MAY / JUNE 2012
FILM, VIDEO, INTERNET AND DIGITAL PRODUCTION IN WESTERN CANADA
CONTINUUM: The latest BC-produced sci-fi series has a fresh idea that should allow it to compete with more expensive American shows.
MURDER SHE SOLVED and TV Producer
NF FE F W ST O IV RL AL D IS ME SU D E IA
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16 GREAT EXPECTATIONS
The people who make and distribute television and new media, will be heading to the Banff World Media Festival in June with high expectations for the event, which was called the Banff Television Festival for much of its 34 year history. In recent years it has run the risk of attempting to provide an equal blend of new technology and traditional television.
BITS AND BYTES
REEL WEST PROFILE
18 DANGER ZONE TV producer Thom Beers (Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers) will be at the Banff World Media Festival to talk about how he brought some of the most dangerous jobs on the planet to reality television.
10 BEGINNINGS 12 BEHIND THE SCENES
20 COMPETING FOR SPACE
14 QUESTION AND ANSWER
The science fiction series Continuum, the story of a detective who slips between eras through a porthole, is keeping its costs down while competing with like-minded American series that are far more expensive. Can a good idea win over audiences conditioned to seeing expensive sci-fi on their small screens?
15 EXPERT WITNESS 30 FINAL EDIT
24 MYSTERY SOLVED Producer Rob Bromley looks back on the history of the fact-based TV series Murder She Solved: True Crime, a documentary series about female detectives who have solved some of the most daunting murder cases in North America.
26 UNKINDLY CUTS On the eve of the Banff World Media Festival, producers in Saskatchewan are in discussion with Saskatchewan’s Progressive Conservative government to bring back support for the province’s film and television industry. The cuts to tax credits follow on the heels of similar reaction to subsidies from other conservative governments, which follow a traditional policy that government should stay out of business. COVER: CONTINUUM’S RACHEL NICHOLS AS KIERA CAMERON; PHOTO C/O SHAW MEDIA CONTENTS: THE CAST OF CONTINUUM; PHOTO C/O SHAW MEDIA 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, ADAM CADDELL 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 2010 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 27, ISSUE 3. 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 MAY / JUNE 2012
What’s coming. What’s shooting. What’s wrapped.
Hacked is set to premiere its first season in spring 2013. PHOTO C/O BLACKHATS PRODUCTION
BC Productions Dominating Features List BC-based features are strong again this spring. Three local production companies are working here on films during the late spring and early summer. The list includes Candyland, helmed by BC director Michael Bafaro, Age of Greed: Bailout, from BC-based Uwe Boll and Midnight Rider from veteran Canadian director Bill Dear. Candyland is executive produced by James Clayton and Bryce McLaughlin with Michael Bafaro and Don Knode as producers, Krys-
tal Vrba as co-producers, Shaun Lawless as DOP, Vrba as production manager, and Leah Gibson and Clayton in the lead roles. The Bailout will have Boll directing with Shawn Williamson and Daniel Clarke producing, Mathias Neumann as DOP, Geoff Wallace as production designer, Clarke as production manager, Joey Setter as production coordinator and Terry MacKay as location manager. The cast includes Dominic Purcell and Eric Roberts.
Midnight Rider has Tara CowellPlain producing with Durey Shevar as supervising producer, Pieter Stathis as DOP, Brian Davie as production designer, Cowell-Plain as production manager, Melyssa Rose as production coordinator and Craig T. Nelson leading the cast. The True Justice series continued into May with True Justice: Dead Drop, the third digital feature. It has Keoni Waxman and Phillip Goldfine as executive producers, Binh
Dang as co-executive producer, Benjamin Sacks and Scott Kennedy as producers, Michele Futerman as production manager, Micah Gardener and Crystal Remmey as production coordinators and David Fullerton as location manager. The series stars Steven Seagal. The TV pilot Hacked is in town from May 7 to June 11 and has Michael Roberds directing with Travis Doering the producer, Domenico Cutrupi the DOP, Julia Rhodes the production manager, James Vale the production coordinator, Jennifer Barry the location manager and Billy Mitchell and Cassie Ventura the leads. Also here in May is Tom, Dick and Harriet, based on a British show about a man who moves in with his son and his family. It stars Steven Weber and is directed by Kristoffer Tabori with Rick Rosenberg, Bob Christiansen, Ira Pincus and John Morayniss as executive producers and Randolph Cheveldave as producer. The DOP is Neil Cervin, the production designer is Paul Joyal, the production manager is Michelle Samuels, the production coordinator is Terri Garbutt and the location manager is Tom Hoeverman. Who’s Your Monster, a Disney TV movie about a girl who discovers her parents are monster hunters, has Stuart Gillard directing, Sheri Singer as executive producer, Tracey Jeffrey as producer, Thomas Burstyn as DOP, Matthew Budgeon as production designer, Mandy Spencer-Phillips as production manager, Fawn McDonald as production coordinator and Kirk Johns as location manager. n
REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
Travel Guys Nets Four
Arctic Air’s ADAM BEACH & PASCALE HUTTON
PHOTO BY PHIL CHIN
The Vancouver-based series The Travel Guys has landed four national networks, according to spokesperson Lesley Diana. The show is currently airing on Shaw TV, the Outdoor Life Network (OLN) and CHEK and will be adding CHCH in Hamilton and Toronto to its network roster. Diana says the show’s hosts, Darren Parkman and Jim Gordon, travel the world “providing viewers with insight on both popular and undiscovered destinations, including tips on how to get there, where to stay, and what to see, all with a healthy dose of humor.” She says the show, currently in its
eighth season airs weekly in over 15 million households. “Since launching the television show, they (Parkman and Gordon) have filmed over 100 destinations in 50 different countries including Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Caribbean, China, England, France, Hawaii, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Thailand, and the annual Film Festival in Palm Springs, California.” Diana said the show is currently seen twice a week on OLN Saturday and Sunday morning, on CHEK TV every Tuesday night and on Shaw TV four times a week. She said the show made its CHCH TV debut in late April.
Air Breaks Records
The record-breaking series Arctic Air is one of several CBC shows that will be returning next year. The Vancouver and Yellowknife-shot series, which tells the story of a Yellowknife-based maverick airline, has been renewed for a second season after winning the largest audience for a new CBC drama series in 15 years. According to a spokesperson, one in every five Canadians watched at least one episode of the series, which premiered to more than 1.2 million viewers in January. “With a star-studded cast, stunning aerial footage and the incredible natural beauty of the Northwest Territories, we were confident that Canadians would make Arctic Air fly high,” said the CBC’s Trevor Walton. “This is a terrific achievement and we congratulate everyone involved with the production of this outstanding show.” The Alberta-based series Heartland is one of 13 other series returning in either the fall of 2012 or the spring of 2013. The list includes This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Doc Zone, Dragon’s Den, George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, Marketplace, Mr. D, Republic of Doyle, The Big Decision, The Fifth Estate, The Nature of Things, The Rick Mercer Report and The Ron James Show. REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
BITS AND BYTES Platforms Performing The CBC says its digital platforms are setting records for user-ship. According to English services vice-president Kirstine Stewart, more Canadians than ever before turned to CBC for their online and mobile news, sports and entertainment in 2011-2012. Stewart said CBC.ca is “Canada’s No. 1 broadcast media website” based on monthly unique visitors. She said that comScore Media Metrix recorded an average of 6.15 million unique visitors a month for the online service during the 2011-2012 season, an increase of 6 per cent compared with the previous year. “CBC’s goal is to deliver Canadians the content they want, when, where and how they want it,” said Stewart. “Along with the popularity of our radio and television offerings, these amazing numbers in the digital space show that we’re on the right track.” According to Stewart, the most surprising growth during the measurement period (September 2011 to March 2012) occurred on CBC.ca Video, whose unique visitors increased year-over-year by 74 per cent.
Montreal Company Mirrors Success The success of the movie Mirror Mirror, which has made over $135 internationally since its March 30 release, could owe much to a Montreal company. Modus FX completed 194 shots in eight weeks for the film, an adaptation of the popular Snow White folk story, starring Julia Roberts as the wicked queen. According to CG supervisor Martin Pelletier the film, which was shot on a sound stage in Montreal, was set to use artificial snow and trees and painted backdrops. However, once production had begun it became clear that additional work would be needed in order for these scenes to look authentic on the big screen. He said Modus FX was called in to deliver CG refinements, which was considered a daunting task given the film was on a tight production schedule. “We knew that a shot-specific approach would be too time-consuming,” said Pelletier, “so we broke down the 194 shots into 12 groups, divided according to depth-positioning of the cameras. Then we created new 2D background cards for each set of shots.” He said the solution included photos of birch trees captured in the nearby Laurentian mountains. “These were applied to the 2D polygons and composited into the 3D environment, creating a ‘2.5D’effect.” Martin said Modus then added rocks and other landscape elements, along with falling CG snowflakes to “enhance the verisimilitude” of the shots. He said a combination of live-action, 2D backgrounds and 3D elements created believable outdoor winter scenes.
Avid’s Olympics Avid recently announced that it will deploy “the most comprehensive Avid workflow in the history of NBC Olympics,” to support its coverage of the 2012 Olympic Games taking place in London this summer. A spokesperson said the Avid Interplay® Media Asset Management (MAM) system will serve in conjunction with third party vendors Sony and Harmonic. She said the Interplay MAM system will be used to create two simultaneous feeds for use in London and at NBC’s Olympics division’s headquarters in New York City. “Ingesting media and metadata directly into Interplay MAM early in the process allows us to have assets immediately available for video production in London and, at the same time, for the users at 30 Rock,” said Darryl Jefferson, NBC Olympics’ director of post production operations. “In New York, they need to access the same media and metadata to create their packages to the web instantaneously. Having MAM at the core is a critical component to making this happen.” The Avid spokesperson said all of the video content’s metadata, including athletic content, will be ingested directly from Sony’s XDCam Station into Avid’s Interplay MAM system and, once there, replicated from London to New York using Harmonic’s MediaGrid and ProCast solutions.
