Ontario Scene: YTV heads into live-action series production with Control Shift

Dale Taylor at ytv will go into prepro this fall on his pet project Control Shift, the first live-action series to be produced by the kids' specialty....

Dale Taylor at ytv will go into prepro this fall on his pet project Control Shift, the first live-action series to be produced by the kids’ specialty.

Aimed at a tween audience, the program centers on a group of youths who use the Internet to solve local crimes and mysteries as well as learn how they can become involved in local, national and international issues. Topics will run the gamut from global warming and the destruction of Brazilian forests to school kids trying to sell essays on the Net.

Taylor plans to finance the $350,000 per half-hour series with international presales and is currently in negotiations with u.k. and American broadcasters and distributors.

John May and Suzanne Bolch are writing the scripts and production will begin next spring for a fall ’98 launch. A director and cast have not been attached.

A Website will be twinned with the series where viewers can pick up clues to the unfolding mysteries as well as find out how to access Websites that deal with the issues confronted in the program and lend their voices to action campaigns. Taylor anticipates the series content and show direction will eventually be driven by audience comments.

ytv is also in development on another half-hour series being scripted by May. The cel-animated Pig William, a copro between Toronto’s Cambium Film and Video Productions and Vancouver’s Boing Entertainment (owned by Bardel Animation), is based on a book by Arlene Dubanevich about a pig who gets distracted by the menial chores of daily life and daydreams away his time with imaginary adventures.

-Alliance trying for Candy book

Alliance Communications is currently in negotiations to option Laughing On The Outside: The Life of John Candy, a book by Martin Knelman. Alliance is reportedly interested in a tv movie based on the story.

-Atlantis’s Alex Kelly

Early September has been slated for production of the cbs tv movie Alex Kelly Story (working title), produced by Atlantis Films. Director and cast have not been lined up.

-Comedy Network picks up Tom Green

The wacky off-the-wall exploits of comic actor Tom Green first surfaced on Rogers Cable Ottawa, had a short stint as a cbc pilot last fall, and is reemerging on The Comedy Network come January.

Merilyn Read’s Ottawa-based production company MTR Entertainment has picked up a broadcast licence from The Comedy Network to produce 13 eps of The Tom Green Show, a twentysomething variety spoof that sees Green gallivant around the country creating chaos ­ previous escapades included taping himself to a post at MuchMusic until Monica Deol promised to come out and pledge her love for him.

The program aired for a year and a half on Rogers Cable Ottawa as an in-house production. Read, who produced the Babar and Father Christmas special and Happy Birthday Bunnykins for ctv, nabbed the rights and produced a cbc pilot last fall.

Production on 13 eps is currently underway in Ottawa. Upcoming shows will see Green wander through Mexico determined to open a theme park bearing his name.

Read is also developing her first feature, Gracie’s Kiss, with the support of the Ontario Film Development Corporation’s Market Mentorship Program and will be shopping the $1.3 million budgeted project at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Katie Tallo is writing and directing the script, a black comedy/murder-mystery set in a small town chockfull of quirky characters.

-Rhombus’ dramatic feature slate

Rhombus Media is gearing up for a Sept. 15 production start on the $2-million dramatic feature Last Night.

Multifaceted Don McKellar, who won the 1994 best supporting actor Genie for his role in Exotica and whose writing credits include Rhombus’ The Red Violin (copenned by Francois Girard), will make his feature directorial debut on this end-of-the-world flick, where a group of characters have to decide how to spend their final night and who to spend it with. Cast is still being lined up.

cbc is taking a broadcast window, Cineplex Odeon is distributing in Canada and Rhombus International has foreign rights.

Another feature in early development at Rhombus is a dramatized version of the life of Canadian composer Colin McPhee.

-Travel tales and cartoon characters at Palliser

The last thing the broadcast world needs is another travel mag.

Not so, says Warren Sulatycky at Palliser Media who has started shooting the travel series TripTV in association with Canadian magazine Travel Week Bulletin, whose advertisers have been lined up to sponsor the $90,000 per half-hour 13-ep series. Shot in digital Betacam and posted digitally, Sulatycky says the production value of the show will set TripTV apart from the endless array of travel mags cropping up across the small screen. As well, the program will take real people rather than hosts to exotic locales around the globe. A pilot has been shot with former CHUM Radio morning man Robbie Evans and his wife Annie sea kayaking in Nova Scotia.

