Weller with the Mugwump in Naked Lunch (1991).
That’s the old munitions factory at Commissioners Road. It was fun to work there. We changed it into two different locations. The first time was the Moroccan desert, where Bill Lee goes to do drugs and hang out. You just see the tent, and then you see sand. We filled the place with sand, and it was really fun learning how to build Moroccan tents. The picture you showed me is of the second location, which is where we had the Mugwump. The memory that I have
of it—this is a funny, fond memory—is that in our art department, I was the Mugwump, and Carol [Spier] and David practised their harnessing techniques on me until they got it right. They create, and I have to execute, so often in the execution, things would evolve. On that occasion it was great fun. David always had his story set out, but the actual physical manifestation was something that he would often create on the day. You’d
just give him all of the pieces he wanted to play with, and then he would do something wonderfully unexpected. That’s what I used to love about working with David, and still do—the fact that you’d read the script, and that was one level; you’d actually physically do it, and that was another level; but then when you went to see the film, he’d always bring another level to it, and you’d go, “Wow! I worked on that?”
ELINOR ROSE GALBRAITH: Judy Davis in an apartment in Naked Lunch.
Oh, the apartment! That was one of my favourites, actually. That’s where I’ll bring William Burroughs into it, because he was a revelation, I have to say. He was shocking in his piercingness. I remember he and David did a press interview, and I snuck in, and somebody asked William Burroughs, “Do you have any regrets?” and William Burroughs went, “Of course I have regrets; all human beings have regrets.” And he went on in this incredibly poetic way about it. I remember the sofa; it was my aunt’s sofa. I love the way the sofa bed was always in the liv-
ing room. The kitchen was all about the bugs, all about the cockroaches, and strangely I just went through the graphics the other day and found all the bug juice labels that Bill used to bring home. I put 23 on the door of the apartment, in honour of William Burroughs. Then there was the whole scene when he actually shot his wife and got away with it—the game of chance with the glass and the gun. That was shocking. The drug abuse was so modern, but the shooting was shocking to me then, and still is today.
VICTOR SOLNICKI: The children of The Brood (1979).
When David pitched The Brood, it felt totally original. The underlying premise of it I found fascinating, that this woman who is working with a shrink and is expressing her anger actually sets off these creatures that are unborn children to act out her rage. If you remember, when she’s expressing rage against a particular person, you then cut to that person being attacked by these little gremlins—these cute little killers. I remember a funny thing when we were working on the script. I don’t know what triggered this, but at one point, the little creatures are at a house, and suddenly we cut, and they’re in another location. I asked David, “How do these creatures get around? Do they take a taxi? Do they use the TTC? How are they getting from this place to that place?” I remember geographically they were quite far apart. He said, “I never worry about that kind of stuff—if the audience starts to think about that, then we’re not doing our job.”
GABRIELLA MARTINELLI John Lone on the set of M. Butterfly (1993).
Photos courtesy TIFF Reference Library (The Brood, Naked Lunch); Gabriella Martinelli (M. Butterfly)
John Lone was always very worried about whether he looked good enough. There was constant reinforcement, making sure that his clothing was working and making him be assured that he was the female character. Jeremy had to deal with John being not as confident, and making her—because she always needed to be called “her” on set—making her feel beautiful and that he was in love with her. That’s not easy—that’s a lot for an actor to do.
Photo courtesy Peter Leitch
PETER LEIT 36
by KIM LINEKIN
The president of North Shore Studios, Peter Leitch is a key player in B.C.’s film and TV industry. The chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association has helped to land huge projects from L.A. No wonder he’s the DGC’s Honourary Life Member for 2015.
This year’s DGC Honourary Life Member is North Shore Studios president Peter Leitch, a man who had no stars in his eyes growing up and no intention of entering the ﬁlm and television business. Yet he has made an essential contribution, having spent a quarter century building the B.C. industry from the ground up. He’s the chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association (MPPIA) of B.C. and a signiﬁcant supporter of ﬁlm and television workers and producers. In an interview with Montage, Leitch mentions that he took a tour that morning around his studios, basking in the sets of Mistresses, iZombie and the new XFiles. “The detail of the work they’ve done—it’s mindboggling to me how good these guys and girls are,” he says. “The talent I see behind and in front of the camera, in the visual effects houses, the painters, the quality of their work and how fast they get it done: it’s just stuff I couldn’t do—not even close.” Leitch began making his contribution in 1987 when a headhunter plucked the young certiﬁed accountant out of Ticketmaster and arranged interviews with Cominco mining company and Stephen J. Cannell’s Vancouver production company. The legendary TV writer-producer wanted a “non-ﬁlm guy,” recalls Leitch. “They were looking for more of a corporate accountant.” He ﬁt the bill, having never heard of his new boss. “Then I realised my brother and I used to be big fans of [Cannell’s early series] Adam-12 when we were kids. We’d make a plate of brownies and eat them all before our parents got home, watching that show.” Leitch says his ambitions were “just to be able to contribute within a great organisation and to work in the private sector, not in public practice.” Cannell’s company built North Shore Studios in 1989, and Leitch rose to become chief ﬁnancial ofﬁcer (CFO) and then president in 1995. He’s stayed in that position ever since, adding a few other titles to his résumé at the behest of Joe Kaczorowski, CFO of Cannell Studios in L.A. “He said, ‘Peter, get involved with the community. It’s important, it’ll help your career.’ And he was absolutely right. I became the chair of the Chamber of Commerce after joining them for a few years and got involved in our industry association.” Leitch was already connected with several North Vancouver businesses, having articled with a boys’ club of accountants. Members of that group included the future publisher of North Shore News, the owner of Lonsdale Quay and the CFO of Earls Restaurants. But forging broader connections was crucial to getting the local ﬁlm and television industry off the ground. “This industry interacts with the community more than any other I can think of,” Leitch explains. “It’s certainly a glamorous industry initially, but once you’ve got all the production vehicles parked on your street, you might see that as a bit of an inconvenience. We knew we needed to build those bridges and gain support.” He also recognised early on the importance of government support. “When the city council voted, it was 4-3 on whether to allow us to build North Shore
Studios,” he recalls of the fateful 1987 decision. “We were taking up some industrial land and [they must’ve thought], are there companies that are more established that could use it? Are these people from Hollywood going to be here today and gone tomorrow? We were new. And we were unknown.” Convincing local businesses and government of the value of ﬁlm studios was one thing. For most of Leitch’s tenure as MPPIA chair, he’s had to advocate for the jobs and economic beneﬁts that the tax credits provide within the B.C. government. In fact, if you look back at mentions of Leitch in the media, it seems like all he does is argue for more tax credits. His colleagues are quick to correct that impression. Crawford Hawkins, executive director of the DGC-BC District Council and MPPIA vice-chair, maintains that “after the initial round of credit increases, Peter has never, in recent years, advocated for more tax credits. His aim is to solidify the existing labour tax credit so that our clients can rely on them.” “It’s basically table stakes that you have to offer tax credits to be in the game,” Leitch says of his tax advocacy. “And it kind of started in B.C. We were one of the ﬁrst to offer the tax credit scheme in the early ‘90s.” Leitch explains that when other provinces started offering credits, his approach was to lobby the B.C. government for a level playing ﬁeld. “We thought initially that we needed to match what our competitors were doing. And at that point it was Ontario. In those days they didn’t have a lot of tax credits in the U.S.” Then many states did start offering tax credits, some more generous than B.C.’s. And Ontario and Quebec introduced an “all-spend” tax scheme, where credits are based on all eligible goods and labour spending, instead of B.C.’s credits for local labour only. Leitch’s approach evolved accordingly, taking into consideration the golden perch B.C. sits on. “We recognise that our location offers advantages that other jurisdictions don’t, so we don’t have to be at the top of the heap in terms of incentives. We just have to be close enough so that we’re competitive.” Those advantages include the lower dollar, B.C.’s proximity to L.A., its matching time zone, the ability to shoot year-round, and the glowing reputation of its crews and cast. “Now, of course, we have a legacy of being fantastic at producing feature ﬁlms here. And that’s recognized in L.A. So as long as we’re close in terms of cost, we’ve got a good chance of landing productions,” Leitch says.