Game Change SIM Video founder Rob Sim recently announced that the company is changing its name to SIM Digital. The company, which has offices in several cities including Vancouver, Toronto, Halifax, Los Angeles, Beijing and Atlanta is celebrating its 30th anniversary as a provider of equipment and production services. “SIM is a company that has always worked hard to be at the forefront of our industry and that means we are always evolving,” said Sim. “While our name has served us well over years, the word ‘video’ seemed a little out of place with cameras like the Arri Alexa, Sony CineAlta and RED cameras winning over the industry. We have one of the most impressive inventories of digital cinema tools and cutting-edge services available and yet our name didn’t imply it. After exploring some options, we ultimately focused on choosing a name that simply reflected how the industry and our clients refer to our services today.” Steven Spielberg’s Falling Skies in Vancouver, the series Vampire Diaries in Atlanta and Guillermo del Toro’s feature Pacific Rim in Toronto.
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The BC production Foreverland is following up its Victoria Film Festival premiere with a theatrical release. It will open exclusively at Vancouver’s Fifth Avenue Cinemas in June before moving to other markets later in the month. The movie, which was written and directed by Maxwell McGuire, tells the story of Will Rankin, a young man stricken with Cystic Fibrosis, who is tasked with delivering his friend’s ashes to a legendary healing shrine in Mexico. Joined by the sister of his fallen friend, he embarks on an epic journey down the Pacific Coast Highway to the desert heart of Baja, encountering characters along the way. Shot in British Columbia and Mexico the movie is produced by Screen Siren Pictures and Bron Studio and is based on a script by Shawn Riopelle and McGuire. It was produced by Screen Siren’s Trish Dolman and Christine Haebler and Bron’s Aaron Gilbert. Cameron Lamb and Jonathan Vanger are the executive producers. Zaritsky Film Hits Fests
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The latest film from award-winning documentary filmmakers John Zaritsky is beginning to receive attention from international festivals as it proceeds towards a television premier on Knowledge Network later this year. According to producer Kevin Eastwood, Do You Really Want to Know? was to have its world premiere at May’s 2012 DOXA Documentary Film Festival in May. He said it was also nominated for a Golden Sheaf Award for Best Documentary (Science/Medicine/Technology), at the Yorkton Short Film Festival.
Shot on location in Vancouver, Toronto, Boston and Cleveland, Do You Really Want to Know? tells the story of three families who have been confronted with the decision of whether or not to be tested for Huntington’s disease, a degenerative neurological illness that is akin to having ALS, Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s - all at the same time. Among his more notable awards, Zaritsky won the Academy Award for Best Documentary (for Just Another Missing Kid) and has been nominated for three Emmy Awards and 15 Gemini Awards. He has won the latter seven times. REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
Blackstone’s Eric Schweig
PHOTO BY DAN POWER
APTN Says Yes
APTN recently announced that the series Blackstone is in development for a third season. The network said the show has consistently ranked as one of its top-rated and most popular programs. “It has earned the rightful reputation as the kind of show that provokes discussion about issues, engages conversation about social change, and, above all else, entertains,” said spokesperson RoseAnna Schick. Blackstone is produced by Edmonton’s Prairie Dog Film + Television, with Ron E. Scott as executive producer, writer and director, Jesse Szymanski as producer, Damon Vignale as producer and writer, and Gil Cardinal and Penny Gummerson as writers. Schick said Blackstone currently broadcasts in Canada and New Zealand and that the series is distributed internationally by PPI Releasing. The first season of Blackstone won two Gemini Awards, and garnered two wins at the 2011 Leo Awards and three wins at the 2011 Alberta Film and Television Awards. Schick said the complete first season of Blackstone will receive an encore presentation on Showcase. Beginning on April 30, the series was reintroduced to Showcase audiences. REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
PHOTO BY WAYNE HOERCHEL; ARTWORK BY SEAN DAY MICHAEL
Encore, a Deluxe Entertainment Services Group company, recently announced that it has added Vancouver to cities hosting its post production services for television producers. A spokesperson said current Encore locations include Hollywood and New York as well as a sister Deluxe television facility Level 3 in Burbank, California. He said the facilities share a common network that allows them to share media seamlessly, maximizing efficiency and capacity. “British Columbia has been a major television production center for many years,” says Deluxe vice president Bill Romero. “In fact, British Columbia is the fourth largest center for film and television production in all of North America. Encore is recognized for having the most robust file-based offering in the television business, and
PROFILE we are thrilled that Encore can now offer clients the combination of our powerful infrastructure as well as the amazing talent pool that we have in place in Vancouver.” Romero said Encore, which is known for work on shows like House, GCB, Castle, and The River, is simultaneously expanding its VFX for television service to Vancouver. He said the VFX division of Encore in Vancouver brings to the region “the top-level visual effects Encore is recognized for providing.” He said the Vancouver VFX division will be headed up by visual effects supervisor Ivan Hayden, who brings over 15 years of experience to his role at Encore, most recently having run Warner Bros. Television’s in-house visual effects studio for the Vancouver-shot series Supernatural.
Tink Production Designer The Vancouver-based artist known as Tink is one of Canada’s most prolific production designers, with 33 credits in the last 12 years. Prior to coming to Canada in 1994, he had already built a design firm with offices in New York and Tokyo. Within three years of his arrival in Vancouver he had jump started his film career, taking a job as art director on the hit series Ninja Turtles: the Next Mutation. Hometown: Born on a stopover in Chatham N.B. and shortly thereafter moved to France and Germany, so those latter places provide my earliest memories and connections. Start Date: July 1996. After a lot of fibbing as to our real reason for 10 of us with equipment and costumes taking the gondola and then a sno-cat up to the top of the Whistler Glacier, I was finally directing my first short film: Pamplemousse. During the shoot, we continually climbed higher, keeping out of reach of the authorities, until they finally forced us down at sunset, thankfully after we had just finished our last shot and the film turned out great. Best Day: Too many to mention – basically any day that becomes an adventure, whether I’m creating something out of nothing, or in the company of amazing, interesting people and beauty. Worst Day: March 7, 2010. My Brother passed away. It was simultaneously the worst and most beautiful day of my life. Worst for the obvious reasons and beautiful because those moments were full of the most unconditional, pure and all-encompassing love I have ever experienced. Most Memorable Working Experience: Fortunately, I’ve had many experiences to treasure, but one of my all-time favorites was designing the tv series Stormworld. We shot 26 episodes in West Australia, Singapore and Vancouver. The story takes place in an alternate universe where beings from various planets end up after being sucked into dangerous vortex storms. I had four crews, many of whom weren’t film professionals, but were incredibly creative and enthusiastic. They helped me build two villages out of debris, some crazy vehicles that flew and were seaworthy, plus we all had an amazing adventure in the process and became great friends. Nothing like shooting on the stunning Indian Ocean and wearing only board shorts on set… If I won an Oscar I would thank: I like to think that when I win my first Oscar, I’ll give a speech of such wit and emotional resonance that the Academy will not want me to leave the stage. In those words, I’d definitely thank my parents and brother for always encouraging and challenging my work, plus all the people that took a chance on me when I was just starting, and a few creative giants that have fueled and inspired my love for film – Kar Wai Wong, Pedro Almodovar, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Buster Keaton, Baz Luhrmann, Ridley Scott and a few others… My Latest Five Year Plan: A few years ago, I was invited to a theatre and introduced to “New Burlesque”, which is an evolution of old, classic burlesque. I was so impressed with the skill, depth, visuals and total entertainment that so many performers brought to the stage, that I decided it needed to be documented in as high a quality as possible. So I created “StripCHEEZ.com” to share those videos with the world. That site has since grown and is now itself evolving into “BurlesqueStars.net”, a videosharing, news-magazine, networking and promotional tool for the global burlesque community. We sponsor and document some of the best festivals and performances around the world and have become the #1 source for viewing burlesque-only performances in the world. I’ll continue building this for a few years, plus am finishing writing a book, which I will translate into a script and than a (hopefully) fantastic film. I’m certain many other opportunities will arise, so I welcome those surprises and the new adventures they’ll provide. n 7
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The Vancouver-produced Battle Castle has added the UK’s Discovery Knowledge TV to its list of networks. The documentary series, produced by Vancouver’s Parallax Film Productions, is currently airing on Canada’s History Television. According to Parallax spokesperson Holly Carinci, the show is “an interactive, trans-medieval journey into castle engineering, bloody siege-craft, and epic clashes that transform mortals into legends.” Hosted by UK celebrity Dan Snow, the show takes its viewers over six one-hour timeslots to Syria, France, Spain, Wales, Poland and England delving into the stories of six castles. Carinci said Parallax spent five years putting together each aspect of Battle Castle. In order to choose the castles to be featured, Parallax had to select six out of thousands from all across Europe and the Middle East. “Each castle had to have a visionary designer and builder behind it,” said Parallax Film founder Ian Herring. “The castle had to have been tested through a siege and it had to relate to history-changing events.” “We were specifically looking at castles and not forts or fortresses because we wanted to harken to the Age of Castles and highlight the ingenuity of an individual visionary,” added series producer Maija Leivo. “These visionaries became characters through which we told the story of the castles. As such we feature legendary figures like Ferdinand and Isabella, Richard the Lionheart and Edward I of England.” Carinci said Parallax brought in London-based Ballista Media Inc. to co-produce the TV broadcast series while the convergent media component was co-produced by Agentic Communication Inc. in collaboration with Starlight Runner Entertainment, a New Yorkbased transmedia company. REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
LEGAL BRIEFS ported to be the largest ranching area of British Columbia, the documentary features Mitten Ryan, owner of Gateway and facilitator of Equinisity Retreats, which the spokesperson said is “a groundbreaking and innovative approach that bridges the gap between humans and horses.” The spokesperson said the documentary follows Mitten Ryan, other participants and her herd on an exploration that demonstrates there is a way of working with horses outside of the traditional natural horsemanship domain.
PHOTO BY SEAN MARTINDALE
Vancouver’s Lisa-Lightbourn-Lay has completed production on a movie that shows the potential of communication between humans and horses. According to a spokesperson, One With the Herd is a half-hour documentary inspired by the award-winning book of the same title by Liz Mitten Ryan, one that brings horses into the spotlight “for the amazing creatures they are and the true gifts they have to offer beyond the show, race or event.” Filmed at Gateway 2 Ranch in the grasslands of the Nicola Valley, pur-
Regina-based 291 Film Company recently debuted the first episodes of the first season of its documentary television series, Great Minds of Design. The series stared in late April and will continue into June. According to producer Mark Bradley, the show features a broad range of Canadian designers working with everything from furniture and architecture to solar stained glass and street art. He said the series follows innovative creators from across the country and around the world as they conceive of and implement new designs. Shot in various North American and German locations, the first season focuses on sustainable designers whom, he says, “consciously make products that consider the effects their creation have on culture and society.” “When you say the word ‘design’, it gets different responses from different people. Our series is very broad and wide ranging, though the theme of sustainability in design joins our disparate subjects,” says Bradley. “We’re putting street artists who re-design their city in subtle ways on the same level with industrial designers and architects. In the end, we have a series that shows what designers are doing to create changes in the world. both big and small.” The show was created by Bradley with Ian Toews as executive producer and director. REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
New Tech Means More Opportunities
s my kids were growing up, one of our regular family outings was to the local video store on Friday nights to cruise the aisles for films we could all watch together.
