Fireworks’ Tout brings Hollywood heavies to T.O.

‘Tis the season to be shooting and as such Toronto plays host to a galaxy of Hollywood stars, who continue to pepper the streets with a proverbial dose of summer glam.

One of the most recent onslaughts of Tinseltown royalty includes Christian Slater (Very Bad Things), Tim Allen (Home Improvement), Portia de Rossi (Ally McBeal), Richard Dreyfuss (Jaws), Billy Connolly (Mrs. Brown) and RuPaul (Wigstock: The Movie), who are all in town costarring in Cletis Tout, a Fireworks Pictures production.

Directed and written by first-timer Chris Ver Wiel, the film is an offbeat combination of adventure, comedy and romance that sees a movie-obsessed hit man come to the rescue of his hostage when he realizes his target is the wrong man.

‘Cletis Tout is a bouillabaisse. It has everything,’ says producer Dan Grodnik (Powder).

Budgeted at roughly us$14 million ($20 million), the film is coproduced by Matt Grimaldi, Robert Snukal and Dennis Murphy, distributed worldwide by Fireworks and exec produced by Jay Firestone and Adam Haight.

There are 72 location changes in the film’s 38-day shoot, which started June 6. ‘This shoot is like an eight-day bike race,’ says production designer Charles Rosen.

In other Cletis Tout news, Murphy and Grodnik have set up an apprenticeship initiative called Innonative, through which they have placed six aspiring filmmakers from native communities across the country in various union and non-union positions on the film.

Murphy, who works with native groups in the u.s., says, ‘We’ve done this to bring native people into the mainstream of motion pictures.’

By providing jobs in such areas as wardrobe, props, grip and electric, Murphy is helping to qualify the trainees as permitees in the union. ‘I’m not here giving people summer jobs, I’m giving them careers.’

nabet has approved the program, which was put together with the assistance of Miziwebiik, an Ontario-funded aboriginal employment agency.

Miziwebiik and the six trainees are currently exploring the possibility of government grants and the establishment of a foundation that could assist in funding the program in the future.

As it stands, the six trainees are being paid by the production.

*Decode goes live with The Zack Files

Decode Entertainment, world renowned for its Angela Anaconda series and other such innovative animated properties, has gone to camera on its first proprietary live-action series, The Zack Files.

Based on the American book series by Dan Greenberg, which was optioned by Decode, the 26-part, half-hour tv series, described as an X-Files for kids, chronicles the misadventures of young Zack Greenberg, an affable 12-year-old who’s a magnet for paranormal experiences.

Produced by Decode in association with u.s. distributor Lancit Media, the series is scheduled to air this fall on ytv and Fox Family Channel in the u.s.

The Zack Files marks Decode’s foray into producing live-action kids’ properties, a handful of which are already somewhere down the pipeline, says Decode spokesperson Christine Liber.

John Delmage is producing.

Writers include James Nadler (PSI Factor, The Outer Limits), Kathy Slevin (Due South, v.i.p.) and Myra Fried (Riverdale).

Bill Fruet (Dear America, Da Vinci’s Inquest, Jane Thompson (Cold Squad, Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy), John Bell (Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Relic Hunter) and Michael DeCarlo (I Was a Sixth Grade Alien, Drop the Beat) are among the directors attached to the series, which started shooting June 19 and runs until the end of October in Toronto.

The series stars Robert Clark (I Was a Sixth Grade Alien) in the title role. Jake Epstein (Quints) and Michael Seter (Twice in a Lifetime) costar.

Decode’s Steven DeNure, Neil Court and Slevin are exec producing.

Decode has international distribution rights and has presold the series to seven broadcasters worldwide, including both terrestrial and cable and satellite channels in the u.k. and France. The series will air on Channel 4′s T4 block in September, followed by a Fox Kids u.k. debut in December. France 3 has bought the series for an initial four years (starting in September 2002), following a one-year pay window on Disney Channel France. Disney Channel has also secured cable and satellite rights for Italy, Australia and South East Asia.

em-tv has also licensed the series for German-speaking countries, marking its first-ever prebuy of a live-action children’s series.

