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16 WHISTLER FILM FESTIVAL: CARVING OUT A UNIQUE NICHE In its early days the Whistler International Film Festival was often compared to the Sundance Film Festival. But as its reputation as a fun place for the industry to do business has grown, many would now call Telluride Film Festival a more apt comparison.

19 WESTERN FESTIVAL LOOKS FAR EAST: WFF FACILITATES CANADA-CHINA COPROS The Whistler Film Festival’s new China Canada Gateway for Film Script Competition will bring twelve Canadian writer/producer teams together to pitch three Chinese studios.








BC-based director Kirk Caouette’s new musical feature Hit ‘n Strum tells the tale of a businesswoman and the busker she runs over in the streets of Vancouver. As Caouette prepares for the film’s Whistler premiere, he takes a look back at the making of the film.


24 MAKE OR BREAK: THE SHEEPDOGS HAVE AT IT John Barnard’s new documentary The Sheepdogs Have At It follows a Saskatoon band’s rise from obscurity to instant fame after they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. We talk to Barnard, his DP and a band member about the making of the film, which makes its world premiere at Whistler. Please note: This issue of Reel West includes reprints of some of our most well-received articles from past issues. Take a look at Beginnings, Behind the Scenes and Q&A for some of our old favourites.





What’s coming. What’s shooting. What’s wrapped.

Fringe will wrap its fifth and final season in December PHOTO BY KHAREN HILL, FOX

Fond Farewell to Fringe, Warm Welcome to New Series

Vancouver is saying good-by to the long-running Fox sci-fi series Fringe, which wraps its fifth and final season in December. But a healthy mix of new and returning TV series are keeping B.C. crews busy into the Christmas season and beyond. The new CityTV half-hour, multicamera comedy series Package Deal, about three dysfunctionally close brothers and the woman who comes between them, began shooting in October and will continue production through to late January. Executive producers are Andrew Orenstein, Michael Shepard and Denise Moss, with Alexandra Raffe as producer. S. Lily Hui is line producer, Jill Scott is production designer, Doug Brons is production manager, Carol Schafer is


production coordinator and John MacCuspie is special effects coordinator. Another Canadian series in production is season two of Artic Air, starring Adam Beach, Kevin McNulty and Pascale Hutton. The CBC series is executive produced by Michael Chechik, Gary Harvey, Ian Weir, Gabriela Schonbach and line produced by Ian Hay. It has Bruce Worrall as DOP, Matthew Budgeon as production designer, Chris Rudolph as production manager, Susan Crawford as production coordinator, Jina Johnson as locations manger and John Sleep as special effects coordinator. Artic Air wraps in mid-December. The new DirecTV drama series Rogue is scheduled to shoot into December. Rogue is a UK-Canada copro-

duction starring Thandie Newton (Crash) as a morally and emotionally conflicted cop who’s tormented by the possibility that her own actions contributed to her son’s death. The executive producers are Nick Hamm, Michael Rosenberg, John Morayniss and Robert Petrovicz, with Matthew Parkill as supervising producer. Keiran McGuigan is DOP, Ricardo Spinace is production designer, Bradley Jobenvill is production manager, Kasandra Greene Griebel is production coordinator and Bruce Brownstein and Desiree Young are locations managers. DC Entertainment’s latest superhero adaptation Arrow, based on the DC comic character the Green Arrow, is shooting its first season through to December. The series, which premiered

on CW earlier this fall, is a breakout hit, and stars Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy and David Ramsey. Arrow is executive produced by Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti, and produced by J.P Finn. Glen Winter and Gord Verheul are DOPs, Richard Hudolin is production designer, Todd Pittson is production manager, Fawn McDonald is production coordinator, Kirk Adamson and Rob Murdoch are location managers and David Gautheir is special effects coordinator. Another CW series in production is Emily Owens, M.D., a medical drama following a first year intern (Mamie Gummer), who finds out that her medschool crush (Justin Hartley) and her high school nemesis (Aja Naomi King) also work at the same hospital. Executive producers are Dan Jinks and Jennie Snyder Urman, with Jae Marchant as line producer, Bob Aschmann as DOP, James Philpott as production designer, Scott Graham as production manager, Shalia Edl as production coordinator, and Sheri Mayervich as locations manager. Emily Owens wraps production in December. The third season of Stephen Spielberg’s sci-fi drama Falling Skies is shooting until Christmas. The TNT series is set in a world devastated by an alien invasion and stars Noah Wyle as a former Boston University history professor who becomes the second-in-command of a civilian militia group fleeing post-apocalyptic Boston. Executive producers are Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey, Remi Aubuchon, and Greg Beeman with Grace Gilroy as producer. The DOP is Nate Goodman, production designer is continued on next page


Fond Farewell continued from previous

Rob Gray, the production manager is Yvonne Melville, the production coordinator is Genevieve Bridges, location managers are Bill Burns and Casey Nelson-Zutter and the special effects coordinator is Dan Keeler. The second season of the ABC fantasy drama Once Upon a Time, about a group of fairy tale characters who are trapped in the “real world” is in production through to April. Adam Horowitz, Edward Kitsis, and Steve Pearlman are executive producers and Kathy Gilroy is producer. The DOP is Stephen Jackson, the production designer is Michael Joy, the production manager is Dennis Swartman, the production

coordinator is Clark Candy, the locations manager are Peter Pantages and Philip Pacaud and the special effects coordinator is Phil Jones. In December, Fringe, which has called Vancouver home for four of its five seasons, is ending its run. The fifth and final season is executive produced by J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burke, and Joel Wyman, co-executive produced by Reid Shane and co-produced by Vladimir Stefoff. The series has David Geddes and Michael Wale as DOPS, Ian Thomas as production designer, Vladimir Stefoff as production manager, Anita Truelove as production coordinator, Scott Walden and Catou Kearney as location managers and Bob Comer as special effects coordinator. n

Ice Pilots takes fourth flight

The hugely popular docu-series Ice Pilots NWT returned in November for a fourth season of actionpacked Arctic adventures on History TV. This season maverick airline Buffalo Airways sends water bombers to South Korea, battles it out with Transport Canada and struggles to keep the business going. Adding to the drama, everyone from rock stars to the Prime Minister drops by Buffalo for a visit. “With Ice Pilots NWT, the world is getting a taste of Canada’s North; its culture, landscape and people,” said Gabriela Schonbach, executive producer and partner at Omnifilm Entertainment. “This series has become a part of Canadian history and heritage. Each season just gets better!” The series is created and produced by David Gullason, and executive produced by Schonbach, Michael Chechik, and Ice Pilots NWT’s MIKEY MCBRYAN Gullason. PHOTO BY ED ARAQUEL


BITS AND BYTES Animation Studio Opens In The Peg Opus Visual Effects and Buffalo Gal Pictures have teamed up to open Opus Animation in Winnipeg. The studio’s first project is Emma’s Wings: A Bella Sara Tale, a 3D, CGI-animated movie that marks the first animated feature length film to be produced in Winnipeg. The film is based on Bella Sara, the popular brand and virtual fantasy world of horses that originated in Denmark. Emma’s Wings is a co-production between Winnipeg’s Buffalo Gal Pictures and Opus Visual Effects, and Toronto’s Entremedia Digital Films. “We’re thrilled to be teaming up with Entremedia to make this movie in Manitoba, and be able to expand our animation industry,” said Phyllis Laing, president of Buffalo Gal Pictures and Opus Visual Effects. “The entire world of Bella Sara is not only magical and engaging, but empowering for young girls. We could not be more excited to part of the team bringing this universe to life.” Production is underway on the film which will hire a crew of 45 people. Opus Visual Effects said they anticipate hiring Manitobans for 80% of the jobs, with a goal of hiring completely in province within two years.

Nerd Corps Hires Creative Exec Jillianne Reinseth has joined Vancouver-based Nerd Corps Entertainment as vice president of creative affairs where she will oversee development of all original IP and co-productions at the company. “Nerd Corps is a creative-first company focused on building kids entertainment brands that can travel the world,” said Asaph Fipke, supreme commander at Nerd Corps. “We look for the best in the creative community to work with, and bringing Jillianne

Endangered Species is set to air on Teletoon in Fall 2014.

onto the team is a key part of that strategy. We’re thrilled to call her a nerd!” Nerd Corps Entertainment is an IP production and distribution company that makes animated projects for TV, film, online and mobile delivery. They are known for boys action-adventure properties and character-driven comedies, but recently the company has branched out into preschool and girls programming. “My role is to continue that trajectory and help develop a robust stable of properties for Nerd Corps,” said Reinseth. Reinseth’s slate of development work at Nerd Corps includes the company’s newest original property, Endangered Species, an 11-minute kids comedy series about three oddball animal buddies who live in a tree stump ­– a paranoid squirrel, an adrenaline-junkie bunny and a sweet but dim-witted seaguall.