Kim Roberts Entertainment Lawyer
Usually, the DVD covers were better than the films themselves but it was the potential for discovery that we all loved. I don’t know what parents do now but I know many of us miss those corner video shops. Whether we were ready for it or not, it’s now a download world. Video on Demand (VOD) revenue has very quickly jumped ahead of DVD sales, to the point where DVD is often now a small component of the revenue a film generates. There are three main forms of VOD. They include SVOD (Subscription Video On Demand) which is operated by
Whether we were ready for it or not, it’s now a download world. services, such as Netflix, where a monthly fee is paid for unlimited download; TVOD (Transactional Video On Demand) now generally known as VOD, where a specific fee is paid to download or stream a production and FVOD (Free Video On Demand,) which is generally provided by a broadcaster as a package of services offered to a cable subscriber. The US has developed these markets more aggressively than Canada, with a premium VOD release now often taking place before a theatrical release with the tag “Coming Soon to Theatres”, followed by a reduction in the download price once the film is in theatres and then a further drop once the theatrical release has been completed. With a simultaneous theatrical and VOD release, the spend on publicity for the film is far more cost-effective. This is good news for
producers, as it means that the theatrical release doesn’t eat up all of the receipts from other markets. Often in the past, all of the revenue generated after theatrical (for example, from DVD and TV) simply paid for the theatrical release. So what can a producer do to make this new paradigm work for them? Find a distributor that has a very good split with VOD services. The studios typically have a 70/30 split while those handling independent films often have just the reverse, meaning that very little revenue actually trickles down to the producer. Ask that your distributor consult with you on the budget used to promote the film, so that you have some control over the expenses that are incurred; find a distributor that is willing to work with you to publicize the film through social media. If it is a genretype film, motivated producers can drive a lot of business to VOD just by targeting sites that cater to specific genres; consider a royalty arrangement where the producer is paid a percentage of the gross from first dollar or ensure that broadcasters’ FVOD rights (especially streaming rights) will not interfere with VOD rights that can be sold to other buyers. One final consideration: the choice of the title is more important than ever as consumers no longer have a DVD box with cast to draw them in. Surprisingly, it isn’t just a catchy title that makes a difference. Distributors are finding that films with titles at the beginning of the alphabet are more often rented than those found at the end. VOD may have taken much of the fun out of renting films. However, it has created opportunities for a producer to have more control over distribution and to drive target audiences to their film. Kim Roberts is a partner in the entertainment law boutique Roberts & Stahl. Over the last three decades, Kim has provided legal advice to producers on all aspects of television and motion picture production, from development through financing and production to distribution as well as intellectual property matters. n 9
PHOTO BY ED ARAQUEL
REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
grew up in South Africa during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s -- hardly an ideal environment for a future cinematographer. There wasn’t a television set in my home until I was 12. And even when a TV did arrive, the programming choices were slim. Half of the shows were in Afrikaans instead of English. I’d resort to watching a test pattern on television for a week before anything was actually broadcast. Fortunately, my family owned a 16m projector, and this was my gateway into the world of cinema. We’d rent film prints to screen once a week. Neighbors would attend. It was a community event. Furthermore, owning the projector allowed me to re-watch the films over and over -- to absorb them and recognize the craft that went into making them. My second love was photography, which was passed down to me through my father. I spent countless hours in the darkroom, and buried myself in photography books and magazines. My idols were Robert Frank, Eve Arnold, Ansel Adams, Arnold Newman, Julia Margaret Cameron, Alfred Stieglitz and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. The visual gifts of these artists fascinated me, and I became determined to enter their magical, special realm of captivating images. When my family moved to Canada in 1976, an entire new world exploded before me. There were now 20 channels on my television set instead of two -- and in English no less! The movie theaters nearby offered me a daily variety of new film releases. My most memorable moment during this time came when I sat in a dark theater and watched Apocalypse Now. I was blown away by everything I saw in the film: the colors, the images, the music, the vibrancy and audacity of the story-telling. This was my moment of revelation. I knew I wanted to become a cinematographer. I’ve only had this sensation of clarity one other time in my life, and that’s when I met my future wife, Caroline, and knew on the spot that I wanted to marry her. I attended York University and studied film. I started out shooting low budget music videos. I became a camera assistant next to get access to bigger productions. Soon after, I was fortunate to meet cinematographer Tobias Schliessler and became his assistant on several Toronto shows. Tobias asked me to travel to Vancouver with him to work on Quarantine, a low budget feature. I found that I loved the west coast of Canada, and Vancouver would become my permanent home for the next 20 years. I worked on many shows with Tobias, both as a focus-puller and cameraoperator. This led to a day call on The X-Files as a camera operator. It was at this point that cinematographer John Bartley was kind enough to keep me on as an insert-unit DP, and then later a second-unit DP. My jobs involved shooting big, complicated scenes: alien spaceships, blowing up trains and conjuring up some images that I can’t even put into words. When John Bartley left the show, I was lucky enough to shoot several mainunit episodes. X-Files became a ratings hit, and this meant larger budgets, more resources, and extra time to shoot things exactly right. But the most important element to the show was the daring and original scripts. For example, a draft would include directions such as “elephant runs along the horizon.” Needless to say, it was an exciting time. A teachable moment for me on the X-Files involved shooting an alien spaceship -- an object that had never been seen on the show at that point in time. I had wanted to embrace the show’s overriding theme that “less is scarier.” So in order to maintain a feeling of mystery, I shot the scene very dark, and this was for a show that was already the darkest on television. The next day, executive-producer Bob Goodwin called me into his office to watch the footage with the director, Kim Manners. Bob and Kim were trying to locate the alien ship in my footage -- drawing the blinds, leaning close to the TV screen, squinting their eyes but all to no avail. REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
They couldn’t see the spaceship. I realized I had mistaken “blackness” for “darkness”. I was convinced I’d be fired on the spot. But to my amazement, neither Bob nor Kim was angry. I was simply sent off to shoot the scene again, and told to get it right this time. I realized I was working in a rare creative environment. Mistakes were allowed if they were made for the right reasons. The pursuit of perfection was appreciated. This was the most important lesson I took away from working on The X-Files. My next major job was working for producer Matthew O’Connor and director Steve Barron to shoot Dreamkeeper, a highly ambitious and visually complex mini-series for Hallmark. The budget was very high -- 25 million (30 million Canadian). The plot involved two protagonists - a grandfather and grandson - as they travel from Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota to All Nations Powwow, a fictitious meeting spot in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During their journey, the grandfather tells various Native American legends so that his grandson will embrace his cultural roots. Before Dreamkeeper, Steve had shot music videos for Michael Jackson, Dire Straits, David Bowie and Madonna, among other pop-stars, and he used his music video sensibility to give each “legend” its own distinct look. One legend in particular featured a photographer’s portraits of a tribe, and Steve was inspired by the shallow focus and silvery tones of Edward Curtis photographs. To capture the shallow tones, we decided to shoot with primes wide open at T1.4. For the silvery tones, we used a bleach bypass process to keep silver on the film negative. But despite our efforts, we still couldn’t exactly match Curtis’ silvery tones. This was when I came up with the solution: I had silver make-up painted on all of the actors playing tribe-members. This effect created the correct look on film. Another challenge on Dreamkeeper was a camera move Steve described in pre-production planning. He wanted the camera to start low on the road traveling alongside the grandfather and grandson’s moving pick up truck (which is towing a horse trailer), rise up to look through the driver’s window, move inside the cab past the grandson’s head towards the grandfather, pivot around him, pull back through the passenger window while pointing towards the grandfather, move around the front of the cab towards the front grille, move through the engine, the cab and the horse trailer, spin forward, and then the truck would drive off. My face turned pale at the concept! But Steve and I made the shot work with a snorkel cam, a long lens tube that accesses small spaces while mounted on a telescoping Technocrane. By cutting a hole in the truck’s roof, we could pass the camera through the cab and complete the shot. I had grips mount broom bristles to block light leaks after the lens has passed through. Overall, the shot was incredibly complicated and overly ambitious, but we pulled it off. To be able to fulfill a director’s ambitious vision in this manner was incredibly rewarding. My next major project was my personal favorite, Daydream Nation, an independent feature I shot for writer/director Mike Goldblach. It was a profound, sad and beautiful love story that presented rich visual possibilities. I was inspired by Mike’s passion for the film. Because the characters were often high on drugs, I could blur reality in the film with painterly strokes. I was fortunate to have the support of a stellar crew who shared my love for the project. We ended up making a gorgeous film despite the limited budget and schedule. Currently, I’m shooting Haunter, a feature film directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice), and I have many more exciting projects on the horizon. If there is a through-line to my career it would be a passion for bold images that serve the story and characters. Every day, I try to recapture the same magic that I felt years ago when watching 16mm films on my family’s projector. Cinematography has become my way of fulfilling those distant but still stirring dreams of my childhood. n 11
REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
PHOTO BY PHIL CHIN
BEHIND THE SCENES
3D Custom Foam Inc.
