SEPT / OCT 2010
EYE ON THE FESTIVAL:
Eleven years of making films with CARL BESSAI
Reel West Profiles featuring MICHAEL FRENCH and PETER MURRAY
Q & A with director ADAM MCKAY
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Terry Miles takes A Night for Dying Tigers to Vancouver’s film fest
16 DIGITAL MASTERS One would assume that people working in the third largest production centre in North America would be savvy when it came to multi-platform strategies. However, panellists for the Trade Forum’s session on digital strategies say that few filmmakers really know as much as they should about new media and its advantages.
17 GAME ON Led by Electronic Arts, the video gaming industry is strong in British Columbia. Trade Forum panellist Ian Christy says that like film, the smaller companies are doing the most interesting things.
18 STICKING TO THE SCRIPT A lot of changes have occurred over the course of 25 years but Vancouver’s film and television industry Forum is still talking about screenwriting and the international marketplace. While the new technologies have a prominent place, screenwriting seminars and a day-long pitching session called Storyville Vancouver are hot tickets.
BITS AND BYTES
10 BEGINNINGS 11 REEL WEST PROFILE #1 12 BEHIND THE SCENES 13 REEL WEST PROFILE #2 14 QUESTION AND ANSWER 15 EXPERT WITNESS 28 LEGAL BRIEFS 30 FINAL EDIT
20 BUSY BESSAI Eleven years after he took his first film to the Vancouver International Film Festival, Carl Bessai is back with his eighth and ninth features, Fathers&Sons and Repeaters. In a country where it is difficult enough to get one movie seen by audiences he has become the poster boy for the prolific artist.
24 EYE ON THE TIGERS In his diary about the making of the Vancouver International Film Festival-bound A Night for Dying Tigers, Terry Miles looks back at the day he realized that Robert Altman had underestimated the casting process when he said it was 90% of directing. COVER: A NIGHT FOR DYING TIGERS’ LAUREN LEE SMITH AND TYGH RUNYAN; PHOTO BY CATE CAMERON ABOVE: A NIGHT FOR DYING TIGERS’ TYGH RUNYAN,KATHLEEN ROBERTSON AND LEAH GIBSON; PHOTO BY CATE CAMERON REEL WEST MAGAZINE IS A WHOLLY OWNED ENTERPRISE OF REEL WEST PRODUCTIONS INC. IT EXISTS AND IS MANAGED TO PROVIDE PUBLICITY AND ADVERTISING THAT SUPPORTS THE GROWTH OF THE WESTERN CANADIAN MOTION PICTURE INDUSTRY. EXECUTIVE PUBLISHER: SANDY P. FLANAGAN. EXECUTIVE EDITOR: IAN CADDELL. PUBLISHER: RON HARVEY. SALES: RANDY HOLMES. CREATIVE DIRECTOR: ANDREW VON ROSEN. ART DIRECTOR: LINDSEY ATAYA. PHOTO EDITOR: PHILLIP CHIN. REEL WEST MAGAZINE IS PUBLISHED SIX TIMES PER YEAR. SUBSCRIPTIONS CANADA/US. $35.00 PER YEAR (PLUS $10.00 POSTAGE TO USA). REEL WEST DIGEST, THE DIRECTORY FOR WESTERN CANADA’S FILM, VIDEO AND TELEVISION INDUSTRY, IS PUBLISHED ANNUALLY. SUBSCRIPTION $35.00 PER YEAR (PLUS $10.00 POSTAGE TO US). BOTH PUBLICATIONS $60.00 (PLUS $10.00 POSTAGE TO USA) PRICES INCLUDE GST. COPYRIGHT 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 25, ISSUE 5. 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 SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
What’s coming. What’s shooting. What’s wrapped.
BOBBY CAMPO AND SHANTEL VANSANTEN ATTEMPT TO CHEAT DEATH IN THE FOURTH INSTALLMENT OF THE FINAL DESTINATION SERIES
Sequels come home Two ﬁlm series that originated in Vancouver are back in town for sequels. Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules and Final Destination 5 will be shooting here throughout much of the fall. Wimpy Kid 2 follows the wisecracking elementary school boy whose misadventures helped the ﬁrst ﬁlm make over $60 million on an investment of $15 million. It will have David Bowers directing with Jeﬀ Kinney the executive producer, Nina Jacobson and
Brad Simpson the producers, Ethan Smith the supervising producer, Jack Green the DOP, Warren Carr the production manager, Steve Sachs the location manager and Tony Lazarowich the special eﬀects coordinator. It wraps in late October after a two month shoot. The Final Destination series is well-known for its deadly opening scenes. This time a suspension bridge wreaks havoc on young victims. Those who survive, as always, are
chased down by Death. It has Erik Holmberg, Sheila Hanahan Taylor as executive producers with Craig Perry as producer, Brian Pearson as DOP, Matthew Hart as production manager, Adrienne Sol as production coordinator, Kendrie Upton as location manager and Rory Cutler as special eﬀects coordinator. It wraps in mid-December after a three month shoot. The animated TV series The Fairly Odd Parents comes to life as a live ac-
tion/animation television movie this fall. It was shot throughout July with Savage Steve Holland as director, Scott McAboy, Lauren Levine as executive producers, Jon Joﬃn as DOP, Richard Hudolin as production designer, Michael Potkins as production manager, Lisa Ragosin as production coordinator, David Tamkin as location manager and Jak Osmond as special eﬀects coordinator. In the television movie Good Night for Justice, Beverly Hills 90210 alumni Jason Priestley and Luke Perry reunite with Priestley directing his old pal. Randy Cheveldave is the producer, Danny Nowak is the DOP, Paul Joyal is the production designer, Nancy Welsh is the production manager, Tom Hoeverman is the location manager and Dave Allinson is the special eﬀects coordinator. It left in late August after a month-long shoot. The series Hellcats takes a dramatized look at college cheerleading competitions and has Kevin Murphy, Tom Welling and Allan Arkush as executive producers, Rose Lam as producer, Kim Steer as production manager, Deana Kittson as production coordinator and Michael Gazetas as location manager. It is scheduled to be here until mid-November. Leaving in early September was the third season of the APTN series Nehiyawetan, which had Jason Crowe and Loretta Todd as directors, Todd, Edi Osghian and Giuliana Bertuzzi as producers, Glenn Taylor and James Fortier as DOPs, Tracy Major as production designer, Felix Cheng as production coordinator and Judson Pooyak as location manager. ■
REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
Young Humour A Vancouver-based company will begin ﬁlming the city’s ﬁrst ever multi-camera sitcom in October. Thunderbird Films says it is working with YTV and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody writer Dan Signer on the series, entitled Mr. Young, which is expected to premiere on the Canadian network in the spring of 2011. “There is a large pool of talented, Canadian comedy writers in Los Angeles working on some of the biggest hit shows, many of whom are keen to work with Dan Signer on Mr. Young,” said Michael Shepard, president of Thunderbird Films. “Response to the material in development has been overwhelmingly positive.”
BITS AND BYTES Shepard said the series will tell the story of a child prodigy who went to university at the age of nine. At fourteen he turns down several career options to be a high school science teacher in order to have a normal high school experience. However, his students include his best friend, the girl he has a crush on and the class bully. Shepard said that in addition to Signer, the key creative personnel will include iCarly director Adam Weissman and Suite Life writer Howard Nemetz. He said Nelvana Enterprises has been named international distribution agent for the series. Nelvana and Thunderbird will be co-distributing in the USA.
Partnering for 3D TV Imax Corporation and Samsung Electronics Canada recently announced that they have formed a marketing partnership that will see Imax giving Samsung limited use of its trademark and two 3D films Into the Deep and Galapagos. A spokesperson said the 3D Blu-ray versions of the films are exclusive for the next 12 months to Samsung’s 2010 3D starter kit, which also includes 2 pairs of 3D glasses and is free to people who buy a Samsung 3D TV and a Samsung 3D Blu-ray device. He said the starter kit will be available starting this fall. “Samsung is developing excellent television products that offer a powerful 3D experience for consumers in their living and family rooms,” said Richard Gelfond, CEO of IMAX. “IMAX remains focused on partnering with the best companies in the world to help us further extend our brand, establish our presence in the home and capitalize on our premium content, and we believe Samsung will be a strong strategic marketing partner in these efforts.” Samsung spokesperson John Revie said the agreement is part of the company’s “ongoing commitment” to provide consumers with new Blu-ray 3D content.
Elizabeth Reins for CBC Canadian producers who thought 3D TV was still a few years away from airing in this country will be encouraged by news that CBC will be showing the documentary Queen Elizabeth in 3D on September 20. According to CBC English Services spokesperson Kristine Stewart, the network tested the images for the documentary when the Queen was in Canada earlier this year. She said tests included the Queen reviewing the Canadian naval fleet in Halifax, as well as attending Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa and the Queen’s Plate in Toronto. “It’s exciting to be part of Canadian television history,” she said. “Once again, the CBC is at the forefront of bringing the best in television programming to as many NATALIE LISINSKA AND RICHARD YEARWOOD. PHOTO ALLAN FEILDEL
Canadians as possible.”
Insecurity secured A comedy series about the men and women of a ﬁctional agency whose mission is to keep the nation “safeish’ is scheduled to wrap in late September in Regina. Insecurity, which is scheduled to air the ﬁrst of 13 episodes on the CBC in January, was shot in and around Regina according to spokesperson Richelle Bourgoin. The show stars Natalie Lisinska as rookie agent Alex Cranston, William Devry as “politically-savvy” boss Peter McNeil, Matthew Macfadzean as “Jack Bauer wanna-be” Burt Wilson, Grace Lynn Kung as forensics specialist Jojo Kwan, Richard Yearwood as Benjamin Nudu from the ﬁctional African nation of Ligeria and award-winning actor Rémy Girard. Bourgoin said the series was created and executive produced by Kevin White Robert De Lint and Virginia Thompson . REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
She said the brief 3D test was unannounced and broadcast across the entire CBC system, including satellite, cable, Internet and over-the-air. A test group of 50 people were given 3D glasses and took part in the test. “We wanted to learn,” said Mark Starowicz, the head of documentary programming at the network. “We wanted to be on the cutting edge of documentary production, and we wanted to make some history.” Stewart said that while there have been 3D television programs shown in Canada before, the CBC broadcast is the first to be Canadian-shot and produced and transmitted nationally.
Storyboard Booms A spokesperson for a new version of Toon Boom Storyboard Pro 2 says it infuses “more power and flexibility into the idea creation, development and visualization process.” Joan Vogesand, the president and CEO of Toon Boom, says the new version is essential to the beginning of any audiovisual project. She says it enables storyboard artists, directors, producers, game designers and communication specialists to bring their concept to life. “This major release sets Storyboard Pro apart and delivers features that make it the tool of choice for all digital storyboard projects” says Vogelesang. “The new feature highlights include an extended set of Tools and Tool PropertiesFast creation and reuse of brushes with specific settings, an easy creation of custom brushes using a stroke or a series of strokes, a practical setting of separate colours for Brush, Pencil and Paint tools and a convenient selection of strokes based on the current colour selection.” In 2005 the Montreal-based company won a Primetime Emmy® Engineering Award by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the “significant contribution” it has made to the animation industry targeted for television. ■
Clean Sweep Winnipeg recently played host to the CBC series Men With Brooms. The show is scheduled to air on the network for 13 weeks beginning with the episode of Monday, September 20. Series spokesperson RoseAnna Schick said the series is “inspired” by the 2002 ﬁlm of the same name and is being produced by Serendipity Point Films, E1 Entertainment and Frantic Films. She says the ﬁlm stars Brendan Gall, William Vaughan, Joel Keller and Anand Rajaram as a group of friends in “small town
Canada” who live for their time on the local curling rink. Schick said the show wrapped in late August with Winnipeg’s Fort Rouge Curling Club the key interior set for the production. She said the series was created by Paul Mather, who joins Laszlo Barna, Ari Lantos, Mark Musselman, Paul Gross and Jamie Brown as executive producers. She said Paula Devonshire is the line producer, and Shawn Watson is co-producer. Directors are Jeﬀ Beesley, Brian Roberts and Kelly Makin.
