First Telefilm funded Hong Kong copro begins shooting in May

Vancouver: Once again taking advantage of the Hong Kong/ Canada coproduction treaty, producers Michael Parker and Shan Tam (Holiday Pictures) begin work on Lunch with Charles May 12 for a 25-day shoot....

Vancouver: Once again taking advantage of the Hong Kong/ Canada coproduction treaty, producers Michael Parker and Shan Tam (Holiday Pictures) begin work on Lunch with Charles May 12 for a 25-day shoot.

The romantic comedy – which includes two days of shooting in Hong Kong – actually marks the first time Telefilm Canada has invested in a Hong Kong/Canada coproduction since the treaty was signed in 1991.

In the film, a Chinese couple and a Caucasian couple go on a road trip together from Vancouver to Banff and en route find themselves falling for each other’s spouses. The story is written by Parker, who also cowrote the last Hong Kong copro feature he and Tam did called Young Offenders in 1993.

In between their own features, Parker and Tam have been active line producers for Asian productions in Vancouver, including Jackie Chan’s Rumble in the Bronx.

Lunch with Charles has been five years in development and will be delivered in October (in time for the Sundance Festival) for $1.9 million.

The Hong Kong coproducer is Stephen Shin (Newfull Development). Vancouver-based LS Entertainment – normally a North American distributor of Asian features – will handle North American sales. Charles will be the first English-language film distributed by ls.

While the Caucasian actors were not cast at press time, Lau Ching Wan – a favorite of Hong Kong film critics and audiences – is one of the leads. Theresa Lee, a Canadian living in Hong Kong, is also cast.

Ottawa-based David Hamilton, who has been instrumental in the production of Deepa Mehta’s films, acts as executive producer.

Private investors Telus New Media and Broadcast Fund, chum, TMN-The Movie Network, Superchannel, and Super Ecran are involved and Parker was entertaining offers from Asian distributors earlier this month.

*Swift production

Gulliver’s Travels, the first large-format production in Mainframe Entertainment’s three-picture deal with Imax, is in production and should be in big big-screen theatres by fall 2001. The 3D stereoscopic format means audiences will be wearing the special glasses.

According to Mainframe spokesperson Mairi Welman, the production has a very different look from other Mainframe projects. This Gulliver’s Travels will not look ‘computer-y,’ she says. Rather it will look like a cross between the cgi-inflected feature What Dreams May Come and traditional storybook illustrations.

The special technical and artistic demands of the project have required the development of two new pieces of proprietary software. One allows animators to render organic surfaces like fur in more realistic ways and the other allows them to animate for a stereoscopic presentation.

And to save costs in the animation-testing phase, Mainframe has set up a mini, to-scale imax theatre in its Vancouver offices that uses twin digital projectors. Only if the animation passes this phase will the animation be transferred to the large-format (ergo, expensive) film.

The next two 3D large-format productions are Pandora’s Box and The Pied Piper.

Mainframe, meanwhile, continues to wait for the green light from Playboy to be the service producer to do a computer-animated series based on Playboy Magazine’s decades-old comic strip Little Annie Fannie.

*Digital age

Local filmmaker Jeff Macpherson makes his directorial debut with his own script, Come Together. Shot on digital for $65,000 and standard low-budget deferrals, the feature is about a man whose heartache after a romantic split is eased by another woman. Up-and-coming Vancouver actor Tygh Runyan (Touched, Antitrust) stars with Laura Harris (who also acts as executive producer) and other local talent including Eryn Collins and Russell Porter.

Three weeks of production, mostly in North Vancouver, ends May 5. The project is bound for the festival circuit.

*PC & the Web

New and l.a.-based Moon Crescent Studios, an independent calling itself a digital content company, is in production on its first feature, PC & the Web, in Vancouver April 15-28.

About a kid who is pulled into the Internet, pc is a combination of live action and animation. The animation is being done at Moon Crescent’s studios and uses a new kind of proprietary 3D animation technology].

Actor Wilford Brimley (Cocoon) leads a cast of unknowns. The coproducer and director is Christopher Cain, who did the feature Young Guns.

*Touched by an X-Files

Mysterious Ways, the latest 22-episode series produced by Lions Gate Television, goes into seven months of production May 8 for Pax and its major shareholder nbc.

l.a.-based producer Kevin Beggs calls the one-hour series a cross between Touched by an Angel and The X-Files. In it, an anthropology professor/ adventurer who has survived a near-death experience is teamed up with a skeptical hospital psychologist (played by Rae Dawn Chong) as they investigate miraculous phenomena. Lions Gate will handle North American sales. At press time, Universal Television was in the running to handle international sales. Mysterious Ways could begin airing on nbc as early as July.

In other Lions Gate Television news, Hope Island has not been renewed by Pax and Higher Ground has just begun airing on Fox Family Channel and doesn’t yet have a second-season go-ahead. Both series were produced in Vancouver.

*Renewal watch

Disney Channel’s third season of 26 half-hour episodes (for a total of 65) of kids show So Weird (Vancouver’s Peace Arch Entertainment) will be in production until November. There are no significant changes to the show’s formula this year. The series is about a couple of kids who travel with their musician mom (Mackenzie Phillips) and encounter unusual phenomena in the places they visit.

*Kudos

For the third time in four years, Vancouver cinematographer Robert McLachlan has won the award for outstanding tv series cinematography from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers. All three prizes recognize his work on the Chris Carter series Millennium.

He has been nominated for 11 csc awards, winning seven times, and has been nominated for three consecutive years for the similar award handed out by the American Society of Cinematographers.

McLachlan recently wrapped work on Carter’s new series pilot The Lone Gunmen and next will shoot the remake of High Noon in Alberta.

*For the record

We need to correct information from last issue’s column regarding vtv’s lineup of documentaries. The documentary by new filmmakers Michelle Welygan and Erin Mussolum (Artizan Productions) is called K-9 Corrections.