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Primary and Rufus







Canadian distribution companies are working with filmmakers to get movies into local cinemas











Although there have been many changes in the distribution landscape, Canadian companies are still working with filmmakers to get movies into local cinemas. The key difference in the modern era is the difficulty of finding ancillary sources of funding after the films move on from theatres.








Dylan Akio Smith and Kris Elgstrand of Doppelgänger Paul look back at working with Torontobased Filmswelike on the distribution of their BC-produced film.


18 RARE BIRDS Vancouver’s Joel Heath spent seven years documenting the past and present of a small northern community. In his diary on the making of People of a Feather, he looks back at the day he fended off polar bears with a rifle, the day he helped to build a traditional igloo and the day he brought his collaborators from the north to his hometown for its premiere.


22 COST AND EFFECT Vancouver-based filmmakers Vince Prokop and Ross Ferguson went into the making of the film Primary with the feeling that the combination of a strong cast and a frugal budget would be the best way to tell their story. It stars Dustin Milligan as a man with a secret that could destroy his life.

26 WESTERN ALIENATION Saskatchewan’s Karma Film has taken the trendy vampire theme and moved it to a rural Prairie town. They are hoping that setting teenaged angst against an isolated backdrop will set a mood that separates their film from others.





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

Primary’s DUSTIN MILLIGAN as Nicholas and ANDREW FRANCIS as Mitchell


Local Productions get Fast Start BC productions have gotten off to a good start in 2012. The features Primary and Random Acts of Romance and the television series Contiuum and Primeval – New World all took to the streets and studios of the city in February and March. Primary has an impressive Canadian cast that includes Dustin Milligan, Michael Eklund and Katherine Isabelle telling its story of a businessman who loses everything after falling under the influence of a charismatic drifter. It is executive produced by Louis Webster with Asha Gill, Vince Prokop and Ross Ferguson producing


and Ferguson directing. The DOPs are Graham Talbot and Nelson Talbot, the production designer is Josh Plaw, Gill doubles as production manager while the production coordinator is Lauren Beason and the location manager is John Wittmayer. It wrapped in February after a four week shoot. Random Acts of Romance, the story of couples in love and lust has Amazon Falls director Katrin Bowen helming with Avi Federgreen, Lindsay Macadam and Jason Riley as executive producers and Darren Reiter producing, Shawn Angelski as line producer, Brendan Uegama as DOP,

Monika Choynowski as production designer, Derrick Bauman as production manager, Heidi Cestari as production coordinator and Michael Gazetas as location manager. The cast includes Vancouver veterans like Amanda Tapping, Zak Santiago, Katherine Isabelle and Sonja Bennett. It wrapped in late February after three weeks of photography. Continuum, a show about criminals who can time travel, is being produced by Vancouver’s Reunion Productions and has Jeff King, Tom Rowe, Simon Barry and Patrick Williams as executive producers

with Sara B. Cooper as co-executive producer, Holly Redford as line producer, David Pelletier as DOP, Chris August as production designer, Todd Pittson as production manager, Carol Schafer as production coordinator and Alan Bartolic as location manager. Primeval – New World is here until July. The story will centre on a new Canadian team of animal experts taking on creatures that come through the anomalies that are appearing around the world. The executive producers are Michael Chechik, Gabriela Schonbach, Tim Haines, Katie Newman, Martin Wood and Gillian Horvath with George Horie producing, Michael Blundell and Ryan McMaster as the DOPs, Rachel O’Toole as production designer, Doug Brons as production manager, Elaine Fleming as production coordinator and Heather Vedan and Greg Astop as location managers. American producers are here as well of course, with director Sergei Bodrov leading the way with the movie Seventh Son, the story of a man with extraordinary powers in the 1700s. It has Jon Jashni and Brent O’Connor as executive producers, Basil Iwanyk and Thomas Tull as producers, Erica Lee and Jillian Zacks as co-producers, Newton Thomas Sigel as DOP, Dante Ferretti as production designer, Brendan Ferguson as production manager, Nicole Oguchi as production coordinator and Greg Jackson as location manager. The cast includes Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. Thor Freudenthal returns with a second Percy Jackson movie, Percy


Jackson: Sea Of Monsters. It has Karen Rosenfelt and Bill Bannerman as producers with Johnson as DOP, Claude Pare as production designer, Michael Williams as production manager, Colleen Mitchell as unit manager, Bliss McDonald as production coordinator and Abraham Fraser as location manager. And Bryan Singer, who was here for X-Men 2: X-Men United, returns to direct a pilot of a show that is expected to eventually show up on NBC. Entitled Mockingbird Lane it is the revisiting of the 1960s hit The Munsters and has Singer, Bryan Fuller and John Wirth as executive producers with Carol Trussell and Jason Taylor as producers, Michael Weaver as the DOP, Michael Wylie as the production designer, Brad Jubenvill as the production manager, Kathleen Whelan as the production coordinator, Steve Sachs as the location manager and Mike Vezina as the special effects coordinator. Also expected to make it to air is Arrow, a story about a man (Stephen Amell) who uses his archery skills to become a superhero. It has David Nutter directing with executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg with J.P Finn producing, Glen Winter the DOP, Richard Hudolin the production designer, Chris Rudolph the production manager, Lukia Czernin the production coordinator and Kirk Adamson as location manager. Another classic coming here is the sequel to the Canadian film A Christ-

mas Story 2 which has Brian Levant directing with Levant and Phil Goldfine producing, Chris Foss as coproducer/production manager, Jan Kiesser as DOP, Brentan Harron as production designer, Donald Munro as production coordinator and Ken Brooker as location manager. Also going straight to digital are two sequels to last year’s Steven Seagal actioner True Justice. True Justice: Blood Alley and True Justice: Vengeance is Mine have executive producers Phillip Goldfine and Keoni Waxman, co-executive producer Binh Dang, producers Benjamin Sacks and Scott Kennedy, line producer/production manager Michele Futerman, DOP Nathan Wilson, production designer Andy Deskin, production coordinators Micah Gardener and Crystal Remmey and location manager David Fullerton. The director of Blood Alley is Wayne Rose while Vengeance is Mine has Waxman directing. March pilot season is busy and includes several wannabe series including Midnight Son, which has Peter Traugott and Rachel Kaplan as producers with Justis Greene as line producer, Matthew Chipera as production manager, Eva Morgan as production coordinator and Kendrie Upton as location manager. Also here is the pilot Cult, the story of the disappearances that befall a TV series. It has Rockne O’Bannon, Josh Schwartz, Stephanie Savage and Len Goldstein as executive producers, JB Moranville as producer, Jason Ensler as director, Robert Gentz as DOP, Brent

Thomas as production designer, Penny Gibbs as production manager, Jill Christensen as production coordinator and Rob Murdoch as location manager. The pilot for the hospital drama First Cut has Dan Jinks and Jennie Snyder Urman as executive producers, Grace Gilroy producing, Bharat Nalluri directing, Nate Goodman as DOP, James Philpott as production designer, Yvonne Melville as production manager, Genevieve Bridges as production coordinator and Bill Burns as location manager. The pilot Penoza tells the story of a Mafia widow who takes over her late husband’s job to protect her family. It has Melissa Rosenberg, Jeremy Gold and Howard Klein as executive producers, Tim Iacofano as producer, Mark Pellington as director, Eric Schmidt as DOP, Devorah Herbert as production designer, Patti Allen as production manager, Kaayla Ryane as production coordinator and Greg Jackson as location manager. Quean, a pilot about a female hacker who works with the Oakland police, has Joel Silver and Ilene Chaiken as executive producers, Scott White as producer, Jaume Collett-Serra directing, Flavio Labano as DOP, Gary Steele as production designer, Ron McLeod as production manager, Lisa Ragosin as production coordinator and Danny McWilliams as location manager. The Selection stars Aimee Teagarden as a young woman who is selected to be part of a lottery to be

the queen of a country torn by war. It has Sarah Fain and Elizabeth Craft as executive producers, Lily Hui as producer, Mark Piznarski directing, Attila Szalay as DOP, Richard Paris and Linda Del Rosario as production designers, Bonnie Benwick as production manager, Deana Kittson as production coordinator and Thierry Thanguy as location manager. Here till late February was the movie of the week Christmas Miracle. The director was Terry Ingram while the executive producer was Jack Nasser. Deyshevar was the supervising producer, Tara Cowell-Plain was the line producer, Brian Davie was the production designer, Melyssa Rose was the production coordinator and John Wittmayer was the line producer. The television movie Taken Back is here throughout March with Roma Roth as executive producer, Ron French as producer, Brian D. Young as co-producer, Michelle Samuels as line producer/production manager, Mark Jean as director, Neil Cervin as DOP, Paul Joyal as production designer, Terri Garbutt as production coordinator and Tom Hoeverman as location manager. Who’s Your Monster will be here in late March and stay until May 1. The television movie has Sheri Singer as executive producer, Tracey Jeffrey as producer, Stuart Gillard directing, Thomas Burstyn as DOP, Mandy Spencer-Phillips as production manager, Fawn McDonald as production coordinator and Kirk Johns as location manager. n


Mina Shum Director Writer/director Mina Shum may be best known for 1994’s Double Happiness but she went from there to directing other films and a dozen episodes of television series including Da Vinci’s Inquest for which she won a DGC nomination, Next up is the feature film Two of Me. Home Town Vancouver Start Date Somewhere in Grade 6, when I put up a sign at school to create a theatrical version of the Donny and Marie Osmond show. Only one other kid showed up, but I made the most of it. Best Day After winning two major prizes at the awards ceremony at the Torino Film Festival in Italy for Double Happiness, I was walking down the street and a car full of film fans drove past me, waving the Italian flag and screaming Doppia Felicite at the top of their lungs. I felt like I scored the winning goal in the FIFA championships and on a deeper level, that my work connected.  Worst day Self-inflicted suffering is the worst. When I’m not actively working on a film, I feel empty and alone. Luckily those days are far and few between.  Most Memorable Working Experience So many. From trying to control my laughter while shooting a comedic serenading scene with a tone-deaf, rhythm challenged actor to completing my first feature shoot and knowing in my bones that we had done something worthwhile.  If I won an Oscar I would thank The love of my life, film composer Brent Belke for being my light, my son Tai for inspiring me everyday, my Mom and my sister Mona and her family for always being in my corner.  My Latest Five Year Plan To shoot my next feature. I’m presently looking for the next directing project – either a TV series or feature, something I didn’t write, but would benefit from my smart, funny and true direction. While looking out for new projects, I will also be re-writing a smaller character-driven comedy, Bender, an idea that came to me 15 years ago, but has only now unlocked itself.



Debaters Signs with US A series that started on Vancouver’s Immigration Law Group CBC radio is being pitched to American television. William Morris En• Work Permits deavor will represent The Debaters catherine a. Sas, Q.c. • Permanent Resident Applications when the series concept is pitched Registered Foreign Legal Consultant • Business Applications: Entrepreneur with the State Bar of California to U.S. networks, according to ex and Self-Employed ecutive producers Richard Side and For more information please call 604.687.2242 Brian Roberts. added experience. added clarity. added value.  The Debaters, which was created by Side, a Vancouver-based writer, debuted on Canadian television last Miller Thomson LLP year. It found its first home on CBC vancouver calgary edmonton saskatoon regina london kitchener-waterloo Radio, where it has stayed six years. guelph toronto markham montréal Described by spokesperson Lorraine Jamieson as “part stand up, part quiz show and part comedy MT_Reel West Digest Ad_v6.indd 1 5/5/2011 1:35:47 PM competition,” the show features two debates between two different comics.  Winners of each debate are determined by a live studio audience Executive producer Roberts says

he first heard The Debaters on CBC Radio. “It was really, really funny,” he says, “and I wondered ‘Why isn’t this on television?’ It reformats and reinvents comedy in a smart way. It challenges comedians with subjects ranging from topical to taboo. There’s always an entertaining result when comedians are put in the unique position of arguing, and in this election year that is already rife with debating politicians, there’s never been a better time to give comedians a shot at television debates, too.” An Emmy Award-winning director who has directed a slate of episodic comedies, including Everybody Loves Raymond and The Drew Carey Show, Roberts liked the show enough to option the television rights. 