“Every day presents a new challenge. We are never faced with the same project twice...”
n a city where many companies have lengthy film and television credit lists, one of the longest is owned by a company that may not have as high a profile as others but has literally carved out a reputation as a key service provider. 3D Custom Foam Inc. was founded in 2005 by John Mallory and Cam Stewart, who had started their careers with Plasti-fab, a supplier of expanded polystyrene foam, in 1998. Three years later they moved on to become part owners of a local foam sculpting company that laser scanned objects and transformed the scans into sculptural foam replications. The company worked closely with the film industry and so when they formed 3D Custom Foam Inc. they located it close to Burnaby’s Mammoth Studios. Seven years later, the company is thriving and has become a community leader, receiving the Burnaby Excellence Award for Business Innovation in its hometown. Their credit list for supplying foam replications for movie and TV sets runs from mega-films like I-Robot, Fantastic Four, X-Men: The Last Stand and Rise of the Planet of the Apes to comedies like Hot Tub Time Machine, Are We There Yet, I Love You, Beth Cooper and White Chicks and series ranging from Battlestar Galactica to The Killing and Once Upon a Time. The company transforms ideas, drawings, photos and 3D computer files into scaled replicas by utilizing a number of technologies including 3D scanning, 2D/3D computer modeling, 3D CNC routing, 3D CNC hot wiring and 3D printing technology. Mallory says that the art of turning polystyrene foam into 3D props has changed since the company first started courting industry business. “We purchased our first 3D scanner in 2001. It had its limitations but worked well for its day. Our new scanning equipment enables us to scan humans and objects - large and small - with much better resolution. We can
now reach difficult-to-scan areas and offer colour texture maps and off-site scanning services.” In 2008 the company decided to expand into new technologies that would complement and enhance their sculptural foam products. Then they went looking for someone who could help the company get to the next level. “We sought out a highly technical person with creative capabilities to head up this new direction and found the ideal candidate in early 2009. We hired Tamas Eichert shortly after we interviewed him and he has become a major driving force behind our recent success.” Eichert is modest about his own contributions to the company. He says that he goes into every day on the job knowing that it is likely the clients’ needs will be dissimilar to those of the day before. “Every day presents a new challenge. We are never faced with the same project twice. Critical thinking is a necessary skill to ensure projects go smoothly. My job is to ensure ‘the bumps along the way’ are less bumpy. I always search for new, and sometimes unusual, methods to achieve our goals. I consider it a personal challenge to ensure each new piece of equipment works at its optimal level and sometimes try to push the envelope by modifying the equipment so it can perform better or in a different way than it was built to perform. “And 3D scanning is a relatively new field in heavy development so new technologies are constantly coming out. It keeps us on our toes but also lets us move in new directions. I am always amazed by the technology we utilize on a daily basis. It makes me wonder what technology the company will invest in next. The possibilities seem endless. I treat the equipment we use as a musical instrument: It is the music I love, but I respect the tool that puts bread on the table and I respect the people who created it.” n
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REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
QUESTION AND ANSWER West about the casting of her leads and co-star Sarah Silverman, why she chooses not to hire herself for roles in films she is directing and how her own relationships affected the screenplay,
PHOTO BY PHIL CHIN
Sarah Polley Canada’s hottest director is a long way from Avonlea
Few Canadian directors receive as much attention as Sarah Polley was given for her debut film, Away From Her. The film, which starred Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent as a couple dealing with Alzheimers, won seven Genies, a Golden Globe and two Oscar nominations. Five years later, she is back with Take This Waltz. When she brought it to the 14
Toronto International Film Festival in September, the buzz was equal to that of any American film. The movie, which will be distributed in both Canada and the US in June, is the story of Margo (Michelle Williams) a woman whose marriage is mediocre. Her husband, Lou (Seth Rogen) thinks it’s better than that but Margo wants more and thinks she might find it with
her handsome neighbour (Luke Kirby) Although Lou is a loving and supportive partner, she decides to pursue a high risk relationship. Polley, of course, was well known to Canadians as a child actress through the series Road to Avonlea and has continued with her acting career despite her success directing. In Toronto, Polley talked to Reel
There are a lot of people talking about this movie and how close it comes to depicting their own relationships. Was that an intention? “What I tried to do was to create a film where everyone projected their own life experiences on to it so they would all leave the theatre feeling something completely different. And I feel that for some people Margo’s struggle is very familiar and that what she does with it in the end leaves them feeling very connected to her. It might validate a decision that they made in their lives. Other people, who might have been in a relationship for a long time and made the decision to stay in that relationship, judge her a lot more. I wanted to create a situation where people felt like the film was validating their own point of view.” You have made two features that look at relationships quite differently and you came to them from several short films about relationships. What was the difference between those early films and the features? “I made five short films in my early 20s and they were all about long term relationships and they were about love. My first feature film was about a long term relationship and about love and this was too in its own way. I think all directors like to mine away at the same material and I think relationships are what I am interested in for some reason.” So Away From Her is about an elderly couple who are dealing with an issue that affects many seniors and now this movie deals with the difficulty to commit. You must relate more to commitment issues given that you are in a marriage with children? “Well, I wanted to look at a relationship where people are still in their twenties and you still have this feeling that if things aren’t perfect they are probably wrong and you should probably fix them. I think too that I don’t know the right angle. I do think it is a bad idea to stay in a long-term relationship that is very unhappy but at the same time I do think we should REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
It took five years for you to move from Away From Her to Take This Waltz. Why so long? “When you are juggling two careers it’s very tough to get a film made. After Away from Her I took two years off from the business and then I acted for awhile. I am not someone who wants to have a million projects in development and just keep making movies. I want to make sure that every project that I work on has real significance for me. I don’t want to be a director who just keeps on working all the time so I really waited until there was a film I wanted to make.” Unlike a lot of actors you have yet to direct yourself. Why not do both? “I can’t imagine juggling acting and directing in the same film. I feel like it would take the joy away from both processes. I love, as an actor, to allow myself to be subjective and forget about the big picture and it’s necessary to my process. I can’t imagine, as a filmmaker, allowing myself to be completely reeled into the point of view of one character. I am really in awe of people who manage to do both well but I don’t think it’s for me.” Did you pay a lot of attention to the way film sets work as an ac-
“I want to make sure that every project that I work on has real significance for me...” You have done well with casting in both films. Can you talk a little about the process and how the building blocks were put together? “The first person I wanted to cast was Seth Rogen. I had imagined him as the anchor of the film. I always wanted him to do a dramatic role as a fan of his and he has a goodness and lightness to him that I thought was important. Sarah was the second person. I had always been a fan of hers. She was an idea that my casting director John Buchan had from the first draft and I always thought that would work, and that is what is amazing about John is he always thinks way outside the box. As soon as he suggested her I could start to see the film. The roles Michelle and Luke play were tougher to fill and I saw a lot of people but obviously when I met with them there was no one else that I could see in those parts.” REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
tress? Also, some women directors who come to the job from the creative side have said that male crews have made it difficult for them if they haven’t had the technical side covered. “I spent a lot of time hanging out with the crew so I was involved with the culture of filmmaking, but I didn’t spend a lot of time paying attention to how the film was being made until I started making my own shorts in my twenties. I was really quite oblivious to the whole process. I am getting more confident technically. I feel like I have been surrounded by crews who have been incredibly supportive and not at all dismissive of my experience. A lot of them are men but I never felt judged for what I did or didn’t know. I felt this film was a big departure in that I really challenged myself visually and used that voice more than I have in the past.” n
allow for the long term relationships that do work but have periods of unhappiness. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a new relationship is going to fill the fundamental emptiness that we feel in life generally.” The movie looks at how relationships fill that gap. There is something missing but Margo doesn’t know what it is. So she blames her relationship. “Yes, I wanted to talk about that gap that we have and in this case it is about someone trying to fill that gap with another relationship and trying to change what she sees as a drastic situation. I think we all do it in our lives in various ways whether professionally or personally. There is always a sense that there is something missing or there is something wrong and we have to fix it. I think of the image of having a hole and digging up the earth but you just create a new hole. I think that gap and that hole is something that is fundamental to the human condition. I think that culturally we are not trained to be okay with that. I think it’s about her experimenting and discovering that even that gets boring. Ultimately it is not going to fill whatever void exists.”
“As long as I am happy my mother is happy. She was happy for many years knowing I was doing what I liked to do and success is just icing on the cake. My whole family is afraid of things they don’t know. Since no one in my family had been an artist I just came down here (to LA) from Modesto by myself. No one knew what I was doing and neither did I. I just knew that I loved what I did and I got lucky here and there.” Actor Jeremy Renner on a fast rising career that has seen him win two Oscar nominations and taking lead roles in three blockbuster films in three years. “We were in Hungary and Serbia and it was winter and it felt like we were as far away from everything as you could be on these cobblestone streets. We were shooting a lot at nights and I felt that I was a vampire. I don’t know if I was disagreeable but I might have been. It was like a bender but in a good way. I know when I went back home I scared my family. I was pretty strung out. I felt like you had to go all in. Doing this type of story it felt like the only way to go.” Actor John Cusack on rumors from the European set of The Raven that he was difficult. “I think the rules are kind of different. Ten years ago if you were ‘TV guy’ or girl and you played a character for a long time that may have been true but there are people now who have only done movies who are jumping into television. So those lines are blurred. It would be foolish for me to not think that people think of me as Turtle but I am not going to take a lot of roles that require me to be the sidekick stoner who wears his hat backwards. I do think I have to be careful which is why I was happy that this opportunity came along.” Jerry Ferrara on going from the series Entourage to hit films like Think Like a Man. “It is so hard to make any imprint culturally now because there is so much noise out there. You always hope your film will end up in the vernacular of society. What I liked about the Occupy Movement was that it actually represented what the film was about. I think that the graphic novel was about the individual and what we (the Wachowski brothers of The Matrix trilogy wrote the script) tried to do with the film was to make it about everyone so that it was ‘everyone’ behind the mask. I thought it spoke to the film. Anytime you express yourself in a public forum you need some anonymity to do it and the mask was a good tool for that.” Director John McTeague on the Occupy Movement’s decision to hide behind the V For Vendetta mask. Excerpted from interviews done by Reel West editor Ian Caddell.