Modus FX Appointment Montreal visual effects company Modus FX has hired Anne Le Bouyonnec as VP production. Le Bouyonnec has over 25 years of experience in the CG and VFX industry in Quebec and is recognized for her management of multidisciplinary teams in special effects and 3D digital fields. She spent eight years as a studio manager at Ubisoft, one of the biggest video game studios in the world, where she worked on several well-known games, including Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell. “Anne’s arrival allows Modus to focus on our corporate vision as we continue to grow,” said Marc Bourbonnais, president and co-founder of Modus FX. “ Modus FX is currently working on Canada’s first feature-length stereoscopic animated film, Sarila, slated for release in 2013.

PS Rebrands for 40th Birthday Bash Equipment rental company, PS Production Services is celebrating its 40th anniversary with a refreshed brand, updated logo and new slogan: “For Sure.” “No project is too big or too small has been the business approach throughout our history and continues today,” explained president and CEO Douglas Barrett of the new slogan. “The new brand is a reflection of the company’s real assets: skills and people.” Founded by Doug Dales in 1972, PS has grown from a small two-man team to become one of Canada’s largest equipment rental house with over 130 employees in offices across Canada. “Our success has been built on responding to customer needs in the only way we know, through knowledge and expertise, flawless reliability and great personal attitude,” said Barrett.


IT’S MORE THAN A NEW LOGO. IT’S A BADGE OF HONOUR. It’s a proud symbol of the fact that we will never leave you hanging. At PS Production Services, it’s been our way since 1972. And while the industry and the equipment we provide have changed over the years, our approach hasn’t. You can always count on us. For sure.

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Forging an Indie Path

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Winnipeg-based Ojibway filmmaker Jeremy Torrie’s latest film Path of Souls, is a labour of love, entirely self-financed and produced without any distribution commitments. The story follows a woman who is grieving the loss of her husband, an Ojibway graduate student who passes away before he can finish his thesis on Native American myths and fables. The widow decides to finish her late husband’s academic work along with a non-Native friend and together they set out on a road trip that takes them to sacred Aboriginal sites across North America, unlocking century-old secrets along the way. Torrie couldn’t find a distributor willing to commit to the project prior to production, but he didn’t let that stop him from making his movie. He deferred all fees, financed the film personally, and wrote, directed, produced and edited the film himself because he believed so strongly in the project. “ I just felt like I had to tell the story,” he said. “I wasn’t going to leave it up to others to decide if it was to be made or not.” Torrie gathered a powerhouse list of actors for the film, including Adam Beach (Arctic Air, Flags of Our Fathers), Laura Harris (Defying Gravity, Women’s Murder Club,) Corey Sevier (The Listener, Murdoch Mysteries), and Lorne Cardinal (Arctic Air, Wapos Bay: The Series, Corner Gas), who were all given executive producer credits. Telefilm Canada eventually came on board with finishing funds, and along with support from Manitoba Film & Music, Torrie was able to complete the film. Torrie is currently shopping Path of Souls to broadcasters and distributors, as well as screening the film on the festival circuit, including a recent stop at the Calgary International Film Festival and the Gimli Film Festival in Manitoba. Path of Souls won Best Picture at the Cowichan International Aboriginal Film Festival. REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012

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Highway Thru Hell, a reality series that puts the spotlight on B.C.’s treacherous Coquihalla Highway, has been renewed by Discovery Channel for a second season. Produced by Vancouver’s Great Pacific TV, the series follows the highway heroes on Jamie Davis’ Heavy Rescue crew as they keep B.C.’s vital transport highway, the Coq, open during the winter season. This heavily travelled trucking route is plagued by winter storms that send trucks spinning out and smashing up, making for some of the worst truck wrecks in North America. According to a spokesperson, the first season of the series was a

huge ratings hit: The September 4 premiere episode drew 661,000 viewers 2+, making it the highestrated series premiere in Discovery’s history. And throughout the fall TV season, the series averaged more than 611,000 viewers 2+ throughout the eight-week run. A finale special, Highway Thru Hell: After The Crash, was the #1 specialty program for Adults 25-54 in its 10 p.m. timeslot. Season two will shoot this winter on the highways surrounding B.C.’s Cascade Mountains, including Merritt, Princeton, Lytton and Hope. Highway Thru Hell is produced by Mark Miller with Miller, Blair Reekie and Dan Jackson as executive producers.

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The new Vancouver-produced gag comedy series The Funny Pit premiered in early November on YTV. The half-hour series is helmed by comedian Roman Danylo (The Debaters, Corner Gas, Just For Laughs, Made in Canada) and features hilarious hidden camera gags, outrageous pranks, bloopers, and wipe outs, plus talking pets and man on the street social experiments. Danylo guides viewers through this comedic mashup, along with stand-up comedy guest stars including Ryan Steele, Amy Goodmurphy, Toby Hargrave, Paul Bae and Ivan Decker. The Funny Pit is produced by Thunderbird Films, in association with Great Pacific Television. REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012


The Expansion of Fair Dealing in Canadian Copyright Law


n part articles, I have explored at length the principle of “fair dealing”. For those unfamiliar with the column, “fair dealing” is the defence to copy-

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Talk Show Goes Techy Vancouver daily TV talk show, Urban Rush, has undergone a techno makeover and debuted nationally on Shaw and Shaw Direct as The Rush. The talk show keeps viewers up to date on the trends in fashion, the web, technology, food, celebrity buzz, music, arts, and what’s making headlines in Canada. But the revamped show is also incorporating cutting-edge livestreaming technology to broadcast on-demand, delivering the show in real time via the Livestream app The Rush also uses social media to interact with viewers, making them a guest, producer and co-host of the show, and takes advantage of Skype and Google Hangouts to interview celebrity guests “Our goal is not just to deliver really compelling television content, but to also interact with our viewers and guests in ways that help us establish a deeper connection with them,” said Fiona Forbes, who co-hosts the talk show with Michael Eckford. “We’re using live streaming technology so our viewers can interact with us while we’re taping and see what goes on both in front of the camera and off it!” Added Eckford, “Viewers also get exclusive access to content that doesn’t get aired on TV, like what happens during breaks and peeks into the green room. It’s a very cool, fly-on-the-wall kind of experience.” The Definitive Producing Workbook Providing a comprehensive overview of national and provincial funding bodies and engaging stories and words of wisdom by seasoned producers. To order your copy phone or email: 604-451-7335 /


right infringement set out in Clause 29 of the Copyright Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-42) that can be invoked in Canada when the unauthorized use of a copyrighted work is for the purposes of “private research or study” or “criticism and review”. It is far narrower than its American counterpart, “fair use”, which is an often-cited (albeit incorrectly) justification for copyright infringement by Canadian producers on Canadian film and television productions. While the principle of “fair use” allows for exceptions based on commentary and parody, among others, “fair dealing” is limited to private research or study and criticism and review, both of which have historically been interpreted in the narrowest sense. Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) ruled on five groundbreaking copyright cases, sometimes referred to as the “Copyright Pentalogy”. The five decisions were released simultaneously, and, taken together; have altered and will continue to shape our treatment and understanding of copyright law in Canada. Over the next few articles I will look at each of the five cases individually, and highlight what I feel are the most important changes resulting from the Court’s findings. In the case of SOCAN v Bell (2012 SCC 36), SOCAN had filed proposed tariffs with the Copyright Board for royalties to be paid when musical works are communicated via the internet. The Copyright Board held that previews of such music (i.e. short excerpts that can be streamed prior to downloading) could be considered “fair dealing”. SOCAN appealed this decision all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, as the original finding was upheld at the Federal Court of Appeal. The appeal was unanimously dismissed by the SCC, who agreed with the lower courts that previews constitute “fair dealing”. Past cases

had established an analysis for determining “fair dealing”, which test consists of two levels of analysis: 1. Is the use for the purpose of either “research” or “private study”? 2. Is the use “fair”? In determining this, the court looked at a number of factors, including, without limitation, purpose of the use, character, and the amount of the work used. In the case of SOCAN v Bell, the SCC elaborated on the meaning of “research”, stating that it need not be research for creative purposes only. The SCC found that the Copyright Board had properly applied step one of the test in considering previews to be “research”. Previewing music was, in the opinion of the Court, conducting research on which music the consumer wanted to purchase, and the service providers were simply facilitating the consumer’s research. Further, the SCC decision stated that “research must be given a large and liberal interpretation”. This finding is a marked departure from past interpretation of this provision of the Copyright Act. With respect to the second part of the test, the SCC determined that the use was fair for a number of reasons, including the fact that consumers do not keep a permanent copy of the music preview, as the music is streamed, not downloaded, the length of the preview is relatively short, and that there are no alternatives to the preview system that can offer consumers a chance to hear what they are purchasing prior to buying. While at first glance this decision may not seem to be that groundbreaking, it is, in fact, quite significant. The SCC held that dissemination of copyrighted works is one of the objectives of the Copyright Act, and that such dissemination is in the public’s interest, two notions which had not previously been espoused. Further, the idea that “research” must be given “a large and liberal interpretation” represents a significant shift in thought. Whereas previously “fair dealing” was interpreted in the narrowest sense, SOCAN v Bell showed a willingness of the Courts to expand the definition of “fair dealing” and offer a much broader defence to copyright infringement. While this particular continued on page 28 9






