TV & Film News – Sarah Polley leads Canadian Oscar nominees

The 95th Academy Awards nominations include a number of Canadians led by Sarah Polley, who is up for Best Adapted Screenplay for Women Talking, based on the Miriam Toews novel. Directed by Polley, Women Talking is also a Best Picture nominee. In the Animated Feature Film category, writer-director Domee Shi is nominated for her coming-of-age Pixar film, Turning Red. Shi previously won in 2019 for animated short, Bao. Fellow Sheridan College alum Chris Williams, director of animated feature The Sea Beast, is also nominated. Calgary filmmaking duo Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis are competing in the Best Animated Short category with The Flying Sailor. In the Best Documentary Feature category, Montreal’s Ina Fichman is among those nominated for National Geographic doc Fire of Love. Navalny, directed by Toronto’s Daniel Roher, is also in the running in the category. Montreal makeup artist Adrien Morot earned a nomination for Best Makeup and Hairstyling as part of the team behind The Whale. Active members of the Academy are eligible to vote in all 23 categories, March 2-7. Hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, the 95th Oscars air live Sunday, March 12 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on CTV,, and the CTV app.

Thunderbird Entertainment Group has entered into a cooperation agreement with Voss Capital LLC, the Vancouver-headquartered producer and distributor’s largest shareholder, following a proxy fight. The Texas-based hedge fund, which owns 13.3% of outstanding shares in the company, made a play in November to reconstitute Thunderbird’s board with its own slate of directors, saying the publicly-traded prodco had had lost credibility in the market. The cooperation agreement sees company co-founder Frank Giustra and former Lionsgate and Alliance Atlantis executive Marni Wieshofer, Interim Chair of the Board and Head of the Audit Committee, resign. Giustra and Wieshofer will be replaced by two new independent directors put forward by Voss, Asha Daniere and Mark Trachuk, as well as a third nominee to be put forward at the company’s upcoming annual general meeting on March 6. Read more here.

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) has released its 11th annual Key Trends Report, exploring how the screen-based industries might evolve in the coming years, including where advertising, viewer habits, and media technology are headed. Among the study’s key data points are that screen content consumption remained stable between the third quarter of 2021 and Q3 2022, even as Canadians were emerging from pandemic routines and returning to more normal life and travel. 84% of anglophones and 81% of francophones watched live TV via a linear channel in the last month (Q3 2022). Canadians outpaced other G7 countries in Q3 when it came to watching on-demand TV and streaming services with 91% of internet users watching in the last month. While market penetration for most services remained stable between Q3 2021 and Q3 2022, Disney+ stands out with 4% growth among anglophones and an 8% increase with francophones. Netflix market penetration decreased 3% and 5%, respectively, among anglophones and francophones, but still maintains the largest market share among anglophones at 63% and is second most popular with francophones at 57%. Read more here.

Roku’s 2023 Video on Demand (VOD) Evolution study indicates the popularity of ad-supported streaming continues to grow in Canada. According to the streaming software and hardware manufacturer’s third annual dive into Canadian TV streaming behaviour and trends, three quarters of Canadians (76%) are now television streamers with 52% streaming ad-supported channels and services. The Roku study found that the current macro-economic climate appears to be impacting Canadian TV households, with 18% planning to cancel or downgrade their cable or satellite package in the next 12 months, and 47% looking to make changes to the selection of streaming services they use. On average, streamers are watching just under 23 hours a week of TV content (or just over 25 hours if video platforms such as Twitch and YouTube are included). Read more here.

The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) has announced that passes for its Prime Time conference in Ottawa have sold out. The 2023 edition will welcome a record 900 delegates, Feb. 1-3, in Ottawa. A complete list of conference speakers and attending delegates are available on the Prime Time event site. Check out our podcast with Andrew Addison, CMPA’s VP of Communications, Marketing & Membership, here.

Go Button Media has renewed its partnership with Super Channel following the success of history series Forgotten Frontlines, produced for Super Channel and distributor Off The Fence. The new contract sees Go Button Media commissioned to create a slate of 36 hours across six series, from the unscripted genres in which it excels – history, paranormal, engineering and science. Founded by showrunners Daniel Oron and Natasha Ryan, recent Go Button productions include documentary series Deadly Science, Colossal Machines II, Mysteries of the Ancient Dead, Secret Societies: In The Shadows; lifestyle series Bake and Makeup; and feature documentary No Roses on a Sailor’s Grave. 

CBC and Sphere Media have started production on How to Fail as a Popstar, a CBC Gem original series based on artist, author, and musician Vivek Shraya’s debut theatrical work of the same name. The series stars Shraya, Adrian Pavone (Star Trek: Discovery, Grand Army), and Chris D’Silva (Slumberland, The Handmaid’s Tale) as Vivek at various stages of life. Written by Shraya, the comedy series is directed by Vanessa Matsui (Midnight at the Paradise, Ghost BFF) with Shraya co-directing one episode. How To Fail as a Popstar is a coming-of-age, eight-episode limited series about a queer brown boy with a huge voice doing everything he can to become a pop star – as told by the queer trans femme the boy becomes, looking back on a dream that was never realized. It will premiere on CBC Gem later in 2023. 