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The people who make and distribute television and new media, will be heading to the Banff World Media Festival in June with high expectations for the event, which was called the Banff Television Festival for much of its 34 year history. In recent years it has run the risk of attempting to provide an equal blend of new technology and traditional television. Story by
t’s been 33 years since a group of television aficionados founded a festival in the small Alberta town of Banff. There have been a lot of changes. In 1979, its inaugural year, it was hosted by the Banff School of Fine Arts. By its second year (1981) it had an unwieldy name that suggested it promised films. However, it changed that name – The Banff International Festival of Films for Television – to the Banff Television Festival the following year. It was almost like a summer camp at the beginning. Like festivals in Sundance and Whistler, the backdrop was the first attraction. Although the desire was to reach out to international producers and distributors, the early years mostly provided Canadian producers a platform to show their wares to buy16
ers. When they got there they found what they were looking for, a peaceful setting for the hard work of finding money and buyers for their projects. There was the Banff BBQ and other events that might seem hokey today but allowed delegates an uncomplicated setting in which to do business. Eventually, “Banff,” like “Sundance” became a brand as much as a place, one that meant something to the people who worked in the business. The international component was almost on a par with traditional television festivals like the Cannes-based MIPCOM by the early 1990s. By the mid-1990s, almost every Canadian province had its own film and television funding body and Canadian television, which had been Toronto-centric, began to move across the country, creating production companies that needed exposure. Things worked out well for the Festival. And television has evolved. In the late 1970s there were three legitimate networks in the US and one that had a handful of programs and was chasing legitimacy. Now, the Fox Television REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
Network has caught up and a dozen cable networks have founded programming that is as good if not better than the established networks. In addition, there are TV episodes made for the Internet and so many technological changes and ancillary options for programming that the Festival felt last year that it was time to change its name again. Ferne Cohen, who is the current executive director of what is now called the Banff World Media Festival, says that changing the name from the Banff Television Festival in January of 2011 made sense. “(We felt) ‘Media Festival’ is more accurate because the Festival focuses on the production and development of all types of content for digital media and television. It’s not just about television (anymore.)” Indeed it’s not. This year’s program includes a “Branded Content Exchange”, a “Digital Launch Pad” and the “Digital Buyer’s Forum.” Guests include Disney Television’s chief product officer of digital television Albert Cheng; Paul Chard, the head of content for MediaCom and Jonathan Ford, the vice-president of Content Television and Digital for Content Media Corporation. They will mingle with the likes of traditional television’s Larry King, Chuck Lorre and Thom Beers. So has the name change and new directions had an effect on those still pursuing broadcast partners for their television programs? Probably not. According to Rob Bromley of Vancouver’s Force Four Entertainment, the company has overcome an early skepticism towards the term “new media” and embraces the new directions taken by the Festival, given the company’s need to sell its programming to content distributors in both the old and new technologies. “Television is our core business,” he says. “However we are always keen to know what is gong on in new media. The last few years we have embraced social media through our TV productions knowing the importance of keeping current with the technology. For a while there it (new media) was artificially pumped up but it has grown up now and we are more interested in it. We produce content and so we don’t care what the medium is.” Trish Dolman agrees. Dolman, a partner in Screen Siren Pictures, also started attending 15 years ago, and says that while her first priority is selling television, the new media context has helped Screen Siren in its bid to promote its products to ancillary options. “For me it’s still about television, but I also meet broadcasters about our feature films as well. And both really encompass so much more - social media, on-line - any means of transmission to the public possible. Screen Siren has always been able to translate Banff into TV development or production deals. In fact, I secured my very first job as a field producer/director at Banff when I was 24 years old. And almost every year we do a deal. Ice Girls came about because of Banff. We locked in Girl Racers there. Plus we’ve been nominated (for Rockie Awards) several times which is nice. Most recently we were nominated for The First Movie, a documentary we co-produced. But I don’t think I am particularly more interested this year than other years. I go most years. I think I’ve only missed one or two festivals in the last fifteen years. My expectations are that we will do the same this year. There are a large number of development and production execs and commissioning editors to meet with.” Vancouver-based writer/producer Don Hauka agrees that the new name makes sense given the alternatives that have emerged in recent years. He says that the content, or the story, will always win the day. “I’ve heard all sorts of phrases floated to label what we are trying to make product for. ‘Screen industries’ is a favorite of mine as it covers everything from smart phones to the cinema. But it’s important to remember that no matter what platform you’re working with, everything boils down to storytelling. Is it a good yarn? That’s our strength: the story.” Story has always been important at Banff but. according to Cohen, the draw for producers is the potential of discovering the best methods of getting the story to the masses. She says that doesn’t mean delegates won’t find the things that drew them there in the first place. In fact, she feels the Festival will always need to remember its roots when bringing people together who can help one another to get the story to the largest audience possible. “Banff is the world’s largest production and development market, and focuses most heavily on the production, development, financing, co-proREEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
duction/co-venture and bringing together potential partners for producing digital media and television content. We are unique because we focus on all types of content and on production/development. (At the same time) we have held true to our roots with our program competition, awards, master classes, television industry keynotes, decision makers series, genre-specific programming, and with social events like the famed Banff BBQ. We also need to be forward-looking with branded entertainment and all the invaluable nextMEDIA programming so our attendees know they are getting the most current information and business models in the industry today for their content business. That way we are able to deliver the event they have always loved, with the addition of critical information to help them see their businesses into the future. We have added to, not taken away from, the event.” The combination of old school and innovative approaches to content could go a long way to attracting new producers to Banff. The core group of delegates - those who have been going 10 years or more - is still strong but will the new title and a focus on story as content for more platforms than just television lure new people signing to Banff? According to Toronto-based Tony Wosk, who has been a film distributor and producer over the course of his career, attendance at Banff is a given for Canadian television producers. He says that while he is new to the TV business and to the festival, he does expect to meet with some international executives and admits that he will be listening to the heavy hitters who have little left to prove. “I’ve got few expectations. My slate is about new productions rather than selling completed series that I’ve already produced. I expect to be able to meet with development executives from both the US and Canada to both establish and renew relationships in the hopes of striking a deal for one or more of the series on my slate. Being new to the festival this year I’m planning to just keep my eyes open for anything although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to hear what Chuck Lorre has to say.” Although Banff is many years removed from being solely for Canadian producers, given its international credibility there are few Canadian decision makers who don’t attend. That can only help content producers from outside Toronto looking to meet with the people who count. Like their film brethren, TV producers would prefer not to have to journey east and pay for the $5000 dollar cup of coffee that comes with meeting Canadian funders and content distributors. Don Hauka says that he expects to meet with colleagues to discuss common problems like government cutbacks in Canadian funding and other perceived obstacles to Canadian production. “I will be interested to speak with other Canadian producers to get a sense of where they think the Canadian media industry is headed. With the CBC being reduced and a perceived hesitancy by other broadcasters and content providers to commit to Canadian production, a strategy has to evolve. Canadians have great stories to tell. We’re also very stubborn and we will keep banging on doors until we find someone who will help us tell them.” Hauka is optimistic about the future of content providers. He says that while he does believe that bringing Canadian producers together to talk about their options is important, he feels his own company, Hauka Films, has stories to tell. “My friends who have just returned from Hot Docs in Toronto report that things were fine on the foreign front which is good because I thought the lack of the CBC’s presence would chill the action somewhat. I am confident we’ve got material that would do well from an international perspective. We have a mini-series that is epic and international in scope and told from a distinctly Pacific POV, rather than by the old east-west dynamic. We have engaging comedies that cut across boundaries, and we have quintessentially-Canadian products that still, because of their genre, have international appeal. All my (Hauka Films) colleague Kevin Loring and I can do is meet people and work the room and see what happens.” Bromley’s success at working the room keeps bringing him back to Banff. He says that it’s not necessarily about what is said but the fact that almost every subject is covered during the course of the Festival. “We have some new pitches and others that we want to move along to an-
Great Expectations continued on page 28 17
REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
PHOTO CARE OF ORIGINAL PRODUCTIONS
TV producer Thom Beers (Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers) will be at the Banff World Media Festival to talk about how he brought some of the most dangerous jobs on the planet to reality television. Story by
hom Beers was at last year’s Banff World Media Festival to pick up an award for excellence in reality programming. He will be back this year for a June 11 panel entitled View from the Top: NonFiction Producers Edition. Beers has taken a lot of risks, both on camera and away from it. However, there are few people in television who are as dominant in their form of genre. He has cornered the market on shows that look at what people do for a living. And most of them are about danger. His resume of reality documentaries includes Deadliest Catch, which takes the audience aboard boats fishing for Alaskan crab in the Bering Sea; a spinoff called Lobster Wars; Black Gold, which focuses on the people who work on the oil rigs in Texas and the selfexplanatory Ice Road Truckers. Over the phone from his Burbank office he admits that being a hands-on producer can be dangerous. “We (he and his crew) are in danger all the time. When we were filming America’s Toughest Jobs, I fell off a log and broke my chest. It’s nasty out there, but that is the trade-off for doing what we do. In one of our shows on the Bering Sea, we were shipwrecked and there were bears on the beach. But in times like that I go back to my motto, which is ‘if you are not living on the edge you are taking up too much space.’” There have been business risks as well. He recalls that after he left Paramount Syndicated Television in the late 1990s, he went looking for one-off cable shows to keep food on the table. “I did everything from a competitive eating show eating called Gut Busters to a show called The Twisted lives of Contortionists. It was a fascinating time but it was hand-and-mouth and impossible to make a living. I did close to 100 specials before I got lucky with a show for Discovery called Crash Files, about various plane and car crashes. That was the first time that someone actually said ‘we would like four of those.’ That was in 1999 and it helped cable channels to realize that people were looking for something on Monday or Tuesday on a regular basis and they started promoting series rather than one night specials in order to see if these kinds of shows could hold an audience.” His company, Original Productions, followed up Crash Files with Monster House, which was also given a four episode order. Then, in 2000, a show about a garage became cable’s first breakout hit. Monster Garage went on the air with a four episode order and the ratings began to climb. Hosted by Jesse James, the four shows featured the transitioning of a Bronco into a garbage truck and the Discovery Network came back to Beers wanting ten more. “I thought ‘how do we make ten more of these?’ And the next day they ordered 16. That was the moment cable TV grew up and my occupation became a business. From there we were approached by History Channel’s (president) Nancy Dubuc, who swung for the fences and put the network in front of her career by giving me a tape of a one-off show called Ice Road Truckers. I said ‘are you out of your mind?’ You want me to make a series about a group of guys riding in a straight line? But then I figured out that the antagonist was the road.” REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