My brother and I used to be big fans of Adam-12. We’d make a plate of brownies and eat them all before our parents got home, watching that show. —Peter Leitch When you consider Leitch’s accounting background, you’d think that haggling over taxes with the government would come easily. However, he says, “it’s not a natural thing for me to be in a political role. But once you get involved, it’s all about building relationships.” To that end, he’s made it his mission to impress the value of B.C.’s ﬁlm and television industry on provincial politicians. “We don’t have anybody come to our meetings. We go to them,” he says of the MPPIA’s political activities. “Mike de Jong is the ﬁnance minister. Mike’s got a fundraiser this week and we’ll be there. And when the premier [Christy Clark] has a fundraiser, we’ll be there. When the premier went to India last year, we went there.” fall 2015
He also invites politicians to a “show and tell” of local studios. “Our industry stakeholders are very generous in terms of sharing their facilities and engaging our political friends, making sure they get an understanding of the industry and the types of jobs that we bring to the province and how we diversify the economy.” He points to Steveston—a quaint port south of Vancouver that’s become a tourist destination after doubling as Storybrooke in TV’s Once Upon a Time—as a “good news story” the MPPIA hopes to exchange for political capital. “The proﬁle that we get from some of the productions—we’re starting to reap the beneﬁts of that. People recognise us as a ﬁlm centre and they might spend that extra day at a hotel to go see a particular location. We’re thinking, ‘How do we exploit that more as a value-add?’”
Other contributions Leitch trumpets are “how this industry gives back to the community, whether it’s to the food bank, clothing, or building a legacy in a playground, or value-adding to a park or a particular building,” he says. “Because if we want to sustain the business, we’re going to have to give back. And I think this industry has shown that they’re good at doing that, but we don’t talk about it much.” All this glad-handing might make Leitch sound like a publicity hound. But he enjoys a reputation as a quiet and thoughtful industry leader, someone with “consensus-building skills, a respectful debating style and an inclusive style of leadership. He has a common man’s touch, but an ambassadorial delivery,” according to Arthur Evrensel, an entertainment lawyer who’s sat on the MPPIA board. Entertainment Partners Canada president and MPPIA vice-chair Cheryl Nex similarly admires Leitch’s “balanced approach.” As Nex says, “for us in the ﬁlm industry, we’re always looking for big, bold, bang! And sometimes it can’t happen that way. I think Peter just has a great appreciation for that. That sometimes it’s going to be a very subtle change, but it’s a change.” Even Leitch’s rivals have only nice things to say about him. Pete Mitchell, MPPIA secretary and president of Vancouver Film Studios, points out that his company “has been in direct competition with Peter’s over the past 15 years and I have said many times: it’s good for us to have such good competition. It means
Sustainability is Leitch’s chief goal for the future of B.C. ﬁlm and television production, which makes sense given how successful the industry is right now. He takes special pride in the industry’s cooperative relationship with the unions. “You hear of other industries where there can be a struggle between management and unions,” he says. “Here they’re an absolute asset. How else do you get a crew of 200 to 300 people together in a week?” Another of Leitch’s goals is to see more women on the boards he sits on, though Nex points out that ﬁve of the 12 MPPIA executive members are already women, and “that’s fantastic.” For his companies, he’s looking into expanding, maybe by creating a TV facility and more stages at Mammoth Studios, North Shore Studios’ subsidiary in Burnaby. As for himself, Leitch has no plans to leave Vancouver. “We’ve got everything going for us. I can’t think of any place I’d want to invest in more than here.”
Kim Linekin is a ﬁlm critic for The Georgia Straight in Vancouver. She’s also CBC Radio’s national pop culture columnist and chair of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle.
Photos courtesy Peter Leitch
North Shore Studios
we can refer back and forth without any hesitation when we are at capacity. It drives us to be better and reﬂects well on the whole community. Seen from the outside, Vancouver looks like a cohesive group that is here to do business, not slag each other to gain advantage.” Leitch concurs, adding that getting productions up to Canada, then to B.C., trumps any need to make sure they come to his facility over a competitor’s. That also means they don’t undercut each other or jack up prices during busy periods. There have been outside challenges, of course. When the federal government recently proposed reforms to the Temporary Foreign Workers Program, the MPPIA had to mobilize to make their government contact aware of how the changes might affect B.C. ﬁlm production. Leitch’s balanced approach helped unite the industry behind him on this issue. “There’s some that would say, let’s shut the gates and have it all Canadian. But we recognise that bringing certain people into the country creates hundreds and thousands of jobs for Canadians, so let’s not throw [temporary foreign workers] out.” Leitch refuses to complain about current governments or to speculate about the coming federal election. He insists that his industry “straddles the middle” of the political spectrum, and that they’re more concerned with advocating for good policies than for one party over another, federally or provincially. “We continue to build good relationships with all sides,” he says, taking pains to include the Green Party, given their shared commitment to a ecologically positive industry.
