HBO Max, Warner Media’s new HBO-anchored streaming service, will launch in Canada next year thanks to an extension of Bell Media’s deal with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution. The deal, which will make new HBO Max original content available to Canadians via Bell Media’s Crave streaming service, is a first for HBO Max programming outside of the U.S. Set to launch in the U.S. in May, at a premium price of $15 USD a month, HBO Max will initially boast 10,000 hours of content including about three dozen original series, in addition to HBO original programming, and a back catalogue of titles like Friends, South Park, and Doctor Who. It also plans to carry select podcasts on its mobile app. The Bell Media deal extends the pay TV rights for Warner Bros. first-run feature films and encompasses new scripted series produced for HBO Max, including the new Gossip Girl reboot; comedic thriller The Flight Attendant, starring Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory); Dune: The Sisterhood from Canadian director Denis Villeneuve; and new Mindy Kaling project College Girls (working title) about the romantic lives of three young women at an East Coast university. Read more here.
The Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) handed out its 18th annual DGC Awards Saturday night in Toronto. Toronto director Patricia Rozema’s Mouthpiece and Robert Budreau’s Stockholm ended up tying for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film. Mouthpiece also claimed the award for Best Picture Editing for Lara Johnston. In the Television category, CTV’s Cardinal claimed three awards including Best Production Design (Rory Cheyne), Best Picture Editing – Movies for Television and Mini-Series (Hugh Elchuk), and Best Sound Editing (David McCallum, Jane Tattersall, Barry Gilmore, Claire Dobson, Paul Germann, Christopher King) in the same category. The Handmaid’s Tale, Vancouver-shot Netflix series The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and CBC family drama Northern Rescue each picked up two awards apiece. Find the full list of winners here.
imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival award winners include The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, co-directed by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn, which won Best Dramatic Feature. The Audience Choice Award – Feature Film was awarded to nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, directed by Dr. Tasha Hubbard, which follows Colten Boushie’s family following the acquittal of Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in his death and their reflections on raising a young Indigenous son on the Prairies. nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up also received The Sun Jury Prize. The inaugural Audience Choice Award – Short Film was awarded to Nancy from Now On (Aotearoa, New Zealand) directed by Keely Meechan. Nancy From Now On is the tale of a young Māori man with a burning desire to become a drag queen. Find the full list of award winners here.
The Female Eye Film Festival (FeFF) returns for its 17th edition, Nov. 7-10 in Toronto. FeFF is a not-for-profit annual competitive international film festival for women directors that bridges the gap between the written, visual, and media arts. This year the Best in the Biz Tribute, a signature series of the Female Eye, celebrates Canadian writer, director and producer Mina Shum as FeFF Honorary Director 2019. Find the full programming schedule here.
The Ontario Film Authority, the independent agency that classifies films screening in Ontario movie theatres, is being dissolved by the Ontario government. Ontario theatres will use B.C.’s classification system, while the province consults on a long-term solution that reflects the changing market for films, including widespread adoption of SVOD platforms where content doesn’t require rating. According to a memo obtained by CBC News, dissolution of the classification board will save the industry $1.5 to $2 million a year. The agency approved 1,000 fewer films in 2018-19 compared with the previous year.
The Province of Alberta’s United Conservative Party government has released its inaugural budget, moving to phase out production grants in favour of a film tax credit. Eligible production companies can now file to recover 22% of eligible expenditures, down from 30% under the previous NDP government. A cap of $10 million per project has also been introduced, up from the prior $7.5-million ceiling. Due to over-commitment from the previous program, $15 million in new money for film tax credits has been earmarked for 2020-21, and $30 and $45 million, respectively, for the two consecutive fiscal years.
The Stratagem Group, a collective of creative companies focused on the development of globally competitive talent and film content in Ontario, and Canadore College of Applied Arts and Technology in North Bay, have announced a multi-year collaboration to support the film and television industry in Northern Ontario. The partnership will see The Stratagem Group, whose offerings include studio development, operation, content creation, finance, production and workforce development, manage and operate the college’s post-production complex, including its Dolby ATMOS 4K Theatre. The goal is to service local northern productions and attract new screen activity, business and employment access to North Bay, Timmins, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Kenora, and Sault Ste. Marie. In the short-term, The Stratagem Group intends to hire three to five full-time post-production staff to live and work in North Bay. Over the last number of years, annual production spend in Northern Ontario has almost tripled to $100 million.
The Mayor of Comedy: A Canadian Stand-Up Story, a documentary that follows comedian Sandra Battaglini as she interviews Canada’s top comics, is set to screen at the Ottawa Canadian Film Festival, the Hamilton Film Festival, and at the Fox Theatre in Toronto in November. In The Mayor of Comedy, filmmaker Matt Kelly gives viewers a glimpse into the murky world of Canadian showbiz, where many comics struggle in a system that limits their ability to make a living. Battaglini also explores her own feelings, despite her success, of being trapped in a system that offers low pay, few opportunities and a lack of support from the government. The doc features interviews with Scott Thompson (Kids In The Hall), Debra DiGiovanni (Conan), Mark Forward (Fargo), Aisha Brown (Terrific Women), Dave Merheje (Ramy) and K. Trevor Wilson (Letterkenny). Battaglini also interviews politicians and industry leaders in an effort to find out why Canadian comedians struggle to work abroad and why comedy isn’t officially recognized as an artistic discipline by the federal government.
Nelvana is celebrating the 40th publishing anniversary of preschool brand Max & Ruby with several new licensing partnerships that will lead into 2020. Starting this fall, Nelvana has partnered with Cracker Barrel for an exclusive U.S. retail launch of Max & Ruby branded plush, apparel and sleepwear across its 650 stores. Nelvana has also signed on new licensing partners Aurora (Master Plush Partner), Chouette (Publishing), Picture This (Apparel), Prime Party (Party Goods), Happy Threads (Apparel), and Jellifish (Sleepwear). Nelvana has also secured a partnership with Braums in the U.S. for a Max & Ruby QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) program that will roll out in January.
Telefilm Canada has made updates to its Theatrical Documentary Program for the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Opening on Nov. 25, Telefilm’s financial participation has increased to $150,000 (from $125,000) for a maximum of 49% of a project’s Canadian budget. The Theatrical Documentary Program also now includes an Indigenous Stream, which sets aside funding for projects by Canadian filmmakers from Indigenous communities. Also new – the Rogers Group of Funds is no longer a partner of the program.
Open Screenplay, the online screenwriting platform that launched in January, has launched a short film screenplay contest to focus attention on climate change. Inspired by founder Khaled Sabawi’s inclusion in a World Economic Forum climate change expedition to Greenland, Open Screenplay is inviting entries from professional and aspiring screenwriters to submit stories “that will give the leading global issue of our time a voice that can’t be ignored.” All entries must be created and written on openscreenplay.com and must be 10 minutes or less. Screenplay entries can be any genre, must be fictional and focus on climate change. The winning screenplay will be considered for production by Open Screenplay, with the top three screenplays to receive license fee cash awards.
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