JUL / AUG 2010
FILM, VIDEO, INTERNET AND DIGITAL PRODUCTION IN WESTERN CANADA
Vancouver-based producer Marc Stephenson has gone
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FROM THE FRINGE TO FOX
PLUS: The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom Q&A: Robert Luketic Personal Stories Beginnings: Rob Sim
16 KEEPING IT PERSONAL Western Canadian filmmakers have been writing what they know for decades. However, the approach is different now. Instead of writing dramatic features based on memory, some filmmakers are telling personal stories about their own lives and those of their families through documentary features and shorts.
20 EXTERIOR MOTIVES Although interprovincial co-productions are one of the better ways of getting movies made, Quebec filmmakers don’t usually need to leave home. The Quebec-based producers of the prairie-set period piece The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom knew they couldn’t find the appropriate exteriors at home but still had to shoot half their film in Quebec in order to qualify for funding from SODEC.
BITS AND BYTES
10 BEGINNINGS 12 BEHIND THE SCENES 14 QUESTION AND ANSWER 15 EXPERT WITNESS 29 LEGAL BRIEFS 30 FINAL EDIT
24 FROM THE FRINGE TO FOX Executives at “quirky comedy” factory Fox Searchlight think The F-Word, which is scheduled for a 2012 release, will be a big hit. In his diary, Vancouver-based producer Marc Stephenson, who discovered the original script at the Vancouver Fringe Festival, looks back on the disappointments, the endless meetings and the day he realized the studio would be making him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
COVER: VANCOUVER-BASED PRODUCER MARC STEPHENSON; PHOTO BY PHIL CHIN ABOVE: THE GREY FAMILY AT THE KITCHEN TABLE (THE YEAR DOLLY PARTON WAS MY MOM); PHOTO BY SÉBASTIEN RAYMOND FOR PALOMAR REEL WEST MAGAZINE IS A WHOLLY OWNED ENTERPRISE OF REEL WEST PRODUCTIONS INC. IT EXISTS AND IS MANAGED TO PROVIDE PUBLICITY AND ADVERTISING THAT SUPPORTS THE GROWTH OF THE WESTERN CANADIAN MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY. EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER: SANDY P. FLANAGAN EXECUTIVE EDITOR: IAN CADDELL. PUBLISHER: RON HARVEY SALES: RANDY HOLMES. CREATIVE DIRECTOR: ANDREW VON ROSEN. ART DIRECTOR: LINDSEY ATAYA. PHOTO EDITOR: PHILLIP CHIN. REEL WEST MAGAZINE IS PUBLISHED SIX TIMES PER YEAR. SUBSCRIPTIONS CANADA/US. $35.00 PER YEAR (PLUS $10.00 POSTAGE TO USA). REEL WEST DIGEST, THE DIRECTORY FOR WESTERN CANADA’S FILM, VIDEO AND TELEVISION INDUSTRY, IS PUBLISHED ANNUALLY. SUBSCRIPTION $35.00 PER YEAR (PLUS $10.00 POSTAGE TO US). BOTH PUBLICATIONS $60.00 (PLUS $10.00 POSTAGE TO USA) PRICES INCLUDE GST. COPYRIGHT 2009 REEL WEST PRODUCTIONS INC. SECOND CLASS MAIL. REGISTRATION NO. 0584002. ISSN 0831-5388. G.S.T. # R104445218. REEL WEST PRODUCTIONS INC. 101 - 5512 HASTINGS STREET, BURNABY, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA, V5B 1R3. PHONE (604) 451-7335 TOLL FREE: 1-888-291-7335 FAX: (604) 451-7305 EMAIL: INFO@REELWEST.COM URL: WWW.REELWEST.COM. VOLUME 25, ISSUE 4. PRINTED IN CANADA. TO SUBSCRIBE CALL 1-888-291-7335 OR VISIT OUR WEBSITE AT WWW.REELWEST.COM. REEL WEST WELCOMES FEEDBACK FROM OUR READERS, VIA EMAIL AT EDITORIAL@REELWEST.COM OR BY FAX AT 604-451-7305. ALL CORRESPONDENCE MUST INCLUDE YOUR NAME, ADDRESS, AND DAYTIME TELEPHONE NUMBER.
REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
AMANDA SEYFRIED STARS IN CATHERINE HARDWICKE’S RED RIDING HOOD
What’s coming. What’s shooting. What’s wrapped.
Fiction a fact of BC industry life If you ever wanted to hear theories on the origins of two ﬁctional icons, you should probably pay attention to the plots of a couple of new movies calling Vancouver home this summer. Rise of the Apes is being billed as “an origin story” that looks at how genetic engineering led to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. Meanwhile, the Little Red Riding Hood legend gets a twist or two from veteran director Catherine Hardwicke. Hardwicke directs Amanda Sey-
fried in the latest version, Red Riding Hood, which tells the story with a backdrop of a Romeo and Juliet style romance between a young girl and an orphaned woodcutter. It has Jim Rowe as executive producer, Jennifer Killoran and Julie Yorn as producers, Mandy Walker as DOP, Tom Sanders as production designer, Brendan Ferguson as production manager, Nicole Oguchi as production coordinator, Hans Dayal as locations manager and Joel Whist as special eﬀects coordinator.
Apes has Thomas Hammel as executive producer with Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark as producers, Andrew Lesnie as the DOP, Claude Pare as production designer, Wendy Williams as production manager, Patricia Foster as production coordinator, Catou Kearney as location manager and Tony Lazarowich as special eﬀects coordinator. The television pilot The Killing was shot in May and tells three separate stories against the backdrop of a police investigation into a murder. It
has Patty Jenkins directing, Veena Sud, Mikkel Bondesen and Kristen Campo as executive producers, Ron French producing, Craig Forrest as production manager, Jennifer Aicholz as production coordinator and Kent Sponagle as location manger Here in May and June was the television movie Killer Mountain which had Sheldon Wilson directing, Chris Bartleman and Jeﬀ Schenck as executive producers, Charles Bishop as producer, Tracey Jardine as supervising producer, Jamie Goehring as line producer/ production manager, Renee Read as production designer, Alison Stephen as production coordinator and Jaime Lake as location manager. The television movie The Fairly Odd Parents was scheduled to spend much of July in Vancouver and had Savage Holland directing with Scott McAboy and Lauren Levine as executive producers, Jon Joﬃn as the DOP, Richard Hudolin as the production designer, Michael Potkins as the production manager, Lisa Ragosin as the production coordinator and David Tamkin as the location manager. The USA network series Facing Kate is about a lawyer who leaves the family ﬁrm to become a mediator after her father dies. It has Michael Sardo and Steve Stark as executive producers with Clara George as producer, Ricardo Spinace as the production designer, Erin Smith and Geoﬀ Teoli as production and unit managers, respectively, Michelle Parzentny as the production coordinator and Monty Bannister as the location manager. ■
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Olympics Treatment for Lilith The Vancouver-based 2010 Lilith Tour will get the kind of treatment reserved for the Olympics, according to CTV. The network says the tour will be covered by a multi-network consortium, much like the coverage given the 2010 Winter Olympics. CTV spokesperson Jennifer Corelli said that in addition to the main network, coverage will include MuchMusic, MTV, Bravo!, the CHUM radio network and CTV News network. She said the tour will also receive regular updates on www.lilith.ctv.ca Corelli said the neworks’ support will include the building of awareness for the tour’s charitable initiatives across Canada. She said CTV is producing and airing a national 30-second public service announcement. The Lilith Tour is choosing a charity in each of the ﬁve Canadian cities to support during the festival. She said that to date, Lilith Fair has raised over $10M for women’s charities across North America. The Canadian leg of the tour, which runs throughout the summer, will feature Sarah Mclachlan, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Kelly Clarkson and Chantal Kreviazuk, among others.
BITS AND BYTES
School Goes 3D The Government of Canada recently announced it was giving Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art and Design $530,000 toward the purchase of equipment and the developing of its Stereoscopic 3D (S3D) Centre of Excellence in digital media and film technologies. “British Columbia has a vibrant filmmaking industry and today’s investment will provide the necessary resources so this industry can remain competitive in the West,” said Lynne Yelich, federal Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification. Western Diversification spokesperson Lisa Hutniak said the S3D centre will be housed in Emily Carr’s Intersections Digital Studios. She said the new initiative will “strengthen” Emily Carr’s applied research and collaboration with industry and will result in the only western Canadian S3D film-making technology research and training program. “We are grateful to the Government of Canada for recognizing the need for this type of investment,” said Dr. Ron Burnett, Emily Carr President & Vice-Chancellor. “This funding will allow us to grow the capabilities of the Centre and lead the country in ground-breaking S3D technology research, education and training.” Hutniak said the investment will give the BC film industry “a leading position” through training and applied research in production and post-production for S3D technology.
Distribution 360 Makes Change Canadian production company Distribution360 announced at the recent Banff Television Festival that it is entering into the multi-platform entertainment distribution arena. Spokesperson René d’Entremont said that the company’s mandate is “the full monetization of television and interactive content.” She said Distribution360 focuses on children’s, youth, drama and factual programming on traditional and emerging platforms for distribution to international audiences. “At Distribution360, we strive to provide the best possible client service to producers and broadcasters internationally,” said managing director Stéphanie RöckmannPortier. “We take a client-centered approach, which allows us to represent programs and content to potential buyers in the most compelling way.” Distribution360 was co-founded by two Canadian production companies: marblemedia and SEVEN24 Films. Dentrement said the company brings unique expertise to the table from different areas in the entertainment industry, including a proven track
Laughing leaves them voting Vancouver-based director John Zaritsky’s ﬁlm about a Vancouver stand up comic dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease has won the Special Jury Prize at May’s Hot Docs documentary ﬁlm festival in Toronto. Leave Them Laughing follows Carla Zilbersmith in her battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease. The jury said the ﬁlm told the story of “an unimaginably horrifying disease that draws us in rather than making us turn away. The subject is someone approaching death, but the ﬁlm is about how to live. We admire it most for bringing us into an intimate relationship between a mother and son without REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
record within new media.
feeling voyeuristic or manipulative.” Sponsored by the Brian Linehan Charitable Foundation, the award features a $10,000 prize. The ﬁlm was one of three Canadian ﬁlms to ﬁnish in the top ten for the festival’s audience award. It ﬁnished ﬁfth while John Walker’s A Drummer’s Dream ﬁnished second and Juan Baquero’s Listen to This ﬁnished seventh. The winner was an American ﬁlm, Thunder Soul. According to executive director Chris McDonald, the festival showed 170 ﬁlms and brought more than 150 ﬁlmmakers and special guest subjects to Toronto.