MARK REID HAS SHAPED THE DGC’S HEALTH PLAN, MANAGED THE GUILD’S FINANCES AND ADVOCATED FOR SASKATCHEWAN
The Don Haldane Distinguished Service Award recognizes the outstanding service a DGC member has provided to the membership as a whole. And Mark Reid, this year’s recipient, has indeed served his colleagues, and in an exemplary way: tirelessly, selﬂessly, and out of a deep love for the industry. This sense of duty came calling back in 1999, when he was a busy production manager in Regina and the Guild’s Saskatchewan District Council (SDC) was getting on its feet. “I worked on a number of shows the DGC didn’t sign. I was frustrated with some of the stuff going on with the Guild and ﬁnally decided, ‘What better way to help resolve those than to join?’ So I put forward my membership,” recalls Reid, 51, speaking from the Toronto production ofﬁce of the DHX Media kids series Make It Pop, on which he is a producer/production manager. “The original SDC members who did all the heavy lifting showed a lot of guts,” he continues. “Joining at the start brings its own issues, and I wanted to help in the shaping of the Guild in Saskatchewan.” Soon after joining he became the SDC’s vice-chair, and then was elected chair in 2001 after Rhonda Baker stepped down. Reid would hold that position until 2007 and then again in 2010–11. In between he served as national second vice president, and most recently as national secretary treasurer from 2011 to earlier this year, when he stepped down at the AGM to make way for new voices and to focus on his trade. And all this has been for the Guild’s greater good. “Mark has no interest in making this part of his CV or a matter of public pride,” says DGC president Tim Southam. “But he’s so deeply courteous and considerate that he has agreed to accept this award. He’s doing it for us. And that will be the most kudos he’ll be willing to accept after 16 years of unbelievably hard work.” One of his most valued contributions has been as founding chair of the Guild’s Health and Welfare Trust, starting in 2004. DGC national executive director Brian Baker explains that from more than $9 million in annual producer contributions, the Guild “has developed one of the industry’s top health insurance programs. It was Mark’s baby right from the beginning. If it wasn’t for him it wouldn’t have survived. That’s how dedicated he’s been to it.” Reid and his fellow trustees, including district council chairs, faced the daunting task of overhauling the plan—today called ReelLife Beneﬁts—which was accomplished over the course of up to 20 annual conference calls, some clocking in at three hours. “In the end we came up with a plan that meets many of the needs and desires of the membership,” Reid says. “When we started, the trust was in a serious fall 2015
Photo courtesy Bell Media
By MARK DILLON
Previous page: The cast of Corner Gas. This page: Incredible Story Studio.
Photos courtesy Vérité Films
Opposite page: Make It Pop (top three photos); Incredible Story Studio; The L.A. Complex
ﬁnancial situation, but I’m happy to say that as of my departure it was in very good shape.” A solution was required to keep health care stable in the face of the vagaries of the industry, as a member’s beneﬁts are determined by how much they are working and the resultant producer contributions. Reid and the trustees resolved this with the concept of a “dollar bank”—an account set up in a member’s name where excess contributions go if they are greater than the cost of the automatic coverage level. “If you have career dips, you’ll have a dip in your health-care coverage, which can be disastrous,” Baker explains. “So in good years, members can bank surplus producer contributions for later years. This ‘dollar bank’ would smooth out coverage over the course of your career. Also, members can move some of this money into a health-care spending account to pay for health services not covered under our health-care program.” Another issue Reid kept hearing about after joining the National Executive Board was the feeling among some members that DGC dues were too high. The response was the so-called dues-reduction protocol. “Mark was part of a small group that felt we had to balance that complaint against the need for the national organisation to continually build a two-year buffer against any kind of economic downturn,” Southam recalls. “So now, once we’ve achieved that objective of having a reserve, anything left over is sent back to members in the form of a dues reduction. And money has been sent back.” Although the Guild’s shifting demands and priorities mean members won’t necessarily see a reduction to their $750 dues every year, Reid reﬂects, “I suggested this particular model, but as with most things at the Guild the staff does the heavy lifting. I hope the Guild continues with it down the road.” Reid, Baker and others at the DGC ofﬁce, including operations manager Marjorie Chu and director of ﬁnance & administration Vivian Tsoi, also collaborated on implementing the quarterly dues installment, as many members were ﬁnding the annual lump-sum payment—due right after Christmas, no less—to be a strain. “Seven hundred ﬁfty dollars is an easy thing for some members, and for others it’s very difﬁcult,” Reid says. “Setting up the quarterly dues installment has helped those members who had difﬁculty paying it all at once. And those who can pay it all upfront get a 10 per cent reduction.” Reid grew up in Orillia, Ontario, and attended Ryerson University’s Radio and Television program. He fell in love with fellow student Heather McIntyre and after graduating followed her back to her hometown of Regina, where they would marry and raise four children. Reid would call it home for more than two decades. “I love Saskatchewan,” he says. “I love the prairies and the sky. It is a wonderful place to raise kids. And it was great to move to a market that was just getting going. I was a small ﬁsh in a small pond, but many opportunities presented themselves that I wouldn’t have had if I’d stayed in Toronto.” Reid sowed his cinematic oats in corporate video at an early incarnation of Regina’s Minds Eye Entertainment. That’s where he met Rob King, then a writer and later a director—and today, chair of the DGC’s National Directors Division. They ﬁrst collaborated in 1989 on a video about a retiring executive to be shown to an audience of 500. “We were told in no uncertain terms to not screw it up,” King recalls. “We had lots of fun making it. Mark was very earnest. The night of the big dinner and screening, he said he couldn’t go for fear no one
would laugh. Turns out it got a great response. I called him from the event to tell him we still had jobs.” Reid got his ﬁrst taste of dramatic production when the NFB’s Regina ofﬁce, looking to build the local talent pool, sponsored him to work as assistant production manager in Winnipeg on the 1991 TV movie True Confections. Then Minds Eye sent him to a production management workshop at the Banff Centre before putting him to work on the series On My Mind (1995). He now had a profession. He re-teamed with director King on the Minds Eye thriller TV movie Murder Seen (2000) and then on the Minds Eye/Vérité Films family series Incredible Story Studio, which adapted story ideas submitted by kids. Reid, by then a DGC member, joined the series when it was picked up by Walt Disney International, which involved shooting in Ireland. It was Vérité partner and co-creator Virginia Thompson’s ﬁrst series. “At the time, my partner Robert de Lint and I were creative producers, so we needed a very strong line producer who knew how to deliver a show on time and on budget, and Mark was that in spades,” she says.”And he brought knowledge of the industry to the table, which really helped us as babies in our 20s.”