‘I’m expecting a bidding war,’ says a confident Sulatycky, who’s anticipating a free net first window and a second slot on a specialty. He says he’s close to signing a deal ­ talks are underway with both Global and Baton Broadcasting as potential broadcasters ­ and wtn and Outdoor Life are also interested in a window.

Sulatycky is also developing a live-action/animation $350,000 per half-hour series, Johnny Mondo, and is in negotiations with a ‘large, very internationally focused Canadian production company’ to produce with him.

According to Sulatycky, Nickelodeon came to this undisclosed company looking for a project for the tween market and he is currently rewriting the show bible to fit Nickelodeon’s specs.

The show will follow a young, hot-shot cartoonist who creates his first comic book series, but when his cartoon character Johnny Mondo leaps off the pages, the artist begins a desperate search for his lost hero.

Sulatycky earlier wrote, directed and produced Destruction Brothers for ytv.

-Inventors, statesmen and sports specials

Production starts Sept. 22 for three weeks on Edison: The Wizard of Light, the final one-hour installment of Devine Entertainment’s six-part Inventors Specials for broadcast on Family Channel in Canada and hbo in the u.s.

Kenneth Welsh (Margaret’s Museum) is starring as Thomas Edison and David Storch (costar of the Toronto stage production of The Glass Menagerie) plays his assistant who collaborated on the invention of the motion picture camera.

David Devine has found a format that sells and he’s sticking with it. Piggybacking on the success of The Composers and Inventors specials, up next for the production company is a six-hour $12.5-million anthology on great statesmen. Devine says the program will focus on historic international figures and negotiations with broadcasters are underway. A summer ’98 shoot is anticipated. Once this anthology is in the can, great sports figures of history will likely follow, he says.

Devine Entertainment has also made the leap to join the big guys ­ the company has just been accepted on the Toronto Stock Exchange, having previously traded on the Alberta index.

-S&S targets teens

With the male-centered outdoor handyman comedy The Red Green Show under his belt and a female-centric talk show spoof Go Girl! set to air on wtn this fall, Steve Smith of S&S Productions is setting his sights on the early teen years for his next comedy series.

Smith is in development with screenwriters Rob Baird and Kelly Senecal on This Is Not A Test, a tongue-in-cheek look at the trials and tribulations of the adolescent years hosted by two rambunctious youths who have managed to survive these rough times.

A coproducer and broadcaster are being sought for the 13-episode, $50,000 per half-hour series. The project has been shopped to ytv but no word as yet.

-Dinner party

‘I call it a 12 Popsicle sticks and bottle of Elmer’s Glue budget,’ says indie filmmaker Moze Mossanen, who will shoot his low-budget feature Dinner Party mid-September.

Written by Mossanen, the black comedy centers on the reunion of three elderly gay gents who recount their days as a World War ii army dance group. Cast includes Brigitte Gall (Twisted Sheets), David Gardner (Traders) and Grey Spottiswood (e.n.g.). Two distributors are interested, says Mossanen, but they are waiting to see a rough cut before sitting down at the negotiating table.

Dinner Party is Mossanen’s first feature-length drama. He produced the six half-hour series Dancemakers for cbc and tvontario in 1991.

He has also finished another feature script called Modern Rooms, loosely based on the life of choreographer Ted Shawn, who formed the first all-male dance troupe in North American in the ’30s. He’s in negotiations with distributors and would like to produce a $1-million film next year.

-Looking for $s

The Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto is holding its 10th annual Party of Parties Aug. 29 at the Factory Theatre.

The biggest fundraising event on the lift calendar, the party will feature screenings of films from lift members and a silent auction with $25,000 worth of film and video packages up for grabs, including five hours of online editing and credits at William F. White. The cash g’es towards lift’s workshops, production support and activities in support of local indie filmmakers.

The Canadian Independent Film Series is also in the midst of fundraising to support its efforts to open up Canadian screens for emerging filmmakers. Three $500 16mm camera/ light/grip rental packages donated by William F. White are up for sale to the best offer. The packages are good for up to two productions, for any combination of available equipment, and redeemable at any William F. White location in Canada. cifs is also looking for sponsors for its monthly screenings at the Bloor Cinema.

-Correction

In the last column, Barna-Alper’s David Weaver stated that a broadcast license had been picked up by the cbc for the tv movie Scorn, coproduced by Maryke McEwen and Chris Bruyere. Although the project is in development for the cbc, the licensing deal has not been closed.