Restoration to Continue The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television recently announced that it will continue the film and television-related programming of the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust, including the Astral Restoration Program. The Trust, which protected and promoted Canada’s audiovisual heritage, folded in the fall of 2009. “As we celebrate our 30th anniversary, it is particularly fitting that we have been provided this unique opportunity to broaden the scope of our work to include the restoration and preservation of Canadian film and television,” said the Academy’s Sara Morton. “Understanding and honouring our artistic heritage enhances our appreciation for the works we recognize annually through our Awards shows. We are proud to continue the efforts of the AV Trust and look forward to preserving and promoting our country’s rich and dynamic film and television history.” Academy spokesperson Judy Lung said the Astral Restoration Program, which was introduced in 2000, has restored and re-released a number of films including Loyalties Les bons débarras, and Seul ou avec d’autres.
Doc Unveils BC Artists
True HD GoPro
and experimental ﬁlmmaking to take viewers on a unique journey through the worlds of these powerful artists.” She says Johnson used four themes. They included Vancouver as a postmodern utopia, the proximity of nature, the freedom of the frontier, and community. “cArtographies,” she says, “responds to questions on why these visionaries choose to live where they live, how physical and cultural environment might inﬂuence their work, and how their varied processes work,” she says. The ﬁlm was produced and cowritten by Leah Mallen of Twofold Films and edited and co-directed by Brendan Woollard with music by composer John Korsrud. The Knowledge Network’s Murray Battle was the executive producer.
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POV ra Came
A new Knowledge Network documentary ﬁlm about BC’s leading artists explores how each artist’s approach and style is inﬂuenced by their location. According to a spokesperson for cArtographies, the ﬁlm examines both the challenges and inspirations of their geographic surroundings. Katharine Brodsky says director Brian Johnson proﬁles several BC-based artists including visual artist Stan Douglas, musician Jesse Zubot, singer-songwriter Veda Hille, dancer and choreographer Crystal Pite, writer Michael Turner, ﬁlmmaker Fumiko Kiyooka, theatre performer Paul Ternes, and painter Renee van Halm. Brodsky says Johnson “uses performance, documentary,
Monster and Friends A short ﬁlm about a girl’s journey to feed an elusive monster lurking in the woods is currently in post production. Monster stars Jodelle Ferland, a co-star of Twilight Saga: Eclipse and lead actress in Terry Gilliam’s Tideland. According to director Debra Burns-Johnson the ﬁlm’s script won the 3rd Annual Hot Shot Shorts Contest. The award includes $20,000 in in-kind services and cash donations from the Vancouver ﬁlm community. The contest also gives 100% of its proceeds to the ﬁlmmaker for costs inevitably incurred in production. Monster was directed by Burns-Johnson and produced by Timo Puolitaipale with Jon Joﬃn the DOP and Rich Johnson the editor and VFX producer. Burns-Johnson said Monster is also utilizing online crowd funding through Indiegogo and working with Vancouver-based movieset.com on promotion. 6
REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
N EWTES A REB
Winnipeg Appeals to Crowd Winnipeg was home to Oscar-nominated writer/ director Julien Magnat’s feature debut Faces In The Crowd this past spring. The psychological thriller, a Manitoba/Saskatchewan co-production, stars Milla Jovovich and Julian McMahon. A spokesperson, Richelle Bourgouin, says the movie was made with key technical and creative personnel from both provinces. “Principal photography took place in Manitoba and post-production including all computer generated visual eﬀects will be completed in Saskatchewan,” she said. According to Bourgoin, Magnat’s script tells the story of a school teacher (Jovovich) who is attacked by a serial killer and survives, but is left to struggle with a neurological disorder commonly referred to as face-blindness (prosopagnosia). Only able to recognize voices she ﬁghts to adapt to her diagnosis and the ever-changing faces of those around her. Working with a detective (McMahon) she races to identify her attacker. Meanwhile the killer is closing in determined to eliminate the potential witness. In addition to Jovovich and McMahon the cast includes Michael Shanks, David Atrakchi, Sarah Wayne Callies and Marianne Faithful. The ﬁlm is being produced by Saskatchewan’s Minds Eye Entertainment and Winnipeg’s Frantic Films with Forecast Pictures and Radar Films. The producers are Kevin DeWalt, Jean-Charles Lévy, Clément Miserez, and Jamie Brown, Scott Mednick and Sylvain White. The executive producers are Christopher Petzel and Jovovich. REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
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REEL WEST WAS THERE in Vancouver on June 5th for the 2010 Leo Awards and in Banff June 13-16 for the Banff World Television Awards. Award recipients and attendees photographed by Phil Chin.
2010 LEO AWARDS (AND THE WI WINNER INNER IS...) 1. Costume Design, Short Drama JENNIFER SHARPE 2. Direction, Dramatic Series BRENTON SPENCER 3. Male Suppporting Performance, Dramatic Series CHRISTOPHER HEYERDAHL 4. Direction/Storyboarding/Screenwriting, Animation PHILLIP IVANUSIC, DAVILA LEBLANC, ASAPH FIPKE, KEN FAIER, CHUCK JOHNSON 5. Musical Score, Documentary DAN GAGNON 6. Screen Writing, Documentary CATHARINE PARKE 7. Direction, Youth Program JB SUGAR 8. Direction, Documentary Program PETE MCCORMACK 9. Student Production BANFF ANFF WORLD TELEVISION N FESTIVAL 1. Speaker/Presenter DAVID SUZUKI having fun with RCMP officers 2. Actor/Producer DAWSON TOLLS 10. Feature Length Docurmentary Program DERIK MURRAY, PAUL GERTZ, PETE MCCORMACK and CREW 11. Direction, Short Drama ANA VALINE 2010 B ILLEANA DOUGLAS 3. Multi winner for Life 4. Actor/Director JASON PRIESTLY and wife 5. Comedy Award Recipient RICKY GERVAIS 6. Actors ZAIB SHAIKH, KENNY HOTZ, ERIC MCCORMACK and JASON PRIESTLY 7. MARNI FULLERTON, SANDY FLANNIGAN and attendee 8. Green Grand Prize winner LOUIE PSIHOYOS 9. Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient WILLIAM SHATNER 10. Producers NIMISHA MUKERJI, JOHN RITCHIE, PHILIP LYALL 11. Grand Jury Prize PHILIPPE MULLER
Wapos Wraps One of western Canada’s longest running animated series will be back this fall on APTN. According to Wapos Bay spokesperson Tera McGuire the ﬁfth season of the show recently wrapped production. “This year we will have completed eight new episodes of Wapos Bay,” said Dennis Jackson, the show’s producer. “We have new sets and new characters, one of which will be David Suzuki playing himself as an environmental warrior in a futuristic post apocalyptic world.” The stop motion series, which is set on a reservation in northern Saskatchewan, was created by Jackson and his wife, Melanie Jackson, and is based on Dennis Jackson’s Cree culture and childhood experiences in Sandy Bay, Saskatchewan. McGuire said the world depicted in Wapos Bay originated in a short story Jackson wrote in high school. She says that in his ﬁnal year of ﬁlm studies at the University of Regina, Jackson took the story and made a short ﬁlm that went on to win the Teleﬁlm Canada/ Television Northern Canada Award for Best Aboriginal Production at the 1998 Banﬀ Television Festival. McGuire said the show’s list of awards includes three Geminis, two Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival Golden Sheafs, two Showcase Awards, two imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival Awards, a 2009 Alliance for Children and Television (ACT) Award of Excellence, and a 2009 Elan Award for Best Director for an Animated Production. Brothel Open A BC production company recently premiered a ﬁlm about an activist and a retired sex worker who push the legal limits of prostitution and open a co-op brothel operated by sex workers. The Brothel Project, which was nominated for a 2010 Leo Award for best short documentary premiered in June on the Global network. REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
Written by Gillian Hranowski and directed by April Butler-Parry, it follows Jody Paterson and Lauren Casey as they challenge mainstream thinking by opening their brothel in Victoria. Shot in New Zealand and Victoria, the ﬁlm was narrated by Vancouver actor Carly Pope and produced by Force Four Productions. 9
Rob Sim President & CEO, Sim Video International Inc.
lthough I was born in Michigan where my father was attending university, I grew up on a farm in the Ottawa Valley. I learned about hard work from my parents who, in addition to running a large farm, were educators and sociologists. I attended Sir George Williams University for two years where I was ﬁrst introduced to television production. But I couldn’t resist joining a friend in San Francisco during the “summer of love.” I made new friends in California and somehow we came up with the idea of going to Amsterdam. There we undertook an impossible dream.... the building of a 55’ schooner. Along with a small crew, I lived the hippie life on a barge and at the same time organized
the construction of The Stone Maiden. I spent much of the 70’s sailing the Mediterranean and when it was time to wind down, we took her across the Atlantic. It was now the late 70’s and my partner and I decided to sell our boat. It was the proceeds from this enterprise that ﬁnanced the purchase of my ﬁrst camera. It was around this time that I met my wife Peggy, while on a shoot in New York City. I remember that I was in the process of incorporating a company and trying to decide on a name. Peggy said, “Why not, simply, Sim Video Productions?” And so it was. Freelancing was tough and we were expecting the ﬁrst of our two sons. I remember Peggy’s disappointment when I came home from a job
interview at the CBC with the news that they would not hire me. But, as time would prove, we made the best of it! Our ﬁrst “oﬃce” was a walk up over a Roti shop in a run-down neighborhood of Toronto. Then it was the basement of a small house in the West End. Right from the beginning, I was privileged to work with many up and coming television producers and high proﬁle corporate clients. It was apparent that there was a growing demand for broadcast video equipment rentals and most rental houses were still focusing on ﬁlm. I took my small nest egg and purchased the Ikegami HL-79 which was the “hot” camera at that time. I quickly spread word to let all my contacts know I had a camera
available for rent. The response was amazing and we found steady work for it almost instantly. For the ﬁrst while, Peggy and I handled everything ourselves, operating the company right from our home. Peggy would take bookings and handle client calls while I would check equipment and make sure it was ready for the next job. I also continued to work as a freelancer going out on jobs with our camera packages, using any extra income to invest in more cameras, lenses and accessories. By 1989, our business was growing. At this point, we had two full time employees and four camera packages and we were physically outgrowing the conﬁnes of our basement operation. We knew we had to seek out a
REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
more functional oﬃce space for our staﬀ and one that would allow us to increase our inventory. Making the move to secure a more suitable location and taking on a lease, overhead and all the costs associated was a tough decision to make. The 80’s were a diﬃcult time for many small businesses and interest rates were at an all time high at 18%! As trying as these times were, we knew that we couldn’t hold oﬀ on making the move. However, we were very careful to not overextend ourselves. We found a small oﬃce in downtown Toronto where we decided to set up our ﬁrst shop and it felt incredible to put our sign above that door. Once we moved in we were able to better service our clients. With a lot of hard work we were able to secure contracts with many of Canada’s leading broadcasters, cameramen and production companies like CBC, CTV, Global, Alliance Atlantis, Insight, Shaftesbury and Barna Alper Productions (all of whom we are still doing business with today). Our clients were extremely loyal and it was these relationships that helped us weather through the recession and still grow in the process. We continued to acquire more equipment, more staﬀ and more clients than any other video equipment rental house in the city. By 1991, we were approached with our ﬁrst expansion opportunity. Production was booming in British Columbia and we decided that it would make an ideal location for another Sim Video oﬃce. From there, we expanded our inventory to include Avid post technologies, oﬀering the ﬁrst non-linear editing systems available for rent in Western Canada. Our ﬁrst post project was Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog, which was sadly the late Phillip Borsos’ last feature production. In 1994, Sim Video West capitalized on the increased demand for specialized playback services by securing multiple season contracts with high proﬁle shows like The X-Files and went on to claim its place as a leading provider of playback services in Vancouver. More and more Hollywood projects began shooting in Vancouver and using our services. With our LAbased client list growing, our next logical step led us to open an oﬃce in Hollywood and by 1999 we were oﬃcially operating in three of the world’s busiest production centers.