The show was such a cultural phenomenon that it redeﬁned the role of production manager. This entailed forging a special relationship with Rouleau, Saskatchewan, where exteriors and interior gas station and bar scenes were shot. “On any given summer weekend, 1,000 to 1,500 people would visit our set,” Reid explains. “We wanted to have a positive impact on that little town and not be a pain the ass. We had to create weekend bus tours so people could see the studio sets in Regina and Rouleau. I didn’t expect to ever have to deal with all the fans, tourists and the town. There were some challenges, but it was a lot of fun.” Shortly after Corner Gas ended, business began to dry up in the province, exacerbated by the economic downturn of 2008 and the province’s axing of the SFETC in 2012. Reid had seen the writing on the wall and relocated to Toronto in 2010 to work on series including Satisfaction, Hannibal and Max & Shred. His wife stayed in Regina with their children so they could continue their education. Reid’s been able to get back home ﬁve weeks out of the year. “It was very sad for me to leave,” he says. “I can’t complain about the work, but it’s tough on the family for sure.”
Photos courtesy Nickelodeon (Make It Pop), Vérité Films (Incredible Story Studio), and Epitome Pictures (The L.A. Complex)
We had to create weekend bus tours so people could see the studio sets in Regina and Rouleau. I didn’t expect to ever have to deal with all the fans, tourists and the town. There were some challenges, but it was a lot of fun. —Mark Reid The Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit (SFETC) had been introduced in 1998, successfully stimulating the province’s production industry. Reid assumed his SDC duties at a pivotal time of growth. “We were trying to get to a position of ﬁnancial stability so we could survive on our own as a council,” he recalls. “Considering our size, we built up signiﬁcant assets that allowed us some autonomy from funding from the national. That allowed us to do training programs. Training and building a crew base was always a challenge. Another was trying to forge a more professional relationship with producers so they would know what to expect from us.” King, who would succeed Reid as chair of the SDC after Reid’s second stint, conﬁrms that one of his predecessor’s greatest legacies was “money in the bank.” Vérité went on to score a massive hit with comedy series Corner Gas (2004–09), and Reid rejoined them to ride that wave, ﬁrst as production manager and then as line producer. Thompson calls Reid “crucial” to the show’s success. “We like to deliver aggressively in marketing and digital media, but working with Canadian budgets, you have to be strategic,” she says. “Mark allowed us to over-deliver because he could judge where we were going next. He would check in with me, and I have high expectations. He would probably sweat bullets, but not show me, and ﬁgure out a way to get there.” Reid calls the experience “possibly once-in-a-lifetime.”
Yet somehow he has found time in this work/life struggle to contribute to his guild in a signiﬁcant way. “In ﬁlm and TV, you work unbelievable hours. You have no other life,” Baker says. “Despite that, until just recently, Mark ran our health plan, which has a lot of moving parts. I’m in awe and [have so much] gratitude for the fact he did that—and for no compensation. He did it because he cares profoundly for this organization.” Although Reid has for the time being stepped back from roles within the DGC, he assures that it’s “in his blood” and that he’ll return “if the membership will have me.” He is grateful for the responsibility, friendship and mentorship the Guild has provided and recommends volunteering to other members. “If people want to change something, they should get involved,” he says. “Bring your ideas to the table. It’s been an eye-opening experience. Most members don’t have an idea of what the Guild really does and all the hard work people put into it. Yes, it helps the people who do it, but it’s also great to be able to build things and make the organization stronger for everybody else. I got so much out of it, I should be giving the award.” Mark Dillon is a Toronto-based journalist and former editor of Playback. His articles also appear in American Cinematographer, the Toronto Star, and Canadian Screenwriter. He is author of the award-winning Fifty Sides of The Beach Boys. fall 2015
RENCONTRE AVEC LOUISE ARCHAMBAULT, CINÉASTE AUX MULTIPLES TALENTS Opposite page: Louise Archambault (with headphones) on the set of This Life
Louise Archambault s’est rapidement distinguée au Canada et à l’échelle internationale par ses ﬁlms aux personnages féminins forts et indépendants, comme Atomic Saké (1999), Familia (2005) et Gabrielle (2015). Ils lui ont valu de nombreux honneurs, dont plusieurs Prix Jutra au Québec. La cinéaste se démarque par une écriture originale et un grand talent dans la direction d’acteurs. Elle a occupé plusieurs fonctions dans le milieu du cinéma au Québec avant de se lancer dans l’écriture et la réalisation. Tout en continuant d’élaborer des scénarios, elle a réalisé des épisodes des séries télévisées La Galère (2013) et Nouvelle adresse (2015), diffusées à Radio-Canada. En août dernier, elle a complété le tournage d’épisodes de l’équivalent anglais de cette dernière série. This Life, mettant en vedette Torri Higginson, sera diffusée dès cet automne sur la chaîne CBC. Louise Archambault a généreusement acceptéde s’éloigner temporairement de la table de montage pour accorder cette entrevue à Montage. 42
MONTAGE : Pourquoi avoir choisi le cinéma ? En fait, je pensais aller en sciences. J’ai découvert les communications au Cégep où, à 18 ans, j’ai vu Mauvais sang (NDLR : de Leos Carax). Cela a été un élément déclencheur. Les codes narratifs utilisés m’ont fascinée et j’ai aussitôt pensé que je voulais écrire des histoires. Pas nécessairement à la Carax, mais d’une autre façon. J’ai fait un baccalauréat et une maîtrise à l’Université Concordia tout en travaillant pendant mes études. Ensuite, j’ai travaillé entre autres comme assistante à la réalisation et comme productrice déléguée. J’ai même pensé devenir productrice, mais j’avais écrit Atomic Saké qui a eu un certain succès, puis j’ai écrit Familia. Mon but n’est pas de faire des ﬁlms à tout prix, mais de partager avec d’autres des histoires et des personnages qui me semblent signiﬁants et pertinents. Avec le recul, je me suis rendu compte que ce grand plaisir que j’ai à raconter des histoires vient de mes grands-parents qui étaient amoureux fous du cinéma. Quand j’étais adolescente, ma grand-mère m’amenait souvent voir des ﬁlms. Mon grand-père ﬁlmait ses voyages, les montait, et ma grand-mère y mettait la musique. Dans leur maison, ils avaient installé une salle de projection 16mm et, dès mon enfance, j’ai vu beaucoup de vieux ﬁlms. Une autre rai-
son à ce choix, c’est que je voulais exercer plusieurs métiers. Alors, je trouve merveilleux de pouvoir écrire des histoires puis les mettre en scène avec des gens fascinants qui exercent différents métiers, tout en continuant d’apprendre sur le mien ! MONTAGE : Vous attendiez-vous à ce que Gabrielle rejoigne autant de gens ? Non, pas pendant que je faisais le ﬁlm. C’est certain que durant la période de ﬁnancement, les gens étaient très touchés par le scénario. Pendant le casting, je ﬁlmais les acteurs pressentis, je faisais des improvisations, puis je montrais cela aux investisseurs et ils voyaient au-delà du scénario. D’emblée, Gabrielle (Marion-Rivard) est un rayon de soleil. Elle touchait les gens déjà à ce moment-là. Pendant le tournage, je me suis dit : « Je ne sais pas ce que sera la ﬁnalité de ce ﬁlm, mais je sais qu’en ce moment, je vis quelque chose de très grand, humainement. » Je pense que cela a été un tournage magique pour toute l’équipe. Alors après, tant mieux si le ﬁlm rejoint des gens d’ici et d’ailleurs, parce qu’on est parti du vrai, pas seulement de la ﬁction.