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Blackstone to APTN A ﬁctional series of one-hour episodes about an Alberta First Nations band began production in mid-July and is expected to debut in early 2011 on APTN and Showcase. “Blackstone is relevant and relational in an Aboriginal story world, with universal themes and conﬂicts,” said executive producer Ron Scott. The series stars several high-proﬁle Canadian actors including Eric Schweig, Nathaniel Arcand and Michelle Thrush. Schweig, perhaps best known for his co-starring performance in Last of the Mohicans, plays a corrupt former chief who still has some political power while Arcand plays a band member struggling in the city and Thrush plays a woman in mourning over the loss of her daughter. Blackstone’s pilot, which aired last fall, won ﬁve Rosies at the May, 2010 AMPIA awards. The show won the Diversity award, best production under 60 minutes, best writing (Gil Cardinal) best director (Scott) and best Alberta actress (Roseanne Supernault.) 6
REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
Park’s ﬁrst days Battlestar Gallactica alumnus Grace Park, who was recently hired to star in the remake of the series Hawaii Five-O for CBS, returned to western Canada to star in a short ﬁlm, The First Days. According to a spokesperson, the ﬁlm was shot over the course of two days in Regina. The First Days cast also included Byron Lawson, Aleks Paunovic, Jody Peters, Alan Bratt and Ron Anderson. “It’s incredible how supportive everyone has been for this ﬁlm,” said producer Stephen Huszar. “It’s not often that a short ﬁlm has such a high calibre cast and crew. We feel very fortunate to be able to work with this kind of talent.” The ﬁlm tells the story from the point of view of an immigrant who risks his life to get to a new home only to ﬁnd he can’t communicate with the people who live there. It was written by Regina’s Mauricio Carvajal and was based on his own experiences. Huszar said Carvajal travelled from Bogota, Colombia to Regina when he was 17 and didn’t speak a word of English. Huszar said he is now a Landed Immigrant and is enrolled in a Masters of Fine Arts program with a specialization in immigration in ﬁlm.
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Crime Solved Women detectives get their own documentary series in September when Vancouver-based Force Four Entertainment premieres Murder She Solved: True Crime, an eight-episode, one hour series for specialty channel VIVA. Force Four’s John Ritchie says the show tells the true stories of female crime solvers, some of whom are responsible for solving some of the most daunting murder cases in Canada. “This is the ﬁrst factual crime series for us, and we are thrilled to be collaborating with VIVA,” he says. “Whether it’s the in-depth news of
REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
Dateline or the ﬁctional drama of CSI, crime stories have always been an audience favourite. Murder She Solved: True Crime oﬀers all the excitement of headline news with thorough investigative reporting, but from a Canadian perspective. It will appeal to a broad audience and make great destination TV viewing.” Ritchie says that at the heart of each one-hour episode is a high-proﬁle Canadian murder “full of twists, turns, dead ends and high-speed car chases, and a female investigator whose role is pivotal in solving the case.”
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Priestley debut Vancouver actor Jason Priestley has the lead role in an HBO Canada series called Call Me Fitz that debuts September 19. According to a spokesperson he will be playing a “morally bankrupt yet charismatic used-car salesman who is forced to become business partners with his inner conscience.” “Call Me Fitz is an outstanding addition to HBO Canada’s line-up,” says Corus Entertainment’s Joanna Webb. “Fitz is like a corrupted modern version of Frank Sinatra, Casanova and Gordon Gekko, and it takes a special actor to make a character like this likeable. But with the great writing of (Defying Gravity’s) Sheri Elwood and the talents of Jason Priestley, the show really comes together with boundary-pushing results.” The series is being executive produced by Elwood. The supporting cast includes Ernie Grunwald, Peter MacNeill, Kathleen Munroe, Brooke Nevin, Husein Madhavji, Tracy Dawson, Joanna Cassidy and Rachel Blanchard. Pilots Flying Vancouver’s Omni Films has completed a 13-episode documentary series about a renegade Arctic airline that ﬂies World War II planes in the Canadian North. Ice Pilots NWT begins airing September 24 on Global. “We’re thrilled to be airing season one of Ice Pilots NWT on Global,” says Omni partner and executive producer Gabriela Schonbach. “With the incredible success of its premiere on History Television and the massive audience response internationally,
we’re delighted to showcase the original adventures of Buﬀalo Air to an ever growing Canadian audience.” Schonbach said the series was ﬁlmed over nine months of winter and follows rookie pilots and “frostbitten ramp hands” as they attempt to keep vintage warbirds ﬂying despite blizzards and breakdowns. The series was created and produced by David Gullason, and executive produced by Schonbach, David Gullason and Michael Chechik.
Heart beating Michael French had shot documentary footage of Rick Hansen in the 1980s when the Vancouver paralympian had gone to China as part of his Man in Motion World Tour. Years later, he decided that the story might make a good dramatic feature and took a cast and crew back to China to make the movie. The ﬁlm, which is entitled Heart of a Dragon, will premiere in Vancouver on October 29 and will move across the country from there. It was directed, written and produced by French with Mark Gordon and David Foster the executive producers. It stars Victor Webster as Hansen and co-stars James Thomas Byrnes, Sarah-Jane Potts, Andrew Lee Potts and Ethan Embry. French said Zhang Ping was the production executive for partner The Beijing Film Studios. Xiaobing Rao was the cinematographer and Bingjian Zhang was the production designer and 1st assistant director. The composer was Chris Ainscough while the original song was written by Foster and John Parr and performed by Michael Johns. Colette Gouin was the co-producer responsible for CGI, John Bromley was the line producer and the editors were Chris Ainscough and Jana Fritsch. The production manager was Britt French and Chris Earthy produced the soundtrack.
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Evil booked The Winnipeg-shot series Todd & The Book Of Pure Evil will debut on Space September 29 according to a network spokesperson who describes the series as “The Breakfast Club meets Evil Dead.” The show stars Alex House as “pot-smokin’, heavy-metal-rockgod-wannabe” Todd Smith. After local teens discover a book that makes teenagers’ deepest, darkest desires come true, Todd is the only person who stands between the REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
book and the end of the world as we know it. The series was created by Craig David Wallace, Charles Picco and Anthony Leo and was based on the short ﬁlm of the same name by Wallace and Max Bernard Reid. It premiered at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival. The executive producers are Wallace, Leo and Andrew Rosen. The producers are Leo, Rosen and Shawn Watson. 9
PHOTO PHIL CHIN
John P.H. Nicolls “...I was eating off 2 for 1 coupons at El Pollo Loco and realized this wasn’t fun anymore.”
y interest and passion for entertainment started in my adolescence in the 1970s. My family and after-school friends were hooked on Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, The Rockford Files and all manner of cop shows. 10
Not all of these shows were great television, but the 70s paved the way for everything that followed. CSI might seem like a cutting-edge series about the technology of criminal forensics, but it’s really just Quincy, M.E. meets The $ 6 Million Dollar Man. I have been fortunate enough to
have worked as a writer, a reader, a Teleﬁlm analyst, a business aﬀairs executive/in-house counsel and now an entertainment lawyer in private practice representing mostly producers, distributors and digital media companies. Entertainment law deals largely with contract and copyright law and
involves preparing or reviewing all the contracts between the producer and all the creative and ﬁnancial elements needed to ﬁnance and execute a production. This includes contracts with co-producers, executive producers, writers, the actors, the director and the crew, and contracts with the broadcasters, distributors or other investors who ﬁnance the project. There is also production insurance, E&O clearance procedures, labour law/union issues and music rights. The lawyer is involved to some extent in all of these areas. Initially I started as a television writer, so how did I get from there to entertainment law? Here’s how the story goes. I was always interested in the people I met, where they were from and what made them tick, the more unusual the better. (My mother remembers when the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by our house. She would pretend to be doing laundry in the basement hoping they would think no one was home. While she was downstairs I invited them in for tea.) If I had any desire to be a writer at that time, I didn’t dare express it. As far as my family was concerned, there were only ﬁve possible professions in life. You could be a banker, doctor, lawyer, accountant or “businessman.” Being a teacher was ﬁne if you were a girl, but no one could support a family on it. As for ﬁlm school, forget it! Fastforward seven years and I had a Commerce degree (UBC) and a Law degree (U Vic). Although there were no speciﬁc entertainment law courses at the time, I took contracts and intellectual property. I enjoyed law school, did well and got a scholarship in my third year and, eventually, an articling position with a downtown ﬁrm. But instead of studying for my Bar Exams, I was reading Syd Field’s Story Structure and writing screenplays on the side. I reviewed movies in the ﬁrm’s internal newsletter. I don’t think anyone was surprised when I quit the practice after a year and took Creative Writing at UBC. My Mum, however, thought I was nuts. Had I been reprogrammed by the Moonies? I still worked in the legal world and my goal at the time was to write for law dramas like L.A. Law or Law & Order. I worked part-time as a researcher on an information show called Legal Wise, produced by Phil Reimer and Nijole Kuzmickas for CBC Regional. At the end of that school year, I REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
wrote three pitches for the Canadian series Street Legal and one of them got picked up. Suddenly, I had a paying gig on a plum CBC show! I really thought I had arrived. Not for long though. I ﬂew back out to Toronto later that summer on my own dime, but none of my other pitches worked out. Overall, it was a great experience. I got a produced writing credit and an extremely generous royalty of 10% of gross worldwide sales. Even today, when my episode sells to Algeria for $100, I get a cheque for ten bucks (less union deductions.) In 1991, my friend John Ketcham and I decided to move to Los Angeles. John was a Vancouver producer-director who had scored the ﬁlm rights to the book about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, the world middle-weight boxing champion who had been wrongfully convicted of triple-murder in the mid-1960’s. John had also scored a green card in the lottery. I was not so lucky so he hired me as his lawyer and I got in under the NAFTA Free Trade Agreement. Besides my law degree under my arm, I also carried scripts for L.A. Law, Law & Order and Cheers and a feature script called Upstaged that I had written with a friend. John and I lived in a bachelor pad on San Ysidro Drive in the Hills of Beverly with producer Michelle MacLaren, another Vancouverite transitioning to Los Angeles. It was a modest bungalow, but there was an avocado tree and an outdoor barbeque with pipedin natural gas. We had lots of parties. In fact, our little pad became a haven for many ex-pat Canadians and we had get-togethers for Canada Day, Canadian Thanksgiving, even Canadian elec-
tions. We shot seriously goofy videos in the backyard starring our friends and we also put together actual projects to pitch. We pitched them earnestly, and shamelessly, in an attempt to have someone take notice. John had a movie of the week in development with NBC and was pitching the “Hurricane” Carter story around town. We pitched a TV special on the upcoming 25th anniversary of the moon landing with a bootlegged soundtrack and a trailer that was made up largely of NASA stock footage. We also had a movie review show that was akin to Siskel & Ebert. I was shopping around for an agent and got some great leads through some Vancouverites. I was still trying to get connected to L.A. Law and met co-star Richard Dysart through Vancouver art dealer Diane Farris. Dysart, who commuted between LA and Sechelt at the time, supported me wholeheartedly. He told me not to submit the script, but to get another spec for a diﬀerent show, on the grounds that one couldn’t write a script that was up to snuﬀ for the show one was actually trying to land. In the meantime, I heard they needed Canadian writers for a halfhour Tarzan series, a Canadian-Mexican-German co-production starring Wolf Larsen. It was a non-union gig but paid $5,000 a pop - which was enough to live on for several months - so I pitched a bunch of ideas for that and got one. Eventually, Richard got my Law & Order script to Bob Breech, one of the executive producers of L.A. Law and eventually it went to Channing Gibson, an actual writer on the staﬀ. The word was they were look-
ing for another writer to complete the season. Could this be my big break? Channing liked my spec enough to ask for an original script, to see how I was at creating original characters. I sent him Upstaged, the romantic comedy, but I guess it didn’t cut it. The job went to another Canadian writer, someone named Paul Haggis. What I did get out of L.A. was an understanding about how the business worked. I learned what option agreements, writer agreements, co-production agreements and script guarantees actually looked like and what recoupment schedules and royalties (and net proﬁt deﬁnitions) were, how they were calculated and paid, or not. I learned what kind of introductions meant you had an “agent” and what kind meant you had a “partner” and how to limit those relationships with written agreements, not “back of the napkin” deals. I learned that people or companies that said they had money and connections didn’t always tell the truth. (One thing about the internet is it has become a lot easier to look up people and companies and check out their stories so you can ﬁnd someone you know that’s done business with them in the past.) There are a couple of signiﬁcant things I remember about L.A. The ﬁrst is that there are about 20,000 new people arriving there every year to get their big break (and 20,000 leaving?). I remember we were going to make a short ﬁlm, and we put one ad in one issue of the Dramalogue to cast for a “female lead in her twenties,” and we got over 200 resumes. And that was for an unpaid gig in a short ﬁlm. The other thing is that, as much as know-