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Around that time, the introduction of high deﬁnition cameras represented our most pivotal moment as a company. The technology was innovative and the picture quality was like nothing we’d experienced in the video world before. We knew that HD would deﬁnitely change the landscape of production and that we had a small window of opportunity to become leaders in this area. That is, if we could master the equipment quickly enough. Sony’s ﬁrst digital high-deﬁnition camera, the HDW-700, carried a steep price tag but we wanted to be at the forefront of this digital revolution. We invested immediately and became the ﬁrst rental house in Canada to oﬀer these cameras, providing two 700s for the world’s ﬁrst HD television series, Lexx for Salter Street Films in Halifax. Even though there was a huge learning curve we knew our early adoption would pay oﬀ. We had two very skilled engineers working for us (who still work with us today) and we knew that their work would be pivotal in ensuring clients felt comfortable using the new technology. Sony was also very supportive when it came to ensuring that clients using their cameras were well taken care of. Sim Video then went on to provide Sony F900 camera packages to shoot Earth: Final Conﬂict; the world’s ﬁrst 24P HD production. After that, we were seen as leaders when it came to HD equipment. That’s when our real growth began! Both shows received a lot of press coverage for using ground-breaking technology and as their service provider our name quickly spread through the industry. Beyond our inventory, which was second to none when it came to both SD and HD products, clients came to us for the level of service we offered and our knowledge in supporting digital technology. Our expertise landed us gigs on complicated and highly technical productions including live multi-cam productions like the Canadian Alpine Ski Championships, Canadian Idol and James Cameron’s Last Mysteries of the Titanic, the ﬁrst ever live-to-air broadcast from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The work was challenging but we reveled at the opportunity to show oﬀ our technical talents. We continued to stay ahead of our competitors by closely following and evaluating new products and op-
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REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
BEHIND THE SCENES
Practice made perfect for Underground Circus
lmost twenty years after it made its professional debut at a maximum security prison in Montreal, the Vancouver-based Underground Circus is an established member of the Canadian entertainment scene. And it has also blossomed into a regular contributor to the western Canadian ﬁlm scene through stunt and dance work. The Circus was created by Peter Boulanger and Ninon Parent, two former members of Cirque Du Soleil, and alumni of Montreal’s L’école National du Cirque. Boulanger says they started it as a way of training friends who were interested in the circus arts. “We started out just sharing our skills for fun,” he says. “However, after a couple of years, a few of our friends had developed their skills to the point where they asked us if they could join in our shows.” Boulanger and Parent moved The Underground Circus to Vancouver in 1992. There seemed to be a strong interest in the Vancouver community for a circus group and The Underground Circus almost immediately developed a reputation for strong technique, innovative apparatus, and attention to detail. Some of the ﬁrst connections they made in the ﬁlm industry were through the stunt community. “Some great BC stunt performers did shows with us when they were ﬁrst getting into ﬁlm,” says Boulanger. “There’s a lot of similarity in the risk and physical skills involved, plus, of course, the emphasis on performance. Ninon and I still work in stunts, and we’re very glad that our circus training has helped us with the general movement sense that’s so critical for stunts” Training is still a priority for Parent and Boulanger but the company is involved in every aspect of its shows. Boulanger says they don’t leave anything to chance. “We train people who are passionate about the circus arts, to raise their skills in performance and acrobatics to a professional level but we also build the circus apparatus and explore movement and performance in these new environments. We create the circus productions, either working in partnership or alone. And we have a range of shows. We can provide small one or two act shows and we can create elaborate corporate spectacle.” Naturally, there are many stories that have developed after almost 20 years of circus life. “We have taken the show on the road a lot,” says Parent. “We were one of the main acts on the outdoor stage at (the Montreal comedy festival) Juste Pour Rire and we did a birthday party for a Malaysian Princess in Hollywood. We’ve performed with 12 diﬀerent symphony orchestras and last Christmas we were doing shows in Hong Kong.”
Beginnings continued from page 11
portunities. As the technology continued to evolve, cameras like the Sony F900R, F23 and F35, Phantom HD and RED ONE convinced producers who traditionally shot ﬁlm to make the switch to digital faster than we ever anticipated. This ultimately pushed our move to even bigger ofﬁces in Toronto, Vancouver and Los Angeles and led us to open two more REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
Sim Video oﬃces, in Halifax and Beijing, to keep up with demand. In 2009, we discovered a small company while we were on-set providing 57 RED ONE cameras for a Nike commercial shoot. The company, Bling Digital, reminded us of how we started our own company many years ago. They had found a niche market providing digital and tape-less workﬂow solutions for RED camera productions and they were
There have also been a few crazy days in their home province. “One show idea Peter created had me and three other women doing a synchronized silk act over the wing of a Boeing 737 for the BCIT Aereospace Campus,” she says. “We were doing hand to hand balancing on the wings too, which was wild. There was another time that we floated a contortionist inside a transparent sphere on one of the pools at the Vancouver Aquarium. That took a lot of testing. We had to be very careful not to freak out the fish. If they get scared, they forget there’s this giant glass wall in front of them…” Under the heading of grand spectacle you can ﬁnd the creating of a huge puppet for the opening of the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. “I designed and built a 10 meter high puppet,” says Boulanger. “It was a marionette. The cool part is that we made it capable of picking up circus acts in its hands. It’s the largest marionette in North America, and the only one in the world designed to carry circus acts.” Parent says the Underground Circus was very active during the recent Vancouver Winter Olympics. “We did the circus entertainment for both the Samsung and Coca Cola pavilions at the David Lam Park Live Site,” she says. “We programmed several nights at the Commodore, including one mass ﬂash mob dance of over forty dancers. And we poured vodka from one of our circus apparatuses at the Russian pavilion in Science World. I think we ended up hiring almost 90 performers during the Olympics” Boulanger admits that the creating of specialized events takes a lot of rehearsal. He says the group recently opened their own facility to develop new concepts and to rehearse the company. “We love our space”, says Boulanger. “Our ﬂoors are all semi-sprung. There is just enough spring to reduce impact, without losing stability. It’s got high ceilings, and any kind of rigging we want to put in. And it’s not just for us. We intend that it be used for the performance community for anything involving rehearsal and production in circus, dance, theatre, ﬁlm, stunts. If it is movement related, we can host it.” Parent says the future looks busy. “We’re writing a show that we hope to have in BC theatres this autumn and we’ve got a string of corporate shows before then that we’ll have to do a lot of prep for. We’re going to keep developing our space, putting in diﬀerent rigging and equipment. And we will be training. We’re always training” ■
really making a good name for themselves in the industry. We found that Bling’s on-set data management and digital dailies services were highly developed and accurately addressed the needs of today’s producers. We also recognized that their services complemented our core business and ﬁlled the grey area that existed between our camera and post rentals. With all of this in mind, we approached Bling about the possibility
of combining our services and ﬁnally made our plans to merge oﬃcially in November last year. Now, with over 28 years of industry experience behind us, we’d say that Sim Video’s success has been based on a lot of hard work and preparation, following our gut instincts and building a team that shares our passion for technology and service. A little luck and happy clients hasn’t hurt either! ■ 13
Katherin Heigl and Ashton Kutcher star in Luketic’s Killers
QUESTION AND ANSWER
Robert Luketic Comedic director and risk-taker
ike many Australian ﬁlmmakers before him Robert Luketic attracted Hollywood’s attention with an award-winning ﬁlm. In his case it was the short ﬁlm Titsiana Booberini, the story of a girl who discovers facial hair removal after being ridiculed by other women. He was brought to the US to direct Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon in the summer of 2001. The movie made over $100 million domestically and earned Luketic the right to direct more American comedies. Two years later he followed up with Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! In 2005 he made Monster In
Law with Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda, who came out of retirement to make the movie. He switched to drama to make 21, starring Kevin Spacey and Jim Sturgess but switched back last year for The Ugly Truth starring Katherin Heigl and Gerard Butler. In 2010 he brought Heigl back for a second comedy, Killers, which also starred Ashton Kutcher and Tom Selleck. The movie, which was released in June, is expected to be out on DVD this fall. In May, Reel West Executive Editor Ian Caddell talked to Luketic about Kutcher and his Killers, comedy’s risks and the slow death of the DVD.
Ashton Kutcher brought you into the ﬁlm. How did that process evolve? “Lions Gate called me and told me they had a movie with Ashton in it and I didn’t know that he was a producer until I took the meeting. So I took the meeting and they said ‘you have to meet Ashton.’ So I went to his house and we had two meetings. I wanted to see what kind of producer he would be and he is a very smart kid. He is probably one of the best producers I have worked with. He is involved but also passionate. He will waive his hours because actors have a certain turnaround time that they have to work and he is just there all
the time. He worked like a dog on this movie and I will gladly direct anything else he wants to produce. He is great. He is super smart and a real entrepreneur.” Does he get in the way at all? “No, he takes direction. He will try anything you want him to try. He just wants it to be good. He wants to learn. He wants to expand himself, so there was never any tension I can honestly say.” Can you talk a little about the high risk of making comedies? We know it is all subjective and there will always be people who don’t get the joke. Do you ever feel uncomfortable or take it personally?