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Director KATRIN BOWEN (left) shares a laugh with actor KATHARINE ISABELLE


Random Acts Wraps

The BC production Random Acts of Romance is currently in post production after wrapping in February. It stars Robert Moloney and Laura Bertram as rich newlyweds and Amanda Tapping, Katherine Isabelle, Zak Santiago and Sonja Abbott as friends and neighbours. The film was directed by Katrin Bowen, who took her debut film Amazon Falls to the Toronto International Film Festival, a Leo Award, the Best Debut Feature Award at the Female Eye Film Festival and the 2011 Artistic Achievement Award from Women in Film.   The executive producers are Avi Federgreen, Lindsay Macadam and Jason Riley. The line producer is Shawn Angelski and the co-producer is Zak Santiago. Brenda Uegama is the director of photography and Franco Pante is the editor. 6


BITS AND BYTES Rude Toys Vancouver’s Rude Boy Games recently announced that it is launching a “new twist” on social games. Called Zwonks, it is described by producer Palle Hoffstein as “an addictive social collecting game that uses friend-to-friend messaging as part of its novel gameplay.” “Zwonks is a new kind of social game,” said Hoffsetein. “There’s a layer of social play where you help your friends advance in the game, and another layer that’s about expressing and sharing.” Hoffstein said Zwonks are quirky creatures that can be customized, accessorized, and shared with friends through Kik Messenger and email. He said Rude Boy Games recently partnered with Kik Messenger for the launch and that he Zwonks game, a featured platform app for the Kik Messenger API, is now available on iTunes. According to Hoffstein, a player unlocks Zwonks by collecting its Zwag set, Zwonk’s “unique” assortment of accessories. Players give, receive or buy Piñatas and then “whack ‘em” for a chance to win rare Zwag or Gemz. He said that with Zwonks collectibles, players can spice up their Kik instant messages and show off their collection to their friends.

Dammys Deadlines Announced RACHEL NICHOLS as Kiera in Continuum


Continuum Gets Spring Showcase

Reunion Pictures’s Contiuum, an original one hour drama-action series about a policewoman from 2077 who travels back in time, is slated to premiere in Canada on Shaw Media’s specialty channel, Showcase, this spring. “We’ve been excited about this show from the day Simon Barry told us the story,” says Reunion’s Tom Rowe. “It’s attracted a lot of terrific talent on both sides of the camera. Shaw Media shares our belief that smart writing, a great cast and a highly creative production team will bring us all success.” The series stars Rachel Nichols, Victor Webster and Erik Knudson. It was created by Jeff King and Barry is the show runner. Rowe is executive producer. Directors for the series include Jon Cassar and Patrick Williams, who also serves as executive producer. Imageworks Vancouver Expands Sony Pictures Imageworks recently announced it will be expanding its Vancouver capacity by opening an additional 16,000 square feet of space in Yaletown. The company says that the expansion will facilitate work on several productions including Men In Black 3, The Amazing-SpiderMan, Oz The Great And Powerful and Hotel Transylvania. “Vancouver today is a vibrant digital production center that offers a strong talent base and significant government incentives vital to our ability to deliver exceptional quality REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

and value to our clients,” said Randy Lake, executive vice-president and general manager of Sony Pictures Spokesperson Don Levy said Imageworks’ opened its Vancouver office in 2010 for work on The Smurfs and that the new office effectively doubles the floor space. Levy also said that the two Yaletown locations, two blocks apart, are “fully connected” to Imageworks’ Culver City data center. He said Imageworks Canada will occupy a total of 32,000 square feet of office space when the new location comes online in March.

Events company Createasphere recently announced that it will hold its 3rd Annual DAMMY Awards in New York on September 28, 2012. A spokesperson said written submissions for the awards, which honour companies and individuals involved in the management of digital assets, media assets, marketing resources, content and information lifecycle, and storage, security and preservation will open on April 2. Categories eligible for entry on that date will include Dammy of the Year; Best Storage, Archive and/or Preservation Solution; Best Example of Asset & Media Repurposing; Best Strategy or Solution for Digital & Media Asset Management During The Acquisition of Content and Best Strategy Ease of Use for End-User Interface. The deadline for submissions is August 1, 2012. The spokesperson said The Dammy Awards debuted in 2010 in New York at a gala luncheon, and are the industry’s only honors recognizing achievement in the area of digital asset management. She said the awards return to the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan for the 2012 event.

Proudly supporting film and video production in Western Canada since 1980. To pre-order your copy of the 2012 Reel West Digest call 1-888-291-7335 or visit


Silence is Golden A spokesperson for Vancouver’s upcoming Reel 2 Real Festival for Youth says that the annual children’s film festival will pay tribute to silent films with the Canadian premiere of Not Just for Kids, a new program of silent short films, with live music accompaniment by The Alloy Orchestra. Helen Yagi says it is the first time that Reel 2 Real will present silent films, and the first time Alloy will be playing a live musical performance in Canada for a younger audience. She said the selections include Buster Keaton’s One Week, The Pet by Winsor McCay and Artheme Swallows His Clarinet.

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Yagi said that several local short films will also be shown including three animated movies, Big Swing, from director Paula Gilgannon, The Basketball Game from director Hart Snider and A Tax on Bunny Rabbits, from director Nathaniel Atkin. She said that live action locally produced films include Moira Simpson and Catrina Longmuir’s Telling Stories of the Nikkei, Katie Yu’s Anna-May Got Lost, Julien Thomas’s Grave Digging, Gary Hawes’ The Money Pet, Lisa Jackson’s Parkdale and Jay White’s The Perfect Detonator. The festival runs from April 13 to April 20.

TYGH RUNYAN and BRAD DRYBOROUGH in Doppelgänger Paul


Paul Gets Vancouver Opening Lights,Camera,Satisfaction!

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The Vancouver-produced feature Doppelgänger Paul (Or A Film About How Much I Hate Myself ) will follow up a February Toronto premiere with a March 16 opening at Vancity Theatre in Vancouver. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year prior to its screenings at the 2011 whistler film Festival and the 2012 Slandance festival. The movie tells the story of the unlikely relationship of Karl (Tygh Runyan), and Paul (Brad Dryborough), two lonely men on the brink of middle age. Following a near death experience, Karl comes to believe that Paul, a stranger he sees on the street, is his doppelgänger.  After stalking him for several weeks, Karl finally makes contact, thus setting in motion a bizarre chain of events. Dopplegänger Paul was directed by long-time collaborators Dylan Akio Smith and Kris Elgstrand. The producers were Katherine Hazen and Oliver Linsley with Jason Chen as executive producer. REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

Odyssey to Bulgaria Vancouver-based Odyssey Media Inc. recently announced that principal photography has wrapped in Sophia, Bulgaria on the company’s science fiction feature, Jet Stream. Spokesperson Devi Singh said the series is directed and scripted by Canadian Jeffrey Lando. Singh said Jet Stream is the first of six Canadian/Bulgaria treaty co-productions between Odyssey Media and the Bulgarian Unified Film Organization in Sophia.    The film stars David Chokachi

LEGAL BRIEFS and Preston James Hiller in the story of a TV weather reporter and a rogue scientist who band together to try to stop a 500 MPH killer wind storm from flattening everything on the planet. Singh said post-production is currently occurring at Odyssey Media’s facilities in Vancouver.  She said that in addition to world-wide distribution Jet Stream will premiere on the SyFy channel in the US and on Shaw Media affiliates in Canada.

Telluride Has Soul

A BC-produced documentary that looks at the survival of a woman trying to bring awareness to the endangered albatross through kayaking a dangerous sub-Antarctic island will have its American premiere at Telluride Mountain Festival in May. Ivan Hughes’ Soul of the Sea features 40 year old British Columbian Hayley Shephard’s battle with extreme weather, treacherous seas, severe injury and badly damaged gear as she attempts to solo kayak around the island of South Georgia. Producer Angela Heck says the film was shot in HD “against the dramatic backdrop of rugged peaks and stunning glaciers, trumpeting penguins and an abundance of wildlife.” “It was probably the most profound adventure I have ever undertaken,” says Shephard. “I was constantly reminded that despite all the planning and preparing, things don’t always go as planned but you can always find success in working through the challenges. I am really excited to share my story with a wider audience.” Hughes, who is based in Winnipeg, won the Best of Fest award at the 2004 Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival with the film In The Shadow of the Chief. Raising Cain A Winnipeg production is one of two projects from the 2010/11 NSI Totally Television program that have gone into development with CTV. The Mark of Cain by Winnipeg producer Shaun Johnson and writer Tammy Marlowe Johnson and Amnesia Girl by writer/producer Pat Mills from Toronto were both given development deals by the network. “NSI’s Totally Television program was absolutely invaluable in getting The Mark of Cain to where it is today.” said Tammy Marlowe Johnson. “The development intensives nurtured our REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

series concept, NSI’s amazing mentors championed our ideas, and our trip to Banff got the project into the hands of the hottest people in the industry. We are forever grateful.” According to spokesperson Lauren McDiarmid, NSI Totally Television has a track record of success. She said that over the past eight years 12 TV series have gone into development with a Canadian broadcaster. Of those, she said, five have been produced for television and broadcast on major networks, one was piloted and one was turned into a feature film.


Copyright Law Getting More Complicated

he law of copyright may seem fairly straightforward. When a tangible original work is created, copyright attaches to said work, giving the author the exclusive rights to use that piece of work for a set period of time. However, new copyright claims are being advanced more and more fre-

Lori Massini Entertainment Lawyer

quently, and the law has seen many recent and somewhat surprising changes. For example, a producer can include footage of the Eiffel Tower in their production without fear of consequence, unless, of course, the footage is taken at night, in which case that producer would need permission. Otherwise the use could constitute a breach of copyright. This is because in 1990 a French court ruled that the Eiffel Tower light show was protected by French Copyright Law. In July, 2011, a California court ruled that the actual features of a film character can be copyrighted, even when the characters are based on characters from a prior work that is in the public domain. In the case of Warner Bros. v. AVELA, the Court of Appeals held that they “agree with the district court’s conclusion that Dorothy, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, and Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. Each exhibit has ‘consistent, widely identifiable traits’ that are sufficiently distinctive to merit character protection under the respective film copyrights.” Another interesting development concerns a recent ruling in California, where a federal judge held that the design of the car driven by Batman, the Batmobile, was copyrightable. In January of this year, “Gotham Garage” owner, Mark Towles, submitted a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit brought against him by DC Comics. The lawsuit claimed that Towles had violated the rights of DC Comics by “producing and selling unlicensed replica vehicle modification kits based on vehicle design copyrights from [DC Comics’] Batman property, including various iterations of the fictional automobile, the Batmobile”. Towles advanced the argument that the suit should be dismissed, because the Batmobile is a “useful article,” and therefore not copyrightable.

