TV & Film News – Off the Fence opens first Canadian office

Off the Fence has announced it’s opened its first Canadian office in Toronto. Owned by ZDF Enterprises since 2019, the BAFTA and Oscar-winning production and distribution company currently has a production office in Bristol and distribution offices in Amsterdam and London. Imelda Wiebers, Director of Commercial & Business Affairs, will head up Canadian operations.

DNEG, the UK-based visual effects and animation company, has announced it’s expanding its offices in Vancouver and Montreal to create up to 300 new jobs and opening a fourth North American studio in Greater Toronto that will initially hire 200. Those new hires will work remotely to start, with the search for a physical studio location in the GTA underway. DNEG’s feature animation division in Vancouver is also adding a new studio that could accommodate another 100 new hires.

The Canada Media Fund (CMF) annual report for the 2020-21 fiscal year indicates CMF funding triggered $1.5B in production activity across the country. Every $1 of CMF funding generated $4.29 in production activity, slightly higher than last year’s $4.12, despite pandemic challenges. CMF administered $100.4M in Government of Canada COVID-19 Emergency Relief Funds. It also disbursed $9M through two different initiatives supporting racialized creators. 

BIPOC TV & FILM has announced the launch of its first Showrunner Training Bootcamp, a workshop intensive for mid-to upper level Canadian writers and content creators. Led by writer and executive producer Anthony Q. Farrell, the bootcamp will include guest instructors and panellists from the U.S. and Canada. Co-designed by writer/producer Jinder Oujla-Chalmers, the program will train up to 50 Canadian BIPOC writers on best practices in managing and staffing writing rooms, production and post-production schedules, and stakeholder relationships, including production companies and broadcasters. The bootcamp is open to writers who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour who have or have had a TV or web series in development with a Canadian broadcaster or production company, a minimum of a co-producer credit on a Canadian TV or web series, or a story editor credit on an animated series. Applications are being accepted until Sept. 19.

TELUS STORYHIVE is launching its inaugural Black Creators Edition in partnership with the Black Screen Office (BSO). Grants of $20,000 will be provided to 20 content creators from across B.C. and Alberta. Interested creators are invited to pitch a locally reflective original idea for a short doc, web pilot series or digital short. Online applications are open until Oct. 6. In addition to the funding, successful creators will receive customized career training, filmmaking mentorship, and distribution on select TELUS platforms. No previous experience in film production or other creative endeavours is required to submit an application. A diverse selection of committee members from the Black community will review all projects and select those that receive funding.

The Montreal International Black Film Festival’s 17th edition will open on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at Imperial Theatre with Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi’s Quebec premiere of With Drawn Arms. The feature documentary’s main subject is track-and-field gold medalist, Tommie Smith, who famously raised a gloved fist at the 1968 Olympic games to protest racial inequality in America. 

Global National will celebrate the flagship newscast’s 20th anniversary with a one-hour documentary special on Sept. 10. Disruption: 20 Years of Global National will be hosted by current anchor and executive editor Dawna Friesen and former chief anchor Kevin Newman. The special marks Newman’s first appearance on the Global airwaves since 2010. The documentary takes a look at transformative events over the past two decades and features stories and recollections of producers, correspondents and video journalists, including Mike Armstrong and Ross Lord, who have been with Global National since its inception. Read more here.

Christine Sinclair

Uninterrupted Canada, in partnership with Bell Media, are partnering to produce “SINC”: The Christine Sinclair Story, an original documentary that charts the rise of the soccer player. Airing in 2022 on TSN and Crave, production and principal photography will commence this fall. Sinclair made her debut with the senior national team at age 16 at the 2000 Algarve Cup where she scored her first international goal. Since then, she’s become one of the games most accomplished players, winning three Olympic medals, including Gold at the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, becoming the world’s all-time leader in international goals scored for both men and women, and the first soccer player to win the Lou Marsh Award as Canadian Athlete of the Year.