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were really good and that of itself is a great thing to share with people. In an action ﬁlm you don’t get to see the way it is going to be because there are eﬀects that you don’t put money into. So you end up with something that is not worth showing people with green screen.” What makes you laugh? What do you ﬁnd funny? “I like it when two people discover things about themselves or make themselves feel uncomfortable. I like when people are uncomfortable or hysterical. The discovery of secrets is very funny to me. I like it when you are in a relationship and you think you know someone but you don’t know them. There are things we keep secret in our relationships for a reason. You don’t tell everything to your spouse. There are some things that will be forever just for you and I like exploring those things.” Is there a Luketic style that you see when you watch the ﬁlms? “I never watch my movies after the premiere because I don’t feel like it belongs to me any more. I haven’t watched Legally Blonde since I did it. If it comes on television I will watch the ﬁrst ﬁve minutes and then skip the rest. I just don’t personally want to watch it because it is all compromise from the moment you start making it.” You use the backdrops as a character. Is that important in establishing character and humour and drama? “It is very important because it is the stage in which your play unfolds so attention to that is as important as the cast you put into it. It informs how the actors are going to behave and how we are going to feel when we are there. It has always been important to me to establish where we are. When you are doing a play the backdrop and the set are the ﬁrst layer, the foundation on which you build everything else. We go through an exhaustive location process for all the movies.” How tough is it to keep a balance between comedy and drama? “It’s hard but necessary because life is not all laughs. Sometimes you need to stop and feel things which help highlight moments of levity and lightness. You need to have both because life is not all happiness and it is not dramatic and sad either. I think it makes sense to have emotional connection in a comedy that is farcical. It is value added so it is not all stupidity.” ■
Mike Myers in The Love Guru
“I used to take what people were writing about me very personally but I just learned to not do that anymore. Someone must like them. That is all I care about now but I used to be very upset about reaction. I became very dark about things. I was so optimistic when I came to Hollywood but I found myself becoming bitter and I have turned that around because I realized there was no need for that. People are going to write what they are going to write. Critics are important. There is a place for them in the world but I can’t make things for them because that would be wrong. They have to ﬁnd it themselves. But people like my movies. I have been very successful commercially but not critically.” Ashton Kutcher says he likes to make changes in the editing bay as a producer. Do you supply a lot of coverage so that producers and editors can have control over the ﬁlm? “There is not a lot of coverage in my movies. That is something that you learn as you go along, that you don’t shoot a library of things for people because they will say ‘let’s look at it this way.’ You can control the structure of the scene or what it means by being speciﬁc. I don’t do a lot of coverage although some of the action we have to shoot over and over again. A dialogue scene is what it is and there is not much you can change. You can cut words out but that is about it in terms of the way I like to shoot stuﬀ.” When DVDs ﬁrst came out there were so many extras but that is less and less true now. How do you approach the DVD? “No-one buys DVDs any more. The DVD market is terribly depressed. People are looking online and they want immediate access. They don’t want to hold on to something. They want something that they can watch when they want on their personal device. You don’t have to take anything with you. You can download it. DVD has had its day. There are exceptions like Avatar. I don’t think I will ever do a DVD commentary. I would rather shoot my brains out. Does anyone listen to those things?” You don’t save things for the DVD then? “No, I will do that because there are things you want to share with people whether they are interested or not. There are things you thought were good. We shoot more than we need and there are scenes where the actors
“It’s hard to be full of yourself in Canada. If there was a motto in Canada it would be ‘who do you think you are, eh?’ I think it is very good training to just be a person growing up in Canada. People say a lot of things about Canada, that it is boring and stuff but if you look around the world there is something to praise in boring. It is a very civilized world to grow up in and I am very proud of it.” Mike Myers on being Canadian. “When Kevin (James) texts me I laugh for five minutes. I don’t write that ‘lol’ because I am a comedian and I think other comedians will say ‘are you kidding me?’ So I just write back ‘good one.’ (Chris) Rock is one of the funniest guys I have ever met in my life with just summing up something and having a different slant on it where you just think ‘that is amazingly accurate. I can’t believe that he ever thought that.’ His comedy is just genius. There was a lot of adlibbing and a lot of jokes these guys brought. I wasn’t shocked by anybody. Friends of ours said they loved Spade and I think that is because they are used to the rest of us doing good work but they aren’t used to David doing anything good.” Actor Adam Sandler on hiring his comic friends to co-star with him in Grown Ups. “Twitter gives me freedom of expression more than anything. I can say whatever I want and it is unedited. I don’t have to depend on anyone else to deliver my message. I think it gives me a connection to what people are thinking and feeling and what they are interested in and it makes me better at my job. I will have someone post things on my Facebook fan page occasionally but I post everything on my Twitter page. People on Twitter keep it real. For instance, if you are complaining about something that is not something to complain about people let you know. There is always someone there to keep your ego in check which I really appreciate.” Actor Ashton Kutcher, who set a record last year for the most Twitter followers, on his relationship with social networks. “I like working with young people and I like working with first time directors like (Harry Brown’s) Daniel Barber. There is something about the freshness. The young actors that were on this film were excited and prepared, sometimes too excited but it’s so great working with young people. I was taught the Stanislavski method, which is that rehearsals are the work and the acting is just a result of that and that’s not really a big thing now. But I do believe in working as a team. If someone flubbed a line I would flub mine. I think that is appropriate.” Actor Michael Caine on working with a young cast on Harry Brown. ”The people who work forever in this business are usually the people who do the same thing all the time. It’s much more difficult this way where you take a movie where you have an accent and then you are playing a cop. They can’t pigeon hole you which is good but they can’t say ‘this is what he does so let’s hire him for this role’ so it works both ways. I follow my desire but this journey is tricky. It is a grind because the movies I want to do are not the things people with money want to do.” Actor Don Cheadle on making choices. Excerpted from interviews done by Reel West editor Ian Caddell.
CLOCK WISE FROM TOP: Jochen Schliessler, on location in the Yukon; Allison Beda, during the filming of How to be a Model; David Hauka on location near Palm Springs while shooting his upcoming film Awkward; An image representing Anne Marie Flemingâ€™s film Long Tack Sam
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Keeping it Personal Some of the best known western Canadian films have been personal stories told through a somewhat fictionalized narrative. The school of “Write what you know” brought us Sandy Wilson’s My American Cousin and American Boyfriend, Anne Wheeler’s Bye Bye Blues, Mina Shum’s Double Happiness and Julia Kwan’s Eve and the Fire Horse all of which owed their existence to the nostalgia of their writer/directors. Story by
Ian Caddell WHILE THAT APPROACH to ﬁlmmaking will always be with us, writing what you know can also take other forms. Vancouver-based ﬁlmmaker Jochen Schliessler has made several ﬁlms for German television that followed the journeys of his father Martin, a documentary ﬁlmmaker. David Hauka chose to use diﬀerent narrative approaches to look back at his own life and the death of his parents and grandparents in Certainty. Meanwhile, Ann Marie Fleming and Allison Beda are putting themselves into their own ﬁlms through both short and long stories, in documentary and ﬁctional form. Hauka came to a trio of personal stories (Certainty is the ﬁrst of three with Awkward and another as yet unnamed ﬁlm scheduled to follow) from a career in Canadian dramas and US service work. He had produced Whale Music, directed Impolite and had been the production manager on several American movies and television shows including Eight Below and The Five People You Meet in Heaven when he decided to look back at his own life and times using music, collage and narratives that would take the viewer through the images of a generation. He says that the toughest part of making personal ﬁlms is that you are forced to dredge up memories that you had been happy to leave behind. The best part is that you can usually ﬁnd universal truths in your own personal stories. REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
“It is a very hard process creating these pieces, because you ﬁrst have to get to the truth of it and then pare it down to something that is not just expansive endless prose or nostalgia or self-serving treacle. When you rip it down to something that is personal it becomes universal because everyone has had these experiences whether we are talking about death in the case of Certainty or about the evolution of love, which is the theme of Awkward. Any one of these things is incredibly diﬃcult to talk about. I think the closer you move towards your real experience the more universal the subject matter is and the more accessible it becomes to a viewer.” That said, he admits that there is an inherent danger of naval gazing. He says that trying to ﬁnd the common denominators in your own life and those of others without crossing the line into self-indulgence can be tricky. “You have to be extremely careful about that (self indulgence.) When I was developing Certainty, I had to be very careful about getting maudlin or going someplace that was not being hard on myself. It is like self analysis. I am not saying that you do this (making personal ﬁlms) to avoid psychiatry or anything like that but people involved in those things say that it (Certainty) is valuable for their patients to see because it isn’t self-indulgent. Instead, it is saying ‘this happened.’ This is not about me bathing myself in selfindulgence it is more like an acid bath. It is not a place I want to go personally but it is a place I am going as a ﬁlmmaker. So I think that yes, being
perceived as self-indulgent is a huge danger. The checks include being constantly self aware of what you are doing but also showing the work in progress - which is something that I had never done before - to people from a wide array of backgrounds, including people who don’t know me and people who have known me for years and won’t cut me any slack. That was all part of the process.” Fleming has been making personal ﬁlms for over 20 years. Her ﬁrst short ﬁlm, Waving, played the ﬁlm festival circuit in 1988. She says that when she decided to look back at the life of her Chinese great-grandfather and the roots of her family it was diﬃcult for her relatives to understand why she was interested in the life of a man who had died before she was born. The ﬁlm, entitled The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, is an exploration of his life on the road in the early 1900s as an acrobat and magician. She says her relatives expected that she might be judgmental or maudlin but that she has always worked hard to keep away from both elements. And she says that she too was able to ﬁnd universal appeal in something that began as a personal journey. “There were a lot of things that I chose not to represent in the ﬁlm,” she says. “I wanted to hint at issues without being provocative for the sake of it. My family was not interested in this story for the ﬁrst couple of years. They couldn’t understand why I was digging things up but when they saw the historical relevance that this man had and the impact on cultures, they changed and became interested. I spent ﬁve years on it and I now feel that if we all spent that much time caring about people who were alive it would be a better world. I found it to be a painful process, particularly learning about my grandmother who I spent 24 years with and these huge lives that were not appreciated. I was aghast at my own ignorance but all over the world that ﬁlm brought people together, people who thought they had nothing in common historically. We were very similar in a larger picture and we were living out these stories that we didn’t know about so it was very moving and it was a very positive thing.” Fleming has made 18 ﬁlms now, ranging in 17
LEFT TO RIGHT: A scene from David Hauka’s film Certainty; Jochen Schliessler, on location; Peggie LePage and Allison Beda, during the filming of How to be a Model; An image representing Anne Marie Fleming’s film Long Tack Sam.