plusieurs heures permet d’approfondir et d’aller dans les complexités du comportement humain. C’est assez jouissif ! MONTAGE : Nathalie Lawson dans This Life entre dans la catégorie des personnages féminins forts que vous avez toujours dessinés. Est-ce pour cela que vous avez accepté de tourner cette série? Déjà, c’est une histoire très forte… Ce qui est fabuleux avec cette série, c’est qu’il y a Nathalie, le personnage principal, mais il y a aussi la sœur, les deux frères et les enfants, et ils ont tous leur histoire. J’aime aussi le côté politically incorrect de cette série—ce n’est pas parce qu’une personne est atteinte du cancer qu’il faut la prendre en pitié. C’est la vraie vie, c’est un peu tout croche, et j’aime bien ! MONTAGE : Pourquoi avez-vous accepté de tourner en anglais ?
de temps de préparation. Pourtant, ils sont arrivés très prêts, ils connaissaient très bien leur texte, ce que j’ai apprécié. Aussi, il y a des acteurs qui dès le départ ont pu improviser et continuer à être dans leur personnage tant que je n’ai pas coupé. Il y en a pour qui cela vient naturellement et ce sont parfois des moments que je vais garder au ﬁnal. MONTAGE : Est-ce que les réductions budgétaires dans la culture nuisent à l’accomplissement de votre carrière ? Oui, ça nuit certainement à ma carrière ! Mais au-delà de moi, c’est une réalité. Quand on tue la culture, on tue un peuple. C’est comme un écosystème, c’est le poumon, c’est donner de l’oxygène à toutes les autres sphères de la société. Cela va se généraliser à travers la planète, parce qu’avec les médias de masse il y a maintenant une façon de penser qui devient un peu homogène. Je trouve cela un peu dangereux. Autant
MONTAGE : Comment avez-vous soutiré autant de justesse chez Gabrielle Marion-Rivard et Alexandre Landry dans cette histoire d’amour avec une personne handicapée ?
MONTAGE : Vous avez déjà dit que le long métrage vous permettait « d’approfondir une histoire ». Est-ce pour aller plus loin que vous vous êtes lancée dans une série télévisée ? Les séries, ce n’est pas moi qui les écris. On me propose une histoire écrite, avec des personnages, et je suis la courroie de transmission pour la mettre en scène. C’est comme un cadeau, parce que c’est une histoire et des personnages auxquels je n’ai pas pensé, mais qui me nourrissent beaucoup aussi. C’est donc difﬁcile pour moi de comparer, mais cela s’équivaut : j’ai une histoire et j’ai envie de la partager. Le déﬁ de l’écriture au cinéma, c’est qu’en une heure et demie ou en deux, le public doit avoir tout compris. J’aime ce déﬁ et je trouve qu’il y a une ambiance au cinéma qui est unique. Par contre, la série qui est étalée sur
Parce qu’on me l’a proposé ! Je me débrouille en anglais, alors ça aide si on me le propose. Mais s’il y avait un beau sujet et qu’on me proposait de tourner en espagnol, je le ferais aussi. Une bonne histoire peut se communiquer dans toutes les langues. D’ailleurs, j’ai un projet de coproduction avec la France, Les terres saintes, qui est long à se concrétiser : un magniﬁque scénario d’une Française, Amanda Sthers, qui se passe moitié en Israël, moitié à Paris. Par contre, si je ne peux pas tourner ailleurs, il reste qu’au Québec on a une grande chance, et c’est la qualité des équipes de création, autant à la technique que dans le bassin d’acteurs. Je suis toujours impressionnée par le talent qu’il y a chez les acteurs… Il y a tellement de gens avec qui je veux travailler ! Tant mieux si je vis ici, je trouve que c’est un privilège. Alors si j’ai accès à d’autres histoires ailleurs, je suis très intéressée. On m’a proposé des scénarios américains ces deux dernières années, mais ils n’étaient pas assez achevés pour que je m’investisse. Je reste ouverte aux propositions. Dans This Life, j’ai rencontré un scénariste, Joseph Kay, et des acteurs super bons que je ne connaissais pas. C’est un cadeau qu’on me fait. MONTAGE : Avec des acteurs anglophones, avezvous dû changer votre manière de travailler ? Non, c’est toujours un peu la même chose. Les acteurs veulent être bons, vrais et authentiques. Or, c’est mon dada d’aller chercher les nuances chez les acteurs et je pense qu’en général on s’entend bien, car je vais plutôt négliger une chose au niveau technique pour pousser plus loin le jeu. J’avais peur qu’ils ne se laissent pas aller autant, mais ce sont des êtres très généreux. Quelquefois, j’aime essayer et aller à l’encontre des normes, par exemple dire une réplique en riant dans une situation dramatique. Tout le monde était ouvert et ils m’ont fait conﬁance. Au Québec, c’est la même chose. Les acteurs sur This Life ont eu très peu
on est tous pareils, autant on a tous nos singularités, on aime apprendre les uns des autres et se nourrir de tout cela. Je trouve aussi que ces réductions nuisent à l’économie. On a coupé dans les crédits d’impôt, ce qui représente beaucoup d’argent pour nous. Parfois, cela fait qu’on tourne des ﬁlms non pas bâclés, mais avec moins de moyens. Les crédits d’impôt représentent des emplois et pas seulement ceux des gens en création. Par exemple, si une équipe de tournage se retrouve dans un quartier, elle y louera des lieux et ira manger dans les restaurants du quartier. On fait rouler l’économie. Si les techniciens en cinéma ont moins de jours de tournage dans leur année, ils dépenseront moins d’argent. MONTAGE : Et vos projets futurs ? Cela dépend s’il y a encore de l’argent pour que je fasse des ﬁlms ou s’il y a un intérêt pour mes projets... J’ai des projets sur lesquels je travaille depuis quelques années, entre autres l’adaptation de Tarmac, de Nicolas Dickner. J’ai aussi adapté un roman, Il pleuvait des oiseaux, de Jocelyne Saucier, une ode à la vie et à l’amour… Sinon, j’ai un scénario que je vais commencer à écrire, Une étrange lueur bleutée, avec la maison de production micro_scope. Ils ont hâte que je ﬁnisse de faire de la télévision pour que je puisse m’y mettre ! Mon rêve est de faire le plus de ﬁlms possible, des ﬁlms signiﬁants et pertinents.