Independents Day While David Paperny’s career started years before his 1994 Oscar nomination, the Academy’s nod did kick his life into hyper-drive. * Please note: this is a reprint of Behind the Scenes from our December 2008 issue.


he opportunity to write this column made me realize how unplanned – and unexpected – my career path has been. Only now, after 25 years in the business – 14 years of which I have run my own company with a staff of 25 full-time employees and hundreds of contractors who produce or develop a diverse slate of shows – am I finally beginning to collaborate on a “plan.” Family photos provide some foreshadowing of what I would become: me at Expo ’67 in Montreal, age 10, proudly sporting my Kodak camera. I’m still an obnoxious happy snapper – and voyeur. I still have the second place “storytelling” certificate from the 1968 Alberta Festival. Today, that certificate hangs in my office, right across from my Academy Award nomination. Of course, I owe a lot to my family. My mom Myra is an author of children’s books. My dad Maurice was the acclaimed “Toy King of Canada.” Any skills I have selling shows to leery broadcasters come from watching my dad sell Revell model kits and hula hoops to equally suspicious retailers. My father was also really into current affairs. I spent hours at the foot of my parent’s bed watching the CBC National News. Later, my one goal was to work with Barbara Frum at CBC’s flagship current affairs show, The Journal. I finally got that opportunity in 1988. It was heaven. Besides my parents, I lucked out with other mentors like Professor Mark Freiman from the University of Toronto. In third year, I stumbled into his “Popular Culture” class. Around the time, my dad hoped I would go into law and become the first Jewish Prime Minister of Canada (expectations were obviously very low). In a twist of fate though, I became hooked on Mark’s semiotic take on Cosmopolitan magazine or perhaps it was the heady beer and pizza nights that led me astray. Next thing I know, I’m in Philadelphia and in way over my head at the prestigious Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania. Thank goodness for the cadre of close friends that I met in class. Our extra-curricular activities involved cameras and high-speed rides up and down the I-95 to New York City and the Jersey coast in The Beast – the 1972 Cadillac Coupe de Ville inherited by a beautiful California Girl in our class. I forget where we finally ditched The Beast, but I held on to the California Girl. That girl, Audrey Mehler, accepted my proposal for marriage in Aswan, Egypt, on the banks of the Nile. Broke and smothered in mosquito bites, we left Africa for Toronto because we figured it was the centre of the media action in Canada. In June of 1983, after months of a frustrating job-hunt, I was offered two jobs in the same week. The first was from Moses Znaimer to work as a videotape editor on the Citytv News. The second was a research position for the CBC Current Affairs show, What’s New – a weekly magazine show for teenagers. I took the second because I felt that it might offer me more long-term opportunities, and I was right. I happily stayed in-house at the Mother Corps for another 11 years. In the eighties, there was not much of an independent production community so CBC was a key training ground for hundreds of upstart producers like me. I had phenomenal guidance from the likes of Peter McNelly, Bob Culbert, Judy Shapiro, Sydney Suissa, and Norm Bolen. Susanne Boyce – now a very big cheese at CTV – was my boss at my second CBC show, Midday. She sent me on my first big road trips. The unnatural high of producing stories on the fly, in the field, is a drug I still love. The big change-up came in 1988. Sue Ridout had recently formed a “docuREEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012

mentary unit” at the CBC Evening News show in Vancouver. When she offered me a producer’s job, Audrey and I jumped at the chance to move west. From 1989 until 1994 I worked in the local CBC television newsroom and told some of the best stories of my life. I teamed up with a rag-tag pair: reporter Ian Gill (who now runs Ecotrust Canada) and shooter John Collins (still the cinematographic genius of most Paperny Films shoots.) We covered everything from endangered rivers and unspeakable poverty on Indian reserves to the nightmarish history of radioactive clouds moving from Hanford, Washington to the Okanagan. We followed the BC mining industry down to Chile, did an expose on the killer work ethic in Japan and covered the Los Angeles riots of 1992. Then there was that one life-altering assignment. In 1989, a young Vancouver doctor wanted to talk about AIDS. His name was Peter Jepson-Young. Together, we came up with The AIDS Diaries. In each segment, Peter talked directly to the camera about his life with AIDS and about growing up as a homosexual. Audiences appeared to love his boy-next-door honesty, his wholesome looks, and his life-affirming journey. We produced 111 Diaries over more than two years. My friend Peter died in the fall of 1992, just two-weeks after his last diary. By then, Dr. Peter had become a household name in Vancouver. My work with him confirmed everything that I had always imagined good television could do: change the world. Today, Vancouver boasts the Dr. Peter Centre, a worldrenowned health care facility. And for my own career, The AIDS Diaries gave me the push I needed to finally leave the CBC and head out on my own with Audrey. Several months after Peter passed away, I unexpectedly received a call from Kary Antholis at HBO. On his desk, he had a VHS tape of my anthology of Peter’s Diaries. He asked if I’d be interested in coming down to New York to re-cut a version for them. Of course, I did not hesitate. I spent three hectic, but awesome weeks re-cutting at HBO headquarters in Manhattan. About a year later, in February of 1994, another call – even more unexpected – came from Kary at five in the morning. I put the phone down and stumbled into the next room where Audrey was rocking back and forth, nursing our third child, Juliet. I told her I’d just been nominated for an Academy Award for The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter. Since then, it seems, life has gone into hyper-drive. My mom was my date for the Oscar nominees’ luncheon at the Beverly Hilton. Believe me, hobnobbing with Steven Spielberg and Bruce Springsteen tops being Prime Minister any day. Audrey and I, along with Dr. Peter’s sister and partner, and a handful of proud CBC execs (including the powerhouse regional director, Rae Hull), all strode down the red carpet the night of the Oscars. I didn’t win, but perhaps that was for the best. By the time Nicole Kidman read out my name as a nominee, I was already a puddle of sweat and stuck to my seat. When I returned to the newsroom from the Oscars there was another unexpected twist. I had been reassigned to the live weather truck. It was a comedown to say the least, so I quit. Then in the summer of 1994, Audrey and I formed Paperny Films. We hadn’t yet developed any of our own projects, but I had lined up one job as a freelance director (Prisoner 88) for a now defunct Vancouver company, Ark Films. At my first Banff TV Festival that year, my old buddies from the CBC days, who were now running the hot new channels at Alliance Atlantis, took pity on me and found me some work. Having finally found the courage to leave the CBC, I was not into working for another company. So, slowly, working from home, Audrey and I began developcontinued on page 13 11





Screen Siren Pictures

One of many film production companies that started up in Vancouver in the1990s, Screen Siren has emerged as one of the most prolific and varied. * Please note: this is a reprint of Behind the Scenes from our July 2011 issue.


ourteen years after Trish Dolman founded Screen Siren Pictures, the company has emerged as one of the city’s most prolific and varied production companies, having produced an almost even number of documentaries and dramatic features. Dolman says she is proud that the company has managed to create socially relevant productions with a focus on international co-productions and partnerships. “At Screen Siren we bring creative energy, and established local and international industry relationships to all our projects.” The company was formed in 1997 and first produced a dramatic short called White Cloud, Blue Mountain directed by Keith Behrman. This led to a collaboration with Behrman on the company’s first acclaimed feature, the BC shot Flower & Garnet, which won over a dozen nominations and awards including the Genie Award for best new director. In March 2003, Odeon Films theatrically released the film in Canada, enjoying an eleven-week run in Vancouver. “Flower & Garnet set the tone for the company,” Dolman recalls. “That of a commitment to excellence, quality and showcasing new talent.” Screen Siren kept thriving as the decade continued, producing numerous documentaries. In 2005, the company completed the feature length film, The Score, a musical adaptation of the award-winning play by Vancouver’s Electric Company Theatre, for CBC’s Opening Night. It was nominated for two Gemini Awards. It followed up the next year with the television movie Luna: Spirit of the Whale, inspired by the true story of a lone young orca that appeared in a small community on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The film starred Adam Beach, Graham Greene, Jason Priestley and Tantoo Cardinal and premiered on CTV in May of 2007. Dolman says Luna “was a combination of both documentary and drama experience, given that it was based on a true story.” In 2009 Screen Siren completed Year of the Carnivore, which had its world premiere at that year’s Toronto International Film Festival opening Features First! A romantic comedy written and directed by actor/musician/host SookBeginnings continued from page 11

ing projects on our own. I got help on how to run the gauntlet of the Canadian funding system from industry veteran, and cousin, producer Cal Shumiatcher. Those first years, Audrey and I made historical docs for History Television and biographies for CBC’s Life and Times strand. We loved the work, and never knowing what would get funded began pitching more and more shows. In 1998, new technology would change our lives once again. Sony’s PD-150 video camera came out. It was tiny, cheap (just 5 grand!), great in low light, and broadcast quality!! We took the PD-150 into the SM dungeons of Vancouver and pitched Kink to Showcase. Suddenly we were in the business of making TV series. We moved out of the house, first into rental digs and then into our own space down the block at 5th and Quebec. REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012