ing people is important, working your ass oﬀ is essential. Read comedy writer Phil Rosenthal’s hilarious auto-biography, You’re Lucky You’re Funny, which outlines his experience as a slaving staﬀ writer for some terrible sit-coms, before ﬁnally getting the chance to create and show-run Everybody Loves Raymond. The message: write about what you know, do whatever you can to get experience and never give up. In 1994, I was eating oﬀ 2 for 1 coupons at El Pollo Loco and realized this wasn’t fun anymore. I became one of the 20,000 leaving L.A., but I didn’t exactly give up. My theory is that when one thing doesn’t work out, it usually opens up an opportunity for another thing, and that can be just as good or better. And luckily, that happened for me. When I arrived back in Vancouver, broke and depressed, I wasn’t sure what to do. The ﬁrst thing that got me out of my funk was pitching a magazine article about my L.A. experiences to Vancouver Magazine. It chronicled some of the funnier things that happened in L.A. where it seemed that no act of self-promotion was too wacky. The article was titled You’re OK, I’m Fantastic and included stunts like sending a pitch around inside a box of Cheerios with a “limited-time oﬀer” written on the box: “Free Screenplay! See details inside!” That led to a recurring column with the magazine entitled Brollywood which chronicled the goings-on in Vancouver’s ﬁlm scene, both independent and imported. I also applied for (and got) a Kickstart Award Beginnings continued on page 29
Writer / Director Michael French More than 20 years after he followed Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion World Tour to China to shoot a documentary, Michael French returned to shoot a feature film which he wrote directed and produced. “Heart of a Dragon” stars Victor Webster as the famed wheelchair athlete. It is scheduled to open in BC theatres October 29. Home town Vancouver, BC Start date August 25, 2006 Best day The last shot on the last day at the top of The Great Wall
PHOTO ALBERT NORMANDIN
Worst day The first shot on the first day when specialized camera mounts failed. Most memorable working experience Learning that dragons are loyal friends who will only breathe fire if provoked. If I won an Oscar I would thank My mother My latest five year plan Going skiing
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PHOTO MEGAN OLIVER
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BEHIND THE SCENES
Core Music Agency Connecting with the competition worked out well for Ari Wise
ancouver composer Ari Wise had scored many ﬁlms, documentaries and television episodes when he made a career move that could go a long way in changing the way the world looks at Canadian composers. Four years after he founded it, Core Music Agency (formerly The Canadian Composers Agency) is the single largest provider of ﬁlm, television and games composers in Canada. Wise’s path from composer to agent started almost 20 years ago when he returned to Vancouver from USC’s Thornton’s Graduate Film Scoring program. He recalls that he assumed he would take an instantaneous rocket to stardom but discovered that while he was ready to soar the opportunities were not abundant. “I guess I had it in my head that I was going to take the town with fresh ideas and creative vision and the hundred or so years of ﬁlm scoring experience that I got from all of my Hollywood professors,” he says. “Unfortunately, Vancouver really wasn’t humming yet. We had had a
few false starts, but nothing like it is now. I was surprised to ﬁnd out that there already were quite a few very well established ﬁlm composers here. I guess I should have done some research ﬁrst.” Part of the problem was that he didn’t have a strong background in the music that dominated movies in the early 1990s. Instead, he was more ﬁrmly footed in contemporary orchestral styles. “Most of the music for ﬁlm and TV was rock-based at that time. I liked that music but had never played in a band before. I had to learn very fast and so I just hired all the best session musicians I could ﬁnd in town. I didn’t net a penny for ﬁve years but I learned a lot. Those guys took me by the hand and showed me how it’s done. I could never have learned that stuﬀ in school. There’s a real community here and they brought me in right away. They were professional, gifted and brotherly.” He made enough contacts in the industry that he was able to create a studio and forge a 15 year career that saw him score nine series and 14 fea-
ture length ﬁlms as well as dozens of documentaries and shorts. However, he could also see the potential in another facet of the industry. “Maybe it was that ‘hitting 40’ thing,” he says. “I just felt like I needed to change my habits. I needed to change my life.” He sold the studio and his gear, started exercising, lost 20 pounds and opened a talent agency dedicated to representing ﬁlm composers. “Instead of competing with my peers, I decided to represent them,” he says. “I got the idea from watching my wife Pam at work. She’s a popular agent for actors. Also, I had the beneﬁt of having three good agents over my career. And I really like the business side of ﬁlm music. I like ﬁnding solutions, making new connections, seeing potential in people. I also realized that a great soundtrack happens when there is a perfect synergy between music inspired by the ﬁlm and a ﬁlm that is inspired by music. Representing composers is what I know but it’s only half of the equation. I needed to ﬁnd the right person to help me build a licensing library featuring the talents of new
recording artists and bands.” Enter Jacquelyn Brioux, a young music aﬁcionado with a background in ﬁlm, English and a passion for all things contemporary. “Jacquelyn really knocked me over with her diverse knowledge of artists and new movements in music. My iPod exploded overnight.” Brioux now heads up the music licensing division. Wise said the company is doing well enough that it has also hired another composer’s agent, Matt Safran, who once represented Wise. This month (September) the company will make the transition from “scoring agency” to “scoring and licensing agency’” and formally become Core Music Agency. “The name really jumped out at us because it represents something at the very center of something else. It’s the heart. It’s what every artist looks for in creating a sculpture, a painting, a piece of music. Music is at the very core of us and it’s what we bring to the industry: great talents who understand that concept and go right to the internal pulse of the pictures they work on.” ■
Talon Helicopters Peter Murray Thirteen years after it was founded, Talon Helicopters is one of Vancouver’s leading suppliers of helicopters to the film and television industry. Founded by its current president, Peter Murray, Talon has six helicopters configured for productions and has ten employees. Among its recent productions are the films Red Riding Hood and Mordecai and the series Human Target, Fringe and Sanctuary Home town Vancouver, BC First Day April 22, 1997 Best day June 1, 2009 – the day we added our TwinStar helicopter to the fleet. Low level flight in the city is now part of our repetoire. Worst day When you love what you do, every day is a good day. Most memorable working experience Flying the aerials for the incredible twilight shots of Vancouver and Whistler for the 2010 Winter Games opening ceremonies. If I won an Oscar I would thank My wife Oga Nwobosi Murray, for her endless support My latest five year plan is a continuation of my last five year plan: steady, managed growth backed with the best crews in the helicopter business.
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QUESTION AND ANSWER
MARK WAHLBERG AND WILL FERRELL STAR IN MCKAY’S THE OTHER GUYS
Adam McKay Director of funny films
n 1995 Adam McKay was the head writer of Saturday Night Live and Will Ferrell was a rookie performer. Flash forward 15 years and the two men are a quadruple threat. They have taken their television success and translated it to stage, screen and even the internet. Their collaborations include the hit stage play You’re Welcome America, A Final Night with George W. Bush, the popular website Funny or Die and three movies (Anchorman, Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby and Step Brothers) that have averaged over $100 million in box oﬃce receipts. Their latest venture is The Other Guys, which is directed by McKay and stars Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as paper-pushing New York cops who are ignored by their colleagues. The movie was released in August. McKay sat down with Reel West editor Ian Caddell in July to talk about why the partnership works, the diﬀerence between 14
ﬁlm comedy and TV sitcoms and the work that goes into editing a ﬁlm where improvisation is encouraged. Why do you think you and Will have managed to have such a successful partnership? “Our upbringings are remarkably similar. We both come from divorced families where our fathers were musicians. Both of our families split up when we were the same age which is kind of freaky and we grew up through the same period together. We both worked at improv theatres and beyond that we are not freakishly success driven people. We are not looking to be number one or dominate. We like what we do and we want to be challenged or entertained. That is our ﬁrst priority. When we work together we will have conversations where we will say ‘if we are going to do Step Brothers it has to be rated R. It has to be really absurd. We are not going to make $200
million on it. There is even a chance that we will make only $50 (million.) I will say ‘I am good with that, are you good with that?’and he will say ‘yes I am good with that’ and then we go and do the movie.” What about the collaboration process. How does that work? “Well there is a conversation before every movie where we go ‘here is why we want to do it. Here is what is interesting about it to us.’ The answer is always ‘I am cool with that.’ I think both of us really respond to that and because of that we don’t get crazily cranked up or dramatic about stuﬀ. Neither of us think we are so great that we are always right about stuﬀ. If he comes with a strong opinion I am always curious to hear it and he feels the same with me. If either of us come close to putting our foot down the other person will say ‘oh, you don’t usually feel this strong . Let’s try that.’ It’s ﬁlm so you can always shoot it a couple of diﬀerent ways, so there is no
need to get freaked out about stuﬀ.” What is the process that leads you to choose the particular plot lines? “We are drawn a lot of times to traditional story arcs like the sports story in Talladega or the cop buddy thing because you have assumptions coming into it and then we get to fool around with those assumptions and that is kind of fun. So people say it’s parody but it’s not parody. It is a familiar room you have been in before and then the surprise has more of a context for it. We felt the cop buddy genre was nearly dead. It started to get kind of stale there near the end and there were a bunch that didn’t hit in the 1990s. But the one thing we said is that the perception of crime had changed. The fact that Bernie Madoﬀ stole 90 million and these banks stole a trillion dollars, all of a sudden drug smuggling got kind of quaint.” The comedy seems to come from almost every member of the cast in these movies. Is that intentional? “Yes, from the get-go Will and I said ‘we miss ensemble comedies, movies like Stripes and Caddyshack.’ They were such a joy to watch because you never knew where the comedy was going to come from. From Anchorman to now our goal has been that there would be at least ﬁve or six people who can be funny. There is at least one check-in moment where I say ‘you are aware this is what we do and I am going do this so please don’t get upset.’ We have been very fortunate. I don’t think we have ever had one actor who has done any of our movies who have been a pain in the ass. Every actor has been game for it and in that sense we have been incredibly lucky.” In situation comedies, the humour comes from knowing the characters over time. In your films, the characters seem familiar after about ten minutes. Is that a conscious effort to assure that people understand who these people are and will see humour in them over the course of the movie? “We do talk about that. With Anchorman we noticed that the ﬁrst ten minutes didn’t work and we couldn’t ﬁgure it out. So we re-cut it and we tried new things and we put whole new sequences in. When we tested it we would get a couple of chuckles and it was exactly at the point where they knew who the people were that the movie would cook. When it came out on DVD and cable people were quotREEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
ing lines are from the ﬁrst ten minutes because everyone knew what it was then. We thought ‘this is interesting’ and we ﬁgured out that you needed a kind of short hand at the beginning to know who these people are so you relate to them. You use epic storytelling language to tell them ‘here is this guy and here is this guy’ and when you get past that mark you kind of know who they are. The fun about knowing anyone is you start to have surprises from them. In this ﬁlm we had our set up where Will was the paper pusher and Mark was the tough guy and we thought it was boring after a while so then we thought ‘a lot of geeky guys aren’t pushovers. In fact they can be some of the pushier people you will ever meet. So let’s have Will be that and let’s have Mark not just be a tough guy but let’s have him have an anger disorder so that he is even more hopped up than Will.’” So the changeup only works when people have these characters developed in their minds so you ware working with the audience at that point “Yes and that is why we are drawn a lot of times to those traditional story arcs like the sports story in Talladega or the cop buddy thing because you have assumptions coming into it and then we get to change-up those assumptions. People say it’s parody but it’s not parody. It is a familiar room you have been in before and then the surprise has more of a context for it.” You have talked before about your love of Airplane and the other comedies by the Zucker brothers and Jim Abrahams. What did you take from those films that you use in your own movies? “They were involved in the evolution of comedy. They were the modern masters of that. That is how we all learned to do it. They had serious people like Leslie Nielsen and Peter Graves as the leads in Airplane and we all learned from that. I saw that movie about eight times in the theatre. I was in 5th grade crying with laughter. They played it straight even though it was a ridiculous movie. So you didn’t need the cues that let you know it was a comedy as had been true with people like Bob Hope. You didn’t have to be winking. You could trust the audience and relax and now that approach is essential to our comedy. I am not that stuﬀ y about comedy. If it is funny I will laugh like an REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