length from ﬁve minutes to 90 and from quirky dramatic shorts to feature documentaries and the 2003 dramatic feature The French Guy. She says that telling stories that aﬀect the people in them can only work if they feel that there is respect behind the camera. “I deal a lot with my own family so I have to take a distance stance in my storytelling. It is interesting making that choice. It helps me deal with issues that I might feel too close to. I am an odd duck in that I put myself in a third person distance with my own work. I think that if you are choosing to exploit something you have to have a lot of respect for the subjects because they are sharing something with you.” Schliessler’s father involved his family in the making of his documentaries and eventually both his sons, Jochen and Tobias, went on to become ﬁlmmakers in their own right while his daughter Tina worked as a sound editor before becoming a portrait photographer. Jochen decided to literally follow in his father’s footsteps by retracing his journeys to places as far ﬂung as South America and Alaska. The documentaries he has made about his well-known German ﬁlmmaker father have fared well when shown on German television. He says that when he makes his ﬁlms he often ﬁnds himself wondering how his father managed to do the same work a half a century ago considering that travelling to remote regions is a tough enough task in the early part of the 21st Century. “When we went to South America, it was so hard, with a small crew. The gear alone was tough in terms of transportation. I would think ‘my god, how did my father do this.’ 18
There was so little communication back in the 1960s compared to now. You never knew what was going on with him on his travels because it would take three weeks to get a letter and you would only know he was ﬁne then. He was gone so much and he wasn’t an easy person. I think it was very diﬃcult for him to live the kind of adventurous life he lived and then come home and be a father ﬁgure. It is very interesting for me to try and feel what he was feeling out there and then take that home. The more I do the closer I feel to him and what he must have felt going through
showing the world of his father’s time against that of his own. And he says he learned a lot about the times, the places and the man he felt he had never really known. “My dad’s ﬁlms on Alaska started in the 1950s with the natives doing traditional drumming and dancing. I went back there and went hunting on the ice with the Inupiat (the American term for Inuit) shooting everything for the ﬁrst part of a two part series on Alaska. We went through Alaska doing vignettes. He had been there when the oil pipeline was built at Prudhoe Bay and had done a story
again. Between 2007 and 2009 she worked as a camera operator on the TV series Aliens in America and as a director on the Canadian lifestyle series The Shopping Bags while making four personal shorts of her own. She says that she has never felt particularly comfortable about talking about things to people in her life but has made several movies that communicate her feelings. “It’s interesting because in some way (making personal ﬁlms) feels safer than talking to people one on one,” she says. “I think it’s a way for me of having intimate relationships with-
“I am an odd duck in that I put myself in a third person distance with my own work. I think that if you are choosing to exploit something you have to have a lot of respect for the subjects...” - Ann Marie Fleming, Filmmaker
this. That is a challenging process. That is where it gets a little deeper for me and that is where it is not just comparing old footage with the new. There have been moments where I have met people who worked with him and I showed them old footage on my computer and they see themselves or family members and there is this incredible thing where it is almost like I rejoined my dad with people and they connect and I have felt that we have created a bridge.” That “bridge” has been rebuilt in several places. Schliessler says that the key to the success of his “footsteps” documentaries has been
about bush pilots who landed climbers up there and he did a movie in Sitka. I took little clips out and highlights of archived footage. The story is the son following his dad’s footsteps so we blended my footage and the archival footage. We did two parts in Alaska and two parts in South America. We went to Ecuador where he had worked with bush pilots and to Peru and then to Bolivia where he did a little short ﬁlm. It helped me so much to know more about him and to feel I knew who he was.” Like Hauka, Allison Beda has moved from US service work to making her own ﬁlms and back
out having to be there. I have a hard time talking about feelings which isn’t necessarily a good thing because I thrive on intimate connections and the idea that you can tell everything to family members and friends. However, I have had a hard time doing that so that is a way of making those connections. I think that if you are passionate about something you make it happen. I am totally passionate about making my short ﬁlms. It is the thing I will always do no matter what my circumstances are.” In 2003, after making short personal movies with provocative titles like Be Zero Be and You Are Not the REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
Boss of Me and Look Who Is F***ing Sorry Now she made a feature length documentary based on her ﬁrst career called How to Be a Model (A 12 Step Plan.) She says it took her ten years to get around to making the feature, which she says came from answering so many questions about her own life as a model. “When people would ﬁnd that I modeled they would react with horror as though I was involved in prostitution. So I knew I wanted to do something on that but I kept going back and forth on the possibility. I just think there is always something that gets me worked up or passionate.” The four short ﬁlms she has made in the last three years have seen her telling her personal stories through tennis (30 Love), bicycling (One Day LA), a phone call (9-1 Mom) and a day at home (Just A Minute.) She says that they usually spring from the pages of her journals. “I prefer making personal ﬁlms like 30 Love where there are actors I can work with and I like having a director of photography with great ideas that are diﬀerent and actors who can bring something into it. It doesn’t always happen that way though because how often can you ask people to do things for free? I write a lot of journals and sometimes they come from that. For instance, I was asked to make a little segment for the Northwest Film Festival in Seattle. I was going to do a dance ﬁlm and that fell apart because I couldn’t put the people together in time and I had this little thing I had written and I thought maybe I could do ‘a day in the life.’ Eventually I called it One Day LA. I wasn’t going to be in it. I came down to LA and asked for help and no one could do it. I had to shoot REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
myself and then was stuck with ‘how do I shoot myself on a bike.’ I asked my friend Marya Delver to shoot me and that is how it came together.” Fleming too started out making small movies that told personal stories against relatable backdrops. She says that while she has approached ﬁlmmaking from diﬀerent directions, if there is a common thread it is the acknowledgment of life’s experiences. “I have made a lot of ﬁlms in different ways,” she says. “They are so diﬀerent but when I see them together there is an amazing cohesion. I guess the ﬁrst time I was consciously involved in self exploration would be (1989’s) You Take Care Now and Waving. They set the tone that I still see in my personal work. It’s not confessional or judgmental but it is acknowledging experiences and putting personal experience out there in a universal context so that people can relate to you. They are more about observations and statements and exploration about what might have been as opposed to what is.” Hauka says that he can’t imagine making a personal ﬁlm if he didn’t feel passionate about the subject. However, he will also do whatever he can to make it resonate with people who may not have had the same experiences but understand the context. “Certainty was about death and grieving and it was about personal loss and parents and grandparents but it could just as easily be about the loss of friends. We all have close friends who passed away when we were young or now and that passion is raw. I think it (passion) has to be there because if it isn’t there then you are not anchoring the work with anything that is true.” ■
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The Definitive Producing Workbook For the producer, the world of independent film and television production is often surrounded by a sea of paperwork. The contracts, documents and requirements of agencies are constantly in flux. Nothing is definitive, every contract has its own set of particulars and every deal is different. "Boilerplate" agreements are open to negotiation. Rules can be flexible. The PW4 will help guide a producer through some of the overwhelming volume of documents involved in the world of independent film and television production. Legal writers review the standard clauses and reveal issues of concern to producers negotiating contracts. Many sample agreements are included for reference. The book provides a comprehensive overview of national and provincial funding bodies and engaging stories and words of wisdom by seasoned producers.
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Exterior Motives Interprovincial co-productions have been an asset for Canadian filmmakers for several years. However, there was still one boundary that had not been crossed. No-one had thought about making an English-language co-production between Quebec and western Canada. Story by
Ian Caddell That change began when two Montreal-based Anglo ﬁlmmakers found themselves on Genie jury duty in Toronto. On the way home Tara Johns, a writer-director who had grown up in Alberta and Saskatchewan, pitched Quebec native Barbara Shrier on an idea that she had for a movie set in the provinces of her youth. Several years later The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom has wrapped principal photography in rural Manitoba. It has been a strange pan-Canadian journey, one that has taken Johns and Shrier from their ﬁrst meeting in Toronto through communication with all four of the western provinces and back to Quebec. Along the way they discovered that if you are a ﬁlmmaker who wants to commute between Quebec and another province there is good news and bad news. The Quebec funder, SODEC (Société de développement 20
des entreprises culturelles), will oﬀer strong support but if you are shooting in another province to capture the ﬂavour of the script, you will still have to shoot at least half of your ﬁlm in La Belle Province. Although Johns’ script was set in the prairies, she would have to ﬁnd a way to shoot almost every interior in Montreal. That would be diﬃcult enough under most circumstances but Johns had used her memories of growing up in the prairies in the mid-1970s. That meant the show was a period piece that had to ﬁnd ways of moving from one province to another while staying true to a bygone era. Shrier says that once they had decided that they would apply to their home province, their options were limited. “Tax credit laws in Quebec are stringent,” she says. “You have to have 75% of the shoot in Quebec and when you are crewing up there are six or seven conditions and one was not possible. That was the cast. It was very diﬃcult to cast the ﬁlm in English because you can only use Quebec actors. That was put in place so that they wouldn’t
be replaced by actors from France which is easy to do in Quebec. There are not many English actors so I told SODEC that it would be diﬃcult. They said to dilute my copyright and create a co-production. So we had to shoot the interiors in Quebec and then go out west for exteriors.” Shrier has made nine ﬁlms in Quebec including Jutra and Genie winners and nominees. But although she is English, she hadn’t tried to put together a co-production with any English-language ﬁlmmakers. She says that she was wary of leaving her home province but knew that she had to go west in order to get the movie made. “I work with people who trust me in Quebec but in English Canada they don’t know me or Tara and the traditional challenge is that if you are a Quebecer you can’t make movies without SODEC and Teleﬁlm. You need both of them. The ﬁrst challenge was it was set in Calgary so it was a western story about a young girl in the prairies. We needed to stick to the story, which was not about Quebec, and in English. And we needed to get money from SODEC, which traditionally supports French-language ﬁlms. It usually takes four rounds of going back to them but I got a ‘yes’ from both SODEC and Teleﬁlm in my ﬁrst meetings and more money from SODEC than Teleﬁlm. So while everyone is going to think that it was made in western Canada and there is not a trace of Quebec in the ﬁlm, anyone who knows me will know that I am the Quebec trace.” REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
ABOVE, LEFT TO RIGHT: Elizabeth watches Dolly on TV; Photo by Sébastien Raymond for Palomar. Elizabeth, her bike and the sky; Photo by Rebecca Sandulak for Palomar. Julia Stone as Elizabeth; Photo by Rebecca Sandulak for Palomar. FOLLOWING PAGE, LEFT TO RIGHT: Quebec boom being anchored in the crazy prairie wind by Manitoba grip; Photo by Rebecca Sandulak for Palomar. Barbara Shrier and Tara Johns in Manitoba; Photo by Rebecca Sandulak for Palomar. Canadian Café sign being shot by DP Claudine Sauvé; Photo by Rebecca Sandulak for Palomar.
Having made that decision they had to ﬁnd the place that worked best for the ﬁlm and for the restrictions that would come with working with the SODEC regulations. Shrier began to send out the script to the ﬁlm commissions of the western provinces. Eventually they found Buﬀalo Gal, the Winnipeg-based production company that has brought several co-productions to Manitoba. “I was looking for a partner I could trust and a strong production company that would take care of me and would work within the same value system. I set my standards high. I believe it is important to work with people with similar philosophies so that you feel you are spending the money in the right place. You want to make it a pleasant experience. For instance, I have a very stringent green philosophy. When I started talking to people Buﬀalo Gal kept coming up and I came to the conclusion that (producer) Liz Jarvis was like me. We came out and scouted the locations and we were impressed.” Jarvis was impressed with the script but says that while it may be an inter-provincial co-production, there were several aspects that made it feel more like an international agreement. “It’s actually structured diﬀerently than most inter-provincial agreements,” she says. “Most of the co-productions we do are with Ontario and they are looser than the one we made with Quebec for this ﬁlm because of some of the rules on tax credits. For
REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
instance, the use of key creative personnel is more of an issue than it is with other provinces. The tough part is trying to balance the ‘spend’ in both provinces, which impacts on the tax credits. If you work with Ontario and shoot in Manitoba and you meet a minimum spend of 20 percent (in Ontario) you are still eligible for the Ontario credit and not just service (industry) ones. When you work with Quebec you are working with a formula that includes key creative personnel (from Quebec.) It is a bit more complex because you have to maintain the exact balance in the spend. So we had to shoot 15 days in Quebec and 14 here. Travelling around was a challenge on the budget but it was challenging overall because you have two provinces and a period piece. But I feel as though we put it all on screen and kept within our budget.” The story that Johns wrote centres on an 11 year old named Elizabeth Alison Gray (Vancouver’s Julia Stone) who decides to run away from home to ﬁnd her real mom when she ﬁnds out her parents (Macha Grenon and Gil Bellows) adopted her as a baby. Having lived in Calgary before moving to Saskatchewan as a teenager, Johns says she always knew that the movie would be set on the prairies. She didn’t know that being on location would make an impact on a cast and crew that included several people from her adopted hometown of Montreal. “I lived in Calgary until I was 14,” says Johns.