Yin Lee (Shortbus), it starred Cristin Milioti, Mark Rendall, Kevin McDonald, Sheila McCarthy and Will Sasso. It was a year in which features and documentaries were balanced with the company also completing the documentary The First Movie, a Canada/UK co-production for Channel 4 and Knowledge Network with writer/director Mark Cousins. The film won the prestigious Prix Italia Award in 2010 after premiering at the ICM in London, and the Telluride Film Festival. It was also the year that Vancouver feature film veteran Christine Haebler, the producer of Hard Core Logo, Kitchen Party and Nightwatching. joined Screen Siren as a producing partner on feature films. “Christine is the ideal partner, she has years of production experience, excellent taste and is well known and respected in the industry, “says Dolman . “We have a superb way of communicating, similar tastes and approach to filmmaking,”adds Haebler. “We also have great respect for one another and the same goals for the company, so it really works.” The first movie to be completed in their collaboration was Daydream Nation, a co-production with Away from Her producers The Film Farm. It marked the feature debut of writer/director Mike Goldbach. The film, which starred Kat Dennings, Reece Thompson, Josh Lucas and Andie MacDowell, also opened TIFF’s Features First! and won distribution and acclaim in both the US and Canada. Currently, Haebler and Dolman are in post production on Foreverland, starring Max Thieriot, Laurence Leboeuf, Demian Bechir, Thomas Dekker and Juliette Lewis. Haebler is also producing a 5-part mini series for Hasbro based on the board game Clue. Dolman recently finished her feature documentary Eco Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson, about the radical environmental activist Paul Watson. The movie premiered at Hot Docs and won Best Documentary at Projecting Change and will be released theatrically in Toronto and Vancouver on July 22nd and across the country later this summer. “The company is in a really good place right now,” says Haebler. “It’s a culmination of many years of hard work and it feels like we’ve got nothing but opportunity ahead of us.” n Best of all, having a few shows at once allowed us to take on staff, build an infrastructure, and slowly the phenomenal team that is Paperny Films today came together. Trevor Hodgson left his job as a top analyst at BC Film and took over our Business Affairs department. John Christie left Finale and we became partners in an efficient and profitable in-house post department. The brilliant writer and show magician, Aynsley Vogel, became our Director of Development. And eventually Cal gave up his day-job as a hotshot producer of American drama series and became our partner. To date, Paperny Films has produced over 25 one-off documentaries and 19 series with lots more to come. As we continue to grow and I look back at the path that led me here, I think the success I’ve had can be attributed to teaming up with really, really talented people who are inspiring to work with and together doggedly pursuing whatever paths will lead us to the best stories we can tell. n 13


Director, MIKE LEIGH on set of Another Year PHOTO: SIMON MEIN, THIN MAN FILMS LTD.

Mike Leigh Director

* Please note: this is a reprint of Q&A from our March 2011 issue.


ike Leigh’s films have won many nominations and awards for their performances. However, A-list actors are still reticent about taking roles in his movies. That could be because even those highly paid actors who are looking for independent films won’t make movies until after they have received approved scripts from their agents. Leigh doesn’t send scripts out. He doesn’t believe in them. Instead, he and his actors develop their characters together. Leigh himself has won seven Oscar nominations including directing nominations for Vera Drake and Secrets and Lies, both of which won him writing nominations. He also won writing nods for Topsy-Turvy, Happy-Go-Lucky and his latest film, Another Year, which opened recently in western Canada. It stars Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen as a happily married couple who are sur14

rounded by unhappy people. The least happy of their friends and relatives is Mary (Lesley Manville) who is so desperate to find a good man that she begins to flirt with the couple’s son on every visit even when his latest girlfriend is present. The film was at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival where Leigh was interviewed by Reel West. You don’t attract big name actors despite the annual Oscar buzz. They don’t seem to like your approach to making movies? “No, because most actors need to be safe. They need to know a little. This approach is dangerous. It’s exciting and it’s a plunge. When I ask an actor to take a part, the deal is I can’t tell them what the film’s about. I can’t tell them what the character is about because there is no character. We have to invent one together and they will only ever know what their character knows. They will never have an overview of the film. So there are actors who want to know whether you are

going to shoot their left or right profile and all that crap. Here, they have nothing going in. It’s not safe so I have to tell them ‘try it, it’s good.’ There are plenty of places where they can do all of that other stuff but this is different. It requires actors who are highly intelligent and creative people with a great sense of the real world out there and a sense of humour and an ability to be a patient part of an ensemble, but there is also a chance to do great acting.” But it’s a laborious process, isn’t it? “It’s a long process of exploring the relationship, of building up the whole lives of these people. We finally arrive at a structure of some sort, and then we’ll build the sequences of the scenes on location and get them very precisely tuned. So the dialogue comes out of all that huge amount of improvisation and research. So you arrive finally at something very precise. What it’s also about is that the kinds of things I want to deal with lend themselves to looking at things from the point of view of ordinary people. I am an ordinary

heterosexual divorced parent with a healthy string of failed, screwed up relationships behind me, so I have inevitably a male view of the world. But my job as a story teller, as a dramatist, as a filmmaker is to work with both the male and female actors to put every character at the centre of the universe.” That’s interesting because a lot of the acclaim for your films seems to start with the actresses, at least when you look at the list of people who have been nominated for various awards for your films, and others who could have been nominated. Do you feel more comfortable working with women? “No, it’s certainly not the case, though I do think it’s important to make good parts for women. Women in movies are usually subordinate characters in one way or another. I shamelessly constructed Happy-Go-Lucky with an absolutely clear agenda to create a vehicle for Sally Hawkins. I make no apology for it, because I have worked with her a couple of times. She’s an REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012

extraordinary star actress who has to be out there and thank goodness it worked. Now the world is on it.” How do you figure out who will work out and who won’t? “Well, when I meet actors my antennae are well out to pick up the remotest suggestion of prima donnas. Selfish, egocentric qualities are out of the question. At the same time, you will have actors who are their own man, who are tough cookies, who will take nothing from nobody and will let you know what they think. This is not the territory for soft push-arounds, push-overs. There is no messing with Jim Broadbent, for instance. If he doesn’t like it, he’ll tell you. It’s about trust. It’s about intelligent people behaving like intelligent people, respecting each other’s intelligence, and it’s about going on a dangerous adventure, basically.” When you stumble across one of your movies on television, do you ever have a moment when you say to yourself ‘what was I thinking?’ or are you too pragmatic to concern yourself with something that you can’t change? “Yes, probably, but there is the thing, inevitably, that there are certain moments in watching perhaps every film where at some stage I’ve suddenly thought ‘there’s a line I could have put in there’ or ‘something should be a bit different.’ Usually it’s a line of dialogue or something I think of, something that would have made it better or a mistake. There’s a couple of things where now I think it actually should have been something else. But as you say, you can’t do anything about it, so I just relax, enjoy it, let it be what it is. There’s nothing you can do. There is only one thing in one film that’s a complete gaffe that really pisses me off and I torture myself for my incompetence and stupidity.” I’m going to guess Topsy-Turvy (the story of 19th Century operetta composers Gilbert and Sullivan) because it seems like a much bigger film than the others. “Yes, but it was the best researched film in the world. It’s impeccable, the amount of research that went into this. We went through everything with a tooth comb, including the language that was used. Everything. When we were constructing the dialogue I had a shopping trolley full of records to make it right for the 19th Century. Then we take it to the Venice Film Festival, do the press screening, a press conference and REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012

it all goes swimmingly well. Jim Broadbent and I are walking out the door and we run into a Norwegian journalist. Well, there is a scene in the film where Sullivan is sitting in his office saying he wants to walk out. Gilbert says ‘if you want to write a grand opera about a prostitute in a garret, go to Oslo and Mr. Ibsen will write you something suitably boring.’ This guy walks up behind us and says ‘I just wanted to tell you Oslo wasn’t called Oslo until 1927.’” It’s different from most of your other films in that it’s a period piece with a lavish flare. In fact I believe you were nominated in a couple of the craft categories. What drew you to make the movie? “We actually won the Oscars for costume and make-up. I was nominated for best screen play. But I think if you scrape away the top layer of that film, there is a Mike Leigh film going on in there just like all the others. There is relationship stuff, it’s about people working. Why did I do it? I wanted to do a film where I turn the camera around on us, we who slave ourselves to death in the course of amusing other people. I didn’t want to make a movie about movie-making. I don’t know why. Anyway, it’s been done. I thought if I take a kind of chocolate box soufflé subject and I subvert it by dealing with it just like I would deal with any kind of human activity, it would turn out well. I am actually fascinated by 19th century theater and I thought ‘let’s do that.’” Would you go that far again? “Yes, I want to make a film about JNW Turner, the greatest landscape painter and seascape painter, the man who had himself strapped to the mast of a ship to paint a storm. You can’t make that by cutting the exteriors. You have to get out there and do it. I would have to include CGI as well. I want to do it and it’s a great character who lived. It’s an earlier period than Topsy-Turvy. He lived from 1775 to 1852. So there’s a movie in it, but we need the bread! I never talk about movies before I do them, but I am talking about this one shamelessly, because we want the backing.” What’s the best thing about making small, independent films? “I’ve never made a film that anybody ever interfered with. They’re my films. I made them the way I wanted to make them. There were no committees, there were no executives, there were no producers. Nobody screwed it up. I’ve been very lucky.” n