idiot but if it winks too much it will lose me.” You have always been a creative guy but what have you learned since Anchorman about the technical side of directing? “I have deﬁnitely gotten better at the technical side. When I did Anchorman I didn’t know lens sizes, I didn’t know anything. The one thing I did know from shooting shorts was that I knew how to set up shots. But I didn’t understand lenses or ﬁlm speed. So the DP was running the show on that ﬁlm. I had directed theater and I had directed ﬁlms on Saturday Night Live but I do feel that now I am having conversations with the DP that are a little more advanced. We are starting to talk about the DI against the original negative cut and what the advantages are and about the natural light and asking ‘do we want to simulate here?’ The questions got a little more advanced. I feel that because of Talladega Nights I know a little bit more about how to do action and deal with the green screen. We did a lot of new things in Step Brothers which helped me do them a little better in this one. So I would hope that I have gotten a little better.” What kind of editor are you? Is it tough to edit when there is so much improv? “Structurally you should have a script that is air tight. When we come in we always shoot that script even though we are always improvising around it. If you just shot the script it would work and would link up and visually it is all planned through the storyboards we do. But the fun is knocking the hell out of that and discovering new things. We screen a lot. We do about ﬁve test screenings. We do friends and family ones. We do one in the edit room. We are constantly whacking the rug with a broom the whole time to kind of see what it can become and what it needs to become. That is one of the more diﬃcult parts of the process because it means you have to bomb. You have to put up a version that is 2 hours and 20 minutes and have your friends say ‘what are you doing? This is too long.’ So they think the movie sucks. Then you get it to two hours and you say ‘we are not done yet’ and no one believes you. Everyone looks at you as though you are an idiot and it happens the same way no matter what has gone on. We are pretty thorough with it. We have things planned and we know we have that movie in the can and the idea is to make it better.” ■
“I went there about four or five years ago and it is such a complicated place that I didn’t know where to start. There were so many sad things happening but people had such an extraordinary spirit. Then when the earthquake hit we thought ‘this could go so badly. It could break out into some kind of civil war.’ But the fact it didn’t happen is something to be noted. I am planning to get much more involved in the children’s issues and spend time at the (International) SOS village and meet with a lot of the judges and ministries working on all these different protections for children which we haven’t figured out globally. It feels like Haiti might be a good place to start. It’s such a mess down there and they are trying to figure out from the ground up how to start to deal with the separated child and the abused child and get it right there. If we can get it right there we can get it right anywhere.” Actress Angelina Jolie on the lessons to be learned from Haiti. “That was all greed. They had always done those films three and four years apart. They responded to Batman Forever and it was a good film. So let that simmer for four years and whet people’s appetite for it. Make sure we have a script that works. But they said ‘we have to have it now.’ They didn’t have a good script and they thought they could throw money at it and it would come together. But it was a disaster.” Actor Chris O’Donnell on the superhero flop Batman & Robin. “It was such a hard job trying to get the American Midwest accent (for Public Enemies) and knowing that I wouldn’t be 100 percent perfect. I worked hard but it was really hard because I needed to find the authenticity of a role. After it was completed I had another offer, which was a beautiful offer but I couldn’t imagine that the character would have any French flavour in her accent. I was not ready yet to go back into four months of dialect coaching to try and erase my French accent. Maybe I will go back there in the future because it’s a challenge that I would love to succeed at but it was really hard because I knew when I was not perfect and it was difficult to get there. I learned English when I was 12 but with a very bad English teacher who was French. He would say ‘azeef (as if.)’ You really have to start very early to learn another language so that it gets into your brain and it becomes automatic. If you don’t it’s really hard.” Oscar-winning French actress Marian Cotillard on trying to feel comfortable playing Americans. “I always disagree with the idea of people talking about building a family on the film set. You build a work environment. When people say ‘we were just like a family on the set’ I say ‘no we weren’t. We were there for eight weeks and we went home at the end of the day.’ The thing about families is that they are with you from beginning to end and through some tough stuff and some great stuff. Mia (The Kids Are All Right’s Mia Wasikowska) was saying that your family members are the only people who go through that whole life experience with you. They see everything and there is something that is incredibly intimate about that.” Actress Julianne Moore on families. Excerpted from interviews done by Reel West editor Ian Caddell.
Digital Masters Jessica Leigh Clark-Bojin and Matt Toner are pretty familiar with the topic they will be discussing at the 25th Annual Vancouver International Film Festival’s Film & TV Forum in late September. They wrote the book on it. Story by
Ian Caddell Actually, it’s a primer that they were involved with while they were working together at the Vancouver social media company Zeroes 2 Heroes. The primer is called Digital Strategies for Film and Television Properties and attempts to demystify the digital world for ﬁlm and television executives who may know less than they think they know about their digital options. The panel will also include social media consultant Jennifer Oano and video game designer Ian Christy. Clark-Bojin, who left her position as Vice-President of Creative at Ze16
roes 2 Heroes to become Head of Entertainment Business Management at the Vancouver Film School, says that it’s better to show how little you know about the potential of digital media than to feign an understanding of it. ‘We deﬁnitely encourage people to show their ignorance rather than act like they know things. It is far more intelligent to say ‘this is what I need but I have no idea of what you are talking about.’” She says the best way to get them where they do feel comfortable about digital media is to focus on what they want from it. “You have to strip things down to what their goals are. People come in to seminars with the notion that they need digital strate-
gies. At Zeroes 2 Heroes we recognized that savvy business people who think about return on their investment stopped thinking that way when it came to new media. A lot of people dive into platforms and say ‘we want an iphone app’ whereas we say ‘what is the problem you want to solve?’ They would be throwing millions at massive campaigns with no sense of whether it was working. At the end of the day they weren’t thinking ‘did I actually achieve my objectives?’ We thought that was strange given their backgrounds and empires so we wanted to demystify the whole digital realm. We wanted to show that there is nothing magical about digital media.”
Demystifying new media is a good beginning, according to Jennifer Oano, but production companies also need to incorporate strategies early in the game. Oano has created multi-platform campaigns for several production companies and networks, developed a mobile game concept for director John Woo and webcast live events for David Bowie, Spike Lee and Microsoft. She says that it’s not enough to include digital strategies in production campaigns. Instead, companies have to ﬁnd ways of incorporating them in their plans before they even begin to think about their approach to a production. “The digital project shouldn’t be an afterthought,” she says. “It has to be a REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
part of the original thinking and part of the project from the get-go. One of the interesting things about this panel is that it is running on Documentary Day and some of the best examples of good multi-platform projects are documentary series. For instance, a couple of years ago the Food Network had a series from Paperny Films called The 100 Mile Challenge (based on the book The 100 Mile Diet) that I worked on. It was about only eating food that came from within 100 miles of where you lived. It was centered in Mission, BC but we took the concept of eating local a lot wider through digital sources. If you typed in your postal code we could source local food. And if they sourced their favorite restaurant and it wasn’t in the base we could add it. So that kind of thing goes past the length of a TV series. It becomes much more ongoing and participatory. We have all the social media tools on line and mobile that can take that story, whether it is ﬁction or documentary and give it life beyond a regular run.” The promise of a longer shelf life isn’t just an ego boost for producers, it can also inspire funding. She says that producers have to wrap their heads around the fact that they no
do see more of a collaboration now between traditional producers and social media types. Some of the TV production houses are expanding teams to include digital media sections. On the ﬁlm side it is a diﬀerent process because you are dealing with traditional ﬁlm distribution. At the same time, the incorporating of a digital strategy is great for a ﬁlm. You can start early on and get people excited. It is more substantial than just a buzz. You can put information out and then work with the feedback and be open to it.” Toner says that it surprises him that digital media hasn’t become more accepted by traditional producers. And he agrees with Oano that there has to an encouragement of partnerships. “If you had told me in 1999 that in 2009 we would still be talking about digital media as still being new I would have been shocked. There is still a lot of work to do to make it user-friendly. One of the things we need to do is demystify the jargon. The other thing is to encourage the ﬁnding of partners. There are lots out there and the guys who know what they are doing will make things better for producers. It would be diﬃcult for someone who is thrown in to the mew media mix to
Game On The Canadian Video Games Website (CanDevs) lists dozens of Vancouver area companies that are involved in some aspect of the video game industry. Led by the Burnaby-based arm of US gaming giant Electronic Arts, the companies range from suppliers of game accessories to games graphics designers and game developers. Ian Christy, who has spent 15 years as a video game designer and will be talking about the role video games can play in overall production strategies at the upcoming Digital Strategies in Film and Television panel at the Film & TV Trade Forum, says that the various media that make up the local production community often don’t work effectively enough with one another. “They are like siblings with different fathers,” he says. “There is a wealth for video game creators to learn from study of filmic narrative and story-telling techniques, while simultaneously cutting their own teeth on landscapes as yet unmapped and devices not yet built. Film and television creators entering the digital realm seeking audience participation, feedback, or immersion would be equally well served to study the trials and tribulations already traversed by the expanding gaming industry. Both may have images and sound and show up on a screen, but similarities dwindle quickly under the hood.” So why doesn’t everyone just get along? Christy says that since video games are completely data-based, gaming has almost unlimited potential for other mediums. If the potential is still untapped the problem may lie with the approach taken by produc-
“The digital project shouldn’t be an afterthought. It has to be a part of the original thinking and part of the project from the get-go.” – Jennifer Oano, social media consultant
ers. “For other mediums, data is a new delivery system with unknown potential. For games, data is king. My experience with the film industry, both through a publisher filter and directly with aspects of the local industry, has been a sense that film and TV backers look at the profit growth on games and understandably want a piece, however they’re unsure how to create productive bridges between the two industries. A lot of middle men get involved, miscommunication and mismanaged expectations abound, and inferior product results.” Surprisingly, the key to bridging the communication gap between gaming and traditional production may be in the hands of the newer medium. Christy says that game developers usually look to film and television producers for leadership. As a result, he says, they are more apt to be open to ideas. However, there is also the possibility that
longer have to move from production to production. They can stay with the project longer by utilizing social media to keep it in front of the public’s eyes for an indeﬁnite period. That, in turn, could encourage funders to ante up ﬁnancial support in greater numbers than they might consider for short term projects. “The idea that social media is ‘value-added’ is not relevant anymore,” she says. “Producers have to understand that digital media can be the value now. It takes more of a commitment of course, which means a change in the approach to the work. It has been a struggle convincing television producers that I have worked with to consider those options but I REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