canada's ultimate challenge cbcCBC has announced the 24 Canadians competing in new original competition reality format Canada’s Ultimate Challenge (8×60), which sees six Canadian athletes each coach and mentor a team of four players through mentally and physically grueling challenges. Hosted by sports broadcaster Nikki Reyes and professional snowboarder and CBC Sports analyst Craig McMorris, challenges will take place across the country in Whitehorse, YK; Squamish, BC; Kelowna, BC; Hinton, AB; Sudbury, ON; Thousand Islands, ON; and Québec City, culminating with the finale on the Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and PEI. Coaches include sprinting legend Donovan Bailey; water polo Olympian and Indigenous sport advocate Waneek Horn-Miller; six-time Olympic medallist in cycling and speed skating Clara Hughes; three-time speed skating Olympian Gilmore Junio; former captain of Canada’s Olympic bronze-winning rugby sevens team, Jen Kish; and NFL Super Bowl Champion Luke Willson. The winning team will receive a trip to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games to cheer on Team Canada. Produced by Insight Productions and The Gurin Company, the series debuts Feb. 16 on CBC TV and CBC Gem

renovation resortHGTV Canada stars Scott McGillivray and Bryan Baeumler reunite in Renovation Resort (7×60), a vacation rental reno competition series premiering March 5 on HGTV Canada and STACKTV. In the brand-new series distributed by Corus Studios, McGillivray’s recently-purchased lakeside vacation resort gets an overhaul, bringing in four professional designer-contractor duos who are up for the challenge. Each week, they battle against each other in a renovation showdown to impress McGillivray, Baeumler and a slate of expert guest judges. In the end, the team with the best cabin wins the title of Renovation Resort Champions and $100,000. 

Nelvana has signed on longtime partner Discovery Kids Latin America as part of its first major international distribution deal for 3D animated preschool series Builder Brothers Dream Factory (40x11min) in Latin America. Distributed by Nelvana and co-produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment and Scott Brothers Entertainment, the original series is also set to air on Corus Entertainment’s Treehouse in Canada. Builder Brothers Dream Factory is inspired by the real-life hosts of Property Brothers, Drew and Jonathan Scott.

Crave has announced a premiere date for eagerly-anticipated investigative series Thunder Bay, based on the Canadaland podcast of the same name. The four-part docuseries will launch on the streamer Friday, Feb. 17, available to audiences in both English and French. The series is produced, written, and co-directed by Anishinaabe journalist Ryan McMahon. Like the podcast, which debuted in 2018, the docuseries follows McMahon as he attempts to uncover the truth behind the deaths of a number of Indigenous people in the northwestern Ontario city, exploring its problematic history with systemic racism, hate crimes, and questionable policing culture. Read more here.

Chateau Laurier, the award-winning Canadian digital series, is now available via AppleTV. Produced, directed, and co-created by James Stewart (Bet on Yourself, Foxed!), the period drama was written by co-creators, and co-producers Kent Staines (Prom Queen) and Emily Weedon (Autokrator). Each of the six episodes, shot on location in Hamilton and Ottawa’s Château Laurier hotel, runs approximately 10 minutes, for a total length of one hour. Season 1 of the digital series launched on Facebook and has over three million views and over 70,000 followers – and 11 million views on TikTok. It’s now available worldwide on AppleTV/iTunes, Google Play, Vimeo on Demand and Amazon Prime (US/UK).

Host Ardra Shephard (centre) and the cast of Fashion Dis, Season 1

AMI, in partnership with Nikki Ray Media Agency (Fire Masters, Home to Win), has begun principal photography on six Season 2 episodes of AMI-tv’s Fashion Dis in Toronto. The makeover show challenges traditional norms that lack inclusion with each episode celebrating the head-to-toe overhaul of a frustrated style seeker discouraged by an industry that lacks adaptive options. Blogger and speaker Ardra Shephard returns as host, a leader in the Multiple Sclerosis community and host of the Tripping On Air podcast.

Stingray has launched CalmLIFE in the U.S., a new subscription digital wellness resource available to Comcast customers with Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex or Xumo TV, and Cox customers with Contour devices. They’ll have access to a range of full-length 4K wellness assets, including meditation, sleep, and nature videos to encourage incorporating healthier habits into daily routines.

Jennica Harper

The Pacific Screenwriting Program (PSP) has announced that award-winning writer and showrunner Jennica Harper (JANN, SkyMed, The Order) will be the Showrunner in Residence for the 2023 Scripted Series Lab. Harper, showrunner and co-creator of CTV/Hulu comedy series JANN, has written across a wide range of genres, serving as a writer and co-executive producer on upcoming procedural The Spencer Sisters (eOne/CTV), medical adventure drama SkyMed (Paramount+/CBC), horror-comedy cult favourite The Order (Netflix), and critically acclaimed thriller Cardinal (Hulu/CTV), among other series. Entering a milestone fifth year, this year’s PSP cohort includes Tanvi Bhatia, Kaylyn Johnson, Toby Marks, Kay Shioma Metchie and Kurt Mungal

The Whistler Film Festival Screenwriters Lab is open to applications until Feb. 23. The lab is a highly-competitive multi-phase script and industry development program designed to amplify the diverse voices of Canadian writers by developing their original feature projects. Selected participants work intensively with key film industry advisors and mentors in individual, group and market-oriented sessions to hone their craft through project-specific feedback and training to position their project for investment in the lead-up to Whistler Film Festival.

The Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) has announced that its 42nd edition will take place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 8. The 2023 festival lineup will consist of approximately 120 features and 100 shorts, all screening in-cinema. VIFF is now open for submissions of Canadian and International films of any genre or length via FilmFreeway.

National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA) have reached a new distribution agreement that will see 32 NFB films screen on FIFA’s ARTS.FILM platform throughout 2023. NFB productions available on ARTS.FILM include award-winning animated shorts Mindscape by Jacques Drouin; The Subject by Patrick Bouchard; and Tower Bawher and Blind Vaysha by Theodore Ushev. Other films will be programmed throughout the year. The ARTS.FILM platform offers unlimited access to films about art across the country, through an annual subscription.

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