“When I was writing the story I was drawing from my own experiences living on the prairies. I didn’t get reconnected with that until we were out in Manitoba scouting for locations. I don’t think I recreated anything from that time. It was an evocation of what I lived and what I knew from way back then and I think that part of what made it so powerful was that I was surrounded by people who were new to these places, people who had never experienced this before and were discovering something. They were blown away by the freedom that you feel in the middle of the open dramatic sky and the bald prairie and they were grateful and appreciative to have this experience.” Jarvis says that the scouting was extensive. She says that it was decided early on that it would be easier to create interiors that matched the script than to ﬁnd the right exteriors. “Manitoba was the primary setting so the locations in Quebec hinged on the locations that were found in Manitoba. They had to ﬁnd a house that was from the same period as one we found here (in Manitoba) and they needed the general geography and interiors that matched our exteriors.” The 15 days of interior scenes were shot in Montreal in April. Almost two months later, the show moved to Manitoba. Quebec supplied most of the key crew as per the SODEC regulations. The director of photography, Claudine Sauvé, produc-
tion designer Normand Sarazin and costume designer Marianne Carter were all from Montreal. The art director, Larry Spittle, and the set decorator, Bill Macinnis, were among those who were hired in Manitoba. Shrier used Quebec crew that she had worked with before and brought key crew from Manitoba to help ﬁgure out how to make the transitions. “The fact that we had so much more money from SODEC than Manitoba meant we had to bring in a lot of people,” says Shrier. “Our DP was from Quebec but we had crew in both places. We were in Winnipeg at a busy time and we had some trouble crewing up so we invited some of the crew I use and they came with us. We shot in Montreal in early April and in Manitoba in May and we didn’t have much prep time. We did prep of four weeks in both places which is tough, especially for a period piece.” Shrier says that while the ﬁlmmakers were always aware that matching the interiors to the exteriors would be diﬃcult, there were enough good ideas to get through the more diﬃcult days. “Initially when we were breaking down what would be shot where there were some obvious things. We had to capture the period and we had to ﬁnd the exterior street and then match it in Montreal and then we had to ﬁnd the Montreal split level that matched the Manitoba exterior. We found the right house but when we scheduled the shot we thought ‘what about when there are people at the door and the kids are outside and the mom’s inside?’ We thought we could do the ‘mom’ part inside in Montreal in March and turn it around and do the exterior in May in Manitoba but then it became a question of what do we do with the light and what do we see inside. Our DP was brilliant and so was our production designer. When we went back to Winnipeg we thought ‘this won’t work.’ So the production designer built a swing door to the kitchen and we decided to 22
shoot the back half of the house and upstairs in Montreal but the front of the house was in Winnipeg. It was the only way to go because the door could be opened and you could see behind it. We brought the swinging door back to Winnipeg and so we had a natural movement of actors.” Art director Larry Spittle had worked on many movies in Manitoba, the list including New in Town and The Lookout. He knew going in that this ﬁlm would not be like anything he had done in the past. He would be working with people who would be shooting in Montreal and then moving to Winnipeg to complete the scene. “They were shooting the exterior of our (Winnipeg) concert hall,
photos of a structure covered with a canopy and it was gorgeous. However, when we got down there it no longer existed. So we had the set built and then you see the canopy above a guy in the booth. We must have done a good job because we designed it well enough to fool people who handed their passports to our guy.” Marianne Carter oversaw the making of the period costumes for the ﬁlm. Like the character, she was a child in the mid-1970s and says that one of the challenges of making a movie about an era that is in the recent past is that many people in the audience can remember what they were wearing during the period. She says that while she has created costumes for several peri-
all those pieces together.” The Montreal-based Carter went west to make sure that the costumes she had designed from pictures worked with the exteriors. “The ﬁrst time I was there we ﬁt all the actors and some of the extras from Winnipeg. We got the show organized in my four days there and Meg (Winnipeg costumer Meg McMillan) came to Montreal to work with me. Then she went back to continue the project in Winnipeg so that we could have someone there to make sure there was continuity. I felt that considering the challenges we were well organized and that it looks like it was all done in one place.” The most challenging shots
“They were blown away by the freedom that you feel in the middle of the open dramatic sky and the bald prairie and they were grateful and appreciative to have this experience.” - Writer-director Tara Johns on her cast and crew experiencing the praries for the first time
Centennial Hall, to match the concert scenes in Montreal which was somewhat challenging. But I think the biggest challenge was recreating a border crossing that matched the interiors of the building they had in Quebec. We found a defunct border crossing but we didn’t have access to the building itself. It had become a holding area for cattle and pigs but Normand (Sarazin) wanted to dress it so that it would look like the one in Montreal from the outside. “In the scene we needed, they would not give us access to the building and he wanted it to match. So we just picked her (Stone’s character) where she is exiting the border station. Then we had to shoot the actual car crossing booths. Liz had talked to a location scout here and she sent
ods there is something more interesting about designing clothes for a time that you can recall vividly. “It is somewhat diﬃcult to create costumes for the 1970s because everyone has pictures of themselves. However, we are still in the movie world so for me it was important to please Tara because it is her vision. At the same time when you create a costume it is nice to have a feeling of the world during that period. It was the ﬁrst time I was able to express a period that I lived through. When you speak to people who grew up in the 1980s they have no idea of this period. We did a lot of research of the prairies at that time because it was such a speciﬁc world. By looking at where the people are living you can start to imagine a way of putting
may have taken place in Montreal. The café that the Manitoba location scouts had found in the small town of Marquette, Manitoba ﬁt the prairies look of the ﬁlm but was not going to be easily matched in Montreal. Shrier says that the best they could come up with was a café by the highway. That meant making sure that the traﬃc noises were muted so that audiences wouldn’t think big city when they were looking at a rural restaurant. “The Montreal location was noisy,” she says. “We tried to slow down the traﬃc but there were still so many sounds that the sound designer said ‘if we shoot the (Manitoba) exteriors in a sleepy town, we can establish that Exterior Motives continued on page 28
REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
PHOTO PHILLIP CHIN
REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
From the Fringe to Fox Marc Stephenson was an award-winning Vancouver based, Winnipeg-born producer when his chance reading of a successful Fringe Festival play, Toothpaste & Cigars turned into a six year development odyssey that found him knocking at the gates of the Hollywood studios. The adaptation of the play, The F-word, is gearing up to shoot in the fall of 2010 for Fox Searchlight. In his diary on his journey from the Fringe to Fox, he looks back on the meetings, the disappointments and the day he realized the studio was going to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Diary by
Marc Stephenson APRIL 2004 I am coming oﬀ my second feature ﬁlm and still basking in some of the glory of the critical success the ﬁlm has garnered but also trying to ﬁgure out what kind of producer I really am. I have now produced two feature ﬁlms about the homeless (Heater) and disenfranchised (On the Corner) and need to look at more commercial fare. A friend of mine, Trish Williams, suggests I read a play called Toothpaste & Cigars which was written and performed by some friends of hers. Trish thinks it would make a good ﬁlm. I am sceptical as most plays do not translate well to the screen. I read the play, however, and ﬁnd it immediately appealing. Toothpaste & Cigars is not a fully ﬂeshed out world but it has two very strong features: a universal theme and some excellent dialogue. It is a cross between Before Sunrise and When Harry Met Sally. A man and woman meet at a party and hit it oﬀ only to discover that the woman has a boyfriend and they must navigate their genuine aﬀection for one another even though one of them is in a committed relationship. Can men and women really just be friends? Interject some very, very clever dialogue and witty banter and it seems like a hit. I get in touch with the playwrights, Michael Rinaldi and Ti-Jon (TJ) Dawe. We meet up at HaREEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
vana on Commercial Drive and over mojitos I tell them about myself and give them the pitch about how I see the development of the project. Basically I would want to get them to write a draft of the screenplay and see how it pans out. It would be ﬁnanced with funding from Movie Central, BC Film and Teleﬁlm. I would be looking to involve a story editor and a director consultant. MAY They go for it. I think they are both excited about working on a ﬁlm project and seem to really enjoy the possibility of writing a screenplay. While I get the option purchase agreement in place I still need to raise the funds for the writing. I also need some help. JULY As usual the summer drags on with this and that while I search for the right team to join our crew and develop this play. I bring director James Genn on board as a story consultant. James is a great creative mind and I really enjoyed his short ﬁlm The Dog Walker. He seems to get the tone of a romantic comedy and can be a real asset as a consultant. I also have to bring on a story editor. I know Elan Mastai from the Vancouver ﬁlm community. He had been the assistant Canadian Programmer at VIFF and he was hard to miss with his white guy dreadlocks and infectious laugh. I have read one of Elan’s scripts and know his sense of humour would provide a useful contribution to the development of the project. I hire him as the story editor contingent on getting development money. SEPTEMBER I arrange for a meeting with Movie
Central’s creative executive in Vancouver, Shelley Gillen. Shelly had licensed On the Corner and is a great supporter of Western-based producers. We meet at Starbuck’s in North Vancouver and I bring along James to help with the pitch. I ﬁnd for my own personal style it’s important to bring a creative along with you for any pitch. I’m great with the ﬁnancing and management but a creative can really help you sell a project in the room. Shelly has read our intentions for the project and has seen the reviews of the play (it received incredible reviews all across the country and around the world as a travelling Fringe Festival play) but she still needs to be convinced that ﬁrst time screenwriters can pull this oﬀ. The playwrights have basically produced a draft that simply adds action to the dialogue and is almost line for line a version of the play. James and I do our best Laurel and Hardy act and she is convinced. She will support the project. We have a development deal! I do all the rest of my development applications and am oﬀ to the races with the playwrights. Teleﬁlm, BC Film along with Movie Central are on board. I make a relatively low rate deal with the playwrights, as it is their ﬁrst crack at being screenwriters, but it means I can aﬀord a story editor and a story consultant, which is somewhat unusual. JANUARY 2005 Michael and TJ’s second draft continues to maintain much of the language from the play. They both see the connection to the classic romantic comedies of the past and have tried to recreate imagery from When Harry Met Sally as an homage to that ﬁlm. It is a good ﬁrst stab but it needs help. We try another draft with James and Elan’s help. It is quickly becoming apparent that Michael and TJ are not going to get the screenplay where I want it. We all agree that an experienced screenwriter is what is needed. I ask Elan to take on more and more in terms of his inﬂuence in the drafts. Based on Elan’s sense of timing and character the answer is staring me in the face. Elan needs to be the new screenwriter. I begin the negotiation with Elan’s agent, Rena Zimmerman, to lock down Elan as the writer. I am fortunate that Elan isn’t WGC when I sign him as I can ﬁt him into my development budget. I know he won’t be non-union for long. He is too good for that. Elan and I are now the core team for 25
TOOTHPASTE & CIGARS: Actor Tallulah Winkelman and Michael Rinaldi (actor and co-writer) in the original play
the ﬁlm and I go for 1st to 2nd draft money from Movie Central as well as Teleﬁlm and BC Film. I part ways with James Genn on the project. He was an excellent contributor but Elan does not need the extra support. MAY Elan produces his ﬁrst draft of the script. It has a very distinct style and begins to introduce other characters and broaden the world from the basic two-hander in the play. The process of multiple drafts can be a time consuming one. There is of course the process of notes and phone calls and dissection of the material, but there is the delay in getting money from the various funders in order to maintain the process. We decide to call the ﬁlm Fool’s Gold based on the Elvis sandwich found in the script. A hollowed out baguette stuﬀed with peanut butter and a pound of bacon makes Fool’s Gold – mmm greasy. One of the requirements of my option agreement with the playwrights is that I secure a director by a certain date. They want to be sure that the project is moving forward and not simply languishing in development. So I need to start pressing ahead in ﬁnding a director for the ﬁlm. While it’s nice to churn out drafts in a vacuum, at some point every project needs to lock down a director. It turns out there is not an over- abundance of romantic comedy directors in Canada. A ﬁlm I had recently enjoyed, however, was Aubrey Nealon’s, A Simple Curve. Aubrey’s light touch with comedy and the fact that he has done a feature with a substantial romantic comedic element means he is a great candidate. I know him socially and believe I could work with the guy. I speak to Aubrey’s agent
DECEMBER We need to begin thinking about distributors. I contact Marie-Claude Poulin at Equinoxe Films. Equinoxe Films had some fantastic success with My Big Fat Greek Wedding and is a player in the distribution scene. I have known Marie-Claude for some time and she is always a straight shooter and has excellent
SEPTEMBER 2007 We have changed the name of the script to The F-word. Elan’s wife Samantha comes up with this excellent name. It has a lot of various meanings: “F” for friend and especially the word you might say when a girl you like calls you that. We follow up with Marie-Claude at the Toronto International Film Fes-
“Aubrey’s light touch with comedy and the fact that he has done a feature with a substantial romantic comedic element means he is a great candidate...” - on locking down Aubrey Nealon as director and bring him on board as a director for the picture. We continue with the development. Aubrey is bringing a new dimension. As a writer himself his notes are excellent and three of us are working well as a team. It takes the next eighteen months of development to get the ﬁlm to a new level. It’s ready to be shopped. 26
taste. I know she will be in Whistler for the ﬁlm festival and send her the script. Marie-Claude loves the project and agrees to meet in Whistler. She will give me a letter of interest. I move full steam ahead with applications for packaging from our various sources. Movie Central, Teleﬁlm and BC Film all graciously come on board.