ﬁgure it out. I know that it has taken me 15 years to feel that I know what I am doing. I also know that there is more to it than advising someone to build a website. There is no Field of Dreams there.” He says the good news is that some producers and networks are making a substantial eﬀort to go beyond just building websites. “We have worked with CBC and Out TV and they are both trying diﬀerent things with varying degress of success. I have talked to (US cable network) Starz and they have a game plan and they know where we ﬁt. So if you have good ideas and you can ﬁnd a good partner I think there is real potential for success.” ■
either side could give up too much to the other. “From my experience, game developers do look to film and television for inspiration, narrative hooks, visual elements, settings, plot devices, characterizations; tools and short hand elements to infuse an interactive experience with accessible aspects players can recognize, empathize with, and manipulate. The danger is trying to make a game into an interactive film, because the higher the presentation quality, the more expensive the components, so the fewer branches and variations you can have. Studying other mediums is positive, trying to overly emulate another medium can hogtie what this medium might do well.” That emulation could already be happening at a corporate level. He says that he is reminded of traditional role models when he looks at the way independent game developers are approaching their industry. “Small fry game developers remind me of the maverick film makers of the 60s and 70s that shirked the Hollywood system. They worked cheap, fast, and were quick to react to audience feedback. Big game publishers like EA and Activision seem to want to become more like the film industry, trying to get celebrity talent, product endorsements, and bigger marketing budgets. The game industry is young, comparatively, though it has demonstrated a tendency to expand and contract similar to the old Hollywood studio system, a few big studios for a while, then shatter into numerous small studios that can better address the tastes and appetites of audience; rinse, lather, repeat.” ■ 17
PANEL MEMBERS FROM LAST YEAR’S VIFF FILM & TELEVISION FORUM SEMINAR, THE ART OF THE BIOGRAPHY
Sticking to the script When the now defunct British Columbia Film Industry Association (BCFIA) created the “Trade Forum for the Motion Picture Industry” in 1986 the industry was relatively new. The three day Forum’s panel topics were a reﬂection of that. Story by
Ian Caddell The list included sessions discussing provincial ﬁlm funding, how to sell video and ﬁlm to the international markets and an introduction to screenwriting. This year’s 25th anniversary (it is now known as the Vancouver International Film Festival Film & TV Forum) is a lot bigger than the ﬁrst one, which is hardly surprising given the growth in the industry over the last quarter century. For the last few years it has made an eﬀort to keep up with the needs of veteran producers and directors while attempting to inspire students and emerging ﬁlmmakers. There are ﬁve days now with the ﬁnal day, October 2, appropriately entitled New Filmmakers Day. The Forum begins on September 28 with Storyville Vancouver and will also include Documentary Day (September 29), Film Day (September 30) and TV Day (Oct. 1.) Forum producer Fran Bergin, who has been involved with the Forum in 18
some capacity for 15 years, says that the key to success for the Forum has been its ability to keep up with the consistently changing needs of the marketplace. “The marketplace has been changing the last ﬁve years so the Forum and the local ﬁlmmakers have had to adapt accordingly,” she says. “Throughout the year we are looking at the international marketplace and trying to ﬁnd programs that suit it. We make an eﬀort to reach out to local people to determine how many people will come and what their needs are. The goal is to provide the local audience a high calibre list of people with writers at the top of the list.” Some things never change. While the Forum no longer needs to debate the worthiness of a provincial ﬁlm fund (BC Film was founded two years after the debut edition) there is still an emphasis on international sales and co-productions and, of course, the relevance of screenwriting. Katrin Bowen, who comes to her new job as creative director of the Forum from producing several ﬁlms,
says that you can’t really talk about ﬁlm or television without discussing writers and screenplays. “I think that no matter what area of production you are exploring it starts with the writer. If we can inspire them to think about co-ventures and we can break down scene structure and show how successful TV shows work, we can make a diﬀerence. All those things are part of the various days. Last year New Filmmakers Day brought in (screenwriter) Charlie Kauﬀman and he played to a standing room only crowd that included both emerging writers and directors and veteran ﬁlmmakers. That’s the kind of thing we want to do more of because we see our job as leading a community outreach.” Visiting screenwriters this year include Rachel Getting Married’s Jenny Lumet and David Slade of the Twilight saga movies and Hard Candy while TV Day will welcome writers Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad and Eric Overmyer of Treme and The Wire. The quest to be competitive in the international markets is still a Forum
priority as well. Bowen says that for the second year the pitch-fest Storyville Vancouver will take creative documentaries to the marketplace. Rudy Buttignol, who introduced Storyville to the Forum last year, says he ﬁrst saw the potential for pitching sessions over a decade ago when he was at a festival in Amsterdam and was working as a commissioning editor at TV Ontario. He says that the Dutch realized that they needed to look outside of the European Union and the US for documentary markets and invited him as a representative of a network that had a documentary agenda. He admits he became a fan of the format almost immediately. “They did their best to get me there,” he says. “They said ‘we need to balance the Americans with a Canadian’ and as soon as I saw what they were doing I thought it was fantastic. Unlike most pitching formats which are broader and multi-genre, this dealt exclusively with creative documentaries. And unlike the usual approach, where you have lowly ﬁlmmakers begging for REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
cash from buyers, the commissioning editors were required to pitch the ﬁlmmakers. I managed to talk the HotDocs organizers into bringing the format to Toronto and thus was born the Toronto Documentary Forum. My thinking was that you could get deals in Amsterdam in November and follow up in May in Toronto. So I suggested that we pay the Amsterdam organizers to come over here and for our people to go there so that we could acknowledge that it was the Amsterdam format we were using.” Eventually, Buttignol moved to Vancouver to become president and chief executive oﬃcer of the Knowledge Network Corporation and saw promise for the format at the Vancouver festival. He decided to meld the Amsterdam concept and the Storyville documentary pitching program, which had been created by the BBC’s Nick Fraser, and bring in do-
regional forum with a mix of regional and international people and give them the conﬁdence to go further.’” Buttignol’s personal experience with raising money for projects when he was starting out as a producer in the 1980s led him to believe that there must be a better way of getting funding. He says that the Amsterdam concept woke him to the realization that the international marketplace for documentaries was untapped for most domestic ﬁlmmakers. He says that through Storyville the potential for making documentaries for those who have followed in his footsteps is greater than it has ever been. “The question that has to be asked is ‘what kinds of cultures would my work make sense to in terms of getting funding?’ I think the Storyville concept gives people real insight into what the world market funds and doesn’t fund. I have felt from the
“If we can inspire them to think about co-ventures and we can break down scene structure and show how successful TV shows work, we can make a difference.” – Katrin Bowen, Creative Director, VIFF Film & TV Forum mestic ﬁlmmakers who were looking for partners for their creative documentaries. He approached the Festival about saving a day in its schedule for the program and, a year ago, they said yes. This year he added to the number of commissioning editors, by including a representative from Seattle’s KCTS on a list that also has executives from Canada, the US, Europe and Asia on it. “I thought ‘why don’t we create a forum that is for domestic ﬁlmmakers?’” he says. “We could invite commissioning editors from the world scene who had been involved in international projects as a way of starting conversations. So when our ﬁlmmakers had gone to those other forums they had a context to build on. The real gap in that idea is that it was hard to get them out to international markets. I asked Nick (Fraser) if we could borrow the Storyville title and riﬀ on it and he said ‘yes and why not bring people in who support the Storyville type documentary.’ So we did that and said ‘let’s help ﬁlmmakers get funded by starting a REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
ﬁrst time that I was in Amsterdam that this concept ﬁlled an important gap. I recalled that in the early ‘80s I was knocking on the same doors most of the time. I was like everyone else. I was going to the CBC and the National Film Board and thinking ‘I have to try something diﬀerent.’ Eventually, I was going to A&E and the History Channel because I thought it was important to get the work to more people. “My feeling has always been that it is not just about funding, it is about resonating with the global marketplace. I loved the option of taking the project to local Amsterdam audiences and saying ‘does it work with these people?’ In the best of circumstances, that (travelling to diﬀerent markets with a concept) can really improve the work. The other thing I learned in Amsterdam is that you need to stick to one genre. So we focus on the creative documentary because the one thing you can’t change if you like the idea is the ﬁlmmaker. The ﬁlmmaker is central to the whole work.” ■ 19
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: SEVERED (2005); COLE (2009); MOTHERS&DAUGHTERS (2008); NORMAL (2007); FATHERS&SONS (2010); UNNATURAL & ACCIDENTAL (2006); REPEATERS (2011).
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Busy Bessai Woody Allen makes a feature ﬁlm every year. It’s part of his legend. Canada’s Atom Egoyan made 10 ﬁlms between 1997 and 2009. Most of those ﬁlms played the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Then there is Carl Bessai. Story by
Ian Caddell Bessai’s ﬁrst dramatic feature, Johnny, was at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) in 1999. His second, Lola, was there in 2001 and his third, Emile, was in the festival in 2003. He will be taking two ﬁlms, Fathers&Sons and Repeaters, to this year’s festival. They will be the ninth and tenth Bessai ﬁlms to be selected for the Festival. VIFF Canadian Programmer Terry McEvoy, who has programmed six Bessai ﬁlms in his ﬁve years at the Festival says that Bessai’s success can be linked directly to the risks he takes with his ﬁlms. “He has a way with uncomfortable subject matter: the hateful murder of native women, the aftershock of a fatal accident, the suﬀocating brutality of a small town and the limitless love between parents and their oﬀspring. There is also something special that Carl the cinREEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
ematographer brings to Carl the director. No matter how ‘in tune’ those positions are, it’s hard to have perfect and nuanced communication. There is a directness and economy in Carl’s work that you’ll also ﬁnd in the work of Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez and Vic Sarin, all directors who shoot their own ﬁlms. One more thing you’ll notice about Carl’s oeuvre is the honesty of the performances he gets from his actors. He directs with a sure hand and an active eye and that’s what keeps the VIFF audience coming back.” Bessai says that while he understands that his output is unusual, he has always just thought of himself as a guy who likes his job and wants to keep working. In his mind that means he should always be exploring ways of getting movies made. “Who doesn’t want to work?” he says. “Some people go to a job and they work for a company. I work for myself. I just started getting the odd TV job and the pay is good and you
are involved in something. But, to be honest, if you are a director of ﬁlms, then that is your job. It is the thing that I am good at. I live for it. It’s how I express myself. Some people do that through poems. I don’t necessarily have to write the screenplay because I am trying to broaden my reach as a ﬁlmmaker and that works best if you can access diﬀerent kinds of ﬁlms. But I do have to keep making movies.” His ﬁlm festival success is unusual. There are about 20-25 Canadian ﬁlms selected annually for the Vancouver and Toronto ﬁlm festivals. The latter festival has never been particularly kind to western Canadian ﬁlms, yet Bessai has made the cut eight times. Repeaters was selected by the Toronto programmers while Fathers&Sons and Repeaters will be going to both VIFF and September’s Edmonton International Film Festival. In addition, Fathers&Sons will play Montreal’s Festival du nouveau cinema in October and Repeaters will be by itself at September’s Atlantic Film Festival. 21
Bessai says that Fathers&Sons, his follow-up to 2008’s Mothers&Daughters, which won the award as most popular Canadian ﬁlm in Vancouver, is a more traditional festival ﬁlm while Repeaters is his ﬁrst foray into commercial fare. While he did submit both to the Toronto festival he wasn’t disappointed or surprised when only Repeaters was selected. “We were doing the post production on Fathers&Sons last winter, which was too late for submitting it to Sundance and Berlin so I hung out with it until Toronto. They had loved Mothers&Daughters. They said they would like to see it ﬁrst and that was really the only option. Toronto was always the destination for Repeaters. I was thrilled when it was picked for a special presentation. But Fathers&Sons didn’t have a lot of places it could go to at TIFF.