Towles raised what seemed to be a valid objection to the lawsuit. According to U.S. Copyright Law, a “useful article”, which is defined as an “article having an intrinsic utilitarian function that is not merely to portray the appearance of the article or to convey information” is not copyrightable. Some examples include clothing, automobile bodies, furniture, machinery, and lighting fixtures. The judge ruled, however, that there is an exception to the useful article rule that grants copyright protection to nonfunctional artistic elements of automobile design that can be separated from the functionality of the automobile itself. Essentially the Court found that there can be elements of an automobile that serve no purpose other than to make the automobile a work of art. Although this ruling does not mean that DC Comics was successful in their lawsuit against Towles, it does mean that lawsuit can proceed. It also opens the door for other claims challenging the useful article rule. This finding could significantly impact the law going forward. If automobile bodies are copyrightable, what could this mean for other useful articles? For example, clothing is considered a useful article and therefore not protected by Copyright Law. However, in 2005, the case of Chosun Int’l, Inc. v. Chrisha Creations, Ltd. resulted in a court finding that while clothing may be a “useful article,” costumes are not, as their function is to “portray the appearance of the work.” This obviously would also apply to film costumes, and for certain costumes, like the Batman suit, for example, copyright protection makes sense, but what about costumes that are less ornamental? It would seem that the line could become quite blurred in this area and it will be interesting to see how courts define and interpret the term “useful article,” especially in the context of film and television productions. Lori Massini is a lawyer with the entertainment law boutique Roberts & Stahl. Lori’s practice focuses on entertainment law with an emphasis on the film and television industry. Lori advises producers on varied legal issues, including production financing, labour issues, contract negotiations, talent agreements as well as errors and omissions issues. n 9





Walter Daroshin


Filmmaker and President of the Leo Awards

was born and raised in downtown Toronto, on Ossington Avenue, between Dundas and College. When I turned 20, certain events that were shaping my life made me look West. A friend gave me a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I began reading poetry and song lyrics. I couldn’t get past “someone told me there’s a girl out there, with love in her eyes and flowers in her hair.” I bought a ‘76 Goldwing and headed out. After months on the road, traveling through the southern United States and Mexico, I found myself camping in the Grand Canyon. From there it was off to Lake Tahoe where I learned during a call home that a cousin of mine just had a baby, the first of our generation, up in British Columbia. I landed in Vancouver in 1980 and before I knew it I was managing an art gallery on Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano. My cousin had opened a photography studio and within a year I was taking photographs and shooting video. I was always interested in the arts: writing, photography and film in particular. In 1982 I traveled to Peru and took the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu. Soon after, I met that girl and believe it or not she actually had flowers in her hair. Tina and I fell in love and have spent the last thirty years living our lives together. We were married in Nepal at Swayam Bunath at sunrise on March 21, 1984 and returned to India a short while later where we lived and studied eastern philosophy and religious practice for a year. My experiences in India, Nepal and Peru drove an insatiable appetite for travel and adventure, all of which I chronicled on my beloved Kodachrome. I was always fond of soft saturated and warm tones. I pledged to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible so I could continue my journey. It was the mid-eighties so naturally I turned to finance. I took the Canadian Securities Course and Registered Representatives Exam and became a financial planner and licensed broker. I slowly became frustrated with the grip that the material had on me and began once again to find ways to express my creative side. I was fortunate to have met Gary Harvey and we soon became fast friends seeking entry to a burgeoning film and television industry coming into its own in British Columbia. In 1988 Gary and I founded Troika Productions Inc. Gary was the creative genius (and still is) and I ran the company. We optioned our first film script - The War Between Us - written by the wonderfully talented Sharon Gibbon. Sharon became a partner in the company and we started a mutual skip down our very own yellow brick road. We produced television commercials, music videos and documentaries. Gary was the director and editor and Sharon wrote and I produced; hence the Troika. We were able to exercise a tremendous amount of autonomy in choosing projects which ranged from Stein Valley Voices For The Wilderness Festival, a look at environmental and aboriginal issues within British Columbia and abroad; Stage Left, profiles of two extraordinary couples who work and play in the arts; Spirit Of The Dragon, a mystical view of the history and legend behind Dragon Boat racing; Iron Horse, a journey filled with country music and rail travel through the Canadian Rockies; Maharani And The Maple Leaf, an adaptation of Jan Derbyshire’s award-winning stage play; Totem, a documentary on the creation of the world’s tallest totem pole; The Magic Of The Celts, a poetic look at the mystery of Celtic consciousness and Body & Soul, in which two women begin the healing process and gain spiritual awareness through physical challenge. During this time we worked with some of the best and shaped a family of cultural creatives that included Raymond Massey, Peter von Puttkamer, Danny Nowak, Tony Papa and Glenn Taylor amongst others. It was a magical time. And of course there was The War Between Us. Written by Sharon Gibbon and directed by Anne Wheeler, the film takes place during World War II in the interior of British Columbia and deals with the effects of the Canadian Government’s


policy of internment on the West Coast Japanese community. We were nominated for six Gemini Awards including Best Picture. TV International ranked The War Between Us as the highest rated film broadcast on Canadian television in 1995. It won the Monaco Red Cross and the UNDA Silver Dove Awards at the 1996 Monte Carlo Television Festival, the Gold Special Jury Awards at Worldfest Houston and Worldfest Charleston, a Gemini Award for Best Original Music, the 1996 British Columbia Motion Picture Association Leo Award for Best Picture and the 1996 CableACE Award for Best International Movie. In 1997 I was asked to produce Pacific Profiles for the fledgling VTV station in Vancouver. It introduced 156 unique individuals drawn from a cross-section of society including entertainers, athletes, activists, spiritual leaders and artists. The series of 78 half-hour episodes, produced over three years and broadcast nationally on CTV, offered a glimpse into the heart and soul of some of Canada’s most accomplished individuals, allowing them expression through commentary on a variety of subjects and issues. I produced the series with the support of Kirk Shaw, to whom I also owe a debt of gratitude. Gary went on to direct and produce myriad projects and is one of the most respected people working in our industry today. His latest project is Omni’s Arctic Air. Sharon passed away from ovarian cancer in 1999 and it seemed like we all drifted apart, perusing goals and flexing creative muscles. I owe a great deal to both Gary and Sharon. The series was a turning point for me. In almost each and every interview I conducted the topic eventually turned to the finding and fulfilling of one’s purpose. These were not mere mortals I had the privilege of spending time with. Whether artist (Zbigniew Kupczynski, Tiko Kerr, Joe Average), environmentalist (David Suzuki, Greenpeace founders Rex Weyler and Patrick Moore), spiritual leader (Archbishop Adam Exner, Bishop Michael Ingham) or academic (Nobel Laureate Michael Smith, polymath Raymond Rodgers) they all shared an inner need to serve. They exemplified the term “servant leader.” Two years earlier, in 1996, Deboragh Gabler and the British Columbia Motion Picture Association had hosted a British Columbia-based film and television awards program – the Leo Awards. Gary and I, along with our fellow producers Bill and Valerie Gray, won the inaugural Best Picture Leo Award for The War Between Us. It was a wonderful evening bringing together our community in the spirit of celebration. The Association ceased operations a year later. However I could not shake the feeling that the awards could be a transformative event for entrants, as it had been for me. In 1998 I formed a partnership with Sonny Wong, whom I had worked with on numerous projects dating back ten years. Sonny is remarkable in that his creative talents match his abilities in the area of marketing and communication. We founded the Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Foundation along with Michael Francis, Arthur Evrensel, Dianne Neufeld, Bob Dubberley, Lui Petrollini and Louise Clark. Our mandate was to produce an annual awards program celebrating excellence in British Columbia film and television. The Leo Awards were reborn. Since 1999 I have served as president of the Leo Awards, managing our sponsor relations, adjudication and overall event planning and management. I like to say (some say ad nauseum) that our industry celebrates its economic prowess 365 days of the year with a billion dollars in production revenues, 20,000 people employed, third largest production centre in North America, etc. What we ask for is that two of those days focus on celebrating our artistic excellence. It’s a complimentary gesture that I believe is vital to our long-term health and sustainability as an industry. Over the past 13 years I have taken on many other projects. In 2001 I assumed the publisher’s chair at Shared Vision magazine. Through balanced

Beginnings continued on page 13 11



National Brand Leader Dustin Ellis PHOTO BY PHIL CHIN


Stage and Screen Travel Services


hile there are a lot of companies that support individual travel and help keep prices down for each step of the journey, the list is a lot smaller for organizations looking to move their employees and excess baggage from one place to another while still paying attention to individual requirements. Some Australian entrepreneurs looked at the unmet needs of their own marketplace back in 1995 and came up with the idea of servicing the travel needs of the entertainment industry. Four years later they sold the company, called Stage and Screen Travel Services, to Australian-owned Flight Centre and it soon expanded to North America. The first Stage and Screen Canada office opened in Toronto three years ago. Last year the company added a Vancouver office and a second Toronto office to service the Olympic travel of Canadian athletes and committee members for the London 2012 Olympics. According to the National Brand Leader, Dustin Ellis, the Toronto offices also manage a majority of all game travel including the recent Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. “We have consistently grown over 20% annually since opening, in large part to our clients referring us and the work that our staff has done promoting our brand,” he says. He says that the company will be opening a third Toronto office this spring. Ellis says that the company’s approach to moving organizations and employees who live on the road, has also been a key to its expansion. “From our national sporting teams to leading international media and production companies to touring bands, we’ve been the travel manager behind hundreds of Canadian sport and entertainment organizations nationally. While we excel in group travel, we’re equally attentive to the travel needs of smaller clients and individuals. Stage and Screen has enjoyed a global presence since 1999 and our presence in Canada strengthens every year.” Ellis says that the new Vancouver office is made up of a group of people familiar with the managing of travel requirements for the sport and entertain-

ment industries. According to Ellis, the office has a combined 27 years of experience. He says that the film and television industry is one of the more natural clients for the services Stage and Screen provides. “We already have a lot of entertainment based business here in Canada. Clients such as Cineflix are managed out of our Toronto office whereas other clients, like Finale, On Demand Productions, 365 Productions, Paperny Entertainment, Image Media Farm and Horizon Motion Pictures are managed out of our Vancouver office. Whether it is film or television production or broadcasting, digital gaming, performing arts, fashion, music and touring, creative media, festivals, group travel or VIP travel we consider ourselves to be the travel experts and strive to take the stress out of managing travel for our clients.” The Vancouver office, like the others, can access a variety of unique systems that Ellis says have helped grow the company. “We provide dedicated account management that includes direct 24/7 emergency service. Clients never have to wait on hold, wait in line or feel like they are talking to a call centre in the time of an emergency. And let’s face it, when people are booking travel for the entertainment industry there are always last minute emergencies. In 2011 we spent approximately 13,000 minutes servicing clients who had emergencies en-route. We also manage travel programs for air, hotel and rentals for our clients to help maximise their points and rewards. We even manage their travel credits to ensure they are used for future travel.” Ellis says that if there is one thing that has been a hallmark of the company since its Australian beginnings it’s VIP service. He says that clients of the Vancouver office can expect great group service with boutique style individual care. “With our Global presence as well as our niche clientele, we have also been able to negotiate entertainment rates lower than most corporate rates. I think these are the two main reasons why our clients choose us. Although our brand is relatively new in Vancouver, we are constantly looking to attend industry events and get our name out there. These are very exciting times for us!” n

Beginnings continued from page 11

foremost mountaineers, Jeff Lowe. Recently I have entered into a partnership with child development guru Kim John Payne to create The Simplicity Project. Kim’s book ‘Simplicity Parenting’ set the tone for what became a larger conversation around the complexities of life. We heard the refrain “I’m not really sure what it is but I know that something is not quite right.” As our world becomes more connected we often feel more isolated and finding ways and means to experience a real human ecounter has been usurped by the daily struggle to maintain. Along with a community website we have film and other media projects in development. Tina and I live on the North Shore where we have raised our three children (Tamara 17, Sasha 19 and Misha 22) spending as much time as possible on and around the mountains. At the end of the day I’m still a film geek. I watch 200 odd films a year and often sneak off to International Village for afternoon matinees. I’m grateful for the opportunity I have been given to meet and make connections with so many active members of our film and television community. I was honoured to participate in the tributes hosted at the Leo Awards for two friends and mentors, John Juliani and Babz Chula. I’ve had my share of personal and professional challenge and frustration. I also recognize that I am truly blessed and have made my mantra a heartfelt thank you to all who have supported and shared my journey. n

and topical editorial, Shared Vision advocated a model of healthy living that integrates physical and spiritual growth with a strong sense of social responsibility, circulating 40,000 copies monthly throughout British Columbia. As a director of the Vancouver Waldorf School I delivered presentations on governance and social renewal in Chicago, Ann Arbor, Massachusetts, Maine and throughout the Pacific Northwest at conferences and by invitation. I have served the school in many capacities including Trustee and Officer (Treasurer), Committee Chair (Annual Giving Campaign, Christmas Fair, Faculty Support Fund, Finance, Parent Council, Tuition Adjustment), committee member (Executive Group, Pedagogical Carrying Group), as director of development and as the host of the school’s annual Festival of the Arts. In 2006, along with three grade six students from the Vancouver Waldorf School, I traveled to China to represent Canada at the Hands in Peace Festival in Beijing. Hands in Peace brings children together from all over the world, in particular those having experienced war and hardship, to share their cultural heritage through a celebration of arts and athletics. In 2008 I helped launch the inaugural High Adventure Mountain Film Festival in Ogden, Utah by creating an adjudication protocol and chairing the festival jury and had the privilege of working alongside one of the world’s REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012