*Epitome takes Degrassi to the next generation

Succumbing to endless requests to bring Degrassi back to the small screen, Epitome Pictures is in development with ctv on Degrassi: The Next Generation, a contemporary, multiplatform version of the original series that can be seen in reruns on cbc and Showcase.

Little is being revealed about the new series except that it will incorporate a tv show, a radio platform and a Web component, which Epitome is developing with Snap Media.

‘We’ve been thinking about this for a long time,’ says Epitome’s development co-ordinator Shelley Scarrow. ‘We were getting asked all the time, ‘Where’s Degrassi for kids today?’ ‘ And the question still remains.

Other projects in the works at Epitome include the mow Rebellion, based on Marianne Brandis’ Rebellion: A Novel of Upper Canada and adapted by scribe Doug Bowie (Must Be Santa).

In development with cbc, the tv movie, shot on Super 16, takes place in rural England and Upper Canada in 1837, when farmers were struggling to survive and the Family Compact that ruled Upper Canada lived lavishly on the best land.

The idea is to turn the movie into a one-hour dramatic series.

Linda Schuyler and partner Stephen Stohn are exec producing, with Sari Friedland as supervising producer.

Thunder Bay, also in development with cbc, is an Epitome/Granada (u.k.) coproduction.

It’s a one-hour, 13-part family series about the wwii fighter pilots from all over the Commonwealth who were sent to Canada to train before the war. Thunder Bay, Ont. was one of the training locations.

Half the scripts are coming from the u.k. and half are being written by Canadians, including David Cole (Cold Squad).

Schuyler, whose father was one of the aforementioned pilots, is exec producing with Stohn. Friedland is supervising producer.

Finally, Borderline is a half-hour, 13-part sitcom set at a border crossing station between Vermont and Quebec.

As part of a project initiated by Ottawa and Washington to share costs, a disparate collection of Canadian and American border guards is forced to share facilities under a single roof on the Quebec/Vermont border, which lends to larger-than-life characters dealing with absurd situations as they interact with each other and an endless parade of bizarre travelers.

The first three scripts were written by Greg Lawrence (The Endless Grind), Alex Ganetakos (Bit & Bob), Joe Bodolai (Thick and Thin) and Bianca Roberts.

Schuyler and Stohn are exec producing and Friedland is supervising producer.

*Development House kicks into first gear

Former vp of development for Norstar Filmed Entertainment, Carrie Paupst Shaughnessy, has just launched what she describes as the first Canadian company to offer producers an arm’s-length development department and provide emerging writers with coverage before shopping their scripts around the industry.

The new company, The Development House, aims to develop inventive, well-crafted commercial and indie films that will be competitive in the marketplace. Paupst Shaughnessy is billing it as a solution for small and medium-sized producers and distributors wanting to grow their development slate, and for writers, directors and agents seeking feedback or development on a single project.

With its lineup of experienced story analysts and junior story editors, including Sunny Widerman, Allison Black, Claire Moorson and Donna Radik (former business and creative analyst at Telefilm Canada), the Toronto-based company provides such services as coverage, story notes, story editing and creative roundtables.

It also offers management services such as the administration of agency applications, a script database and departmental management. ‘We do anything an in-house development department does, but we’re more cost-effective because you’re only paying for what you use,’ says Paupst Shaughnessy.

Further down the road, she says the company will also provide workshops and training for story editors.

Clients include Norstar, through which Development House is developing the feature Fourth Angel with writer Allan Scott and Blues for Abraham with writer Brock Simpson; and Thump, through which the company is developing the feature Self Portrait with Ethel with writer Leslie Watts and Call Me Irresponsible, again with Simpson.

Independent projects include: Treed Murray, with writer/director Bill Phillips and producers Helen du Toit and Mehra May; Touch and Go, with writer Michael Melski and director Scott Simpson; Stranger Than Naked, with writer Geoff McRae; and Neverland, with writers Corey Marr and Joseph Kay.

Development House is also in talks with Red Apple Entertainment and Sienna Films to become their arm’s-length development department.