Martin Delisle is currently on contract at the NFB as selector-editor in the stock shots department. He has worked freelance as a content consultant and ﬁlm programmer and spent many years reviewing ﬁlms for Radio-Canada and various publications. From 1985 to 1988, Delisle was director of programming at the Canadian Film Institute and from 1989 to 2004, he worked at Teleﬁlm Canada. fall 2015
Photography by Yan Turcotte
Cela a été un processus enrichissant pour toutes les parties, avec beaucoup de répétitions et de discussions, entres autres avec la mère de Gabrielle. J’ai eu la chance de rencontrer Alexandre Landry, l’acteur qui joue Martin. Il a un cœur énorme et il s’est investi en amont. Pendant les répétitions, j’ai créé une chorale et comme il n’est pas un chanteur, il a fallu qu’il répète beaucoup avec la chorale. Il a travaillé fort et une dynamique s’est créée avec Gabrielle. Dès le départ, ils s’admiraient et c’est resté ainsi pendant tout le tournage. Il y a une amitié, une fratrie qui s’est tissée, qui m’a beaucoup servie et qui a aussi servi l’histoire. Il y avait un respect dans cette relation qui m’a permis d’aller aussi loin que je l’ai fait. Gabrielle, dans la vraie vie, n’a jamais fait l’amour, alors je lui ai donné des « cours d’éducation sexuelle ». Avant tout, Gabrielle et d’autres qui ont un handicap intellectuel n’ont pas d’inhibition. On leur inculque que la sexualité, c’est tabou. Alors, Gabrielle est devenue nerveuse en tournage pendant ces scènes-là. Moi, je devais juste désamorcer. C’est un ﬁlm, on illustre la vie, on fait semblant, et on le fait ensemble, avec respect. La conception de ce projet a été un long processus, mais cela a valu la peine.
CHRIS HADDOCK: BACK HOME
Photography by Brendan Meadows
Vancouver’s celebrated creator of Da Vinci’s Inquest returns with CBC’s The Romeo Section
by DAVID SPANER Vancouver’s prodigal showrunner has returned. Chris Haddock’s Da Vinci’s Inquest set the standard for Vancouver television production back in the late ‘90s. Now, after eight years away from TV showrunning, including a stint in Brooklyn writing HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, one of Canada’s premier writer-director-producers is back with the new CBC series The Romeo Section. “Everyone’s so excited and so happy,” says Camille Sullivan, who co-starred on Haddock’s earlier series Intelligence and Da Vinci’s Inquest. “Everybody I’ve talked to is asking, ‘Have you heard anything?’ It’s great for Vancouver.” In the 1990s and 2000s, Haddock created a groundbreaking television legacy. He was a Canadian rarity—a celebrity showrunner, at least in Vancouver, where he had transitioned from street musician to TV creator nonpareil. This hot July morning, as the second episode of The Romeo Section shoots around us, Haddock talks on the set’s ofﬁce of his professor/ spy character Wolfgang McGee. It’s an ofﬁce not so different from the one Haddock’s professorial father occupied at the University of British Columbia a half century earlier. “After being on that show in Brooklyn, not having the responsibility of showrunning,” says Haddock, “I decided that I was ready to tackle my own show again and I had a couple of ideas that I was kicking around. CBC responded to this one.” The Romeo Section mixes the cinematic pacing of Boardwalk Empire with the Vancouver-ism of Da Vinci’s Inquest and a large dollop of noir. Gone is the frenetic pacing of Da Vinci, along with handheld cameras. “[On] this show,” says Haddock, “we’ve got a lot more studio sets. We’re going back to the classic style of many movies, which is to be quieter with your camera movements, make them invisible.”