Andrew Stanton On How His Two Animation Oscars Led to the Making of John Carter

It’s been 100 years since Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote the first of three novels about Mars. The book, A Princess of Mars, was part of the Barsoom series of books from the creator of Tarzan. The first time a studio optioned it was the 1930s. Several other attempts were made to get it to the big screen but they all failed. Andrew Stanton, the director of two Pixar Oscar-winning animated films, Finding Nemo and WALL-E eventually persuaded his bosses at Walt Disney Pictures to buy the books from the Burroughs’ estate. John Carter, which stars BC actor Taylor Kitsch in the title role, opens in March with difficult challenges, including a bill of $250 million that the trade papers are trumpeting as evidence it will be a money loser. In an interview with Reel West in Arizona in February, Stanton denied that the money went to cost over-runs. He 14

also said that he was such a fan of the books he cheered whenever anyone else said they were going to make the movie. And he defends the look of the Martian characters, saying that if they seem familiar it’s because they have been around for 100 years and were borrowed by other filmmakers over the course of that time. The trade magazines are saying that you went over-budget with a final cost of $250 million. How do you feel about that? “It’s bullshit. I was on budget and on time and I will say that. The wonderful thing is that if you don’t lie you don’t have to worry about these things. But I was on budget and on time because I was such a good citizen. You can go to my principal producer and ask why I stopped looking at dailies three weeks in and it was because if he was going to tell

me there was no room left in the schedule and I found something that I didn’t like and we have to split the schedule and lose days I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to end this shoot on budget and on time so I could be a good citizen. I could add it to the re-shoots and that is what I did but someone had some weird agenda. It s a huge budget movie but that is why Disney gave it to me because they have only associated me with big budget movies. They would have been scared to death to give me a $50 million indie picture. It’s weird studio thinking but that is what it was.” But there must have been some tough days on set trying to get what you wanted? “I was pretty hardball. No one ever fought me. It was the fan in me that gave me the guts. That and I had a day job. I thought ‘fine, you don’t want me to do this? I will stay over

here (at Pixar) and do what I do. This is not going to kill me.’ I just felt like if anyone had a chance of making this without it being (screwed) up by the studio then it might be me, because they are too afraid of me because they want me to be happy at Pixar. So I thought ‘maybe I can use that for good and make this the way I always thought it should be made. And if they are going to push back to change it I will pull back because I have nothing to lose.’ It’s the best way to buy a car because I really don’t mind walking away. So it pretty much got me through to the end because I didn’t see a studio person on set until the reshoots. There was so much regime change there was every reason for a lot of things to be handcuffed but it was the opposite. They gave me the longest leash to hang myself with. Again it was not a career move. It was ‘I really want this thing to go on screen’ or ‘I want it to not go on screen wrong.’” You were a fan of the books. How much did that influence your decision to make this your live action debut? “I had honestly just wanted to see it. I had spent 30 years thinking ‘please God, let someone put it on the screen.’ Jon Favreau had it in the mid-2000s and I was making movies and artists are just one separation away from other artists. So I knew people who were working on it and I thought ‘it’s going to be made!’ Then it fell apart and I was crestfallen. A week later I was on the phone with (former Disney executive) Dick Cook and I said ‘you guys have to do something with this. ‘It will be nearly 100 years and no one will have made this movie. I have never made a live action film before and had two more years on WALL-E and I said ‘if I finish WALL-E and I am not a one hit wonder maybe you would consider me. But it should be made and it should be you guys.’ A month later he got back to me and said ‘we have the three books. Do you want to do it?’ It was ‘careful what you wish for’ time because I was expecting to have that conversation in two years. The movie had first been optioned for the screen in 1935. We had a chant: ‘break the curse, break the curse.’ Then I got really superstitious because I felt that if I got too cocky it would fall apart.” The illustrations in the book, which was written in 1912, were REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

borrowed for a lot of other science fiction movies. Were you concerned that people would see them in this movie and think you had stolen them? “I had been such a fan for so long that I had seen all that stuff. I didn’t want to make a copy of something. I knew going in, the uneducated are going to feel that it is copying other things. I shouldn’t make it if that is what I am worried about. It’s going to happen but how do I make a film where that isn’t going to happen? How do I go straight from the books? But there are things there that look silly now but were original then. There were certain ways they dressed then that were daring-do then but you would just get laughed at now. It would seem like Robin Hood: Men in Tights. But I thought ‘I have seen plenty of stuff that feels grounded and authentic. What if we say this is the historically accurate version of the movie. If it looks like we have done our Mars research really well and captured it.’ The books don’t seem like sci-fi novels. They feel like a world where earth has been mapped completely. So where do we go to find another culture to meet? It is the traditional desire to go to new lands and meet new cultures that have been there forever which is what the early adventure books were all about. I felt we should be filling the blanks on history and that felt exciting to me.” Were you worried that people would not suspend their disbelief and stay out of the movie given that most people growing up today don’t believe there has ever been any life on Mars? “Fish don’t talk under water either. It’s not how you handle it. It’s not an either/or. You can’t say ‘it’s magic or it’s animation, do whatever you want.’ No, it’s pick a cool thing and stick to those rules because all of us, at least the interesting people, are thinking ‘what if?’ What if the leaf is afraid of heights when it falls? Now I am interested in where it might go. What if people did live on Mars? Can I stick to the rules of dead oceans and the way evolution works with creatures and how history builds upon itself? They don’t have our history. They found the wheel a different way. They found writing a different way. Half the fun was thinking ‘what if you shift it enough? How would mankind be slowly building the same path to the industrial revolution?’ But they found REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

things at a different time. They found some things we never found and that was what was so much fun about the books. They took more of a fantasy license. They felt like that was what was driving it. And we just got a little more disciplined about it when we did it.” What was the hardest part about adapting the book to the screen? “I know every inch of the first book, all of the books. I love them but I knew just learning to be a script writer that my job was to make everyone else’s scripts to be better and I knew how to make a story work. It was like train cars on those first couple of books where this happened and this happened and you think ‘I need some kind of climax to make this come together at the end so I will add this on.’ And they are such good ideas of themselves and they have so much energy in them that you can get away with it but anyone who knows what a three act structure is would say this is a mess. I deal with that every day at Pixar. There is a movie here that should be made, we just have to work at it. Here I had the luxury that Burroughs didn’t of ‘where do these characters go and where do all these worlds go’ and I also had the more interesting characters he came up with in later books. You can push these together and say ‘if he had this oversight he would make a couple of changes too and shift things.’ I would hang stuff on the side that I loved from the first book as ingredients in the kitchen and put it away. We know what the basic line is: it is a guy who loses his way and his humanity and rediscovers it in another culture. How do we make that work and how do we make it interesting and who had what purpose for that? Now you have all these ingredients. You have a way of servicing the story rather than being a slave to the book.” The name has changed from John Carter of Mars to just John Carter. Yet, at the end, you throw on the title John Carter of Mars. Why didn’t you just keep the original title? “At the time there was panic because of the release of (the film) Mars Needs Moms. The studio did all this testing and a lot of people were saying no right off the title. I thought ‘no, this is what it is’ but I didn’t want to hurt the movie. At the same time the movie is about that arc so I said ‘I will bend if you let me change it at the end, if you let me keep the logo because it will mean something by the end of the movie.’” n



“Women are way more conflicted than men. We come from a society where we are comfortable with the Madonna whore complex where women are really good hookers and really good mothers but we are not bad hookers and we are not bad mothers and we are nothing in between. I grew up on cinema where guys like Dustin Hoffman and Gene Hackman and Robert De Niro got to play all these interesting and dark characters. I saw a little of myself in all those kinds of struggles and those dark things but it is rare to see women playing those kinds of honest characters. When people say ‘it is so brave’ I say ‘it really isn’t. It is refreshing and it is great as an actor to do something so truthful. It is really nice.’” Charlize Theron on taking roles that call for her to go to the dark side. “To walk the same streets in Tampa was really cool. It was wild. I was broke then and now I am back doing a movie about the whole thing, strapping on the thong again. That was very interesting but very humbling as well. It’s not as easy as when you are 19 and don’t think about it. You are just thinking ‘wow, this is fun’ and now it’s more like ‘what am I doing? This is stupid.’ But it was really wild. My teenage self would be making fun of me right now. He would be throwing things at me if I was walking by.” Actor Channing Tatum on the making of Magic Mike which saw him return to the streets of his hometown, for a film based on his years as a teenaged stripper. “You guys are saying ‘wouldn’t that be cool if this was his last press conference’? It would be like Richard Pryor after he got burned. He was in the hospital and this one orderly was wiping the smoke off him and he says ‘Richard, how about that last autograph?’ But 60 is really amazing. I had my mid-life crisis in my 40s so 60 is great. Once you have the heart surgery it’s Me2.0. I am just off my honeymoon and at 60 I can actually remember it, which is wonderful.” Actor Robin Williams on his postheart surgery health. “I loved Slapshot and I also liked (the hockey movies) Miracle and Mystery, Alaska. They were good but there is a thing with hockey movies where people feel that they might not work without a gimmick. There is a history of bad hockey movies. They’re either musicals or feature chimpanzees or they are kid’s movies. Look at Tooth Fairy (which stars The Rock as a hockey player condemned to play the tooth fairy), for instance. Maybe they don’t feel they can work without that.” Goon director Michael Dowse on the need for hockey films that are about hockey. Excerpted from interviews done by Reel West editor Ian Caddell.

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Game Changer

Canadian companies are still working with filmmakers to get movies into local cinemas despite changes in the distribution landscape Story by


Ian Caddell

t’s been almost a quarter of a century since the Canadian government introduced legislation aimed at limiting the ability of foreign companies to distribute films to Canadian theatres. The Feature Film Distribution Policy allowed the major studios who were operating in Canada prior to the legislation to continue as “grandfathered” companies but required new distributors and the art house arms of the older companies to work with companies based in Canada. Theoretically, the policy would allow Canadian companies to make money through the distribution of international independent films and to have some incentive to get more indigenous films into theatres. Inevitably, a number of film entrepreneurs entered the marketplace, lost money and moved on. There are now just a handful of Canadian distributors attempting to get Canadian productions into movie theatres. Those who have survived are discovering that it is more difficult than ever to make money on Canadian movies, particularly those in the English language. There are just a handful of distribution companies that are picking up Canadian feature films on a regular basis and working to get them into theatres. These companies are also finding, in an era in which DVD stores are closing their doors on a regular basis, that distribution alternatives like Video on Demand and iTunes don’t add much to a Canadian film’s bottom line. Canada’s preeminent distribution company is Alliance Films which has survived ownership, name and 16

structural changes. It does particularly well in Quebec, where its sister company VivaFilm regularly produces and distributes movies that are competitive with American films. The story is somewhat different in English Canada, but Mark Slone, the company’s senior vice-president of marketing and publicity says that there is more good news than bad. “There are fewer players than ever before. That is the bad side for filmmakers. They have fewer places to go to get distribution. But the plus side is that we are moving into the making of more commercially successful films than ever before: films that are made for audiences and getting acclaimed around the world partly due to changes at Telefilm but also due to a change in the industry. A lot of people who have been through the trenches now are better able to get product ready for the market.” Slone says that the other bad news is that the change in the way people watch films has impacted the marketplace. He admits that cable companies were a major source of revenue for filmmakers but that both that source and DVDs are drying up. While there are alternatives, the key to making money is to get the movie into theatres and the best way to do that is to be as collaborative as possible with your filmmaking partners. “It used to be that we would get a pitch for a film and if we liked it we would offer a minimum guarantee up front against future revenues and put it into the system. That’s changed now. The money that we pay is going into paying for the movie. In the past, a big sale to cable or pay TV would be a big factor in getting the movie made. Now, pay TV is paying less because they are making series and they are reducing commitment

to features so you have a lot of risk and it has made us step up and say ‘only good choices.’ The whole industry is counting on us so we are working with filmmakers more closely than ever before. We are involved with producers in a lot of aspects in terms of what is marketable. We are very involved now before the finishing cut. Everything we do with a film is done to craft a better movie result.” English Canadian filmmakers looking to get their movies into theatres may get discouraged by the dwindling options, but both Slone and Mongrel Media’s Tom Alexander, say that the success stories show there is still potential for Canadians to see their movies. “A good example of a film we worked with that will probably do well in this country is Goon,” says Slone. “It’s a good script and a crowd pleaser. Not only were we involved in the early script stage but we made sure that it’s accessible in Quebec and dubbed in French. We are going to give it a shot in a big way. The safe shot would be to take the money and run but we do believe that filmmakers should embrace that they have to be more collaborative than ever before.” Alexander agrees. He says that there is little room for error now. “We are always looking for good scripts that have an audience in mind when they are written, which seems simple but is actually quite rare. We will see a lot of romantic comedies and dramas that are meant to have broad appeal, but usually they are the kinds of films that would require name cast that are box office draws, or large marketing budgets to compete against the Hollywood studio films that are going after the same audience. So we tend to be drawn to projects that are targetable toward a