ences. It is very personal and I think it’s funny. My family is in Edmonton and I think they will like it more than Repeaters so I am happy we are taking it there. It’s in the tradition of Mothers&Daughters in that it is very oﬀ the cuﬀ but I think it’s funnier. We can all see ourselves in these stories.” He has high hopes for Repeaters, which was written by Vancouver screenwriter Arne Olsen. It has a Groundhog Day theme in that the characters keep reliving the same day. The diﬀerence is that each day is terrifying. Bessai says that the most appropriate comment came from Toronto where a festival programmer said that although the ﬁlm was in the thriller genre it had elements of an auteur ﬁlm as well. He says those elements probably went a long way in helping it to make it in to the festival as a special presentation. “I think it helped that there are dia-
acquaint those two worlds with one another. They are excited when a ﬁlm screens well for an audience.” The movie has the kind of Canadian cast that could sell tickets once the ﬁlm, which was ﬁnanced privately, leaves the festival circuit. It includes Amanda Crew, who recently starred opposite Zac Efron in Charlie St. Cloud, Beverly Hills 90210 alumnus Dustin Milligan and Richard de Klerk, who played the title role in last year’s TIFF and VIFF Bessai ﬁlm Cole. Bessai says that while Milligan’s last two high proﬁle ﬁlms, Extract and Gunless, were comedies, he has a lot to oﬀer as a leading man. “He likes doing comedies but the fact is he is a handsome leading man and he delivers a great performance in Repeaters. I also think that Richard de Klerk will blow people away in this movie. He is an unhinged character and he is just a marvel to watch. This is his opportunity to step
“My feeling has always been that talking about a movie is not directing and writing a film isn’t directing. You only get good at this job by doing it.” - Carl Bessai (pictured above) on how experience makes a good director
It wasn’t going to go into Canada First! and since there are only about 20 ﬁlms selected in all it was hardly a surprise when it didn’t make it. I do think it will work well in the places where it has been selected. I think it will be a great experience for audi22
logue scenes that are more involved than most plot-driven thrillers,” he says. “I also think TIFF is kind of about bridging the gap between art house and mainstream. It is not a bland commercial ﬁlm but it does have commercial prospects. I think TIFF is trying to
into the mainstream. So having these three dynamic actors is my eﬀort to say ‘Carl can make a ﬁlm that has commercial possibilities and be exciting’ without trading in my tool kit. At its core it examines moral choice and asks the question ‘if you can do
anything you want, then how are you aﬀected by those choices?’” So how has Bessai managed to become the “working director” that so many Canadian ﬁlmmakers strive to be? He says that once he started working in the business he never let up. And, he feels that the more experience he gets, the safer it is for him to call himself a ﬁlm director. “My analogy is a bit stupid,” he says. “It comes from (the play) Billy Bishop Goes to War. He is talking about being a pilot and saying that he was good with a gun but that when he ﬁrst got in the air he wasn’t a particularly good pilot. He managed to stay in the air for a week and was allowed to keep ﬂying because he had the experience and others didn’t have that. I think experience makes you a good director and keeps you ﬂying the plane. My feeling has always been that talking about a movie is not directing and writing a ﬁlm isn’t directing. You only get good at this job by doing it.” You also need an audience that wants to keep coming back. Bessai says that he has always believed that it is not the size of the ﬁlm that matters but its potential for the audience to relate to the characters. If he can supply something that will be interpreted as having a recognition factor, he will keep them interested. “I am fascinated by the idea that the characters have to go through conﬂict. I like the idea that a character is reaching out to the world. Sometimes he is isolated and wonders why he doesn’t ﬁt in but that whole idea of being frustrated with relationships is the central structure for most characters. For instance, in Repeaters, one of the characters feels somewhat rejected by the other two and we get into a moral struggle between characters. All of us have to grow up and break way from our families and ﬁnd new family. We ﬁnd ourselves stuck between the island we left and the island we are hoping to ﬁnd at the end of the day. It’s a universal truth. I think we like ﬁlms that have characters that try to ﬁgure those universal truths out for us because we are constantly looking for a connection. What could be more important than that? I think that when artists are successful it is because we like that they are reaching out to plot a course. We like the direction the ﬁlm is going in and we feel we can ﬁnd our way.” ■ REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
FILM + TV FORUM
September 28 - october 1, 2010 + nfo october 2
At the Rogers INDUSTRY CENTRE
va n c o u v er
Drop in and get informed
featuring... INTERESTING TIMES, INTERESTING CHARACTERS The creators of Weeds, Dexter and Deadwood changed the acceptance rules for the ‘traditional’ hero/heroine, opened the door for nontraditional character development and proved that our audience is savvy, sophisticated and up for a challenge. The creators from the hit series Breaking Bad and Treme will discuss the process of developing the key elements that make for truly great drama, and audience loyalty. The devil’s in the details!
THE CHANGING WORLD OF INDEPENDENT CINEMA Our guest speakers constantly face unique challenges in producing and distributing ﬁlms they’re passionate about that also have a home in the marketplace. In this challenging economic climate, the independent ﬁlmmaking community is seeing change like never before – as times, platforms and tastes change, it has become vital for producers to break new ground and reach new audiences. How is the international marketplace impacting what ﬁlms are getting made and the way business is done? Peter Saraf (producer, Sunshine Cleaning), Frida Torresblanco (producer, Rudo y Cursi) and Mark Urman (president, Palladin) will share their new visions, new stories and new approaches as they continue to deﬁne the term ‘independent’.
STORYVILLE VANCOUVER Storyville Vancouver, in partnership with BC public broadcaster Knowledge Network, is scheduled for presentation on Sept. 28 at the Film & TV Forum. Its aim is to stimulate the co-ﬁnancing and co-production of the creative, feature length documentary. The Forum and Knowledge is delighted to have attracted some of the world’s leading broadcasters to Vancouver to help ﬁlmmakers from the Paciﬁc Northwest develop long-term strategic relationships and enhance project development. Pre-selected creative, feature length (minimum TV hour) documentary projects, at various stages of development and from the Paciﬁc Northwest will be publicly pitched to international commissioning editors with accredited Forum observers in attendance.
SCREENWRITING MASTER CLASS How do you take a best-seller novel and turn it into a killer screenplay? How is the essence of the original material kept while paring it down to a screenplay? In this panel, Oscar nominee and award-winning screenwriter, José Rivera (Motorcyle Diaries, On The Road) discusses elements that can make an adaptation work, including the narrative line, the climax, scene sequences, relationships and visual images.
SO YOU WANNA WRITE A COMEDY… Comedic series are all about characters, story and formatting… the successful ones are when you’ve created believably ﬂawed characters and placed them in compelling situations. Hear from two of the best comedy creators out there: Michael Schur, co-creator, Parks & Recreation and Dave Finkel, writer, United States of Tara.
FINDING CO-PRODUCTION PARTNERS In a constantly shifting marketplace, producers must seek new producing partnerships ps and quickly adapt to new ﬁnancing models to close their ﬁnancing. Our panel of producerss will focus on the economies of major markets, new developments and trends in worlddwide ﬁnancing plus creative cooperation with the international talent pool.
FRAME BY FRAME Biutiful, Ocean’s Thirteen, Babel, Good Night and Good Luck, 21 Grams, Leatherheads, The Informant, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Trafﬁc…we’re honoured to have Oscar-winning editor, Stephen Mirrione discuss the aesthetic and technical contributions he makes to the ﬁlmmaking process.
plus! Anatomy of a Scene Webisodes with Legs Speed Dating Sessions
Success Stories Across Multiple Platforms
DOC ACQUISITIONS IN A CHANGING LANDSCAPE
Teleﬁlm Canada Tête-à-tête meetings
An international panel of distributors will advise on what kinds of documentaries are continuing to engage audiences in an ever-changing landscape and the criteria used when determining what projects to pick up. We’ll also look at the acquisition, marketing and release of some of the top theatrical docs of 2009/2010 and the strategies used by distributors to maximize their commercial success.
Going From Zero to Hero Directing Master Class Creative Partnerships
ROUNDTABLES WITH COMMISSIONING EDITORS Your chance to network, build relationships, gain market intelligence and personal feedback edback from commissioning editors. Pre-registration required.
full program details at www.viff.org/forum
REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
firstname.lastname@example.org tel (604) 685.3547
LAUREN LEE SMITH PHOTO CATE CAMERON
REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
Eye on the Tigers Terry Miles made his ﬁrst feature, When Life was Good, with a crew of one: himself. He knew that he wanted to make a movie that was bigger but agonized over how big it would be. He did know that he wanted a good cast to bring his characters to life. In his diary about the making of the Vancouver International Film Festival-bound A Night for Dying Tigers, which tells the story of a family that disintegrates over the course of an evening, he looks back at the losing and gaining of his ﬁrst choices, the people who came in to replace them and the day he realized that Robert Altman had underestimated the casting process when he said it was 90% of directing. Diary by
Terry Miles JULY 2009 I sit down to write. Rather than open any of the dozens of ﬁlm scripts sitting on my computer ﬁnished or in progress, I open a blank document and type “FADE IN.” I begin to picture the ﬁrst scene; invariably two people concerned about something related to love or death begin to speak. This is how I meet the ﬁrst two characters in A Night for Dying Tigers. I start thinking about the type of ﬁlm I want to see. An ensemble perhaps? What would Rachel Getting Married have been like if it were written by Von Trier or Fassbinder? That’s close to the tone I’m after, I think. I know I need an event that brings a family together, and I know that this family must be strong if I’m going to attract the type of actors I’d like to work with. I raid all of my completed scripts, rip the best characters from those ﬁlms and bring them together. I’m destroying ﬁve or six other feature ﬁlm scripts to make this one, so I need to make it worthwhile. There are so many weddings, funerals and anniversaries used as these types of events and I want something unique. When I hit upon the idea of the eldest brother going to prison in twenty-four hours REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
for some mysterious crime, I know I have the reason. Now, I just need to deliver the type of script that will attract a cast. I dial into a conference call with Teleﬁlm regarding my application for low budget production funding for A Night for Dying Tigers. They really like the script, but they have a few questions. AUGUST Now, with questions addressed and funding in place, I enlist the aid of another producer, Sidney Chiu, to help with all of the crazy paperwork. Casting Director Lynne Carrow loves the script and has agreed to help us ﬁnd our cast. Lynne is amazing and we’re excited to have her on board. Robert Altman said casting was 90% of directing, but that number might be a bit conservative. SEPTEMBER 22 My friend Chris hands the script to Carly Pope on the street in L.A. I really want Carly for the key role of Karen in the ﬁlm. SEPTEMBER 30 I return from a weeklong script polishing trip to Toﬁno. I made When Life Was Good with myself as the only crew. Although I could deﬁnitely shoot this ﬁlm in a similar way, there is a lot of resistance to this working method. Maybe my tiny crew approach isn’t the best choice for this ﬁlm? Either way, I’m looking forward to getting back behind the camera. It looks like November or January for production. OCTOBER 22 I believe my love of foreign language