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The Romeo Section’s Kelly (Kimberly Sustad) coolly walks behind the open slats of a circa-1950 Venetian blind. “Perfect!” shouts director David Frazee. Shooting another scene a short time later, a cigarette dances between Sustad’s lips as Wolfgang McGee (Andrew Airlie) reads a Victor Hugo passage to her. These scenes and so much of The Romeo Section are pure noir, a ﬁlmmaking style more organic to Vancouver than any city outside Los Angeles. Maybe it’s in the Paciﬁc water. Da Vinci’s Inquest, Intelligence, even The X-Files, and more recently Motive, have all been steeped in the seductive, stylish noir ﬁlms of the postwar years. “It’s simply anxiety,” explains Haddock. “I work knowing that the theme of noir—of the ‘40s and ‘50s in L.A.—was anxiety, and the themes that I see around me today in contemporary life are also about
This page, top to bottom: Haddock with Nicholas Campbell on the set of Da Vinci’s Inquest; Boardwalk Empire
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Growing up near the gates to UBC during the 1950s and ‘60s, there was little television in the formative life of this future TV showrunner. “I was not a big television fan until, really, I started writing TV,” says Haddock. Music was far more essential to the young Haddock. “I had a romantic intent to become a writer but fell into playing street music and then [I worked in] bands all through my 20s.” Haddock’s TV-writing emerged from his music. A song he had written featured a character that was, a friend suggested, perfect for a screenplay. fall 2015
Photos courtesy Haddock Entertainment (Da Vinci’s City Hall) and Bell Media (Boardwalk Empire)
Opposite page, top to bottom: Da Vinci’s City Hall, Boardwalk Empire
anxiety. Everybody is either making anxiety or living in anxiety or dealing with it, or dealing with people who are in the throes of it. [Also] I wanted to style what is a quieter show. I think there’s a great hunger for a little bit quieter places in the world and in your life and this show hopefully is like that dramatic-wise.” The Romeo Section producer-director Stephen Surjik works closely with Haddock to set the tone of the show. “Chris and I bonded a lot over our obsessions with ﬁlm noir as a style piece,” he says. “In noir, the character of the location reﬂects the character’s inner state.” After Wolfgang McGee reads Hugo to Kelly, veteran actor Andrew Airlie makes a smart suggestion about blocking a scene, and Haddock and director Frazee instantly agree. “Unlike a lot of producers that don’t want to hear from actors, Chris really does,” says Airlie, “but at the same time he knows what he wants and everyone knows that Chris Haddock knows what he wants. In television very often we’re doing stock characters, and you’re being asked to be natural but with 10 or 15 per cent more to make sure everyone knows you’re the loopy dad or the aggressive lawyer. Chris just wants you to really keep it real—not real plus 10 per cent.” It’s that authenticity—whether creating a character or showcasing his city—that makes Haddock stand out. “Chris spoiled me, in a way,” says Camille Sullivan. “He opened my eyes to the kinds of parts women could play. In Intelligence, Francine was so beautifully ﬂawed and horribly beautiful and I’d never gotten to play a woman like that before. It spoke to me in a way that was really deep and resonated with some of my own experiences.” Whether it’s Sullivan in Intelligence or Kimberly Sustad in The Romeo Section, actors have long loved delivering Haddock’s lines. “It’s really nice as a woman being on this show,” Sustad says. “I said this to Chris too: ‘Thank you for writing a character that smokes and drinks and swears and is just herself and is strong without apology.’ Kelly’s wickedly smart on top of everything and it’s not this oversexualized version of her all the time. I get to break all of those boundaries.” Several Haddock regulars are directing the new series, including Frazee, Anne Wheeler, Surjik and Haddock himself. The Romeo Section, though, is more than a reunion. There are newcomers such as DOP Brendan Uegama, who won a Directors Guild Kick Start Award for directing the 2010 short Henry’s Glasses. His “classic” taste ﬁts Haddock’s vision for the show. “There’s a fear around TV that if you’re still for too long they’re going to change the channel,” Uegama says. “Features don’t have that because they have you in the theatre for two hours. We’re not afraid of being still.” Says Surjik: “Movement doesn’t make sense if there’s no need for movement. We want to make sure that whatever we do serves the performance and the story, and that all of our directors understand that we would never shoot something just for a cool shot.” Haddock drew the premise for The Romeo Section from the East German Stasi agency’s employment of
“Romeo and Juliet” spies, who were seducers sent in to become intimate with people in West Germany. “It offered me the opportunity to combine an element of danger with almost mundane but exciting things like getting smitten with somebody. And there’s always danger and anxiety in romance.” Haddock’s storytelling is assured enough to acknowledge the personal and political conﬂicts involving espionage agents (007-heroic to some but intrusive protectors of corrupt states to others). “This guy [McGee] is not Captain America,” he says. “He’s not a clear-cut individual. He’s had to do all kinds of awful things and betray a bunch of people. Our lead’s at least 50 years old. He’s at a point in his life where he knows enough to know the depth of corruption [in the world] and is aware of his own corruption … [in ways] he might not have been 25 years ago.” There is always considerable ambiguity to the authority ﬁgures Haddock creates. “With Da Vinci, for example, his mandate as coroner was to look at an incident and make recommendations about how to avoid that. Da Vinci was able to disagree with his own recommendations.” In Professor McGee’s ofﬁce set there are ﬁle cabinets concerning foreign relations: “U.S.-Japan Relations from WWII to Present;” “International Relations of U.S. and Asia.” Turns out the actor playing McGee, Andrew Airlee, was an academic himself with a masters’ degree in diplomatic relations, something Haddock was unaware of when casting. “Andrew had done this really ﬁne role on Intelligence and I had been thinking of him, so ﬁnally he came in and we made the decision to go with him,” says Haddock. “Then I was in his ofﬁce in the beautiful set we have. I was looking at the blackboard and was trying to ﬁgure out what notes we would write on it. I wanted it to be in Wolfgang’s handwriting, so I said, ‘Hey Andrew, could you write some of this stuff I’m writing out and put it on the board.’ And he said, ‘Do you want me to just write on the board what I used to [write] when I was teaching?’ It was a mind-blowing thing to discover. Everything falls into place.” As for The Romeo Section’s university setting, Haddock says: “A lot of spy agencies around the world draft out of universities.” A university campus is also one of those quieter places in the world, ﬁlled with enclaves where the surrounding city’s volume drops a notch, so it’s a good ﬁt for purposeful, reticent camerawork. “We’re shooting in the old math building, which is exactly the same kind of architecture [as the building in which my father worked]. It’s directly across the way from my dad’s old ofﬁce, which still stands in the middle of UBC,” Haddock says. “I just feel really comfortable about portraying university life for a professor. I was brought up with it.”
Photography by Cate Cameron
Opposite page, top to bottom: Haddock with a script on the set of The Romeo Section; a still from the show
Photography by Cate Cameron
This page, top to bottom: A still from The Romeo Section; Haddock preparing a scene.