particular audience, that we can focus on and make work. Think The Corporation, Water, and Cairo Time, as well as many of our non-Canadian acquisitions. “One Week is a good example. On the surface it looks like a project with broad appeal, but it was actually one we could target. It appealed to 30+ audiences who had a nostalgic and patriotic attitude toward Canada. We positioned it as ‘a love letter to Canada’ and it really worked. Joshua Jackson had some name cast appeal and it was very well written with the right character development, narrative and emotional through-line. Our campaign highlighted the emotional journey with Jackson prominently displayed on all the materials and there was a gentle comedy to the script. The filmmakers were easy to work with and it all came together wonderfully.” Robin Smith, the former Capri Releasing vice-president of distribution, who founded Toronto-based Kinosmith, says he has to take a more cautious approach than some of his bigger competitors. He says that he has always been upfront with filmmakers and told them that having a limited cash flow makes involvement from development to release a strain. “There is a very long wait to recoup investment,” he says. “We can’t do too many movies because when we do invest in a movie we have to wait a year and a half to get the money back. I get involved with films from different perspectives. Some times we will offer a small advance and allow the filmmakers to keep the pay per view profits. It allows less money out of pocket. The only reason we would do it is if a film has good potential in the remaining media. I think every film has to be REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

looked upon differently. We have to think about the costs it takes to reach the market and if we see an upside in that film in areas other films might not have addressed. And if they are keen on it we can find a way to make a deal. We work closely with the filmmakers to strategize on the marketing of the film. It’s the only art form that is equal parts business and art.” Despite its size, Kinosmith has put a lot of Canadian films into theatres and ancillary options. The recent list includes Last Train Home, the BC production The Whale, and Small Town Murder Songs, which won the 2011 Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award for best actor in a Canadian film for Peter Stormare. Smith says that all three films were good choices. “It all comes down to what is put in as opposed to what you get back,” he says. “We had success with The Whale and although I can’t speak for the filmmakers I was proud to have Small Town Murder Songs in our catalogue. It has done well in ancillaries like pay per view and DVD. Last Train Home was a great success for us. It did a very similar roll out to (KinoSmith’s) Up the Yangtse and made a six digit number. We could recoup our money and everything else was gravy.” Relationships have always played a big role in the making of show business choices. Both Christine Haebler and her Screen Siren partner Trish Dolman had worked with Bryan Gliserman of Entertainment One Canada in Gliserman’s previous distributing incarnations and returned with Daydream Nation. Haebler says that they usually stop at Entertainment One first but that they don’t always expect the movie to find support. “Right after I read the script I contacted Bryan and told him about it. He already knew about the project so he read the new draft quickly and came on board within a week of me sending it to him. Most of the films I have produced as well as the ones Trish has produced are with Bryan, so whatever company he is at is where we generally go first. He does not always come on board, as we don’t always have the same taste, but mainly we see eye to eye creatively on projects. Gliserman says that the key to making the right choices is to let the Game Changer continued on page 29 REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

Doppelgänger Paul co-directors KRIS ELGESTRAND and DYLAN AIKO SMITH


Case In Point: The Selling of Doppelgänger Paul they wouldn’t know what to do with it and

like the poster which was potentially go-

would be more focused on their bigger

ing to change for licensing reasons. We

movies. I started thinking we needed a

didn’t want that to happen... and they

more art house distribution model. I found

were super responsive about finding a


(filmmaker) Ron Mann’s company, Film-

way to make both parties happy. I think

have been travelling east for the “$5000

sWeLike and the catalogue online and

because they are smaller and filmmaker

cup of coffee” for decades now. It’s rea-

saw that he had lots of strange, artsy,

driven they listened to our opinion and

sonable to assume that if you take a cou-

film fest type films that were really well

took it seriously. We couldn’t really ask

ple of producers and a director and pay

received critically, but didn’t really fit the

for a better situation. Both parties have

for plane tickets and hotel rooms in order

mainstream genres.”

their wants and needs but I think hav-

Story by

Ian Caddell

to meet with Toronto-based distributors,

Smith says that he was impressed with

ing a mutual respect for each other and

the cost adds up. The best thing that can

the fact that Mann was an award-winning

the willingness to communicate is what

happen is that a film from the west will

filmmaker with name recognition films like

makes the relationship really work.”

be accepted at the Toronto International

The Twist and Comic Book Confidential.

The movie will come to the west in

Film Festival. That will bring early reviews,

“I think I dropped a screener off at their

mid-March with a theatrical premiere at

a chance to show the film and to meet

offices. Katherine Hazen, our producer,

VanCity Theatre. From there, it is hoped

with several distributors over the course

took care of the negotiating. We still

for a roll-out across the country. Elge-

of the ten day festival.

haven’t met Ron actually. We decided to

strand says they are aware that theatri-

Kris Elgestrand and Dylan Akio Smith,

go ahead with him after TIFF concluded

cal distribution is not a given for English-

who co-directed Doppelgänger Paul (Or A

and he only agreed to go theatrical with

language Canadian films.

Film About How Much I Hate Myself) won

the film after seeing our press kit and all

“Dylan and I are ecstatic that Doppel-

that lottery last fall and travelled east. Smith

the good reviews. We felt they would

gänger Paul is getting a theatrical release

says that one of the advantages TIFF films

do a great job because of Ron’s back-

at all. It’s pretty rare thing these days for

have is that the filmmakers get to go to

ground as a filmmaker and the richness

an indie movie like ours. Clearly, it’s great

pre-festival meetings where they meet with

and depth of their catalogue. Looking at

for us. We know the film will have a life on

other filmmakers and discuss distribution.

many of the films they distribute, we knew

VOD and in all the various digital formats

He says that the process helped him to fig-

we would be a really good fit. They con-

(downloadable or otherwise). From all

ure out that the film would be best served

centrate on really interesting movies. Be-

we’ve been able to gather over the years,

by a smaller distributor.

cause they’re a smaller company, we had

that’s where the money is but a theatri-

“I was doing a lot of thinking about dis-

a feeling they’ll work extremely hard to call

cal release is still the goal for every film-

tribution, and was probably prompted by

attention to our offbeat film and find the

maker. The experience of watching the

the boot camp in which lots of industry

audience for it.”

movie with an audience rather than in the

professionals talked about being proac-

Mann and FilmsWeLike were also pre-

isolation of your apartment with a laptop

tive in the search for a distributor. I began

pared to collaborate with the filmmak-

on your knees and headphones in your

to think the right fit for our film might be

ers. Smith says the filmmakers picked

ears is so different. We pride ourselves

someone smaller. You think of the big

a Vancouver company, The Future, to

on some of the awkward moments in our

players first (Alliance Atlantis, eOne Enter-

create its poster and the distributor sup-

stories. I think those moments are more

tainment) and then I started to worry that

ported the decision. “They were good

strongly experienced with someone sit-

a film like ours might get lost there. Maybe

enough to ask for our opinion on things

ting next to you. n






Rare Birds

Joel Heath was a doctoral candidate when he went to the Belcher Islands in Canada’s north to research his PhD. He returned a few years later to make a movie about the people of Sanikiluaq, their past, present and future and their dependence on the eider bird. People of a Feather will open in Vancouver in early March before moving to San Francisco later in the month to have its US premiere. In his diary, which spans ten years, he looks back at how he went from being a visiting student to being a part of a community that helped him make the movie. Along the way he fended off polar bears with a rifle, helped to build a traditional igloo and brought his friends from the north to his hometown for its Vancouver International Film Festival premiere. Diary by

Joel Heath FEBRUARY, 2002 After two days of travel, I have arrived in Sanikiluaq! It was really amazing flying across the sea ice of Hudson Bay. Just met our guides, Simeonie and Elijah. Elijah brought me an eider down parka to wear on the land tomorrow. It’s like a giant sleeping bag so it should keep me warm! MARCH 2 After a rough ride, we made it to a polynya today, where the currents keep the ice from freezing. It’s like an oasis in a frozen desert! There were a couple hundred eiders there, so it should be an interesting place to work. MARCH 5 Visited Tukaraq island today, where explorer/filmmaker Robert Flaherty ran his ship aground, and where the old Hudson Bay post used to be. No sign of them now. Instead we went to check out a report of eiders starving to death. There were a bunch of small pools with 50-100 birds crammed in each, too skinny to fly away and nowhere to go anyway. Inuit originally contacted the Canadian Wildlife Service about massive die-offs of thousands of birds, so this is why we are here. We’re going to camp in an igloo for a few days to try and understand the situation better. MARCH 10 Put together my underwater camera pole system today for the first time and got it in the water. It was amazing to see what it’s like under the ice. After about an hour, some birds arrived and dove right underneath us! I was able to follow them to the bottom. This is actually going to work! MARCH 28 Spent the last few weeks filming hundreds of eiders diving for mussels and urchins. When I showed the head of the Hunters and Trappers Association, he said “I remember when our people had to work that hard to get food.” I’m going to put together a sequence so people in town can see what we’re up to out on the land. MARCH 12, 2003 Back in Sanikiluaq, great to see the guys again. We flew aerial surveys last week. There is a lot of ice and not much open water this year, so the birds are crammed into pretty small openings. The polynya is really small this year and shrinking. The foxes are eating eiders during the night. There are only about 20 birds left and Elijah and Sim think they are running out of food so they are chopping open a new hole in the ice nearby. MARCH 20 The currents are really strong with the full moon and the water started to flood over the ice today. One eider was trying to get back up to the REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

surface, but the current was just pushing it back under the ice. There are only six birds now, but it’s the equinox tomorrow so things should generally start to get better. MARCH 29 The research is done, and the guys took me out hunting for the day. I’m not sure when I’m coming back, so it was nice to do their thing instead of research! I tried waiting at a breathing hole with a harpoon, but no luck. We also did a bunch of filming. We’ve all been inspired by the film Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner. The community of Sanikiluaq is actually named after a real life fast runner, and we’d like to use this to tell a story about the people’s relationship with eiders and these die-offs. I’ve got all the data I need for my Ph.D. now, but there is much more to this story than science will let me tell. I’m going to try and raise funding to get back up here and make a film! Back to city life tomorrow. JULY, 2004 No luck with funding yet. Finally got a website up though and finished editing a trailer. SEPTEMBER, 2005 Finally, a positive response! Mountain Equipment Coop will provide the first 10k if I can find matching funds and some co-production support! DECEMBER I have been a little discouraged lately. I was told my application for co-production funding was declined, because I’m a scientist and scientists don’t make good filmmakers. I later went to talk to Colin Browne at SFU and he was much more encouraging, reminding me that Flaherty, the grandfather of documentary was also a geologist explorer before becoming a filmmaker, on the very same islands in Hudson Bay no less! He is going to help with a letter for MEC. JANUARY 2006 One thing leads to another. I’ve secured sponsorships with and funds to do interviews with the elders through ArcticNet at the University of Manitoba. It will be cool to collaborate with social scientists. And I’ve just found out that the BBC is shooting a series called Planet Earth. They’ve seen my footage and are going to fly me up to help with production this coming winter! MARCH 20 So great to be back on the Belchers, and show everyone the video and screenplay I’ve put together. I’ve made good friends with our guide Johnny and he’s keen to help out. This time I know I’m coming back, and in the summer for the first time! JUNE It is a different world. It’s amazing to see what was underneath all the 19

snow and ice! We’ve started interviewing elders about traditional eider clothing and the die-off events. People keep bringing up hydroelectric projects in James Bay. I don’t quite understand why, but apparently the way they release water is affecting currents and salinity and the ice. JULY I’ve been camping with Johnny and Sim on the south end of the islands. Eating fresh Arctic Char is amazing! Its been great to get to know their families too, and we went collecting eider-down the other day. I got some amazing shots of a mother and baby eiders swimming past while I was hiding under a camo netting! OCTOBER It’s my first time here in fall. It’s really cool to see the ice starting to form. Even young kids are getting up early to hunt eiders, and they are bringing in the skins to the school to help make traditional eider skin parkas for recreation. It is so much work. All the skins have to be cleaned, dried and sewn together. One parka is almost done. The ladies and kids from the school seem to be having a grand time with it. JANUARY, 2007 This is it, I’m here to make this film! I’ve got a skidoo rented too so I don’t have to get dragged around in the sled all the time. FEBRUARY A few delays. Research funding is problematic this year because of the Gomery inquiry, and no one wants to wait 30 days for a check to be mailed that will take another month to arrive. Sim and Elijah are having problems with their skidoos this year too. I’ve got shots of them fixing skidoos and building a qamotiq, but nothing out on the land yet. FEBRUARY 10 I participated in 20