Once he saw that a show could work with the elements as the villain, Beers began to look around for other jobs where man was pitted against nature for his survival and his pay check. He already knew something about that having worked as Jacques Cousteau’s producer on National Geographic specials. “On those (National Geographic) shows I learned that if you had high risk you usually had a high reward. That was the key to it. If I could take an idea and show that the people working were safe then it became like professional sports. We want to know who is winning and what the score is. You needed to know that and at the same time you were profiling people who were doing more than just getting a pay-check. They were saying ‘I will risk my life for this.’” The key to getting audiences to follow people who are just going to work, he says, is empathy. If the people watching the show can root for the protagonists as they face their daunting challenges, then they will stay the course and follow the show. He says that everyone connected with the series is expected to have empathy with the subjects. “I am not in it for the short term,” he says. “I am doing it because I love what I do and the crew all have that that feeling too. They have a great deal of respect. You have to. We are just saying to the people we are profiling ‘let us in your life because it is interesting and we want to be part of it.’ But you don’t get there unless you live with the guys for five years. That is the key to it. That breeds respect and it helps us to make shows that are compelling enough that audiences keep coming back to watch the story that we are telling.” But will he run out of stories to tell? He says it’s unlikely that he will be unable to find something that resonates with audiences. The key to longevity is to find new audiences for his products. He says that a new show he created called The Colony proved to him that there are ideas that will take him in directions that will ensure a long career in the reality business. According to Wikipedia, the program follows a group of people who must survive in a simulated post-apocalyptic environment. Original Productions combines volunteer survivalists with 100 actors who do scripted and improvisational work for the show. “It (The Colony) is a social experiment that has had decent numbers on Discovery. The best thing about it is that it introduced an audience to the network that included 20 percent that didn’t watch Discovery. It wasn’t a massive hit but it brought in new people, which is something I have always been very interested in. I want to bring in people who are new to our type of show because we can’t keep hitting the same audience.” But how do you get new audiences? Beers says that when he is at Banff he will be talking about something that is coming up in a lot of conversations when the topic is television. “We are doing a lot of digital stuff. I know a lot of people don’t embrace new technologies but it is a good way of introducing new shows to a new audience. I remember this one dude working with us in New Zealand said ‘if it works, why don’t we keep doing what we are doing.’ I said ‘I don’t have to worry about you because the asteroids will take care of you, the same asteroids that took care of all of the other dinosaurs.” n 19
PHOTO C/O SHAW MEDIA
REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
Competing for Space
The science fiction series Continuum, the story of a detective who slips between eras through a porthole, is keeping its costs down while competing with like-minded American series that are far more expensive. Can a good idea win over audiences conditioned to seeing expensive sci-fi on their small screens? Story by
Imagine that Vancouver is home to forty million people. Or that 200 story apartment buildings fill Stanley Park. Or that water levels on the North Shore are so high that the city has built a huge dam over English Bay to keep it out. Or that public governments have failed and corporations rule the day. Or that dogs and horses have disappeared without a trace. This is Vancouver in 2077 according to the imagination of Simon Barry, the creator of a new TV series, Continuum, set to debut on Shaw Media’s Showtime network this May. At the centre of Barry’s vision of Vancouver’s future is police officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols), who follows a group of terrorists who have built a portal back to the Vancouver of 2012. Of course, the Vancouver she discovers is not the one she knows. According to Barry, it’s the first work he’s written that’s been produced since 2001’s The 51st State with Samuel L. Jackson, which followed The Art of War, which had been released the previous year. That didn’t discourage him. On the Vancouver set of Continuum, he credits his success with a change in his approach to the material “I came up with the idea pretty quickly, looking to sell a TV show that would be familiar but different. I’d sold a lot of shows that were different, and none of them were getting made, so I thought I should try edging back towards the familiar and try to blend what audiences are familiar with and the things that I like. So this idea was rooted in me trying to write something that I thought would be appetizing to networks, but was something that I also wanted to write.” Different it is, that’s for sure. In an industry plagued with uncertainty, it’s REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
been beneficial for Continuum to have someone like Barry, who has never worked outside the industry, at the helm. “My first job was as a movie usher, when I was seventeen. I was a cameraman for a long-time, then assistant cameraman, and then I moved into writing.” Barry says that his background working behind the camera made it easier for him to take on such a daunting project because he is good at predicting what will and won’t work on the screen. “I think having an awareness of how movies and TV get made makes you a better writer because you do tend to keep the physical limits of productions in the back of your mind. You understand how scenes - depending on how you write them - can affect the people reading them, in terms of production and budget, but even just practicality. Certain movies can be written well, but if their physical demands are so great that no producer can finance them, then you’re not helping yourself out as a writer.” Barry quickly discovered that it wasn’t too hard to find a backer for the project. (Shaw Media was interested from the beginning.) Hiring a strong crew also helped. Those elements (early support and experienced crew) helped to create a realistic version of Vancouver in 2077, even on a budget. “Our company (Reunion Pictures) has mostly done international programming,” says co-executive producer Tom Rowe. “We’ve been nominated for a bunch of Emmys for our shows and all of that, and that’s what we’ve always aspired to do, to have shows that travel. So it’s just kind of what we do, and we do it well. The budget is a little more but we were able to get a good price out of foreign sales for it.” Still, though, it was going to be a challenge for the crew on Continuum to produce a believable, attractive-looking futuristic Vancouver. Fortunately, the experience of the people working on the production, and ingenuity, were enough to overcome these worries. “We were very conscious that we couldn’t set the entire hour long pilot episode in 2077, but we had enough of a budget designed that we could tease scenes in every episode that involved the future and took place in the future, which was very important from the outset,” says Barry. “So we’ve been trying to use the future-set scenes in an intelligent way so we don’t stretch ourselves so thin that we can’t afford to do what we want to do. We’re looking for quality over quantity.” A big help in that quest was Continuum’s ability to reel in veteran production designer Chris August, whose lengthy list of credits includes Conan the Barbarian and War. In taking the job, August knew that he was up against 21
(Top) Executive Producer SIMON BARRY (Bottom) Behind the scenes in Vancouver PHOTOS BY DIYAH PERA
the odds in terms of trying to create a believable version of Vancouver in the future. Most Vancouverites have their own vision of what Vancouver might
sleeve to make it work. “In a medium like TV, where you have to really say something fast and bold in order for it to be seen
that’s something I think we’ve accomplished pretty well. Because it’s TV, you have to pick your moments for detail. The props need to be very
“...when you talk about 2077, you really feel like the west coast is the part of the continent that’s going to have more and more influence on the world at large...” - Simon Barry, Creator
look like in 65 years, and creating one that would satisfy a large audience figured to be a daunting task. But August had more than a few tricks up his 22
or heard, you have to create a distinctive color palette and only use those colors in the future and stay away from them in the present. And
highly detailed; your backgrounds can tend to be a little less detailed. It’s about putting the money where it’s going to be seen on the screen.
You have to detail your costumes, your props and your makeup. And then you have to have a bold environment for them to be in, so they get to be seen.” Although Rowe and Shaw supported the script, they believed a couple of changes were in order, particularly with the show’s main character. “Simon originally wrote it for a guy,” says Rowe. “And we suggested that it would be more network-friendly if it was a female lead and that she left her husband and son back in the future. (We believed) a female lead would be way more empathetic. It’s a lot easier to believe that she’s dumbstruck with despair about leaving her husband.” Enter Rachel Nichols whose credits include Star Trek and G.I. Joe. “We definitely had a type in mind for the character of Kiera,” says Barry. “We looked at only two or three people before we settled on Rachel. She was always a strong contender in the early phases. We were lucky enough that she had read the script and liked it enough to audition. So the benefit of someone in her position, being as talented as she is, and having a following, we just couldn’t resist. She’s so good and she is the show.” It turns out she couldn’t resist either. Having never been to Vancouver in the present (never mind the future), Nichols was a bit of a fish-out-of-water, but so is Kiera, which helped her connect with the character. “In 2077, we don’t have running water. We don’t have horses; I see a horse for the first time when I come back,” says Nichols. “So that’s also a really interesting element. I’m the same person, but I’m in a totally different world.” She says the show wants to separate itself from the familiar which means it has to convey depth that usually isn’t found in the crime show genre. “When I read the first episode of the script, I saw that there’s the time travel element and there’s the future cop fighting future criminals in present day, which I thought was really interesting. But it’s also very character-driven. It’s not just an episodic program, a one hour drama where we’re solving a crime every week. As much as I love CSI and Law and Order, there’s not as much character to them. It’s much more of ‘here’s a case. We’re REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
gonna solve the case and that’s going to happen every week.’” Nichols also felt Continuum provided the necessary space for its star to step in and be more than just a good-looking, kick-ass cop in a skin-tight uniform. She says those things are the supporting elements to the real story at the heart of the show. “The great thing is that Kiera gets to be a human and there’s emotion, a lot of emotion,” she says. “For me, playing a mom and a wife for the first time is a big deal, as is the idea that I was ripped away from my family. But even as I sort of adjust to the realization that I’m going to have to spend time in 2012 to solve these crimes, I have a family, and it really made me think.” So why Vancouver? Given the climate here and the changing look of the city it would seem it would be difficult to predict the future. However, Barry says there was no debate when deciding where to set it. “I set it in Vancouver because once I knew that I had a Canadian broadcaster, I knew I could use a Canadian city as a backdrop,” says Barry. “The other reason I chose Vancouver was because, when you talk about 2077, you really feel like the west coast is the part of the continent that’s going to have more and more influence on the world at large, whether it (the discussion) is about technology or clean water. The west coast also has a natural physical protection from the rising ocean levels that the east coast doesn’t have. So I just thought it was within the realm of possibilities that the west coast would kind of become the centre of North American business, finance and (a futuristic) society. It’s a pseudo-post-revolutionary period and if a civil war were to break out, the east coast would probably be the most likely place it would start. So if horrible things were to happen they’d happen there and we’d be left to pick up the pieces in the west. You have to think of the possibilities.” One of the things that the crew kept discovering was that many futuristic ideas they were looking at implementing in Continuum were already well on their way to happening in real life, making it easier for a vision to emerge from the fray. Most of the assumptions that are made in Continuum’s version of the future have some supporting evidence to go along with them (except for perhaps REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