cinema has inﬂuenced the way I write and hear dialogue in English (probably all the years spent reading subtitles), and I think that, for better or worse, this has resulted in a particular “style” of dialogue and characterization in my scripted material. The actors are really responding to the script, and I’m excited by the prospect of seeing and hearing these characters come to life. It looks like January is when we’ll be shooting. Can’t wait! NOVEMBER 1 I prefer to work quickly, using mainly natural light and a very small crew, but, because I shoot my own ﬁlms, and this is my ﬁrst time using the RED camera, it looks like I’ll have to go with a larger crew. This is scary. Vancouver is a “service industry” city ﬁrst, and indigenous ﬁlmmaking, because of the lower budgets involved, is somewhat marginalized. We have great traditional crews, but the proximity of such a large industry means that almost all of our talent ends up there instead of independent ﬁlm and there is little chance for an innovative and inspired independent ﬁlmmaking community (like Austin, Texas for example) to evolve. I think we need to work hard to change this. I wonder if I should take a step back and re-evaluate. My experience with a “micro-crew” aﬀorded me an intimacy with the actors that I know traditional ﬁlmmaking will not allow. Obviously I need more than one person here. I worry that I’m not listening to my instincts. Should I get rid of the makeup artists, the grips, the majority of the crew and really focus on that intimacy that leads to naturalistic performances? Or is it too late? Will these bigger “name” actors be willing to work without make-up artists? Am I strong enough to kick everybody but the boom operator and the focus puller oﬀ the set for every take? I’m worried I’ll lose speed and spontaneity along with the possibility of discovering interesting mistakes. These mistakes are what make ﬁlmmaking magical and worthwhile to me. NOVEMBER 4 I get the word that one of the people who inspired me to make ﬁlms, Don McKellar, will be playing the role of Russell. Don’s work has been a big inﬂuence, and with Don in the role of Russell this ﬁlm has suddenly become something much bigger to me. Another long day of looking for the perfect house. 25
TERRY MILES, DIRECTOR PHOTO CATE CAMERON
The house is a major character in this ﬁlm. We need to ﬁnd the perfect place for this family to self-destruct. NOVEMBER 15 Another one of my favourite actors in the world, Lauren Lee Smith, has jumped on board. She would prefer the role of Karen, but is willing to do Jules because she really loves the script. I’m excited. I can’t stop thinking that Tygh Runyan has to be Patrick. Tygh really connected with the script and let me know how he felt about playing the role. DECEMBER 9 I spend the day looking at online auditions and demo reels. We’re having a hard time casting the complex Carly character. A
DECEMBER 15 Today we ﬁnd out that Don isn’t going to be able to play Russell because of a tragedy in his personal life. We wish him all the best, and sincerely thank him for everything. DECEMBER 17 It looks like Jennifer Beals, Gil Bellows, and Kathleen Robertson are very interested in the roles of Melanie, Jack, and Jules. Also, John Pyper-Ferguson, who we have been thinking of as Jack for some time (although he preferred the role of Russell) is now a frontrunner for Russell. We found our Carly, Leah Gibson, through audition. Whew. I can ﬁnally see the cast coming together. DECEMBER 29 We shoot in less
from our Casting Director. The woman victim in the carjacking was Carly Pope. JANUARY 6, 2010 Carly Pope is going to be ﬁne, which is great news, but she’s not going to be ﬁne quite soon enough to work on the ﬁlm. Lauren Lee Smith had a change in her schedule and has stepped into the role of Karen. It will be great to work with Lauren! I’m so excited. JANUARY 7 I wake up early and go meet Jennifer Beals for the ﬁrst time. She is beautiful, intelligent and down to earth. Wow. This is going to be a great cast. I loved Jennifer in Roger Dodger, The Last Days of Disco and
“...They dove into the sex scenes, the dramatic scenes, and everything else with trust and abandon... they are incredible, and I can’t wait to shoot some more with them.” - on working with actors Lauren Lee Smith and Tygh Runyan few potentials, including one stolen by JJ Abrams at the very last minute. It’s getting close to January! DECEMBER 14 We have to release Lauren Lee Smith (Jules) because we had to modify our shooting schedule and it didn’t mesh with hers. This is totally understandable, but really disappointing. 26
than two weeks and we still don’t have our house. I notice a carjacking on the front page of a news site. It happened in Vancouver. Somebody went crazy and smashed a bunch of cars, and ended up crashing into the CBC building. What kind of world? In Vancouver? Crazy. DECEMBER 30 I receive an email
The Anniversary Party. We talk about so many things. She has a couple of really great ideas for Melanie. JANUARY 9 My team believes a cast dinner at the location house will be a great way to bond a bit before the chaos begins. Good idea, except, with a call time at 6am the next day… that’s a pretty short bonding session.
JANUARY 10 Cast dinner. Kristine Cofsky and Katie Hazen deliver an amazing experience in the house that Cam McLellan built. Lauren is so engaging and her energy so good and clear and strong. She is going to be the most amazing and radiant Karen. I can’t believe it starts tomorrow. I also can’t believe day one for Lauren and Tygh is their sex scene. Also, Sarah Lind (Tygh’s real life wife) is playing Amanda, the character who discovers them having sex against the side of the house. I can’t wait to talk about this when it’s all over! JANUARY 11 Up at 4am for day one: half of day one is cancelled due to rain. We’ll have to ﬁnd another day. One particular union has been a real challenge (our budget level is ‘in between’ and they have nothing set up that works well for both sides) and now, another union has stepped in and demanded more money. My personal line of credit is suﬀering. On the bright side, Pyper and Leah are really great together and the crew is fast. Each actor has a completely diﬀerent take on the process of making a ﬁlm, and actors of diﬀering levels of experience have diﬀerent needs and foibles. In a huge ensemble ﬁlm, this means a lot of “conversation” with the director, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I get most of the shots I designed. The “pancake” scene will be well covered. JANUARY 12 We’re running out of money. I hear about everything. There is no shelter for me as a director or writer, because I’m a producer. I look forward to the day that I don’t have to hear about money issues on a daily basis. Lauren and Tygh are two of the most amazing, fearless, incredible talents alive. They dove into the sex scenes, the dramatic scenes, and everything else with trust and abandon. They were both willing to do anything to make the scene feel right. They are incredible, and I can’t wait to shoot some more with them. We have more lights than we need, and somehow we’re starting to use them all for every scene, which is really slowing us down. Even with all the setbacks, I think this is going to be a movie. JANUARY 15 It’s a really great night of shooting. I tell everybody we’ll wrap two hours early. We end up wrapping half an hour early, but we got almost eight pages. I’m energized when we wrap (instead of the usual “end of the world” feeling). Collaborating with these actors REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
is an incredible experience, scary and rewarding. Gil, Jennifer, Pyper, Leah, Kathleen and all the rest. A great cast. JANUARY 16 Even though the crew is bigger (which means inevitably slower), my experience in guided improvisation and ultra low budget ﬁlmmaking helps speed up certain parts of the process and allows me to manipulate the script and the action on the ﬂy, giving the actors time and room to play around and ﬁnd certain scenes that are more of a challenge as opposed to just “getting the day.” The big issue on this ﬁlm up to this point remains the lighting. If you’ve committed to a certain “working method,” you need your entire crew to be as excited about this method as you are. I’m committed to using only (or at least mainly) available light, but some key crew members have a different take, and more and more hours are being lost to lighting each day. I’m starting to see every light from the truck on the set for almost every setup. This is really taking time away from shooting, and I’m starting to lose more than half of my shot-list every day. JANUARY 17 Three locations on opposite sides of the city in one day. I’m trying to be the very best audience I can be for all of the actors as we move through this work, but with all the other elements to consider, it’s physically and emotionally draining almost each and every moment. The second scene of the day feels a bit heavy. Gil and Jennifer are so good at what they do and they work at such a high level. I think I may have failed them a bit by not pulling this scene back. There’s so much subtext that it feels almost bogged down. I should have trimmed it back a bit on the page. I do that on set. We arrive at the third location of the day. It will be a good scene, but it’s been a long day, and all of the cast and crew are ready for this day (this movie?) to end. Also, because all this lighting (we don’t need) means our smaller crew is taxed, I need to help load the truck almost every night. This means there’s zero time to make a shot-list when I get home. I prefer to visualize the next day’s shots the night before. This is tough, for all of us. JANUARY 18 Because we went so far “out of our weight class” with cast, Sidney and I keep pushing forward using our own money to get it in the can. We’ll make it, but we can’t even begin to think about post production at this point. REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
We have the big ﬁght scene between Patrick and Russell tonight (shooting 3pm to 3am) and I’ve decided to stage it somewhat “oﬀscreen.” This is a bit of a cheat, but I’ve edited this type of thing before and I know what I need to shoot in order to make it more believable, or at least more interesting than the typical sketchy stunt stuﬀ low budget ﬁlms normally employ. I shoot handheld. JANUARY 20 Katie is kind enough to schedule Tygh’s big scene ﬁrst. I’m scared and excited, and I’m going to storyboard a little bit for eyeline, for action, I think. Big action scenes and dinner table scenes are really the only time I make up rough storyboards. Eyeline is easy to miss when you have ten people at a table. Kathleen Robertson arrives and Jules comes to life. I am a huge Kathleen Robertson fan. What a cast. Another week or so and we’re wrapped! FEBRUARY/MARCH Editing all day (every day). We’re planning on screening the ﬁlm for a handful of ﬁlm industry friends at least two or three times. APRIL/MAY One problem with aiming so far above your budget as far as casting goes is that you have no money to pay for post production personnel. I have a great deal of experience sound editing, but spending the entire month of April doing a rough sound edit of the ﬁlm in my bedroom was not fun times. JUNE 21 We screen the ﬁlm for the Toronto, Vancouver and Whistler ﬁlm festivals all in the same day. The sound mix is temporary, but hopefully they can see past that to the narrative and the performances beneath. AUGUST The Toronto International Film Festival invites A Night for Dying Tigers to premiere there in September. Invitations from Vancouver and Calgary follow. EPILOGUE This ﬁlm has taught me so much: no matter what your shooting formats are all the lights you need ﬁt into a Honda Civic. On a ten-hour day, if you’re not actually shooting for at least ﬁve of those hours, you’re wasting time. When you are director, producer and editor, you need to make sure the director and producer parts of you give the editor part enough to work with in the editing room! To badly paraphrase Werner Herzog, making bad movies is easy. Making good movies is hard. ■
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The Definitive Producing Workbook For the producer, the world of independent film and television production is often surrounded by a sea of paperwork. The contracts, documents and requirements of agencies are constantly in flux. Nothing is definitive, every contract has its own set of particulars and every deal is different. "Boilerplate" agreements are open to negotiation. Rules can be flexible. The PW4 will help guide a producer through some of the overwhelming volume of documents involved in the world of independent film and television production. Legal writers review the standard clauses and reveal issues of concern to producers negotiating contracts. Many sample agreements are included for reference. The book provides a comprehensive overview of national and provincial funding bodies and engaging stories and words of wisdom by seasoned producers.
Order Order your yourcopy copytoday: today: 604-451-7335 604-685-1152 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Paper trail should be going green Lori Massini & Kim Roberts Entertainment Lawyers
Anyone who has been through a ﬁnancial closing for a ﬁlm or TV series knows that an astonishing amount of paper is consumed for the bank and bond. Whenever we complete the ﬁnancing for a project, we imagine the small forest that was chain sawed to supply the many copies of documents that were exchanged during the closing. But is it necessary to waste this much paper? Lawyers, like everyone else, are creatures of habit and conserving is still not an integral part of the legal process. And when things get tense (as they usually do when everyone is waiting for the money to ﬂow), no one is interested in trying something new. For lead actor agreements, for example, four copies are generally signed, one each for the actor’s agent and lawyer, one for the producer, and one for the producer’s lawyer. The average actor agreement is in excess of 10 pages. Many are much longer. Each movie has a number of lead actors plus deal memos for crew and supporting cast. This adds up to a lot of unnecessary paper. If we could limit these agreements to one original for each cast and crew member, a lot of trees could be saved. Many people believe that they need originals for a contract to be enforceable. This is simply not true. An electronic copy saved on your hard drive is just as enforceable as an original, and much less wasteful.