Crave, in association with KOTV Productions, has started production in Montréal on 10-part Crave Original series, Pillow Talk, an adaptation of Noovo French-language series Entre Deux Draps, currently available on Crave. The full cast consists of four, real-life couples who play fictionalized versions of themselves: Nicola Correia-Damude (Shadowhunters, Burden of Proof) and Carlos Gonzalez-Vio (The Expanse, Orphan Black); Adam DiMarco (The Order) and Sydney Scotia (Reboot: The Guardian Code); Andrew Wheeler (Supernatural, Best in Show) and Sharon Crandall (The Kid Detective, Welcome to Marwen); and Paolo Santalucia (Kim’s Convenience) and Gregory Prest (Angels in America). Additional cast members include Chris Robinson (Workin’ Moms, Odd Squad) and Kwasi Thomas (Snowpiercer, Altered Carbon). After a successful first season where it was one of the Top 10 performing series on Noovo, Entre Deux Draps was renewed for a second season which premieres Sept. 15 on Noovo and Noovo.ca.

WildBrain Television has announced seven new greenlights across animation and live-action. Set to premiere starting this October and continuing to roll out through 2022, the animation roster is led by five new WildBrain original CG specials for Caillou, marking the first new long-form content for the preschool brand in almost a decade. Also greenlit are Lucas the Spider (Fresh TV), a new CG-animated series about a curious four-year-old arachnid, based on the popular YouTube shorts; YouTube hit Denis and Me (Headspinner Productions) which will see four new specials, following WildBrain’s order for Season 2 of the series earlier this year. New series Summer Memories (Aircraft Pictures, A&N Production and YETI Farm Creative) chronicles a friendship as the lead character looks back on the most pivotal summer of his life. Heading up WildBrain’s live-action lineup are new family series Ruby & the Well (Shaftesbury) and Take Note (Lambur Productions), tracking the fictional roller-coaster life of a teen competing in a reality show. 

APTN’s fall lineup includes new series Wild Game (premieres Sept. 7), starring chef Rich Francis who aims to reinvent Indigenous cuisine, visiting First Nations across Canada to hunt and gather ingredients; On Country Kitchen (Sept. 7) stars comic Derek Nannup and Indigenous chef Mark who tour Western Australia, seeking out local produce and meeting some characters along the way; Easy Eats (Sept. 7), features presenter Hera Te Kurapa as she creates a rustic, fine dining menu. New docuseries include Michif Country (Sept. 12), exploring the unique landscape, culture and language of the Michif community of Saint Laurent, MB, and Life Below Zero: Canada (Oct. 31) capturing the day-to-day of people living in unforgiving environments. 

Shark Tank adds four new guest Sharks for its 13th season, premiering Oct. 8 on CTV, that include Emma Grede, CEO and co-founder of Good American and founding partner of SKIMS; Kevin Hart, actor, investor and entrepreneur; Peter Jones, the sole remaining original Dragon on BBC’s Dragon’s Den; and Nirav Tolia, co-founder of Nextdoor. They’ll appear alongside long-standing Sharks Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Daymond John and Kevin O’Leary. Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of KIND, also returns this season. 

Hollywood Suite is presenting the broadcast premiere of Metric: Dreams So Real (2017) on Sept. 2, kicking off a month-long showcase of musical programming which includes the premieres of Coldplay Live in São Paulo (2017), Paul Simon: Concert in the Park (1991) and The Who: Live at the Kilburn 1977. Musically driven features airing in September span Bandar Band (2020); Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains (1982); Little Voice (1998); The Sapphires (2012); and returning favourites Almost Famous (2000); Detroit Rock City (1999); and The Blues Brothers (1980).

(L-R): Christef Desir, Janet-Rose Nguyen, Izad Etemadi, Blessing Adedijo, Leighton Alexander Williams, Katherine Fogler and Zara Jestadt

The Canadian Film Centre (CFC) has announced the return of the CBC Actors Conservatory after a year-long hiatus due to COVID. Officially underway Sept. 7, this year’s cohort includes Blessing Adedijo, Christef Desir, Izad Etemadi, Katherine Fogler, Zara Jestadt, Janet-Rose Nguyen and Leighton Alexander Williams, who have a range of skills and experience across musical and classical theatre, film, TV, and comedy. The CBC Actors Conservatory is an immersive on-screen acting program designed to empower actors to navigate the film and TV business by exposing them to different approaches, perspectives, collaborators and materials.