tival in September. She is after some hard answers in terms of ﬁnding foreign ﬁnancing. This ﬁlm needs to have a substantial budget and can’t be done just with Canadian money. MarieClaude wants to see a minimum of a $5 million dollar budget. She gives me the names of some mid-sized distributors and sales agents with money in
the US. It’s time to get down to work in terms of ﬁnancing. OCTOBER I am co-producing the feature ﬁlm Edison & Leo and we are working in Mission BC, an hour’s drive outside of Vancouver. The ﬁlm is stop-motion animation and consequently takes a long time to complete. Since I am heavily involved in the physical production of the ﬁlm I am spending a lot of time out in Mission. The year and a half of production takes its toll on maintaining development and I am feeling out of the loop and a little depressed. When your head is in one ﬁlm so much it can be diﬃcult to keep up with all your other projects. I get a call from an old friend of mine, Mark Costa, who is a producer in LA. He has just started a new company called NHO Entertainment with his partner Ford Oleman. They both worked at New Line for years and have good connections with many of the LA agencies. I met Mark on my ﬁrst ﬁlm job in Vancouver. I was the oﬃce production assistant and he was the co-ordinator for New Line Television. He came up to VanREEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
couver a few times over the course of the shoot and we maintained a good relationship. NHO was looking for primarily genre pictures and asked me if I had anything good. I sent them a horror script that Elan wrote with the producer’s permission. The ﬁlm didn’t work out but we have established a good working relationship. Although not exactly what they are looking for I know I have a very good asset in The F-word and send it over to NHO for their thoughts. Not surprisingly they like it. They send it out for a couple of private reads with some development executives and get very positive feedback on the script. We do a shopping deal and they are on board as executive producers. MARCH 2008 I start using the packaging funds from Teleﬁlm and I employ a casting director in LA. I am making more trips down to Los Angeles this year. I meet with a few casting directors and settle on Monika Mikklesen. She is a total character who is worth her weight in gold in terms of who is the hottest new talent. We get the script out to some high proﬁle A-list talent including Natalie Portman and Ryan Gosling. Having a casting director opens so many more doors than I could and you get taken seriously as a moving force in Hollywood. They supposedly like the script but they are also passing on the project. Show me the money! I’m having fun getting to know Los Angeles. I have been here before on business but usually for another producer’s work. Could The F-word be a Hollywood picture? JUNE The script has been shopped around to the various agencies and is generating a lot of momentum in Hollywood. Elan has now picked up an agent oﬀ the heat the project is getting. Frank Wuliger at the Gersh Agency is an old school agent and a source of insider information on all things that pass through that town. He suggests that he come on board as a producer’s agent to help negotiate deals that seem imminent. JULY Montecito Pictures has taken a strong interest in the show. They are Ivan Reitman’s company and certainly know comedy. Elan and I meet with their executives along with Mark and Ford and have a great meeting. I give them the run-down of the development of the picture and they are interested in representing the picture to talent and the studios. I tell them about Aubrey REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
and the results are not good. The hard truth about having a Canadian director who is not in the Los Angeles mix is they mean nothing to US studios. They basically tell me I have to lose Aubrey or face the reality that the ﬁlm will not get made with US funds. I have to make the hardest call I have ever made. Aubrey is a friend and to ask him to step aside for the good of the project is tough work. He takes it like a champ and I assure him he will be well-compensated if we go to camera. AUGUST I am in the ﬁnal stages of post production on Edison & Leo. We are in a dark room in Technicolor working on the digital intermediary colour correction. I get a call from Jeremy Steckler at Fox Searchlight! He introduces himself as the executive for Juno and (500) Days of Summer. Jeremy tells me he loves the script and wants to send it up the ﬂagpole to his bosses. I am bleary-eyed and confused from going from the darkness of the D.I. suite to the sun of a summer afternoon. The one studio I would love this picture to be with is calling me! I say “yes, yes of course he can do what he likes with the script!” I call Frank and tell him what I think is good news and get the serious smack down. They want to package the ﬁlm so the studio can’t say no - not just hand it over! I get my ﬁrst Hollywood lesson. Never make a decision without your agent approving. Still, it’s too late and it’s now in the mix with Searchlight. Mark and Ford lessen my consternation. This is what we want! NOVEMBER The ﬁlm has made the Black List for 2008. These are the best of the un-produced scripts for the year in Hollywood as voted on by readers and development executives from the various agencies. Scripts that have been on the list include Lars and the Real Girl, Juno and Inglourious Basterds. I ﬂy down to LA to meet with Jeremy and a possible production partner the studio likes, a production company called Mr. Mudd. They are John Malkovich’s production partners and have produced ﬁlms like Juno and Ghost World. I get invited to have lunch with Jeremy, Russ Smith and Lianne Halfon from Mr. Mudd and bring along Ford. For the kid from Winnipeg having lunch on the Fox lot and eating in their cafeteria where the walls are littered with staﬀ photos
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from their multitude of ﬁlms over the years it’s pretty exciting. Holy crap! I’m in the studio! The lunch goes great and I like the producing partners that Fox is suggesting. Russ and Lianne are real creative producers and know everyone. Now things are moving at a real pace. Searchlight conﬁrms they are interested in the script and would like to make the project. My amazing lawyer Juliet Smith is brought in to face oﬀ with Fox. The negotiation is exhaustive. It takes months of back and forth negotiation. Frank and Juliet work to get the best deal they can for me. It’s not easy. As a “ﬁrst time” producer in Hollywood the oﬀer is lean but the upside is the ﬁlm will be made by a major studio and will potentially be on thousands of screens. The exposure is worth the tough deal. MAY 2009 Whew! We ﬁnally have a deal. What a marathon! Now we can ﬁnally get down to the business of ﬁnding a director and casting the ﬁlm. JULY (500) Days of Summer is coming out and has a similar tone and feel to our ﬁlm. Its success will aﬀect the progress of The F-Word. (500) Days of Summer does okay but not as well as they would have liked. Elan is working on a new draft with notes from the studio.