dogs and horses going extinct, but who knows). “Any time we come up with some wonderful new idea about technology,” says Rowe, “we’ll do a little research and find out that it’s already been done. We have an episode that revolves around the storage of antimatter, which is something that may in the future provide endless clean energy. As we’re breaking that story we find out that somebody somewhere has managed to store antimatter for seven seconds. It takes a lot longer than that, but there’s a start. And Keira, our heroine, has stuff implanted in her eyes that records everything she sees, which is an extension of (the reality series) Cops, where they have the camera in their car that follows them when they go drag the drunks out of the car. So there’s never any question of evidence or anything because everything the cop sees is presented as evidence. So as we’re creating that in the story, we find a story about someone that’s developing contact lenses that are computers. So we take these giant leaps of imagination, and it turns out that they are already on the way.” Again though, the discussion comes back to money, as do most discussions regarding Continuum. Just about every science fiction show out there has a budget that dwarfs Continuum’s, but that hasn’t stopped Barry and company from going all out in an attempt to create something good. And though they are content with the production and its costs, on a show like this it would clearly be hard to say no to more. “It’s always nice to have more extras and days and hours to work. I’d say ‘yes, we’re comfortable,’ but would I say no to a bigger budget? Of course not. We could have more effects, more spectacular moments. But I feel like we have exactly what we need right now in our first season to tell stories in an interesting way, in a way that’s as good as anything else on television. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that I would hold our show up, production wise, against anything else that’s on the air, and shows that spend twice as much as we do.” He says it with a smile that has been a steady fixture of the conversation but one backed by a stern, steady confidence. Only time will tell if he’s right. n
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Dana Johl, the Head of Production for Force Four Entertainment, has been the producer of the series Murder She Solved: True Crime, from the start of season one. As the show enters production on its third season, she reflects on the challenges and rewards of putting together what she refers to as a “sleeper hit,” one that can have “a life-changing impact” on its participants and production staff. Although it looked to be headed for the shelf after its second season, it was brought back to life by fans , supportive Corus executives and the Oprah Winfrey Network. Diary by
Dana Johl AUGUST 2009 We’re cutting the pilot of Murder She Solved: True Crime, which began as a demo for Corus Entertainment. It was commissioned for the digital specialty channel VIVA, knowing the appeal of true crime as a genre to their target demographic of mature female viewers. The concept is, as the name suggests, murders solved primarily by women. The pilot is a tremendous challenge, and it’s been taking months to rough-cut. The story we chose to profile fit our criteria at the time: a murder in Canada that was solved primarily by a female investigator: one having 24
enough twists and turns to sustain a seven-act structure for an hour-long episode. However, after cutting and re-cutting the story several times from top to bottom, we’re realizing a major component is missing, and we know we have to revise our criteria for future episodes. The victim in our pilot episode has few redeeming characteristics. The case is fascinating to police and to all of us in production, but we’re now asking ourselves “is anyone going to care that this man was murdered?” Telling true crime stories is hardly an episode of CSI. There is no glitz or glamour and DNA results, contrary to popular belief, are not turned around in a day. True crime solving is rather methodical and can take years. So how do we make a compelling episode under these circumstances? We realize that the only way to do so is to ensure the audience cares about the victim, so they REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
will stay tuned to see the killer brought to justice. NOVEMBER 2009 The series is green-lit for an additional seven episodes, and now we’re discovering the next major challenges. We had done extensive research in our development phase and found dozens of fascinating stories that met the revised criteria, but now that we’re in pre-production we see that those are hardly the only boxes that need to be checked. We need more than just one voice - that of our lead female - to tell the story, so that means getting full buy-in from police departments to allow their detectives to participate. In order for our victim to come across sympathetically we need family and friends to speak on camera to tell the story of their loved-one who had been brutally murdered, and we need personal photos. On top of those, the legal checks and balances are vast, and we need access to court records and evidence. And finally, after extensive research and relationship building by our story team, we’re having several stories fall through because of last-minute appeals by the convicted killers. That renders the police unable to speak publicly until the matter is resolved. The pressure on our story team to find episodes is immense. The frustration and stress is very high at times. Force Four has several other shows in production but I’m dubbing Murder She Solved “the quiet little show” because it isn’t a large production. There is no talent to manage and the majority of the action, if you will, takes place over long, heartwrenching phone calls between story producers and police investigators or loved-ones of the deceased. Our story team is experiencing an emotional rollercoaster throughout, but also great joys and victories once a story is landed that we can produce. Believe it or not, researching murder cases that resulted in convictions is very rewarding. (We often feel guilty admitting just how much we all enjoy it.) JANUARY 2010 As we all know with this era of reality television, most of the drama unfolds on set. In this case, most of our drama is taking place before any cameras roll, and our “quiet little show” is already captivating in its humility. The actual shooting of the series is, of course, critical and one of the most complex elements is to ensure that the dramatic re-enactments are artfully directed in such a way that they allude to what had happened in the cases and conjure emotions without being “cheesy.” Lead director Catherine Parke is setting the look for the entire series, a key ingredient in ensuring its success. JUNE 2010 Production on season one comes to a very successful end, with eight compelling episodes. As we wait with baited breath for word on
“ ...for the first time families of murder victims are able to see the dedication of the investigators who solved their cases...” renewal, every member of my production staff tells me individually what a rewarding experience it has been for them and that they are holding off taking other jobs in hopes of returning for a second season. To me this is quite remarkable. Murder She Solved is the sixth series I have produced, and never have I had in this world of contract work, a staff so dedicated to a project that they are putting their own livelihoods on hold in order to come back. While on one hand we all wish for renewal, we also have concerns. It had taken seven months of research to find eight episodes after many had fallen through, sometimes just days before a script was due. Now we are seriously pondering whether we can find another eight Canadian murders solved primarily by a female, with a sympathetic victim, and enough twists and turns REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
to sustain an hour. OCTOBER 2010 Onwards to season 2... We are renewed! I’m talking with my team and the executive producers and Force Four partners Gillian Lowrey, Rob Bromley and John Ritchie about going to our broadcaster and admitting how difficult it has been to find cases to make episodes of. I broach the idea of opening up our pool to the United States where there will be many more stories to tell. I give great respect and appreciation to our executives at Corus who believe in Force Four and our “quiet little show” and it turns out they are willing to re-categorize the series’ Canadian content standing to allow us to shoot U.S. cases. Our entire story team, and most of our production staff, eagerly returns to dive into a second season. The finding of cases to cover is much easier now that we can include US cases. At the same time, VIVA is being rebranded to OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network Canada, which is raising our profile with police organizations in both Canada and America. NOVEMBER 2010 Working on the second season of the series, I realize that one of the most rewarding aspects of producing it is that rarely do most of us who work in production get to change lives, let alone bring glory and acknowledgment to actual lives lost and those who worked tirelessly to bring killers to justice. It is through this series that for the first time families of murder victims are able to see the dedication of the investigators who solved their cases, and investigators are able to speak about cases that affected their lives as human beings forever. This is why Force Four, and our team, is so passionate about this series. SEPTEMBER 2011 And then the news comes... With the re-brand to OWN - Oprah Winfrey Network Canada - our broadcaster calls to say they are delaying a decision on a third season of Murder She Solved: True Crime, unsure if the series fits its new programming mandate. It seems that the series, after 16 episodes, has run its course, and our production team is moving on to other projects. NOVEMBER 2011 The resurrection... Murder She Solved: True Crime has been airing on OWN for two months now, and we receive a very pleasant surprise: the ratings are strong, and we’re being asked to produce a third season of the series. Thus begins the next great challenge of Murder She Solved: True Crime. They say everyone is replaceable, but after all of my years producing television, I can honestly say it is going to be very difficult to put a new team together. In this particular case, and as someone who staffs productions regularly, I feel very vulnerable to the skill sets required. Journalism is a key factor in what we’re essentially telling: a long-form investigative tale that requires honed interviewing skills. Police are well accustomed to relaying the events of an investigation, so our producers and directors have to be particularly skilled at drawing the humanity out of the relaying of facts. Diligence, true compassion, as well as the ability to determine a real story is required in our story producers, and they often have to put bias toward a case aside in order to debate whether good television can be made of it. So to have lost most of my team - and understandably as contractors they had to move on - I am nervous about embarking on a third season. JANUARY 2012 Yet content prevails... I am thrilled that Dale Drewery, who had worked on the first two seasons of the series, has become available to rejoin the team as creative producer of season three. Dale’s talents as a writer, story editor and director make her a major asset to the series. Other key team members from past seasons are expressing interest. Thankfully that includes story producer Linda Sanche, who has built important relationships with various police forces across North America. Many in this business go for the glossy shows, prominent credits and big pay cheques. While there is nothing wrong with that, I’m proud of our “quiet little show.” The majority of our team is coming back, along with some very talented new additions. I understand why Murder She Solved: True Crime continues to attract the best of the best. Sometimes, in this business of television, we really can tell important stories and have a huge impact on people’s lives. n 25
Unkindly Cuts Story by
When Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall stepped up to a Regina podium in March and announced that the province was going to kill its film and television tax credit, Virginia Thompson felt a sinking feeling of familiarity. In the mid-1990s, Thompson and her Vérité Films partner Robert de Lint were concerned about the cutbacks to the arts initiated by Ontario’s Progressive Conservative premier Mike Harris. So they looked west and discovered that the Alberta Motion Picture Development Corporation (AMPDC) was offering credits to film companies looking for partnerships. The company moved to Alberta to make the series Incredible Story Studio in partnership with the Alberta office of Saskatchewan’s Minds Eye Pictures. “I am working out of Alberta and (Minds Eye’s) Josh Miller walks into the office and says ‘it’s over in Alberta. (Premier) Ralph Klein has destroyed the AMPDC.’ So I phoned Toronto and said ‘we have to move to Saskatchewan.’ All of Vérité’s projects were supposed to be done in Alberta but we had to get out 26
with Incredible Story Studio right away if we were going to keep on schedule.” Saskatchewan’s film and television programs, which are administered through SaskFilm, have helped the province to move, in just two decades, from having no dramatic programs to being home to two of the most successful Canadian comedies of all time, Vérité’s Corner Gas and CBC’s Little Mosque on the Prairie. Like those shows, Karma Films’ Wapos Bay has allowed Canadians to tap into Saskatchewan culture through prairie-set stories. So too have Minds Eye dramas like The Englishman’s Boy and Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story. That could change if the industry is unable to convince Wall’s Conservative government that support is necessary for the province to have a vital film and television industry. Josh Miller, who runs Panacea Films in Alberta now, says that it’s difficult for conservative governments to support culture without feeling that they are interfering with the natural order of the economy. He says that even though provincial film industries can make the case that every dollar invested creates $6 in revenue, he sees parallels between the Klein government’s decision to drop funding for the AMPDC and the cuts in Saskatchewan. “They (the Klein government) came in saying ‘we will get out of the business of being in business,’ and because AMPDC was involved in equity investment it fell within that edict. I think it is clear that there is a certain place in political perspective where things like film tax credits are viewed as a cost and even though we showed them all these figures it was clear that it was not just Klein’s philosophy but his government’s philosophy. I think we can see a similarity with those points of view in Saskatchewan.” Although the Wall government may be finding it difficult to rationalize REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