a workshop here this week with oceanographers, other biologists and hunters. It helped me understand how cumulative effects of hydro can influence sea ice here. We’re going to help the community monitor wildlife and ice with our time lapse stations. MARCH 2 I have been working on underwater video, but this new camera is way too big. I can’t even get the casing to sink without loading it full of rocks! This is way too cumbersome to work. MARCH 14 Everyone is hunting right now. I couldn’t find anyone to help drop off supplies, so I went out alone. I was barely 20 minutes out of town when I got stuck really bad, and had to unload my entire sled and drag things up the hill to get it out. It was late in the day by the time I got back on track and I missed the turn-off spot in the dark. I knew where I was on the map, but backtracking would waste too much gas and I hoped another way might be possible. I managed to find some tracks from a hunter that seemed to be going in the right direction. It was a brutally cold night, -40 and the Northern Lights were screaming at me. The skidoo was the only source of warmth so I had to keep going. I didn’t find the cabin until dawn. I was exhausted and cold. Crazy night. MARCH 20 I finally got set up at the south end of the islands to film the massive flocks of eiders arriving and the traditional hunt. The guys needed to head back to town but I couldn’t leave the supplies just sitting here for a bear to destroy, so I stayed behind. Now I’m alone out on the ice 100km from town in an area known for bears. I didn’t sleep last night,

just rested in the middle of the tent with shotguns ready to go on either side. Spent the day building a snow shelter and setting up the blind, and by the time the sky turned from red to pink I saw the large flocks coming. Tens of thousands of eiders began to land right in front of me, the sound of their wings like thunder resonated all around off the ice and snow. This morning, I crawled back in the dark to find many more had arrived in the night. They began to stir as the light began to appear, preening the ice off their wings. When they started to take off it became clear there were more than twice as many as I’d thought. It took more than 20 minutes before all 50,000 birds filled the air and covered the horizon in a low black cloud that traveled over the ice to the floe edge. That was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen in my life. MARCH 25 Two Inuit friends, Johnassie and Puasi, showed up the other day to make sure I hadn’t been eaten by polar bears and to film the traditional hunt. We set up underwater video during the day, but then a blizzard came up and kept us in the tent for a day. When it broke, a huge part of the polynya had been washed away and my underwater pole system and blind were long gone, sucked under the ice. The winds were no longer southwest either, so it seemed unlikely the eiders would come back. We got a few shots of the guys in the parkas, but not enough for a full sequence. We saw a huge polar bear as we were leaving, so things could have been worse if that guy had come in to camp! APRIL 4 I am packing to return to Vancouver. It’s been three months

and we’ve made major accomplishments with time-lapse, wildlife and footage in town, but still no underwater footage and the sequences with people on the land are little more than a screen test. I am out of time and out of money. I’m going to need a lot more of both if we’re going to make the film we want. I still have to write my Ph.D. thesis when I get back. JANUARY, 2008 My Ph.D. is all done now and I just submitted a proposal to International Polar Year Canada to fund the film, including a clip reel showcasing the footage to date. It took months to write. I hope I get it, but I won’t know until the spring. FEBRUARY Back to the Islands. I’m post-doctorate at UBC now in math-biology and the plan is to use time-lapse to study the ice and eiders using image processing techniques. No funding for film, just research this year. MARCH Time-lapse is working great, but the new underwater pole isn’t working at all. We’ve cut it up and welded something back together that will hopefully work, but there aren’t many eiders around this year and it’s been really stormy. We were camped again south of the islands and a bear came in the middle of the night and started pushing on the tent like it was trying to break into a seal den. The guys were still sleeping, but I woke up and started yelling and firing the shotgun through the vent in the tent. The snow must have drifted over the bear fence. Then a couple days later, two bears came into camp trying to encircle us, and I had to fire in front of one that was charging. REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

1. Traditional igloo life on the Belcher Islands, where eider duck clothing was the key to keeping warm. For the first time in many years, three generations are wearing traditional clothing, created for People of a Feather. 2. View from the bottom of a polynya, an ‘oasis’ of open water in the sea ice maintained by strong currents. An eider duck is feeding on mussels and sea urchins while others dive from the surface above. 3. Sim Kavik and Joel Heath observe eider ducks from inside a plywood blind at the edge of the sea ice, housing underwater camera equipment. PHOTOS BY JOEL HEATH / VIDEO STILL FROM PEOPLE OF A FEATHER

They eventually were scared off by Sim charging at them with his skidoo. I don’t think we’re into camping here anymore. APRIL Canadian Wildlife Service collaborators showed up and we did aerial surveys at the end of March. It got cold really quick and the ice froze up fast, so there were huge groups of birds trapped in small openings with nowhere to go. There were some near town, so we set up time-lapse observations. I tried underwater video. It was going really well for about ten minutes until the casing flooded. It was worse for the birds though. The floe edge never broke off again, and I think they all died out on the ice. MAY We got funded by one of Canada’s largest training, education and outreach projects IPY (the International Polar Year, a collaborative, international effort researching the polar regions.) We’re going to make this film the way it should be made! JANUARY, 2009. Back up for the full winter again. We picked up a timelapse. I put it out in the fall, and it’s working to capture freeze-up. JANUARY 28 We’re making a nice big igloo for the recreation and the kids at the school all came out to watch. It was pretty cool to see the final blocks for the roof and the ice window go in. Now I have to sleep here for a couple of nights with the seal fat lamp burning (qudlik) so that it looks lived in! FEBRUARY 10 We finally got everyone organized and dressed in traditional clothing and piled into the igloo. It was so amazing to be there with everyone like it was 100 years ago. We had three generations of descendents from Sanikiluaq, REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

the legeandary fast runner. Louisa, his daughter as the elder, Johnassie her son as the hunter and Puasi, his nephew as his son. We shot everything chronologically, which is good because the lighting in the igloo changes dramatically throughout the day. The last sequence of the day was Louisa playing the eider duck feathers like a jews harp. This was a day I will never forget. FEBRUARY 15 When I was in Vancouver, I managed to track down salinity profilers that the late Dr. Grant Ingram had purchased so people from the community could monitor the salinity from hydroprojects. Dr Ingram was instrumental in supporting the community for the environmental review process, but passed away unexpectedly. I’ve hired people to use these in different areas around the islands so we can get a sense of the oceanography. We’re going to work this into the film too. MARCH 4 Given all the polar bear attacks last winter, Environment Canada built us a cabin on the south end of the islands. Most of my crew have been busy helping with construction, but Sim and I found a polynya with a bunch of eiders and managed to get an hour of underwater video in HD! It was spectacularly clear. Then a three day blizzard came along and closed it up smothering the birds. Try again next year? MARCH 20 We were ready to shoot Sim making a harpoon head today, when we got word he had a heart attack and was med-evaced to Winnipeg. It was his second heart attack. Before he left, he told Johnny he could play Daniel’s father in the hunting se-

quence, but I think we’ll wait for Sim to recover and shoot it next year. No one can replace Sim! JULY The seal skin kayaq has finally come together. It was amazing to watch the ladies at the school sew the skins onto the frame. The frame itself is a piece of art, each piece of wood hand carved to the right shape. The cockpit had to be steamed and bent over a barrel of water boiling on the fire. JAN 15, 2010 It’s the last chance to finish the film. Sim is in better health now, and is keen to take Daniel hunting this winter. Also need to get some underwater footage! At least we know the set-up can work. We just need the right location. The polynya we used to work at in 2002 isn’t even a polynya this year; the whole area is a moving ice floe, so that’s not going to work. FEBRUARY We finally shot the hiphop video with the local kids. What a blast! It’s exciting to be able to help them get their music out there and make them feel a part of the film. MARCH 15 It’s taken a lot more time than expected, but we’ve managed to wrap up the hunting sequences. The trick has been to capture it genuinely, without setting everything up. Elijah caught a seal at a breathing hole today. It came out of the breathing hole backwards which made for a very interesting sequence. This should really help give people a sense of human ecology. MARCH 20 Some of our crew were measuring salinity on the north end of the islands and found a perfect polynya that isn’t normally open and has lots of birds. It could be perfect for underwater video!! It means we’ll have to move all our gear from the

cabin 100 km north, and sleep in the tent again. Of course, it’s a huge area for polar bears, so we’ll have to do night watches. APRIL We’ve spent a couple of weeks camping, and finally have lots of amazing underwater footage!! It’s been nice to spend more time in the box again, believe it or not. It brings me back to the early years. I avoided bringing myself into the film for a long time, but I’m taking some advice to give it a try and filmed a couple of sequences of me and Sim reflecting in the box on how my understanding has changed over the years. MAY 2011 After a year of editing with Evan Warner and Jocelyne Chaput we just had our world premiere at HotDocs! Amazing reception, and so exciting to finally show this to the world! SEPTEMBER Showing the film back home in Vancouver was something else. We got a standing ovation, and it was so great Sim and Johnny could be here to share this. Being able to show Vancouver friends what it is like in the Arctic through the film, and at the same time to show Sanikiluaq friends Vancouver has been amazing. What had been separate worlds for me have finally come together and it feels really good. To top it off, we won Best Environmental Film and Top 10 Canadian film!! Thank you Vancouver! JANUARY Vancouver strikes again. We’ve just won best BC film of 2011 from the Vancouver Film Critics Circle!! It’so amazing to feel the support from here at home. This is the momentum we need to take it to the rest of the country and internationally this spring. n 21






Cost and Effect

Vancouver-based filmmakers Vince Prokop and Ross Ferguson went into the making of the film Primary with the feeling that the combination of a strong cast and a frugal budget would be the best way to tell their story Story by

Nathan Caddell

Vince Prokop walks around an old warehouse in Vancouver handing money out to anyone who asks. “Vince, I need $100,” says one woman. “Vince, that thing cost 80 bucks,” says a young man. Prokop happily obliges and pulls out a wad of cash. He then walks by a giant, broken garage door and sighs. “This door could cost us four grand, so I bought a $39 winch and have been trying to hammer it in all day,” he says, his voice showing only slight signs of tiredness. This is a normal day for Prokop, producer of the Vancouver shot and produced film Primary, starring Dustin Milligan and Michael Eklund. It tells the story of a young, hotshot business executive who meets a charming drifter who changes his way of life, causing him to lose everything and then to fight to get it all back. Running on a budget that most closely resembles that of a teenager’s allowance, Prokop and his crew have had to work tirelessly to put together this production. It couldn’t have happened without the Vancouver film community coming together. Primary is more than just a film, it’s living proof of how independent, low-budget films can survive and thrive with hard work and some luck. Primary started with writer/director Ross Ferguson, who was having trouble getting the movie off the shelf and into production when old friend and former film school roommate Prokop, who was running a forestry company at the time, came into the picture. “Ross came to me and said ‘I’m just having some trouble getting this thing off the ground,’ and I said, ‘Well, what you need is a producer, and here man, I’ll produce it for you.’ The writing was on the wall with the forestry thing, and here I am scrounging around at 44 years old thinking that maybe I should try something different. How hard could it be? You go out, you find things, you put people together. It’s what I’ve been doing for twenty years so I said ‘let’s do this. ’” From there, Deeply Scarred Productions Ltd was born, with Prokop as REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

president, Prokop’s old friend and Victoria-based lawyer Lou Webster as CEO and Catherine Hunn as vice-president. On the strength of the script alone, Prokop, Webster and crew were able to wrangle in veteran casting director Candice Elzinga, which was a boost for the rookie producers and their team. “Candice,” says Webster, “was, in a lot of ways, the key to the movie. She was so good to us, and really believed in the project right from the start. And she was able to attract these great actors and get them on board.” “Candice loved the script and basically deferred her entire fee for the film and cast this for us,” says Prokop. “We got all our first choices for actors because she attracted them. Another huge thing that happened for us as far as budget concerns go was the UBCP (Union of BC Performers) agreement, which allows filmmakers like us, who essentially don’t have a budget, to get actors to come on set for $100 a day. So not only did Candice waive her fee and not only are most of the crew working as volunteers, the cast is coming on for $100 a day, a fee that is extremely low compared to their standards. Candice was able to sell these actors on this script for dirt cheap and that’s really been a huge boost for us.” The making of Primary could have an effect on other low-budget independent films since it follows the Field of Dreams theory that if you build it, they will come. “It,” in this instance, is the script, and you won’t meet a single person on set that feels even lukewarm about it. For instance, Dustin Milligan, whose films include Gunless and Extract, signed on for much less than he could have earned south of the border. “For a young actor like myself to have a character arc like this one was definitely a huge part of it,” he says. “But this film reminded me a lot of Taxi Driver because of this arc, and (the fact that) there are characters that really change over the course of the film. That to me is a huge, huge draw as well as the current economic and social backdrop that we’re setting this film against. I think it really asks some important questions that are timely.” Milligan, 26, was even named as a producer on the film in lieu of money as a result of his hard work in getting the film made, a distinction that clearly shows his dedication to the project. “I myself am an aspiring, budding filmmaker. My crew and I have been getting into that a bit, and there have been many opportunities because of the little notoriety I have built in the States, to come back and take advantage of some of the great roles in Canada. That’s nice because I find that the smaller local productions, while they don’t have all the frills and bells and whistles of the larger studio ones and the comforts and conveniences, offer a chance to explore the art of filmmaking and get into the nitty gritty. We have to think about how we can achieve what we want with this film without all the advantages of a huge budget, which I think allows for more creative and fulfilling filmmaking.” Once Milligan signed on for the film, it was easier for Prokop and crew 23


to get the other actors they wanted, especially in the case of Eklund, Milligan’s friend and four-time co-star. Milligan says it’s much easier to make films with people that you already have experience working with.