So, in his late 20s, Haddock wrote his ﬁrst script. While never produced, it was optioned for $5,000 and led to a job rewriting scripts on the TV series Airwolf. A few years later, he was writing for the series MacGyver when he had an idea for a CBC show “about a single mom raising two kids who starts working part-time for a detective—Mom P.I. Suddenly I was a showrunner.” Haddock and Surjik began their working relationship on Mom P.I. “They brought me out to direct and we connected very quickly and have been friends ever since,” says Surjik. “Every episode had its own style. We did one like Strangers on a Train. He did another that was all black and white. Another was all one shot. He was a very, very creative, outside-the-box kind of dude. It was absolutely mesmerizing that somebody in Canada would have such cinematic vision. I can’t say enough about Chris.” Says Haddock: “Mom P.I. was a huge leap ahead for me but we got cancelled two years later.” He moved to L.A. and wrote an action-comedy screenplay that became the object of a bidding war. “Domestic demands—two young kids—brought me back to Vancouver. CBC contacted me and said they were looking for something. That was the birth of Da Vinci’s Inquest.” Da Vinci’s coroner stories combined legal, police and medical genres. “Everything came together at once—with a great lead, Nick Campbell, and a great support cast, and being able to shoot in your own city, in places you know. You’re not trying to fake anything.” Haddock hired a superb set of Canadian directors: “Steve Surjik and Anne Wheeler. Sturla Gunnarsson came in. We had Stefan Pleszczynski, Lynne Stopkewich.” Da Vinci’s Inquest ran seven seasons and was popular enough to elevate city coroner Larry Campbell to the Vancouver mayoralty, perhaps the ﬁrst TV programme with such political clout since General Electric Theater delivered Ronald Reagan to the California governorship. “When Larry got into city hall I said, ‘Why don’t I just let ﬁction follow fact?’ I thought there might be an intriguing show in city hall.” Da Vinci’s City Hall ran for a season. “That sort of wrapped up the Da Vinci saga. Then we rolled into Intelligence.” With Intelligence, Haddock turned his focus to organised crime. “We were under a new CBC regime and they sacked Intelligence prematurely after a couple of years,” says Haddock. “I said, ‘I’m not going to worry about that too much,’ and went off because I’d had interest from Fox about doing an American version of Intelligence.” When that didn’t go, he decided to give himself a rest after 12 years of showrunning. “I hung with my dogs and got to know my relationships again. Enjoyed Vancouver.” After a year’s break, he was given an offer he couldn’t refuse: HBO’s cinematic gangster series Boardwalk Empire. “It was a good experience, but after doing that I really wanted to get back to running my own show,” says Haddock. “I’m probably better at doing my own thing than I am impatiently twitching as a writer working for somebody else. I think everybody on the writing staff except me had Emmys and Pulitzers.
“[The Sopranos’] Terry Winter was very good at writing a show that had sudden turns of violence. [Playwright] Howard Korder had the faith to stay on the drama and not worry about whether it was a slower pace or not as long as it was compelling. So I had to slow down to their pace and I felt that was really good for me in terms of (eventually) coming back here. Both those guys were from Brooklyn and they knew the whole history of gangsters in and about New Jersey. So they were writing about a place they knew about.” While the U.S. service industry avoids using the word “Vancouver” in its product, The Romeo Section revels in Vancouver, a place Haddock knows about. “Many Canadian shows get kind of lost because they don’t seem to have any true character,” says Haddock, “but I found there’s so much story in Vancouver.” When Frazee heard Haddock had a new series he excitedly phoned his old friend. “I think everybody was a little bit surprised he took as long a hiatus from showrunning as he did,” says Frazee. “Da Vinci’s is one of the best TV shows that’s come out of this country. It was a remarkable, beautiful show. And Intelligence—I loved that show. It was ahead of its time, before the cable stuff took off. It’s always been one of Chris’s things to bust out of patterns. And you want people like that working in your community.”
Everything came together at once—with a great lead, Nick Campbell, and a great support cast, and being able to shoot in your own city, in places you know. You’re not trying to fake anything. —Stephen Surjik on Da Vinci’s Inquest Frazee grew up in Vancouver and worked on Da Vinci’s (DOP/director) and Intelligence (director) before The Romeo Section. “I love that he’s telling a Vancouver story,” says Frazee. “On Da Vinci’s it was fantastic to be building the myth of the city a little bit, and here he is doing it again.” Novice actor Jemmy Chen, who portrays a novice spy on The Romeo Section, agrees: “You’re playing something that represents this beautiful city we live in. You’re not pretending to be Seattle or Portland or San Francisco.” Haddock’s connection with Vancouver is so visceral that Surjik noticed a Vancouver locale in the script while directing a set-in-L.A. episode of The Handler. “I realised Chris had written a scene based on geography in Vancouver. It was a bookstore across from a bank and we were looking for it in L.A. We couldn’t ﬁnd it and we were going to have to build some of it. No big deal. That’s normally what you do. “Then I realised what Chris had done, because I hang out with him. I’ve been to that bookstore.” David Spaner’s feature writing and ﬁlm reviews have appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and books. He is the author of Shoot It! Hollywood Inc. and the Rising of Independent Film and Dreaming in the Rain: How Vancouver Became Hollywood North by Northwest. twitter.com/davidspaner fall 2015
by MARC GLASSMAN To call Paul Almond a genuine Canadian legend is, sadly, a misnomer. He should be, of course, but this country is reluctant to confer iconic status on anyone. So despite a career filled with artistic highlights, capped off by being a recipient of the Order of Canada and the DGC’s Lifetime Achievement Award, he is hardly a household name. What Almond did accomplish was remarkable. Starting in 1954, he became one of the prime directorial talents at CBC-TV during the public broadcaster’s most sophisticated era of producing drama. Almond directed well over 100 productions; among them were the first television adaptations in North America of works by Dylan Thomas, Harold Pinter, Christopher Fry, Jean Anouilh, John Mortimer and Tennessee Williams. He wrote a number of television scripts, the most acclaimed being his biblical Passion Play, The Hill, which debuted on Good Friday in 1955 and was recast and remounted for the BBC four years later. Almond’s only major foray into the documentary field produced an enduring masterpiece, Seven Up. Made for Grenada Television in 1964, the film explored England’s class system through a close look at a mixed group of seven-year-old children, whose families ranged from laborers to the rich. Almond was interested in what opportunities they would have and his researcher Michael Apted has continued that exploration with a series of docs every seven years since, which have garnered world-wide acclaim. In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Almond and his then wife Geneviève Bujold created an impressive art film trilogy—Isabel, Act of the Heart and Journey—that explored love and faith in a secular age. Though they garnered awards and some stunning reviews, the films were not box office hits and Almond’s directorial career slowed down after that time. Ever creative, Paul Almond went back to his roots as a writer and launched another career as a novelist. His eight-part series of novels about a family in Quebec over the centuries—the Alford Saga—just concluded this year with the publication of The Inheritor. They offer a rare view of life in Quebec from an Anglo bilingual perspective and are richly detailed reads. Paul Almond was an artist who lived his life with grace and good cheer. Sophisticated, funny and elegant, he leaves a legacy of fine work and wonderful memories.
Right: Paul Almond Below: Paul Almond (centre) and Geneviève Bujold on the set of Journey (1972)
Photos courtesy Charles Braive (Journey) and Mark Dillon (portrait of Paul Almond)
PARTING SHOT 50
Paul Almond (1931–2015)
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