Quebec Scene: Richer, Picard star in Verseau saga L’Ombre de l’epervier

Montreal: Principal photography opened on a blustery, snowy night in late March on Verseau International's L'ombre de l'epervier, a 13-hour historical drama chronicling a family and fishing village's struggle against mercantile exploitation....

Montreal: Principal photography opened on a blustery, snowy night in late March on Verseau International’s L’ombre de l’epervier, a 13-hour historical drama chronicling a family and fishing village’s struggle against mercantile exploitation.

The production is an adaptation by Guy Fournier (Jamais deux sans toi) and director Robert Favreau (Portion d’eternite, Nelligan) of the Noel Audet novel of the same name. Publisher Editions Quebec-Amerique has sold more than 70,000 copies of the novel and Radio-Canada plans to broadcast the series in January 1998.

Set on the northern shores of the Gaspe Peninsula, circa 1919 to 1945, the series enters the world of a tiny fishing outpost dominated by offshore merchants, in this case a company from the Channel Islands. The fishermen and their families are paid in coupons and at the end of each season, despite fabulous hauls, the locals just seem to get ever deeper in debt.

‘It’s a grand love story between two heroes who have known each other since they were 18,’ says producer Lyse Lafontaine. The young couple, played by Isabel Richer (Lobby, Jasmine) and Luc Picard (Omerta), marry and the wife soon becomes the village’s leading entrepreneur. Richer’s character has prescient abilities, lending the story a touch of magic, says the producer.

As many as 60 actors and 1,000 extras will appear in L’ombre, which is being videotaped using two digital cameras. The shoot goes for 21 weeks, including seven weeks in Parc Forillon in the Gaspe.

Philippe Lavalette is the dop, Louise Jobin is the art director and Helene Girard is the editor.

Funding sources for the $11.4 million production include Telefilm Canada, the Canada Television and Cable Production Fund, Radio-Canada, sodec and both tax credits.

Verseau and producer Peter Pearson are also developing a Canada/u.k. drama coproduction called Greed. The broadcaster is cbc and the subject is the demimonde of cybertech and forensic police investigations. Writers are Paul Wheeler, Leila Bassan and Ann MacNaughton.

-Charlebois directs On the Edge

In On the Edge, an ace snowboarding outfit is forced to recruit a straight, trendoid high school football player when one of the Shred Gods breaks a leg. The ex-bmoc is rejected by all the local extreme types, but with a little faith and encouragement from the Colorado village’s off-the-wall mailman, football boy comes through big time at the world comps.

Billed as a teen comedy with a major soundtrack component, filming on On the Edge starts April 7 in the St. Sauveur region and goes for 24 days, with a week of second-unit extreme photography in the Rocky Mountains of b.c.

The shoot is director Lyne Charlebois’ first feature and is a b.c./Quebec coproduction between producer Glen Tedham’s Vancouver company Bright Ideas Entertainment and Montreal producer Michael Wright, who cowrote the story with Leah Estes and Michelle Lang.

‘We think that with Lyne’s background as a music video and commercial director (with Cinelande) she brings a certain style to the project that will give it an edge, seeing that it’s a teen comedy,’ says Tedham.

Cast includes u.s. rap star Coolio in the role of Buzz the mentor, Shane Meier (Unforgiven, Needful Things) and Rachel Wilson (Love and War).

Craft credits go to pm Guy Trinque, first ad Kim Berlin, dop Bruce Chun, production designer Serge ‘Max’ Vincent and set decorator Diane Lamothe. Casting is by Andrea Kenyon, with Sonolab handling the 35mm Kodak rushes.

The budget is in the $4 million range, says Tedham, who adds he is enjoying his ‘first Quebec experience’ and plans to partner with Wright on new projects.

Everest Entertainment, On the Edge’s Canadian distributor, has worldwide sales rights including the u.s. A German presale has been made to Helkon Media.

-Festival fallout

There may be a little extra help on the way for French-track documentaries via a recently announced tax credit top-up, but although the genre’s seriously underfunded local practitioners just keep winning prizes anyway, says Montreal documentarian and Necessary Illusions producer Peter Wintonick.

Wintonick modestly points out nine Quebec productions took home prizes from this year’s Hot Docs! Awards in Toronto, including Daniel Cross’ The Street: A Film with the Homeless, winner of the People’s Choice Award, which Wintonick executive produced.

The Street will be released in theaters by Cinema Libre and ‘educationally’ by the National Film Board.

-Karmina, apres tout

Further afield, Gabriel Pelletier’s vamp comedy Karmina edged out more than 60 films to win top Jury Prize and the Prix du Public at the 15th Festival International du Film Fantastique de Bruxelles. The annual festival is that city’s favorite and regularly draws over 50,000 sci-fi and schlock-horror movie fans.

Karmina was produced by Nicole Robert of Lux Films and scored the second best box office for a Quebec film in 1996, following Georges Mihalka’s romantic comedy l’Homme ideal, with an eight-week run in the $400,000 range.

The Prix du Public includes money for subtitling the film in Dutch for a wider theatrical rollout in the two solitudes that is Belgium.

Earlier at the American Film Market, CFP Distribution sold the film to Japan, Germany and selected South American territories. With the win in Brussels and new dates at festivals in South Korea (August) and Tokyo (September), Karmina may soon be helping itself to more international theatrical and tv sales.

Meanwhile, sodec and Telefilm Canada are backing the development of Pelletier’s latest feature, l’Ennemi Dedans.