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Whistler Film Festival: Carving out a Unique Niche

In its early days the Whistler International Film Festival was often compared to the Sundance Film Festival. But as its reputation as a fun place for the industry to do business has grown, many would now call Telluride a more apt comparison. Story by

Nathan Caddell


ince its founding twelve years ago, the Whistler Film Festival has faced endless comparisons to other stops on the festival circuit, and organizers have worked hard to establish a distinct identity for the annual event. After a few false starts, it looks like they’re finally succeeding, with a number of new initiatives helping to distinguish the festival, and secure its place as a must-attend event. “We are maturing. We have discovered what we are and we have become really exciting in the last year. All of a sudden we are on verge of being catapulted on to the world stage,” says WFF Executive Director and Founder Shauna Hardy Mishaw. Key to the festival’s success: a partnership with Variety, which helped them secure acquiring advance screening rights to the Jason Reitman film Young Adults and a two-page spread about the festival in the magazine’s pages; a multi-year funding partnership with Bell Media (owner of CTV, E! and eTalk, among other properties); and the launch of the new China Canada Gateway for Film Script Competition, a contest designed to rouse international financing for Canadian feature film projects which will give Canadian filmmakers access to as much as $15 million in coproduction financing. While the festival is finally making its mark, it’s been an uphill battle for the festival to define itself. In its early days, many people thought of Whistler as a scruffy little brother to the more established Sundance Film Festival, thanks in part to their shared focus on indie film and similar snow-scape.

“Whistler is like the early days of Sundance to some extent,” says WFF’s programming director Paul Gratton. “The way it focuses on American independent film; our position is not totally dissimilar, in that it’s young, hip and cool.” But Whistler’s founder is quick to note that the comparisons are only skin deep. “Those comparisons are made because they’re both in mountain towns,” says Hardy Mishaw. “85 percent of Sundance is American independent film – 50 percent is Canadian here – from that perspective there is not a lot of likeness.” In recent years, as Whistler has grown and evolved into a more important gathering place for industry execs, the comparisons have shifted to that of another mountain festival – Telluride. Like Whistler, the more established Telluride Film Festival is known as an intimate gathering spot for the world’s leading filmmakers, far from the glitz and glam of the Toronto International Film Festival. And that’s a comparison Whistler organizers are happy to embrace. “The WFF started to become more like Telluride than Sundance as we became more committed to business opportunities and have grown into ourselves,” said Hardy Mishaw. “There are great networking parities and it’s a completely different experience from most film festivals. It’s very intimate because we are in a village where it takes five minutes to get everywhere.” One festival that Whistler organizers are glad to avoid comparison to is its nearby neighbour, the Vancouver International Film Festival. Whistler has worked hard to ensure that audiences enjoy a different experience than that offered by their larger, older cousin. “Whistler had to carve out a very specific identity,” says Gratton. “Vancouver is established and auteur driven and Whistler has to be different and alternative.” A big part of Whistler’s recent success comes from the Whistler Film Festival Society’s focus on year-round activities, and on creating fun opportuniThe Celebrity Challenge: unique to Whistler Film Festival





The Whistler Conference Centre – a hub for the Whistler Film Festival year after year.

Whistler Village is a-buzz during the festival. PHOTO C/O WFF, JOERN ROHDE PHOTOGRAPHY

ties for filmmakers and executives to network and do business. One example is the Celebrity Ski-Off, a hugely popular festival institution in

WFF On Location summer fundraiser. It’s also become a popular event, with supporters gladly paying $125 a ticket to mix and mingle and enjoy

who will debut his film Mad Ship at this year’s festival. Mad Ship centers around the real life story of Thomas Sukanen,

“Vancouver is established and auteur driven and Whistler has to be different and alternative.” - Paul Gratton, WFF Programming Director which corporate teams join filmmakers, directors, producers, actors, actresses and athletes for a fun slalom race. Keeping the festival’s spirit alive year-round is the Society’s annual 18

food from the Top Table Group and wine from Sterling Vineyards. The energy and excitement surrounding Whistler is attracting filmmakers like director David Mortin,

a Scandinavian man who started to build a boat in Saskatchewan at the height of the depression and dragged it towards the Saskatchewan River, eventually sailing it to Hudson’s Bay

and home to Scandinavia. Mortin did his homework trying to decide where to premiere his film, and found himself swayed by Whistler’s buzz: “Once we had the film completed, we started to look at festivals. We sent it to the WFF and they really liked it and wanted to have a world premiere,” he explains. “We looked really closely at Whistler and did some research on it and became aware that over the past few years it’s really been on the rise and had a really good buzz about it, just increasing year after year,” adds Mortin. “Other filmmakers who’ve been saying there’s a fantastic energy there and that audiences are very receptive.” And the festival’s Telluride-like intimacy is part of what attracted him. “The really appealing thing about Whistler is that it’s a small, very highly curated competition,” says Mortin. “To be selected and included along with these other interesting films is great. There’s a real good chance we’ll get some notice and attention.” Whistler’s more intimate feel, its proximity to both Vancouver and Los Angeles and its early December timing have combined to attract major films wanting festival screenings in order to qualify for the industry’s January awards season. The result is that the festival’s mail room gets clogged with around a thousand film submissions every year. Gratton has the complex job of whittling those hundreds of submissions down to the approximately 40 features and 50 shorts that the festival will screen. Adding to the challenge, the festival proudly ensures that 50% of their content is Canadian – and Gratton wants to make sure audiences enjoy the show. “I do understand western alienation and I am looking for stuff that will resonate with the local audience,” explains Gratton. But in order to serve filmmakers well, Gratton is careful to only curate films that will benefit from the exposure at Whistler. “It’s about serving the movies and I have bypassed some films because I don’t think I can help the movie and I have said yes to those I think I can help,” he explains. “There is a huge potential to position Whistler as a niche for filmmakers. It has a profile that pushes way beyond its weight.” n  @WHISFILMFEST WHISTLERFILMFESTIVAL.COM REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012


Western Festival Looks Far East: WFF Facilitates Canada-China Copros T he Whistler Film Festival has been steadily trying to enhance its global perspective and the launch of the China Canada Gateway for Film Script Competition is a huge step in this direction. Presented by WFF in association with Telefilm Canada and the Beijingbased production company China Film Group, this new program is designed to stimulate international financing for Canadian feature film projects. The China Canada Gateway will bring experienced Canadian writer/producer teams to the Whistler Festival to pitch projects to Chinese studios with as much as $15 million on the table. Canada/China co-productions are

few and far between so this new competition opens doors for Canadian creators to participate in joint film projects. “China is especially attractive to forge co-production deals, as it can help assure the distribution of films into the massive Chinese marketplace,” says Harry Sutherland, Chair of WFFS’ China Canada Gateway For Film Committee. “The entire film world is looking for ways to develop relationships and growth opportunities with China and this initiative does just that.” China’s foray into the film industry has been slowly and steadily building. “The Chinese market grows about 25 to 40 percent a year in box office receipts,” said Sutherland. “The amount

of screens in China will pass the U.S by about 2015 so this is a huge opportunity.” Over one hundred applicants applied to the inaugural competition, with projects suitable for both the Chinese domestic and international markets, and 12 writer/producer teams have been selected to pitch. The teams talk up their project to a panel of three international experts and three Chinese production companies. The experts vetting the projects are Helen Lee Kim, Partner & President of International Sales at Good Universe, Ying Ye, Head of Easternlight at Arclight Films, and Mark Slone, Senior Vice President of Alliance Films. The three Chinese companies at the