Lou and Vince are people I’d definitely work with again. (Milligan’s Brothers&Sisters director) Carl Bessai is also someone I have a continuing working relationship with. So you really start to see the benefit of

eryone involved that Eklund was the right choice for Harry, a charismatic drifter who changes the way Nicholas (Milligan) sees the world. “I couldn’t picture anyone but Michael Eklund in this role and they were

“ I love working up here. I love the industry here. I think it’s a one-of-a-kind city (in terms of) the attitude within the industry and the supportive nature of it...” - Actor Dustin Milligan on getting his start in Vancouver “Certainly, when I first started out, I hated the nepotism and favouritism that went into the industry, but you start to see that you want to be comfortable and Eklund is someone I’ve worked with a bunch. Ross, 24

that. It’s not just about, ‘Oh, I want to work with these guys because they’re my buddies,’ I want to work with them because they’re good and they get something done.” It was apparently obvious to ev-

already thinking of him for it,” says Milligan. Eklund’s track record of playing dark characters certainly fits with the role of Harry, a part that is in synch with his past roles, which have

included turns in productions like 88 Minutes with Al Pacino and numerous television shows such as Alcatraz, Supernatural and Smallville. “I try not to only play the darker characters, but playing the bad guy is always more fun. They’re the more colourful characters in a TV show or a movie, so it doesn’t surprise me that those are the characters that people remember, because you have the most fun playing them,” says the veteran of over ninety productions. “But, are these characters drawn to me or am I drawn to them? As an actor, I’ve never turned down a role. If I get offered a role, I always do it. If I get cast in a role, I always say yes, so I’ve kind of let the career take me on the path I’m going on. I always think that, as an actor, you don’t really get the control to follow the path that you want. When you’re first starting, you just want to work, and then, looking back now, thirteen years later, it’s been steady and busy for me for a long time. The characters I have played have definitely taken me down a character-actor road, one that I never predicted or went after. It just became kind of my thing.” Rounding out the main cast are accomplished actors in Merrit Patterson, Katharine Isabelle, and Andrew Francis that Prokop, Ferguson and Webster were happy to have on their side. “Having talented actors like Dustin, Michael, Katharine, Andrew and Merrit was really important,” says Webster. Adds Prokop: “Andrew was nominated for a Gemini last year for best actor in a feature (for Fakers) and I think that shows the willingness of talented actors to come out and support Vancouver independent films for the art as opposed to the money. We found the generosity to be sincere and encouraging, which was huge for us. That says a lot about our acting community, how recognized actors like Andrew are willing to give back and support filmmakers like us.” The hard part for Prokop, Ferguson, Webster and crew starts now; with getting this film that they’ve put so much work into distributed to a wide audience. “It’s a bit early to say, but I know we’re going to go after the film festival placement pretty hard,” says Webster. “It’s got some cachet and it’s got a great hook. We’ve got great talent, great footage and great REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

production values. It’s hard to say until we see a rough cut; maybe we’ll even do a couple screenings.” Getting the film widely released is a feat that the filmmakers believe is very possible, given not only the script but also the way the film looks as production nears completion. “We’re shooting with (a borrowed) Red Epic camera and that’s the same camera that Peter Jackson’s shooting The Hobbit on,” says Ferguson. Without much of a budget to actively spend on luxuries like state-ofthe-art cameras, Primary will take advantages wherever it can get them when it comes to competing for distribution. “To level the playing field like that, it gives us a better shot, and HD is cheaper to do, so that’s really helped us.” When asked what the key is to getting a smaller film distributed, Ferguson provides an honest answer: “I guess we’ll find out. I think you just try to make the best film you can. That would be really the only thing you can do. For us, we went ahead without trying to seek out distribution. We just went for it and thought we’d see what we have and sell it after. It was very freeing because we could make basically any film we wanted. I mean, the script happens to have both a commercial side to it and an art-house side to it, but we’ve tried not to compromise. We’ve tried to make sure the dollars we spend get up on screen and to make sure that we’re maxing out in that way and that it benefits us, benefits the film, benefits the crew. We’ve been just trying to really fight to not compromise the film and I think we’ve been able to do that for the most part and stay true.” The production appears to be filled with people who really want to be on set in Vancouver, doing what they love. And they promise to be prominent fixtures on the film scene for a long time. “I got my start in Vancouver in 2004,” says Milligan. “Vancouver has always seemed to me like the place in Canada, as far as the larger American and Canadian studio films and in addition to that, all this independent film. I love working up here. I love the industry here. I think it’s a one-of-a-kind city (in terms of ) the attitude within the industry and the supportive nature of it. You can pull in favours from people in really high positions, which I think is REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

pretty incredible. This film is a great example of the local industry supporting independent films and their attitude, and saying ‘Yes, we do want to help you. This is a good script. You guys are good guys. Let’s do it.’ It takes a village to raise a child and I think that’s what I’m really seeing now as I work more in the independent industry and especially here in western Canada. You see how many people care about helping each other out here and how many people truly want everyone else to succeed. Comparatively, working in the States is a different game in that it’s about you succeeding over another person’s project. Here, I feel like it’s a bit more of a collaborative effort within the entire community.” Adds Webster: “Everybody in this business who finds out what we’re doing has been super helpful. Everybody in town seems to be hoping that we make it, and that’s been pretty cool.” If they are right, it’s possible that independent films will not just survive, but thrive in Vancouver, giving a ray of hope to the many committed people in the B.C film industry. It could be living proof of what can happen when a group of hard-working people are completely dedicated to an idea. “What’s my day-to-day stuff been like?” says Prokop. “I don’t know; three to four hours sleep a night, up at 5:30am. I’ve been living here at the studio so that I’m closer to work. I basically have a mattress on the floor. I’ve been catering, locations managing, accounting, hiring. I’ve been gaffing. I’ll set up the generators, run across town, pickup something, talk to Ross about some rewrites, take some phone calls. I did all the casting with him as well. So that’s kind of a typical day. I’m just filling in all the cracks.” He says that making the movie has been an exercise in what is possible if you set your mind to it. “In summation, you know what it is? It’s just a bunch of cowboys who said, ‘You know what? We can do this, so let’s just get together and do it.’ We pulled together a bunch of people and we went around the city of Vancouver and said ‘Look, here’s who we are, this is what we want to do. We don’t have any money and we want your help.’ And Vancouver said yes.” n







Western Alienation Story by

Ian Caddell

The story on its own conjures up images of alienation and isolation: a young man aspires to a fresh start on the American prairie during winter after a lifetime of battling demons and those who get too close to him. Take it to Saskatchewan during February and the potential of finding the bleakest aspects of the script seems limitless. The movie that Dave Schultz has written and is directing is called Rufus and stars British teenager Rory Saper as a boy adopted by a small town police officer and his wife. Schultz, a native of Regina, moved to Saskatoon several years ago and made the movie 45R.P.M. in rural Saskatchewan in 2008. He says that he knew the movie would look its best if shot in the winter but worried that the cast and crew would be so overwhelmed by the temperatures they wouldn’t be able to do their best work. “We are about 20 miles outside of Saskatoon and the average February tem26

perature historically is -28 (C.),” he says from sets in Dundurn, Saskatchewan. “We had originally set it up as a summer film but with financing cycles it ended up being shot now. Incredibly it’s mostly been -5 and we are shooting inside houses quite a bit as well. We decided that rather than move back and forth from Dundurn to Saskatoon the weather was good enough that we could just stay here and shoot both the interiors and exteriors. So we were very happy. Rory, on the other hand, came here from living in London so he is saying ‘I am getting used to the cold’ even though to the rest of us it’s fine because it’s only -3.” Schultz began writing Rufus in an effort to follow up his two coming of age films, Jet Boy and 45 R.P.M. with a similar film. At some point, he came to the realization that a third film that mined the same theme might be a problem. He says that he knew the best option would be to find a backdrop for the character that allowed him to move away from any labels. He decided on a genre that has proven to be particularly popular with people who are coming of age themselves. “I knew no one would allow me to make a similar film so I thought ‘what if he is a vampire but I tell people that it’s not a vampire film.’ And it’s not really. It’s about alienation and secrets and the monsters within ourselves. He is a strange anomaly that shows up in a small town where all the people have a secret and they have their own monsters. What I wanted to do was bust the myth of ‘vampire as predator.’ Everyone else is a predator, in that they use him for their needs and that includes the girl next door and the family he lives with. When we were developing with Telefilm (Canada) they never talked about him as a vampire but just a boy with issues. He is just an orphaned teenager and his back story is that of being an abused orphan.” REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

(Clockwise from top) KIM COATES as Van Dusen and DAVID JAMES ELLIOTT as Sheriff Wade; Erland Cooper from Erland and the Carnival in the “Rufus” music video; Writer/Director Dave Schultz, on set; RORY SAPER as Rufus and MERRITT PATTERSON as Tracy; (Next page) RORY SAPER as Rufus. PHOTOS BY KIEL HARVEY

The location scouts and Schultz began to look for the right place to set the film when they were still considering a summertime shoot. He brought in veteran production designer Hugh Shankland and sent him to Dundurn. Shankland says he didn’t really see the town as being big enough to host the movie but says that Schultz, who wrote the script, suggested that he could solve some of the problems in the writing and Shankland could solve the rest when he was designing the look of the film. “I was not all that keen,” he says. “I had worked around here before so in terms of what I read in the script it looked like too much of a small town. But you adapt with indies and when I told Dave what I thought he suggested, as the writer, that the story could be told in a lot of different ways. It’s like a good joke. Every time the joke gets retold there is a different whimsical quality to it. We looked at bigger towns as well but on a tight budget it was harder to shoot. So he reduced the scale of the town in the script because we agreed not to be overly


ambitious. When he had made changes to the scale of the town we looked specifically at Dundurn from street to street to see if we could fit it into the script. I was worried that confining us to one town would be a negative thing. If you have endless amounts of money you can make more mistakes but this is working out. We have a very tight prep sked and a lot of it has been determined by acting considerations. You can’t create a set and tear it down (when the actors return) so you have to keep setting it up and that’s a challenge. I think we succeeded to some extent in that now there are not a lot of exteriors. It is supposed to be the US Midwest and there are no hills here but if you go into a restaurant and put pictures of hills up on the wall it can work.” He likes the idea of having a backdrop of isolation. He says that if you keep the modern world out of the shot, there is no evidence of the era they are in. That allows the filmmakers to keep from being pegged in any particular time.