However, for the ﬁnancing of productions, we still typically receive all documents in quadruplicate although ﬁnanciers only require one signed original. The reason for the one original is that when electronic copies are permitted, people will sometimes use an electronic signature rather than an actual signature and there has been some debate about the enforceability of electronic signatures. One practice that we feel is unnecessary is the circulation of binders containing copies of every single ﬁnancing document to all parties after the completion of ﬁnancing. Some bank counsel, such as Juliet Smith, are trying to encourage their clients to stick to one original copy for ﬁnancing documents and are contacting production lawyers in advance to see if electronic copies and a CD containing copies of all documents will suﬃce for their purposes. Although this practice isn’t widespread, we think it would turn around very quickly if clients make it clear to their bank and to their lawyers how high a priority they place on conservation. Of course, waste in our industry doesn’t just happen in lawyer’s oﬃces. Although production companies like Screen Siren have been eﬀective in implementing electronic call sheets and on-line script revisions (where the greatest paper waste used to occur) and have established green policies for all crew, there is still often little regard for the environment Paper trail continued on next page
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REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
Paper trail cont. from previous
in many departments and, in particular, in catering and construction. I’m sure anyone who has spent any time on set knows how rare it is these days to eat with anything but plastic utensils and has seen the mounds of garbage hauled oﬀ set every day. The BC Film Commission is on the cutting edge with a website that has been created by Gordon Hardwick. Called reelgreen (www.reelgreen. bc.ca), the site identiﬁes suppliers who are already taking green initiatives and suggests best practices for conservation during production. Gemini Nominations cont. from page 30
phy nomination for Winnipeg-based best program nominee Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story while another Winnipeg-based series, Less Than Kind won a best comedy performance nomination for Arthur Benjamin. Newfoundland’s Republic of Doyle won a best actress in a series nomination for Lynda Boyd. British Columbians won several nominations in craft categories. Linda Del Rosario won a series production design nomination for Iron Road; Riverworld won sound nominations in the dramatic program category for Iain Pattison, Rich Walters, Graeme Hughes, David Cyr, Kirby Jinnah, Paul Sharpe and James Wallace and J. Martin Taylor and Jamie Mahaﬀey won best sound nominations for an information/documentary program for Darwin’s Brave New World – Publish and Be Damned. They will be competing with Jo Rossi, a nominee in the same category for Ice Pilots NWT. The animated series Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 won directing nominations for Johnny Darrell and Clint Butler and a score nomination
BC Film is also taking the lead in this area, introducing an on-line application process in 2008 for the Production Service Tax Credit and for Film Incentive BC in 2009. BC Film was the ﬁrst in the country to do this and their system allows for all supporting documentation to be submitted electronically. Sometimes the only way to change habits is to say there is no other choice. Every time a new production starts up, there is an opportunity to change the rules. As a result, producers are in a unique position to make conservation everyone’s choice. ■ for Brian Carson. Eric Goldstein and Brent Fidler won performing arts program nominations for directing Poe-The Last Days of the Raven and Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji won documentary program directing nominations for 65 Red Roses. BC actors and hosts nominated included Landon Liboiron who is nominated in the children’s program category for Degrassi: the Next Generation; Christopher Heyerdahl, a best guest role nominee for Sanctuary; Grace Park, a nominee for her continuing role in the drama The Border and Anna & Kristina’s Grocery Bag co-hosts Kristina Matisic and Anna Wallner, who are nominated in the lifestyle/practical information or performing arts category. The Geminis will be presented over the course of three nights in Toronto. The Industry Gala Presentations will take place on Tuesday November 2nd and Wednesday November 3rd at the Kool Haus Entertainment Complex while the Broadcast Gala will take place on Saturday November 13th at the Winter Garden Theatre and will be broadcast live-to-tape on Global and Showcase. ■
Beginnings continued from page 15
(sponsored by Teleﬁlm and the DGC), which gave me $ 10,000 in cash towards a short ﬁlm I wrote and directed called The Highway House. It was exciting, scary and exhausting all at the same time and taught me that, contrary to the cliché, I didn’t “really want to direct.” The ﬁlm was saved by my producers, Mary Anne Waterhouse and Diane Patrick O’Connor, and my DP, Glen Winter. It got into the Vancouver Film Festival in 1996 and that was a great experience. I then worked as in-house counsel for Opus Productions, a local book publisher, then got a job at Teleﬁlm’s local oﬃce as Project Manager, which was basically being a business analyst for the federal ﬁnancing agency on documentary and drama projects. This was my ﬁrst thorough education in the Canadian ﬁlm ﬁnancing and tax credit system and was invaluable. I saw lots of option agreements, series-producing deals, distribution contracts and ﬁnancing scenarios and learned why recoupment schedules are so puzzling for our foreign friends. (Canadian tax credits, although already recouped, get recouped again!) After a year and a half at Teleﬁlm, I went to work in legal and business affairs for Vidatron Entertainment Group, a locally-based and growing public company run by Tim Gamble and Cam White. Larry Sugar had a leading role in it too and the company produced some successful shows including a slate of movies for Showtime in the U.S. (and Hallmark internationally) as well as a number of long-form dramatic series including Dead Man’s Gun and First Wave. Vidatron was eventually renamed Peace Arch Entertainment Group and became listed on the Toronto and American Stock Exchanges.
By 2000, Peace Arch was one of the biggest production companies in Canada. That was also the year we invested heavily in two productions, the action series Immortal, starring Lorenzo Lamas, and Big Sound, a half hour comedy starring Greg Evigan and David Steinberg that was backed by Global and the US cable channel VH-1. VH-1 reneged on the Big Sound deal and we sold the company to Gary Howsam’s Greenlight Film and Television which relocated it to Toronto. Since then, I’ve been in private practice with Grossman & Stanley and continue to act for Canadian producers of drama, documentary and reality television, animation, visual eﬀects and digital content. I also work for some L.A.based companies producing in Canada. The world is always changing and what’s new and exciting is the same thing that is scary and unknown. Today that would include the internet and mobile devices which are changing the way people consume entertainment or create their own user-generated content. Right now there is a fundamental shift taking place in the business. How “entertainment” is deﬁned and how it is distributed to audiences all over the world is changing fast. While traditional “television” content is increasingly diﬃcult to ﬁnance, I believe that new business models will reward producers that have the foresight, imagination and business savvy to market a number of products over multiple platforms (i.e. projects having one genesis but several applications and revenue streams). How people carve up distribution rights-and derivative rights-- in the coming decade will be increasingly more complicated, but this business shift will also create new opportunities for people entering the ﬁeld with the digital skills and expertise to navigate in this brave new media world. ■
REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
BRENT FIDLER WON PERFORMING ARTS PROGRAM NOMINATIONS FOR DIRECTING POE-THE LAST DAYS OF THE RAVEN FIDLER
It’s a Kind Universe for Western Television Two western Canada-shot television shows were amongst the leaders when the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced its 2010 Gemini nominations. BC’s Stargate Universe won nominations in nine categories while Manitoba’s Less Than Kind won eight nominations. The only productions to score more nods than Stargate were the Toronto-shot Flashpoint, which won 15 nominations, including four for cast and crew living in BC, and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics with 13 nominations (mostly for its Toronto-based crew and hosts.) Stargate Universe’s BC cast and crew won nominations for best dramatic series, visual eﬀects, (Krista McLean, Andrew Karr, Mark Savela, Craig Vandenbiggelaar, Brenda Campbell, Alec Mclymont, Michael Lowers, Viv Jim, Shannon Gurney and Kodie MacKenzie) picture editing (Rick Martin), direction (Andy Mikita), lead actor (Louis Ferreira and Robert Carlyle), musical score (Joel Goldsmith) and cinematography (Jim Menard.) Less Than Kind won a best comedy series nomination for its Manitoba producer Phyllis Laing. The show’s Winnipeg-based actor Lisa Durupt, is nominated in the best individual performance in a comedy category. Other Manitoba-based nominees included Jamie Brown, who won a nomination for Til Debt Do Us Part (lifestyle/information series); Shawn Pierce, who is nominated for scoring the documentary The Secret World of Shoplifting; production designer Rejean Labrie and costume designer Patricia Henderson, both nominated in 30
their respective trades for their work on the TV movie Keep Your Head Up Kid: The Don Cherry Story and Ray Turnbull, who won a best sports analyst nomination for his coverage of the 2010 Tim Horton’s Brier. Manitoba producer Merit Jensen Carr won a nomination for best science, technology, nature, environment or adventure documentary for One Ocean: Mysteries of the Deep and joined Virgil Kanne, Alexandra Rosentreter and Kevin Glasier as a nominee for the interactive version of the show, which is up for best cross-platform project. And the producers of CBC Winnipeg’s news won a nomination for best local newscast in a large market. Alberta’ X-Weighted Families did well in the general/human interest series category with nominations for best series and best direction (Patricia Harris Seeley.) Other Alberta shows that did well included Broke, which won Rosie Dransﬁeld nominations for the Donald Brittain Award and best direction for a documentary; Johnny Reid: Live at the Jubilee which won best sound nominations for Dave Harrison and Francesco Russo; On Home Ice which won nominations for best sport analysis for both Gord Redel and Don Metz and The Canadian Country Music Awards 2009 which won nominations for best music, variety program or series and direction (Morris Abraham.) Individual nominations went to Alberta-based Wapos Bay actor DerRick Starlight for best performance in an animated program, to James Fonnyadt for providing sound to the drama Riverworld and Michael Molineux who
was nominated for a best sound Gemini for a comedy variety or performing arts program for The 2010 Juno Awards. Wapos Bay contributed several nominations to the Saskatchewan list. The show won nominations for Geminis for best animated program or series and category awards for direction and writing (Trevor Cameron) and original score (Ross Nykiforuk.) Also faring well were Silent Bombs: All for the Motherland, which won Rob King a directing nomination in the documentary program category; Saskatchewan River Delta, which won sound nominations in the information/documentary category for Cary Ciesielski, David Taylor and Lucas Hart and a photography nomination for Ian Toews. Hell on Hooves won nominations for best general human interest series and a writing nomination in the same category for Doug Hudema. CBC News Saskatchewan won a nomination as best local newscast in a small market while Hiccups DOP Anton Krawczyk won a comedy program nomination for his photography. BC’s nominations list was led by Stargate Universal and a trio of pop and rock stars. Bob Rock, who was a founder of the iconic punk band The Payolas, and Vancouver-based singer Michael Buble are nominated for At the Concert Hall. Rock is nominated for best sound while Buble is nominated for hosting the show. Elvis Costello is nominated for Best Talk Series for the show Spectacle: Elvis Costello With… Several BC-shot shows are nominated in their individual categories. Kid vs. Kat, from Studio B is up for best animated program or series; Al-
ice is nominated for best dramatic mini-series as well as for Vancouverite Matt Frewer’s performance, the make-up supplied by Lisa Love and Paul Edwards and for Angus Strathie’s costume design. Word Travels is nominated for a Gemini as best documentary series and The Cupcake Girls is nominated for the best reality show Gemini and for best direction of a reality show (Grant Greschuk.) News and sports cast and crew brought several nominations to BC. Global BC News won a nomination in the best newscast, large market category while Global National won a nomination in the best breaking news category for its Catastrophe in Haiti series. Brian Grahn won a writing nomination in the information and news category for his work on Global National and is also nominated for producing best news series nominee Everyday Hero Special. Glen Suitor won a best sports analyst nomination for TSN’s coverage of the 2009 Grey Cup. Ron Forsythe won a best direction nomination for his work on Hockey Night in Canada’s playoﬀ coverage. Three Vancouverites won nominations for CBC news shows. Erica Johnson is nominated as best host or interviewer for a news program for CBC News: Marketplace while Shane Foxman and Ian Hanomansing are nominated for CBC News Vancouver, in, respectively, the sportscaster/anchor and news anchor categories. A CBC Vancouver crew also won nominations for best special event coverage for Canada Remembers. BC nominees in new media categories included Sanctuary, which was nominated for a best cross-platform project Gemini in the ﬁction category; Waterlife.nfb.ca, a nominee for best original show produced for digital media in the non-ﬁction category and the shows Vetala and My Pal Satan which won nominations in the best original digital media show category. Flashpoint was one of several series that were produced elsewhere but won nominations for BC residents. Flashpoint won dramatic series category nominations for writing (Ian Weir), guest role performance (Ona Grauer), direction (David Frazee) and editing (Lara Mazur.) Jared Keeso won a best performance nomination and Glen MacPherson won a photograGemini Nominations cont. on page 29
REEL WEST SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER 2010
Published on Sep 1, 2010
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