Exterior Motives continued from page 23
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there are motorcycles and cars that are pulling up regularly.’ Then we used the fact that we could always hear trains in the background when we were in Marquette. We had our DP go out and shoot some trains to establish train sounds on the soundtrack. So we kept ahead of the problems by ﬁnding solutions that made sense.” Johns says that the toughest part for her was having to keep the memory of the energy and tone that was established in one place and take it to the next location. “I don’t think that is unique to the co-production process,” she says. “I think it is the nature of the beast because you are usually making ﬁlms out of chronological order. The diﬀerence with this ﬁlm is you had the light and openness of the prairies which is not possible to get all of the time in Montreal. And it was a period piece so you needed to keep up with that which can be hard when you are changing crews. When
OCTOBER Still no real movement. No director and no cast yet. Searchlight is unhappy with its returns on Amelia and are reconsidering what kind of direction they want to take with the company. Their Notorious B.I.G. ﬁlm also did not do well. Are they a studio that does romantic comedies or broader ﬁlms? We are feeling pretty low about the potential movement for the ﬁlm. APRIL 2010 We have a new executive at Fox Searchlight. Jeremy has left to join Imagine and a new executive, David Greenbaum, has come on board. Will he like the ﬁlm and champion it? Turns out that yes, he loves the ﬁlm and wants to move it forward. It’s a good feeling again and maybe we can get some movement with a director. We have a list of directors and the meetings and “takes” from the various directors begin. MAY Searchlight decides on Alex Holdridge as the director. He directed the excellent low-budget romantic comedy In Search of a Midnight Kiss. It was a big winner at the 2008 Independent Spirit Awards and he really gets the tone and feel of the ﬁlm. We now have a director we can all get behind and the casting has begun. The ﬁlm is moving fast now and we hope to shoot this fall. It’s a six and a half year development process that looks to ﬁnally have a happy ending. ■
we did prep in Montreal and then went to Winnipeg to shoot it was like starting all over again. We were fortunate in that it was a smooth transition after the ﬁrst day because we had a dream team in Manitoba.” Johns had a separate challenge: she was writing what she knew but she had left the prairies as a teenager. She says that she found freedom in ﬁctionalizing the story. “There is that old chestnut ‘write what you know’ but in some ways there are traps in recreating or evoking your past. You can’t get too nostalgic. I found a lot of my material and inspiration from growing up and the time and place but after that I had to ﬁctionalize to meet the needs and demands of a two hour ﬁlm. There is something that I heard recently that no matter what story you are telling the key is to try and make sense of our human experiences. But it will be a challenge whether it is in Winnipeg or Calgary or Kenya and it is a challenge to try to ﬁt it all into a two hour arc.” ■ REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
“Fair Dealing” unfair? Doran Chandler Entertainment Lawyer
On June 2, 2010, Bill C-32 was introduced by the federal government to address numerous issues that have arisen since the last substantial revision to the Copyright Act in 1997, including proposed changes designed to address a number of challenges resulting from recent advancements in digital technologies. In addition to proposed changes to protect materials in our increasingly digital society, Bill C-32 also includes a proposed expansion of the deﬁnition of “fair dealing” by adding parody and satire, which although well established in the US, are currently not recognized in Canada. A broader deﬁnition of fair dealing would allow producers much more ﬂexibility when including third-party materials which would otherwise have been protected by the Copyright Act. Motion pictures may include material that infringes third parties’ copyright where permission to include such material has not been secured. In such cases, a number of options are open to the producer. The production could be edited to remove the oﬀending material. However, this may only be a feasible option if ﬁnances, time or (especially) if creative willingness permits. If it is not possible or desirable to remove the material, there may be one or more exceptions allowing the inclusion of otherwise copyrighted material in the production without securing permission. One of the exclusions suggested by producers is relying on the concept of “fair use”. Although fair use is regularly referred to in production industry reference materials available in Canada, it is a US-based principle, rooted on the idea that it is not “fair” to ﬁnd every copying to be a violation of copyright law if such copying was for certain purposes, including criticism or review. The concepts of “satire” and “parody” fall under the much broader concept of fair use in the US (and have provided many producers with access to sources of otherwise protected source materials). The concept REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
of “fair use” does not currently exist in Canada although it is often used interchangeably with “fair dealing.” The concept found in the Canadian Copyright Act is extremely limited. Fair dealing is currently a very narrow defense under which the use of the copyrighted material must be for “private study, research, criticism, review or newspaper summary”, which is rarely the case in ﬁlm productions. Further, because there are no hard and fast rules available and little case law, it is extremely diﬃcult to deﬁne what is and is not fair dealing. This becomes especially problematic when trying to provide assurances to an E&O insurer’s lawyer that all rights have been acquired, possibly jeopardizing the ability to secure E&O insurance for a production. Bill C-32 proposes an expansion to the deﬁnition of “fair dealing” to include dealings for the purpose of parody and satire. A parody is a work that uses elements of a prior composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works. Some parody examples include the classic work of Mel Brooks, television shows like Saturday Night Live and ﬁlms like the Scary Movie franchise. Allowing producers to rely on parody and satire in Canada would allow for much more creative freedom with less risk of infringing another’s copyright. The current deﬁnition of fair dealing is far too narrow to be relied on by producers and as a result, creativity can in many cases be unjustiﬁably hindered. The expanded deﬁnition proposed in Bill C-32 will provide more ﬂexibility to producers in a manner consistent with artists’ needs and will permit greater reliance on an exception to what would otherwise be an infringement of copyright. ■ Doran Chandler’s practice focuses on providing legal services for the entertainment industry, including services in relation to ﬁlm and television ﬁnancing, intellectual property issues, production services and music. After his previous career as a musician, touring North America with a folkrock band, Mr. Chandler settled in Vancouver to pursue his legal career.
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WILLIAM SHATNER TOOK HOME A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMNT AWARD FROM THE RECENT BANFF TELEVISION FESTIVAL
West Wins Two Two Western Canadian companies were winners at the recent Banﬀ Television Festival. Winnipeg-based Frantic Films won a Rockie Award in the Lifestyle and Information category for an episode of the Food Network’s Pitchin’ In (Pitchin’ In: Shrimp) and Vancouver’s Force Four Entertainment won the Best Canadian Program Rockie for its CBC News Network documentary 65 Red Roses. Other Canadian productions to win Rockies included Best Animation/Kids winner Le Printemps de Melie/ Molly in Springtime from the National Film Board in association with Folimage, PIWI, Divertissement Subsequence Inc and two Quebec ﬁlms that won Best Francophone Rockies: Aveux, from Productions Pixcom inc. and Radio-Canada which won in the overall show category and Les vrais gagnants, which won in the documentary category. It was produced by RPM Inc and Radio Canada. Two Canadians won special awards. William Shatner won the Lifetime Achievement Award while Eric McCormack won the NBC Universal Canada Award of Distinction. British comedian Ricky Gervais won the Sir Peter Ustinov Award for Comedy.
Alice in Leos Wonderland A TV miniseries based on the iconic children’s book Alice in Wonderland has won eight Leo Awards. Alice took home awards for best feature length 30
drama, cinematography (Jon Joﬃn), score (Ben Mink), stunt coordination (Marshall Virtue), production design (Michael Joy, Mark Lane and Paolo Venturi), overall sound (David Cyr, Paul Sharp, Iain Patterson and Graeme Hughes), editing (Alan Lee and Peter Forslund) and visual eﬀects (Lee Wilson, Lisa Sepp-Wilson, Sebastien Bergeron, Simon Lacey and Les Quinn) at June’s annual event to recognize outstanding achievement in production and performance in British Columbia. Alice was followed closely by the short ﬁlm The Gray Matter, which won seven Leos, and two dramatic TV series. Sanctuary won seven Leos in its category while Stargate Universe won six. The Gray Matter won for short ﬁlm, cinematography (James Liston), score (Matthew Rogers), production design (Daren Luc Sasges and Ester Bovard), costume design (Jennifer Sharpe), overall sound (Greg Stewart, Miguel Nunes, Roger Morris and Greg Hannas) and sound editing (Miguel Nunes, Roger Morris, Angelo Nicoloyannis and Greg Stewart.) Three of Sanctuary’s Leos came from its actors. It won the series awards Leos for lead actor (Robin Dunne), supporting actor (Christopher Heyerdahl) and guest male performance (Christopher Gauthier.) It also won for costume design (Christina McQuarrie), makeup (Todd Masters, Holland Miller, Harlow Macfarlane, Werner Pretorius, Yukio Okajima), production
design (Bridget McGuire) and direction (Brenton Spencer.) Stargate Universe won for dramatic series, cinematography (Michael Blundell), supporting performance (Julia Benson), editing (Rick Martin), visual eﬀects (Mark Savela, Shannon Gurney, Brenda Campbell, Craig Vandenbiggelaar and Krista Mclean) and screenwriting (Brad Wright.) Winning ﬁve Leos was the series Wolf Canyon, which won for musical, comedy or variety program, directing (Allan Harmon), performance or host (Jessica Harmon), cinematography (Randal Platt) and editing (Richard Schwadel.) Bruce Sweeney’s feature Excited won four Leos including feature length drama, lead female performance (Laara Sadiq), supporting female performance (Gabrielle Rose), and directing (Sweeney.) Also winning four Leos was Facing Ali, which won for best featurelength documentary, best directing (Pete McCormack), best editing (Jesse James Miller) and cinematography (Ian Kerr.) Ice Pilots NWT, Anna & Christina’s Grocery Bag and The League of Super Evil were also multiple winners with each taking three Leos. Ice Pilots won the Leos for best documentary series, sound editing (Vince Renaud and Jo Rossi) and screenwriting (Catharine Parke.) Grocery Bag won for best host (Anna Wallner and Kristina Matisic), cinematography (Carl Alcock) and directing (Jennifer Lit-
tle.) The League of Super Evil won for animation series, screenwriting (Philippe Ivanusic, Davila Lebianc) and directing (Johnny Darrell, Rob Hoegee and Steve Ball.) Two Leos went to This Land and Short Savage and Stormworld with This Land winning for best documentary short and overall sound (Gael MacLean and Doug Paterson) and Short Savage winning Leos for female performance (Skeena Reece) and editing (Hart Snider and Brendan Wollard.) Stormworld won Leos for youth and children’s program (Shawn Williamson, Ian Hogg, Paul Barron and Stephen Hegyes) and the category’s award for performance (Callum Worthy.) Other performance awards went to Jared Kesso for Keep Your Head Up:The Don Cherry Story (lead performance, male) Chad Willett for Cole (supporting performance, male) and Erin Karpluk, Being Erica (lead performance, female.) David Richmond-Peck won the performance by a male in a short drama Leo for Instant. Veteran local stunt man Jacob Rupp won the stunt coordination Leo for Smallville. Category awards went to The Nature of Things (information or lifestyle series), Trolls (student production), Road Regrets (music video) and The Vetala (web series.) Meanwhile, Oscar nominee Monique Prudhomme won the costume design Leo for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Tina Louis Teoli won the short drama award for make-up for Serum 1831 and Todd Masters, Nicolas Podbrey, Werner Pretorius, Maiko Gomyo, Vincent Yoshida and April Boyes won the same award in the feature ﬁlm category for Thaw. Additional screenwriting awards went to Kelly-Ruth Mercier for the short drama No One Knows You Like Your Mother and Vic Sarin, Catherine Spear and Dennis Foon for the feature length drama A Shine of Rainbows while directing awards went to J.B. Sugar for the children’s program Wrath of the Wraith and to Ann Valine for the short drama How Eunice Got Her Baby. The animation program or series category saw the overall sound Leo go to James Fonnyadt, Miguel Nunes, Gord Hillier and Tony Gort for Max Steel Versus the Mutant Menace while the musical score Leo went to Daniel Ingram for Martha Speaks. ■ REEL WEST JULY / AUGUST 2010
FILM + TV FORUM DROP IN and GET INFORMED
Sept 28 - Oct 1, 2010 + NFD Oct 2
Whether you’re a first-time producer trying to get your project off the ground, or an industry veteran learning to adapt to the daunting demands of the digital marketplace, The Vancouver Film & TV Forum is the place to be! The Forum provides an exciting platform for our delegates to access domestic and global market leaders, share the expertise of our international speakers and make the most of the opportunity to meet and foster working relationships with their peers. Our New Filmmakers’ Day (NFD), the only event of its kind in Western Canada and a ’standing-room-only’ event for the past seven years, is specifically designed to cater to emerging writers, producers and directors of screen based media. SAVE THE DATES: 09.28 - Storyville Vancouver 09.29 - Doc Day 09.30 - Film Day 10.01 - TV Day PLUS: 10.02 – New Filmmakers’ Day All sessions take place at the Rogers Industry located at the Vancouver International Film Centre. The Forum is presented by the Vancouver International Film Festival.
TURNING CHALLENGES INTO OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE LAST 25 YEARS!
email: email@example.com tel: (604) 685.3547 www.viff.org/forum
Magazine for the Digital, Film and Television Industry