“Part of the essence of the story is that the characters are out of time and place. It has the feeling of being isolated and not connected to the real world and that works in our favour. The geography is not part of the story but it is isolated and it helps us to keep away from suggesting time and place. That spills into the look. It’s not period but it is trapped in a past that we are not clear about. My last thing was six years on Corner Gas and even though it is contemporary it could be 40 years ago because the environment hasn’t changed.” Working with 45 R.P.M.’s Shankland and Schultz is that film’s director of photography, Craig Wrobleski. He says that to make certain that the film had a look of isolation to it they chose to compose the film in a widescreen format. “With the themes of alienation and connection both present in the script, shooting widescreen allows us the option of using the big frame to either create isolating space around single characters or elegantly bring two characters together in

the same frame. It’s a fantastic format to shoot in. On sunny days, the winter light in Saskatchewan has a stark clarity to it that renders striking, crisp, graphic images, especially when backlit.   There is virtually no humidity or natural atmosphere to diffuse it.  On overcast days the relatively flat, snowy landscape blends into the sky and has a beautifully bleak feel that suits our story very well.   The world becomes a gradient of mid-tones that flow together.   We are using these different qualities of light, combined with the choices made by our costume designer (Jennifer Haffenden) and Hugh to create a palette that supports the themes of isolation and secrecy in the script.”  There were challenges. The 45 R.P.M. shoot had taken place in the Qu’Appelle Valley near Regina, a rare Saskatchewan location with rolling hills. “Here we were in the Great Plains of Canada,” says Wrobleski. “It’s all straight lines of roads, telephone poles and the horizon. I spent a few years of my childhood in Saskatoon and the surrounding


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area so the landscape is very nostalgic for me. The beauty of the prairies doesn’t jump out at you like the foothills though. It’s a beauty that reveals itself slowly.   There is something special about it but you have to search for it a bit - like hidden treasure.  The landscape around Dundurn is very open and quite flat while the town itself is like an oasis of beautiful old trees.   In the winter these trees are grey skeletons and we are using them as a textural element in our frames. The town itself is quite small and has a ‘fishbowl’ quality to it so scenes set there have as much of a sense of being ‘surrounded’ as the scenes set outside the town feel lonely and ‘isolated.’ This helps to keep things from feeling too stark. The other idea we are pursuing, which is a technique I am quite fond of, is to create a subtle arc of colour and saturation throughout the film as Rufus reconnects with his humanity.  We are getting part way there incamera with the flexibility afforded us by the digital format we are shooting on (Red Epic) but will take it the rest of the way in post.   Keeping a rich look while evoking a sense of bleakness and isolation is a fine line but it’s a line we’re willing to walk.  In the end, it should be something the audience should feel as well as see.” To get the film made, Schultz and his producing partner Anand Ramayya of Karma Film Inc. crossed the border to bring in veteran producer Bruce Harvey. Harvey had worked with Schultz on Albertabased productions and on Schultz’s directorial debut Jet Boy. He says that he came to Rufus with the belief that Schultz’s script was not just unique but was the best he had seen in at least a year of looking for projects. He also felt Schultz was truly confident that he could make it into

a great movie. “I think that if you want to get something made in this country you need a really good script but you also have to believe in the project and then convince others that it is a great project. If you don’t have the passion people will move on. There may still be an appetite to make a movie but not as much if you don’t have the passion. Having said that, the quality of the script is great and Dave and I had done a lot of films together and this film is his best. All of the people who are involved feel it is the best script out of western Canada this year. That has really helped with casting. And it’s difficult to bring cast and crew here. It’s not like LA where they drive to set. Here you have to fly them in and fly them home and then bring them back again. So they really have to believe in the script. They totally believe in him and the screenplay.” So too do the people of Dundurn. Ramaya says that they have embraced the movie the way smaller communities have embraced local production since movies first started location shooting. He says that it’s a pleasant change from his own past experience in larger centers and says it offsets some of the natural difficulties that occur when productions move to the hinterlands. “The community has been very welcoming and for them it’s an opportunity to do something different. We have heard from people that we have here who do a lot of production that they are excited about making the movie because they get a sense of enthusiasm from the community. I walked into a local gas station, for instance, and there were six members of our crew all there, which is a lot of people here. It was exciting for the community to see 100 people coming to work every day. The comREEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

munity is very supportive and they celebrate it when people do things here. The tough part is that it is hard on crews when you’re shooting in the prairies but the pros definitely outweigh the cons.” Schultz agrees. He says that the tone of the film owes a lot to the decision to shoot it in Dundurn. “When you see the dailies there is something unique about them.

When you drive by it (Dundurn) is a blip but the bleakness works well. I said ‘I want it to be overcast the whole movie and I want a muted colour palate.’ It is backlit and I said ‘we will all be depressed when it is over but it will be a good movie.’ On my other two movies - because I am a writer as well - I managed to get pretty close to the look I wanted but here I got more than I thought I would get.” n

Game Changer continued from page 17

like VOD. Gliserman and Alexander agree that while it has yet to happen, they believe that it won’t take too long for the public to see that DVD can be replaced. “We expect it (VOD) to grow and to eventually replace the decline in the DVD market”, says Gliserman, while Alexander is equally patient. “They (the alternatives to DVD),” he says, “are not making up for that loss yet, but eventually they will. Just as audiences still enjoy going out to the movies, they will also continue to enjoy watching movies at home.” Robin Smith isn’t convinced. He says that he usually sees American trends arriving in Canada within three to four years and has yet to see the US market embracing the options that distributors need to access in order to make post-theatrical release profits from their productions. “They (the US) still haven’t filled the gap in losses (from DVD) and we are down the totem people. We have iTunes and that is about it but they have a variety of things. There has been a lot of kerfuffle over broadcasters redefining their accountabilities but pay TV and cable have dropped 50 per cent (in terms of picking up Canadian films.) In the old days broadcast made as much as 50 per cent of revenue and now you drop that and add in the fact that it has plummeted. Whereas you could always count on a broadcast sale, now it is a more selective process. That security buffer is no longer there. What we are left with is educational and there is not much market and the libraries are buying less because their budgets have been cut. It’s a tough one from our perspective. Filmmakers are looking for distributors to add equity to productions at the same level axs five years ago. They are looking for us to help mitigate that gap. We used to guarantee we would get it back but there are no guarantees any more.” n

filmmaker know what is required. He says that the company is willing to listen to any pitch, no matter what the genre, as long as the filmmakers can give them what they are looking for. “We are looking for a complete package that includes a script, information on the key creative attachments, a financing plan and a production budget. We hope to receive any and all information available to enable us to make an informed decision. We are open to all genres and are first and foremost looking for a great story.” Gliserman’s resume includes stints in distribution at Telefilm and 14 years at Odeon Films. He helped to merge Seville Pictures and Maximum Films, for which he was managing director, into Entertainment One in 2008. The company also distributes films to the rest of Canada from Quebec-based distributor Christal Films. The companies managed to pull off a rare coup with rights to two consecutive Canadian Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nominees, 2010’s Incendies and 2011’s Monsieur Lazhar. Gliserman says that making sure Canadians wanted to see the movies meant reviewing the process of distributing Quebec films in the rest of the country. “Upon viewing both of these films it was determined that we needed to launch slowly, and take advantage of strong reviews, and solid Québec business.  For Incendies, it was important to time our Canadian release with that of the US, and the Academy Award and Genie selections, and have the film perform at significant film festivals. Whenever possible, we attempt to build up an intense need in the consumer to experience a film upon release.” The growing concern in distribution however, is that those needs may not be met by ancillary options REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

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FINAL EDIT animated short film award was won by Neal Sopata’s Strange Fruit, which contrasts pastoral scenes of the Old South with the racial violence that occurred during the Jim Crow era. The best documentary award winner was To Be Heard, directed by Amy Sultan, Roland Legiardi-Laura, Deborah Shaffer, and Edwin Martinez. The best Canadian feature award winner was Thom Fitzgerald’s Cloudburst, which follows a lesbian couple (Oscar winners Brenda Fricker and Olympia Dukakis) who go to Canada to get married. The best feature film award went to Rundskop (Bullhead) directed by Michael R. Roskam. The Belgian film about cattle farming was also nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar this year. ÉMILE VALLÉE and CHANEL FONTAINE in Café de Flore


No Oscar Nomination but Canadians Embrace Café de Flore

It lost the Best Foreign Language nomination to fellow Quebec film, Monsieur Lazhar but Jean-Marc Vallée’s Café de Flore had success with awards panels on two coasts this winter. The film led all nominees when the 32nd Annual Genies were announced, and had already tallied several nominations and wins at the Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards. The 1960sera love story received 13 nominations at the Genies after receiving four nominations and wins in the Best Canadian Film and Best Supporting Actress in a Canadian Film categories (Hélène Florent) at the VFCC Awards. David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, which pits the rival philosophies of Karl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen), won VFCC awards for Best Director of a Canadian Film and Best Supporting Actor in a Canadian Film (Mortensen.) It is nominated for several Genies. Café de Flore and A Dangerous Method are up against The Whistleblower, Monsieur Lazhar and Starbuck for the best picture Genie. Cronenberg is competing with Monsieur Lazhar’s Philippe Falardeau, Vallée, The Whistleblower’s Larysa Kondracki and The Bang Bang Club’s Steven Silver for the best director Genie. The number of western Canadian Genie nominations was disappointing. Usually the west can expect as many as 30

a dozen nominations but this year it was less with Calgary filmmakers Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby nominated for their animated film Wild Life, while Wiebo’s War, which was shot in the province by a mostly Alberta crew won a Best Documentary nomination. Three BC films won nominations. Daydream Nation won a best cinematography nomination for Jon Joffin, Amazon Falls won a best makeup nomination for Amber Makar and the documentary Family Portrait In Black And White won nominations for producers Julia Ivanova and Boris Ivanov. The Genie awards will be presented on March 8. The VFCC’s Best of BC award went to Joel Heath’s People of a Feather, which chronicles the effect of hydroelectric dams on the culture of a community in Canada’s north. Also nominated were Carl Bessai’s Sisters&Brothers and Michael Goldbach’s Daydream Nation. Peter Stormare won the Best Actor in a Canadian Film award for his performance in Ed Gass-Donnelly’s Small Town Murder Songs and Michelle Williams won the Best Actress in a Canadian Film award for Sarah Polley’s Take This Waltz. The Achievement Award For Contribution To The BC Film And Television Industry was given to veteran animator Marv Newland. The Vancouver critics gave Michel

Hazanavicius’s The Artist the Best Film award. Other major award winners in the international film category included Michael Fassbender of Shame, who won the Best Actor award and Martha Marcy May Marlene’s Elizabeth Olsen, who won the Best Actress award. The Best Supporting Actor award went to Canadian Christopher Plummer for Beginners while the Best Supporting Actress award went to Jessica Chastain for The Tree of Life, Take Shelter and The Help. Terrence Malick won the Best Director award for The Tree of Life. Iran’s A Separation won the Best Foreign Language Film award while the Best Documentary award went to Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

Joanna Makes Friends A collaboration by two Vancouver production companies was the winner of the favourite short film award when the Victoria Film Festival announced its list of winners. The companies, Likeminded Media and Broken Mirror Productions co-produced Joanna Makes a Friend, which was directed by Jeremy Lutter, The film looks at a girl’s loneliness and her eventually friendship with a toy. The award was voted on by the festival audiences. The audiences picked The Girls in the Band, directed by Judy Chaikin as their favourite feature. The film traces the origin of all-girl bands. The best

PS Rewards Cass PS Production Services Ltd. recently announced that producer Robin Cass, a founding partner of both Triptych Media and Union Pictures in Toronto, has won the 2012 Douglas James Dales Industry Builder Award. The award was presented at the annual PS Dinner on the Hill, held during the Canadian Media Production Association Prime Time Conference in Ottawa. “PS is proud to present this award to a prominent and distinguished industry patron who over the course of his career has done so much to enhance the fortunes and success of the Canadian feature production industry” said PS CEO Douglas Barrett. “The award recognizes Robin’s tenacious advocacy and tremendous commitment on behalf of all Canadian filmmakers and his famously collaborative efforts to produce and promote great Canadian films.”  Barrett said Cass “has been at the forefront” of many award winning feature films including Zero Patience, A Musical About AIDS, Lillies, Falling Angels, The Republic of Love and The Hanging Garden. Spokesperson Scott Hosmer said the Industry Builder Award is presented annually by PS “in recognition of a producer’s sustained contributions and commitment to strengthening the Canadian film and television industry.” He said each year’s honouree is selected by a jury composed of previous recipients including Linda Schuyler, Stephen Stohn, Wayne Grigsby, David MacLeod, Doug McLeod, Ira Levy, Stephen Ellis and Phyllis Laing. n REEL WEST MARCH /APRIL 2012

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