table include Wuxi Studios, Beijing Hairun Pictures, and Galloping Horse. At least 3 projects will be chosen for development in 2012, with the expected average project budget of $5 million. The teams competing include: The Eddie Zhao Story, written by Guy Bennett (Punch) and produced by Raymond Massey (The Papal Chase, Personal Effects); Blush, written by Richard Bell and produced by Elizabeth Yake (It’s All Gone Pete Tong); Disappeared, written by Pascal Boutroy and produced by Deborah Carlson and Liz Jarvis (Mad Ship, The Stone Angel); Butterfly Tale, written by Heidi Foss and produced by Marie-Claude Beauchamp (Edge of Madness); Delicious, written by Jennifer Scherwin and produced by Christopher Zimmer (Partition, Wise Girls) and Bill Fleming (Buried on Sunday); Frank, written by Patrick Tarr (The Colony) and produced by Nicolas D. Tabarrok (A Beginner’s Guide To Endings, The Black Marks); Imposter, written by Lorenzo Orzari (My Bloody Valentine 2) and produced by Jean-Pierre Morin; Pop Goes The Weasel, written by Norman Snider (Dead Ringers, Casino Jack) and produced by Chris Nanos, (Everything’s Gone Green); Rock Bottom, written by Wendy Ord and Glen Samuel (Black Swan) and produced by John Bain and Kathy Avrich-Johnson (Rookie Blue, Saving Hope); Space Race, written by Yung Chang (China Heavyweight, Up The Yangtze) and produced by Bob Moore (China Heavyweight) and Christina Piovesan; (Red Lights, The Whistleblower); Red Serge Duty, written by Sandy Yates and produced by Henry Damen and Ian Smith and co-created by Terry Ingram; and The Real Estate, written and produced by Robert Budreau (That Beautiful Somewhere) and Tasso Lakas. n

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Crash Course: The Making of Hit ’n Strum

Kirk Caouette is a longtime Vancouver stuntman and fight choreographer who dreamed of making a movie. Over the years that fantasy faded as he became more entrenched in the world of action films. But Caouette got a wake up call after a stunt gone wrong, and decided not to wait any longer to fulfill his dreams. The result is his first film, Hit ‘n Strum, a bittersweet modern day musical exploring an unlikely friendship that flourishes after a beautiful business woman (Michelle Harrison), accidentally runs down a homeless street busker (Caouette) in a seedy Vancouver back alley. Hit ‘n Strum will make its western Canadian premiere at the Whistler International Film Festival. Diary by

Kirk Caouette OCTOBER 2008: I do a stunt on a movie and dislocate my wrist. At the hospital that night I also discover that I have broken my right leg. As I lay in bed I look deep inside and ask myself if I am happy. No matter how I try to frame it, the answer is clearly no. I realize that I moved to Vancouver fifteen years ago with big dreams, but somehow, somewhere, my dreams have left me. NOVEMBER 2008: I am at my place in Tofino and I sit down with my guitar and write a song about a down-and-out Vancouver street busker. Two days later I decide to write a script based on the song. I am so passionate I finish the entire screenplay in eleven days. I spend the next month writing songs on my guitar that will be included in the film. I go back to Vancouver and give the songs and the script to my trusted friend Jacqueline Nguyen. Jackie is not a producer, but she is one of the most resourceful and capable people I have ever met. She loves the script and fool heartedly agrees to come onboard. DECEMBER 2008 – JANUARY 2009: Jackie and I look at all the available grants and possible financiers and we quickly realize that there is not a chance in hell that Telefilm, or anyone else, is giving a stuntman money to make a musical. I have already decided that I am going to make this film no matter what, so I call my union and cash out my RRSP’s. MARCH: I have never acted on camera so I start taking acting lessons with Gina Chiarelli. I totally suck. MAY: I meet a casting agent named Kara Eidie at a house party. I tell her about my project. She volunteers to provide her services. Wow, how lucky was that? JUNE: I send out the recorded music and the script to Pieter Stathis. He loves the music, says he wants to be my DP and he is willing to work within our minuscule budget. JULY 1: Kara sends the script out on the breakdown and to my surprise I get a boat load of submissions -- mostly from inexperienced actors, but I couldn’t be more thrilled! We hold auditions and a woman named Michelle Harrison shows up. Wow, is she ever beautiful. She seems really keen to play the lead. Perhaps even keener than anyone else in the audition room. Not only is she a fine actress, but she is also a very experienced actress. JULY 5: Word has gotten out in the stunt business that I am turning down work. The reality of it all sets in. I am going to be playing a homeless street busker -- I don’t know anything about being homeless! I’m not an actor! I’ve never been a busker before! Oh my god, I am such a fraud! So I go down to the east side and busk. I haven’t cut my hair or shaved in five months. Some of REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012

my friends see me busking down there and think I have gone off the deep end. Haha, maybe I have, I’m not really sure. JULY 15: Kara, my casting director, makes an offer to Michelle Harrison’s agent. Her agent is none too pleased. He says the only way he will let Michelle do such a low budget amateur film is if we have a very strict shooting schedule, and Michelle must be allowed to leave set anytime she wants to. If she gets an audition, or a real role in a real film, she can leave without notice. What’s worse is that if she walks off set and forces us to go past our pre-determined shooting schedule we will have to re-negotiate her deal to get her back. Renegotiating an actor’s deal after we have already shot most of the movie? I don’t know much about these actor deals but I’m pretty sure this is unacceptable. Basically, if I sign this deal her agent is legally allowed to extort my film and I can do nothing about it. This is insane. We spend a week pleading with her agent but he does not budge on it. I am sick to my stomach. I can’t sleep for four days trying to decide what to do. JULY 22: I talk to Michelle and she assures me she will not walk off set. She really wants this part, like really really badly. I feel a bit better; she does seem like a very lovely woman. JULY 27: Against the advice of absolutely everyone -- I sign the deal. I sure hope she does not get some huge job offer somewhere -- if she does I am utterly and completely screwed. I lose several more nights sleep realizing what I have done. AUGUST 2: My best friend tells me that I don’t look like a homeless man -- I look like a gymnast with a beard and dirty hair. I realize he’s right. I decide I need to lose 20 pounds. I’m hungry a lot, so I start drinking a lot of really strong coffee. Like a lot. I’m super stressed out. AUGUST 3: Jackie and I have been working behind the scenes to lock down locations, insurance, and some key crew members. We manage to assemble a small crew of mostly volunteers -- no idea how -- people are amazing sometimes. MID-AUGUST: I continue to lose weight and continue taking acting lessons with Gina. She calls a few of her actor friends, and because of Gina they agree to read the script. Paul McGillion, a fine actor and one of the best dudes on the planet, comes onboard. Crazy. Gina is an incredible lady. SEPTEMBER 1: I make my own hobo-style wardrobe from some old clothes that I find deep in my closet, but when I go down to Hastings, homeless people keep asking me for spare change. I realize that I look like a guy who is trying to pass himself off as a homeless person. SEPTEMBER 2: I need to get deeper into my character so I go down to Hastings to collect pop cans and try to make enough money to buy lunch. I fail miserably. There’s not a pop can in sight! I find some clothes in a dumpster, and a jacket under the Georgia Street Viaduct. I put them on. No one asks 21


me for change for the rest of the day. Wardrobe done! I keep looking for pop cans until I fall asleep in a back alley, hungry. I am woken by three men fist fighting over a crack pipe. I come home late smelling and looking like a homeless person, and my girlfriend is none too impressed. She tells me that if I spend the night on the street she is going to leave me. I don’t blame her a bit. SEPTEMBER 3: I pull together a couple friends for what will soon be a fictional band called “The Cobblestone Prophets”: multi-talented actor/musician Dana Pemberton, and a new friend actor/musician Kelly Fennig. We finally have our first mu22

sic practice. It is a little rough but not bad for a first try. SEPTEMBER 4: We have a script read-through at my house. Almost all the actors showed up! Incredible! The read-through goes well but I’m the worst actor ever. My dog is a better actor than I am. SEPTEMBER 8: We have the second and last band practice. Having recently watched the movie Once we make the decision to record all the music live on set. This is the first time I have ever played with other musicians in my entire life. Ever. This is insane. SEPTEMBER 12: It’s two days before the shoot and I hold our first official production meeting at my

house. I realize just how unprepared and screwed I am. During the production meeting I go down to my storage locker to grab a wardrobe rack - it’s stuck. I pull and pull but it won’t come out. I finally break down and start shaking and crying. In all my years as a leading stunt double I’ve never cracked like this before. Am I losing it? Perhaps I have bitten off more than I can chew. Writer, director, producer, lead actor, composer, musician, stunt man -- all with a first-time producer and a 1st AD who is barely out of film school. Has anyone ever worn this many hats on a full-length feature film before? With their life savings on the line?