tax credits within a business-centric ideology, the right leaning governments of the province’s neighbours say there won’t be any changes any time soon. The current Progressive Conservative government in Alberta and BC’s Liberals say that they still see the benefits of supporting their industries and won’t be changing their current policies. (BC has several tax incentives while Alberta works on a grant system.) Alberta film commissioner Rob Brinton says the provincial government “recognizes the value” in supporting Alberta’s production industry and continues to provide funding through the Alberta Multimedia Development Fund, a “unique and stable production incentive in the form of a grant against all eligible production expenses.” A BC government spokesperson says that while the government reviews taxes every year as part of its budget process, the current incentives provided almost $220 million in the last fiscal year with an additional $35 million for interactive digital media. Despite the presence of a right of centre government, Thompson says that she is optimistic that Saskatchewan’s celebrated “culture of collaboration” will win the day. “It isn’t surprising that Medicare came from here. You have to work together and it is part of the fabric of the place. I am impressed by the public’s reaction. They don’t like the fact that an industry has been asked to leave the province. They are not used to being a ‘have’ province. They are straight shooting practical and rational and they haven’t liked the situation.” That public support may go a long way according to Mind’s Eye’s Kevin DeWalt. He says that although the industry wasn’t prepared for the cuts, and that there was a misunderstanding of the relevance of the industry to the province, he is optimistic the government will find a way to support film and television. “It was a such a surprise for us when it happened and my sense of it is that there was bad information provided to the Premier. I don’t think the government realized the benefits of tax credits because you can’t really question the statistics. We received $100 million in 14 years for projects through tax credits but that created $600 million in revenue. That information was available through SaskREEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
Corner Gas, one of the most successful Canadian comedies of all time was on the air from 2004 to 2009
Film and SMPIA (the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association) and was provided in advance of the cancellation. Since the cancellation it has come through the media and people have been scratching
just the cabinet ministers responsible for film. The fact that he is directly involved means we may have a chance of coming up with a new program. The other good news is that they extended the tax credit pro-
the government is Ron Goetz, the president of the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association. He says that his talks with Wall have been fruitful thus far. “We are really just at the beginning of discussions
“It was a such a surprise for us when it happened ... I don’t think the government realized the benefits of tax credits because you can’t really question the statistics.” - Kevin Dewalt, Producer their heads. However, being the kind of government they are they don’t support incentives for industry. “The good news is that we are dealing with the Premier and we have never been in the position of dealing with the Premier directly,
gram to June 30 so that this current year won’t be affected. We have been hearing that a new program concept could be accepted by the government but the question remains: will it be as good as what we have?” Leading the negotiations with
but he is looking for something sustainable for the province. He doesn’t want an environment of spiraling costs. I think he wants to look at a non-rebateable tax which would Unkindly Cuts continued on page 28 27
Unkindliest Cuts continued from page 27
be something new for the industry and there is a challenge as to how that would work. They have made a statement about what they want and we have a job to do to convince people that we need to be competitive. I asked him if he wants a film industry and he said he did but it is up to both the industry and government to keep it alive.” But will the decision to find other avenues of support come too late? Will companies and individuals leave the province to find work before the government can make a decision, something that occurred in Alberta? Great Expectations continued from page 17
other phase. But a lot of what drives us (Force Four) to go there and what we always love Banff for is that it is a great place to have a conversation and that is what distinguishes it from other markets. You get quality conversations that are longer than five minutes. You might talk more about creative at other places but here you talk about the creative and the budget and eventually you usuFinal Edit continued from page 30
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tence, The Money Pet, The Planting, The Tron Lebowski and Woodrow Without Evelyn. The finalists in the Program category for Information or Lifestyle Series are GetConnected, which is also nominated for direction, cinematography and hosts; The Wedding Belles, which has nominations for screenwriting, cinematography and hosts; West Coast Style, nominated for screenwriting and hosts; FMA Entertainment Weekly, with a nomination for directing and The Sustainable Region. Receiving two nominations was Untold Stories of the ER while Eat Street, Marketplace, Property Brothers and Real Estate 101 received one nomination each. The finalists in the Music, Comedy or Variety Program or Series are Hiccups, which also has nominations for screenwriting and performance and The Debaters, which won a nomination for performance. Meanwhile, Less Than Kind received four nominations, Todd and the Book of Pure Evil received three and Call Me Fitz won two nominations. R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour
Thompson says that there is a difference between what happened in Alberta and the current situation in Saskatchewan. “The government blurting out its decision was surprising but I like Brad Wall and I think things will right themselves. In Alberta, they got rid of the structure by closing the AMPDC. Saskatchewan didn’t go that far. They did get rid of the credits, but I think the government is clearly seeking a solution and sees that the path they took may not be the right way to go. People will leave. I think that’s inevitable but if the situation gets resolved quickly it won’t be devastating.” n ally get around to talking about how much money you need. It feels like less people are attending but I think more producers are attending. For us as a company it has always been a must do. It’s a good investment for us. We take our development people and the three partners go so we as a team can later have conversations about trends and what we have seen. It’s important to us as a company to attend. We wouldn’t miss it and we have always found it to be fruitful.” n led the three shows nominated for Program in the Youth or Children’s Program or Series with eight nominations including four nods for direction and three for performance. Mr. Young had five nominations, receiving two in the screenwriting category and two for performance. Harry Jerome: The Fastest Man on Earth won a directing nomination. The five nominees in the Music Video category are Bad Choices by Out Out Out Out; Come Back to Me by The Kodiak Nightlife; New Sum (Nous Sommes) by Hey Rosetta; Rows of Houses by Dan Managan and Second Kill in b minor by Piano Next Door. The Student Production finalists are Bred in Captivity, FTW, Manhattan Flyer Deluxe, No Words Came Down and Peter & the Space Between. The finalists in the Web Series category are Chord, Divine the Series, Hitman 101 The Series, Police Cops and White Collar Poet. The Celebration Awards (which will focus on technical awards) will be hosted on May 25 by Gary Jones while Sanctuary stars Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne will host the Gala Awards on May 26. Both events will be held at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. n REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
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Cine Gear Expo 2012 The Studios at Paramount, Hollywood, CA May 31-June 3, 2012 Expo & Conference Premiere & Master Class Seminars, Film Competition
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Sanctuary Leads Leos There was no place to hide for Sanctuary when nominations for the Leo Awards were announced in early May. The sci-fi series won 18 nominations including nods for Program, three of its directors, three screenwriters, cinematography, picture editing, visual effects, production design, costume design, make-up, stunt coordination and four of its actors. Competing with Sanctuary in the Dramatic Series Program category are Arctic Air, Blackstone and Endgame. Arctic Air has nine nominations overall including program,
screenwriting, picture editing and six acting nominees while Blackstone is also nominated for screenwriting and for four performances. Endgame has two nominations with its second nomination coming for direction. Also receiving multiple nominations were Smallville with four and Alphas. Bomb Girls, Flashpoint, True Justice and R.L Stine’s The Haunting Hour with two each. Alcatraz, Being Erica, Charlie’s Angels, Fringe, Heartland, Once Upon A Time, Stargate Universe, Supernatural, The Kennedys and The Killing each received one nomination.
The leader in nominations in the Feature Length category is Sisters & Brothers which will be up against Marilyn, Daydream Nation and Doppleganger Paul in the Program category. Sisters & Brothers had 11 additional nominations, including best director, best film, and three nominations for its lead actors. Marilyn had eight nominations, which tied it with Hamlet for second on the feature category nominations list. Marilyn’s nominations included nods for direction, screenwriting, picture editing, overall sound, musical score, stunt coordination and acting. Daydream Nation had four additional nominations including cinematography, picture editing, overall sound and performance. Doppleganger Paul’s five nominations included direction, screenwriting, and two performances. Finishing fourth overall on the nominations list was Sunflower Hour which had seven nominations. Donovan’s Echo had six nominations, The Odds had four nominations and Magic Beyond Words: The J.K Rowling Story had three nominations. Finishing with two nominations each were Everything and Everyone, Hannah’s Law, Hit’n Strum and Marley & Me: The Puppy Years while Afghan Luke, Gone and Recoil had one nomination each. I Am Bruce Lee led the documentary feature nominees with seven nominations including program, direction, cinematography, picture editing, It will be up against People of a Feather and Eco-Pirate – The Story of Paul Watson for best feature documentary. People of a Feather is also nominated for direction, screenwriting, cinematography and picture editing while Eco-Pirate is nominated for direction, picture editing and musical score. Other feature category nominees include 40 Days at Base Camp with four nominations and Nash with two. The five short documentary Pro-
gram nominees are Abandon Ship: The Sinking of the SV Concordia which has four other nominations including direction, cinematography, picture editing and sound editing; Bone Wind Fire with two additional nominations including screenwriting and overall sound; Picture Start with nominations for screenwriting and musical score; Josh and Winning America. The series documentary finalists are Dust Up which has additional nominations for screenwriting and picture editing and Ice Pilots, NWT with two other nominations. Trashopolis is nominated for direction. The Short Drama category’s Program finalists are Alchemy and Other Imperfections, Lillian Code, Last Christmas, Anna-May Got Lost, The Little Mermaid and Unexpected Guest. Alchemy also received nominations for direction, screenwriting, picture editing, visual effects, production design and performance. Lillian Code is nominated for direction, cinematography, overall sound, sound editing, costume design and make-up and Last Christmas is nominated for screenwriting, musical score, production design, and two performance awards. Anna-May is nominated for direction, picture editing and musical score. Mermaid is nominated for direction, production design and makeup while Unexpected Guest has nominations for direction, picture editing and performance. Other short dramas receiving nominations included Joanna Makes a Friend with eight, Suffer with seven, The Provider with four and Le Jeu Des Soldats with three. Receiving two nominations each were Afternoon Tea, At Lunchtime: A Story of Love and blood/sweat/tears. Those receiving one nomination included Dead Friends, Float, Her Story, Monster, Square Dance Story, SubsisFinal Edit continued on page 28
Announcements and Appointments
Tom Perlmutter has been reappointed to the position of Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) for a term of five years. Prior to his appointment Permutter was the director general of the NFB’s English Program. He had previously produced documentaries for Primitive Entertainment…The 2012 Whistler Film Festival recently announced that it is calling for submissions. The festival, which takes place from November 28 to December 2 of this year, said the deadline for early bird submissions is May 31 while June 29 is the deadline for short films and July 6 for feature films. 30
REEL WEST MAY / JUNE 2012
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