Probably no one in their right mind. Pull yourself together Kirk Caouette, everyone’s looking. I go back upstairs like nothing happened. I think my dog knows. My girlfriend couldn’t care less. SEPTEMBER 13: My parents arrive to help me out. They are old and retired and they bring calmness to the house. My dad is the transport captain, my mom is doing breakfast and crafty. I am very blessed to have such lovely supportive parents. SEPTEMBER 14: We officially go to camera. First shot, my character is sitting on the cobblestone in Gastown, singing his heart out. We watch the playback and everyone is elated. My best friend Mike watches the playback and he starts crying. So does Michelle Harrison. Magic. Day one in the can. We are off to a good start. SEPTEMBER 14 TO OCTOBER 10: Everyday it seems like there is some kind of insurmountable obstacle, some kind of crisis. The stress is crippling, but somehow my team always pulls together and finds a way around it. Thank god for Jackie -- she is doing an incredible job absorbing the bulk of the madness so that I can concentrate on acting and directing. Day after day Michelle Harrison puts on an amazing performance. She has brought with her an incredible energy, and even though her change-room is a dirty bathroom on East Hastings, a team of wild horses couldn’t drag her off of our set. She tells me that she thinks this might be the best work she has ever done. I couldn’t be more proud. I am only sleeping three or four hours per night. Dailies, prep, script changes, scheduling, budgeting -- I haven’t had a decent sleep in five weeks but I am too busy to care. OCTOBER 11: The scene where my character gets hit by a car is coming up in two days. I am nervous. I started dieting at 164 pounds and I am now 143 pounds. I have overshot my targeted weight loss and I look like a heroin addict. Mission accomplished! But I am so frail and weak, I worry that I am going to break when the car hits me. OCTOBER 13: I’m standing in the alley behind the Larivée guitar workshop. Four or five of my best stunt friends are there to help me get through my day. My parents and girlfriend are on set. Everyone is on edge; they can all sense my anxiety. Car hits are very dangerous -- you just don’t know what’s going to hapREEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012

pen. If I get seriously injured my show shuts down, -I lose Michelle, I lose my DP, I lose my locations, I lose my life savings. It feels like the entire world is standing on my chest. ACTION -- my trusted close friend and world class stuntman Doug Chapman is at the wheel. He drives down the alley and I jump out in front of the car. The front grill shatters, the windshield shatters, I hit the concrete. I don’t shatter! Another miracle. OCTOBER 15: Time to fly to Toronto. Pieter steals some shots on the plane ride. The line between reality and fiction is getting more and more blurry everyday. Right now I am on a public airplane and yet I am still in character. You can’t plan this stuff in pre-production. You can’t plan anything that is happening right now, it’s like the film has taken on a life of its own. OCTOBER 16: The first scene in Toronto is my character getting a makeover. I enter the salon in character while Pieter films everything. Our stylist starts cutting my nine-month-old beard and my greasy long hair. As I watch it fall to the floor I feel a loss that I do not yet fully understand. She turns me around to face the mirror and tears start rolling out of

“I have overshot my targeted weight loss and I look like a heroin addict. Mission accomplished!” my eyes. I didn’t realize it but I am extremely attached to my beard -- it’s like I have a second identity. I turn my face away from camera and don’t let Pieter shoot my tears, it’s just too weird. OCTOBER 17: We are back on the plane flying home; exhausted, jet lagged, hungry. We land at midnight and immediately start shooting at the airport. We go outside to a covered walkway where Michelle and I, in character, have a screaming match. With the lack of sleep, food, and jet-lag, the scene comes off perfectly; might even be the best scene in the movie. OCTOBER 21: The film is wrapped. Holy mother of god… we did it. OCTOBER 25: I transfer all the footage and look at everything on my home editing suite. OCTOBER 28 TO NOVEMBER 25:

I pour over the footage. I am overwhelmed. I am exhausted. NOVEMBER: I cut a rough music video from the studio footage. I post it online and people are really digging it. DECEMBER: I meet John Cassini at a party and he tells me he has seen the music video and was completely blown away by it. John comes on board as a producer to help get the film finished. SEPTEMBER 2010: After months and months of tedious post a first cut is complete. NOVEMBER 2010: We hold a small test screening and the numbers come back much higher than I expected. The average score is 8.0 and we haven’t even mixed sound yet. We couldn’t be more thrilled. SUMMER 2011: We continue to polish the film and submit it to our

very own Vancouver International Film Festival, hoping to have a world premiere in our hometown. But VIFF rejects it. This is brutal. My heart breaks. My girlfriend leaves me. After over two years without any income, my life savings are nearly gone. We get rejected by Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, San Sebastion. Hello rock bottom. FEBRUARY 10, 2012: We get a call from the Canadian Film Festival in Toronto. They said they absolutely LOVED the screener. The festival publicist emails me to tell me that she thinks it is the best film she has seen in years. What? MARCH 27 2012: We go to Toronto. We are competing against mostly Toronto-based films. I doubt anyone is continued on page 28

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Outside of the Nashville recording studio where the new Sheepdogs album was recorded. PHOTO BY ALYSSE GAFKJEN




Make or Break: The Sheepdogs Have At It

 John Barnard’s new documentary The Sheepdogs Have At It follows a Saskatoon band’s rise from obscurity to instant fame after they appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. We talk to Barnard, his DP and a band member about the making of the film, which makes its world premiere at Whistler. Story by

Cheryl Binning


he Sheepdogs were an unknown, working Saskatoon rock band until the summer of 2011, when they won a place on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and began a meteoric rise to fame. Filmmaker John Barnard went along for the ride. “Their lives were changing as I followed them,” says Barnard, who’s documentary The Sheepdogs Have At It, makes its world premiere at the Whistler Film Festival as the closing night gala. “So it is very much a portrait of these guys at the quintessential stage in their career.” The making of the documentary happened just as quickly and suddenly as the Sheepdog’s overnight success. Last September Kyle Bornais, producer at Winnipeg’s Farpoint Films, got a call from Super Channel, asking him to produce a film on the Saskatoon band. “The only catch – we had to be in production in three days,” says Bornais. “It was an honour to be asked to be there and tell their story, so I couldn’t say no — even though I knew the speed of putting everything together was going to be a huge challenge.” Barnard and DOP Dave Gaudet quickly jumped in a van and drove to Saskatoon. Three days later they shot the Sheepdogs homecoming concert. Gaudet calls the opportunity to shoot the band’s first moments in the spotlight a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” The Sheepdogs had just won an online contest where over 1.5 million people voted to choose the first unsigned band The Sheepdogs’ lead singer EWAN CURRIE


to be featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. “The film is a time capsule on this band right after they hit,” says Gaudet. “It’s about what happened to them in the year after being on the cover of Rolling Stone. It’s that make or break moment.” Ryan Gullen, bass player with the Sheepdogs, says the band’s only stipulation going into filming was that the documentary didn’t resort to any contrivances or gimmicky set-ups. “We’ve always been an honest band in the sense that we have never put up a façade to gain fans,” he explains. “We present ourselves as who we are and I think the movie does a good job of doing that, too.” When Barnard first met the band he quickly realized that this doc wasn’t going to be about the wild and crazy life of rock stars — so he wasn’t sure what the focus of the film would be. “There are no internal rivalries, they are complete gentlemen who don’t have a beef with anyone and I was a little resentful of that at first,” admits Barnard, “But this forced me to dig a bit deeper, beyond a superficial level, and it challenged me to make a more interesting film.” Instead, Barnard focuses on the question “what comes next?”, after the band wins the contest and their real work begins. “The pressure was on because finally this band finally had something to lose,” says Barnard. “And that was tangible. They had to prove to the world that they weren’t just contest winners.” The Sheepdogs Have At It follows the band on tour across North America as the opening act for the Kings of Leon, and into a Nashville recording studio where they made an album with The Black Key’s Patrick Carney as producer. The Sheepdogs’ album Learn & Burn is certified gold in Canada



“The film unfolds as chronologically as it happened, it really is their story as I experienced it,” says Barnard. The documentary begins with the

“When you shoot a concert film, every camera operator should get a copy of the album a week before the shoot so they know the songs,” says Barnard.

They had five cameras and a big crew for that first show, but by the end of production, they were shooting concerts with only three cameras and

“They are complete gentlemen who don’t have a beef with anyone and I was a little resentful of that at first.” - John Barnard Sheepdogs returning home to Saskatoon after winning the Rolling Stones cover, opening for the Kings of Leon. This was also the first concert the crew shot. 26

“You need to know where their hands are going to be, where they’ll be standing on stage, and where the song is going, to shoot it well.”

two people - Barnard and Gaudet. “These three-camera shoots turned out better because at that point we knew the music so well,” explains Bar-

nard. ”As the documentary unfolds, their concerts get better and my techniques get better, as I learned the songs.” Filming a busy band as they work requires patience, says Gaudet. It’s a fine line between getting what you need for the film and getting in their face. “If I sensed they weren’t into me shooting anymore I put the camera down long before they told me to put it down,” he explains. “If I forced them to be on camera when they didn’t want to be, it would have ruined everything. You can’t rush anything. Give it some time.” At the recording studio, Gaudet was told he couldn’t use lights and had to stay at the back of the room. “I knew if I pushed too hard in the first day or two they were going to shut me down,” he says. “But by the sixth day I had lights set up and I was shooting right in front of them. But that didn’t happen all at once. It took five days, one piece of equipment at a time. ‘Can I just have a little light back here’, then the next day ‘can I maybe have a second light here.’ It was about the long game – more of a marathon than a sprint.” Tony Wosk, who heads up Farpoint Films’ Toronto office, is handling distribution on the doc and says he’s in talks with Canadian distributors for a theatrical release, as well as international sales agents to take the film out to the world. “The band just finished a U.S. tour so we know there’s a market for this film in the U.S. as well as Canada,” says Wosk. “And we are hoping to break into Europe and Asia, along with the band, to help spread the word about their story. “ While fans of the Sheepdogs are sure to love this behind-the-scenes portrait of the band at a pivotal point in their career, the hope is also to capture a wider audience of documentary enthusiasts, who in turn will become captivated by the unique vintage rock n roll stylings of the band. Gullen himself is a big fan of nonfiction films and has high praise for the direction the documentary took. “I think what makes a strong documentary is where a filmmaker decides to start and finish the film,” he explains. “John did a really good job picking a starting and finishing point and capturing the essence of what was going on in that time.” n  @THESHEEPDOGSDOC REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012


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Final Edit continued from page 30

film about a troubled teen who is falsely accused of planning a Columbine shooting scenario and tries to prove his innocence. The Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film Award went to Juan Riedinger of B.C. for Float, about a man who agrees to let his wife teach him to swim. Honourable Legal Briefs continued from page 9

The Definitive Producing Workbook For the producer, the world of independent film and television production is often surrounded by a sea of paperwork. The contracts, documents and requirements of agencies are constantly in flux. Nothing is definitive, every contract has its own set of particulars and every deal is different. "Boilerplate" agreements are open to negotiation. Rules can be flexible. The PW4 will help guide a producer through some of the overwhelming volume of documents involved in the world of independent film and television production. Legal writers review the standard clauses and reveal issues of concern to producers negotiating contracts. Many sample agreements are included for reference. The book provides a comprehensive overview of national and provincial funding bodies and engaging stories and words of wisdom by seasoned producers.

case concerned music downloading, it can arguably be applied to the use of non-music copyrighted works. Additionally, this finding of the SCC has the effect of making Canadian copyright law more permissive than United States copyright law in this area, as U.S. law dictates that previews are subject to royalty payments to the artist(s). This marks perhaps the first time that Cana-

mention was given to the animated short Peach Juice, directed by Brian Lye, Callum Paterson and Nathan Gilliss of B.C. Nimisha Mukerji’s film Blood Relative won the VIFF Most Popular Canadian Documentary Award. It follows an activist fighting to save two young adults dying from Thalassemia, a rare blood disease, and exposes modern India’s broken healthcare system. n dian copyright law has been less restrictive than its American counter-part. Lori is a lawyer with the entertainment law boutique Chandler Fogden Law Corporation. Lori’s practice focuses on entertainment law with an emphasis on the film and television industry. Lori advises producers on varied legal issues, including production financing, labour issues, contract negotiations, talent agreements as well as errors and omissions issues. n

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Hit ‘n Strum continued from page 23

even going to show up to our screening tonight. Kelly and I decide to busk out front of the theatre before the screening to draw in more people. We manage to clear the sidewalk -- people are literally crossing the street to get away from us -- this couldn’t be going much worse. We finish busking and go inside. Only about fifty or so people have shown up for our big awesome world premiere -- what a disaster. I am hiding in the back, ready to make a quick exit if people start leaving. The film starts but to my surprise no one walks out. After a while it starts to feel like everyone might be enjoying it. I honestly cannot tell. The film ends. The credits roll and suddenly the crowd breaks out into a huge applause. There is not a dry eye in the house! I am called to the stage and the crowd rises to its feet. A standing ovation by a room full 28

of total strangers in a strange city. None of them realize that I was the guy busking out front -- how appropriate. There is a huge outpouring of appreciation for my performance. Wow, if they only knew… Outside the theatre an old German man with a thick accent grabs my arm. He looks me straight in the eye and tells me that it was the most beautiful film he has ever seen. He is trying not to cry, he gets embarrassed and walks away. Suddenly I don’t care if anyone else in the world ever sees my film. That night we nearly sweep the awards. We win the William F. White Award, Pieter wins for best cinematography, and I win best actor at the festival. All the blood, sweat, and tears; all the rejections, all the sacrifice, my health, my life savings. Was it worth it? In one word: Yes. n  @HITNSTRUM HITNSTRUM.COM REEL WEST NOVEMBER  / DECEMBER 2012

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KATHARINE ISABELLE stars in American Mary – part of Whistler Film Festival’s “Late Night Terror Fest” PHOTO C/O INDUSTRYWORKS PICTURES

WFF Line-up Reaches New Heights

The 12th annual Whistler Film Festival will spool out 42 feature films over five days, opening with the Western Canadian premiere of writer/director Michael McGowan’s film Still. Still is a love story about one man’s determination to create a suitable home for his ailing wife and stars James Cromwell and Genevieve Bujold in the lead roles. The feature program includes six world premieres, including Bird Co. Media, directed by Vancouver’s Jason Bourque and produced by D.J. Parmar. The film is the comedic story of two Vancouver based entrepreneurs who travel to India to find investors and launch a new advertising company, based on the innovative but controversial idea of using

birds to carry advertising messages. Winnipeg’s Sean Garrity has two films screening at the festival: Blood Pressure, is a thriller starring Michelle Giroux, Judah Katz, Jonas Chernick, Jake Epstein and Tatiana Maslany and focuses on an unhappy wife who starts receiving anonymous notes enticing her to perform inexplicable acts of voyeurism on a mysterious young man. Garrity also directs the sex comedy My Awkward Sexual Adventure, about one of the world’s worst lovers (Chernick), who is taken in by a stripper with a heart of gold (Emily Hampshire). Chernick wrote the script and co-produced the film. WFF has added several new programming strands, including a Late Night Terrorfest, that will screen Ameri-

can Mary, directed by Vancouver sisters Jen and Sylvia Soska. It’s the story of a medical student named Mary (played by Katharine Isabelle) who is growing increasingly broke and disenchanted with medical school and the established doctors she once idolized. The allure of easy money sends a desperate Mary through the messy world of underground surgeries and body modification, leading to horrifying results. A New Discoveries series will showcase Canuck films, including Dear Mr. Gacy, a drama thriller by director Svetozar Ristovski. The film stars Jesse Moss as a criminology student who decides to write to serial killers and attempt to gain their trust by impersonating a typical victim or admirer. The festival’s documentary line-up

includes the latest in the acclaimed 7 up series — 56 Up. Michael Apted directs this eighth entry in the series that follows a group of British school children throughout their lives, revisiting them every seven years to see how they turned out. Karen Cho’s National Film Board documentary about the real status of women in Canada, Status Quo, measures female advances and setbacks in such areas as reproductive freedoms, childcare, and spousal and workplace abuse. Also screening is the full-length director’s cut of Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the Cage, a documentary commissioned by Vision TV on the iconic singer-songwriter. The film is written and directed by Joel Goldberg and produced by Goldberg and Bernie Finkelstein.

It’s A Wrap! VIFF Award Winners The Vancouver International Film Festival wrapped on October 12th, and audiences chose Becoming Redwood, by Vancouver filmmaker Jesse James Miller, as the most popular Canadian film at the festival. The film, a lighthearted tale about an 11-year-old boy’s tumultuous life growing up in the 70s, was also given an honourable mention in the juried best Canadian feature film category. Becoming Redwood stars Ryan Grantham, Jennifer Copping, Chad Willett, Derek Hamilton, Scott Hylands, and Viv Leacock. The Best Canadian Feature Film Award was presented to Nova Scotia director Jason Buxton for Blackbird, a continued on page 28

Remembering Winston Rekert

Vancouver actor Winston Rekert – beloved to audiences as the star of Neon Rider and Adderly – has passed away at the age of 63, succumbing to cancer. Rekert started his acting career at The Arts Club Theatre in a production of Hot L. Baltimore and achieved stardom when he took on the role of Adderly in the acclaimed coroner series that ran on CBS between 1986 and 1989. Rekert and Danny Virtue then pitched a TV movie called Dude, which became Neon Rider. Rekert played a psychologist who took troubled urban teens out to a ranch to help them sort out their problems. Rekert was executive producer on the series, which aired on CTV from 1990 to 1995. Over the years Rekert guest starred on numerous B.C.-shot series, including Cold Squad, Supernatural, Stargate SG-1 and Battlestar Galactica. He also continued to work in theatre. Last April, Winston received the Sam Payne Lifetime Achievement Award from the Union of B.C. Performers to recognize his outstanding body of work. 30


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November - December 2012: Reel West Magazine  
November - December 2012: Reel West Magazine  

Magazine for the Digital, Film and Television Industry