Canada rejects Too Much Sex

It was passed on by distributors and rejected by all the major Canadian film festivals, but Andrew Ainsworth’s first feature Too Much Sex slipped up through the Hollywood cracks to win best foreign film at the Malibu Film Festival in Santa Monica, CA, Feb. 23-26.

"The screening was alright. It rained the whole weekend so the turnout was lame. But then I go to the gala dinner where they’re giving out awards and all of a sudden I hear them talking about Too Much Sex"and the next thing I know I’m accepting the award for best foreign film in front of a room filled with stars," says Ainsworth, who made his tongue-in-cheek acceptance speech in front of such heavies as Milton Berle, James Cameron, Shirley MacLaine, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and Roger Corman.

Produced through the Canadian Film Centre’s Feature Film Project by Tina Grewal and Jeff Berman, and written/directed by Ainsworth, the $400,000 16mm film is about a guy who’s slept with 389 women. At 390 he has a near-death sex experience that sends him to heaven where he meets an angel, who after "titty whipping" him allows him to go back down to Earth with the understanding that the next woman will be his last.

Ainsworth explains that the angel’s breasts were computer generated so as to enable them to slap around.

Because the film couldn’t find a distributor, the FFP’s Justine Whyte is handling the distribution in Canada, with Allied Entertainment serving as sales agent for the rest of the world.

Too Much Sex was the only film in the FFP last year that didn’t get distribution, says Whyte, who admits that taking it on herself may have helped sales. So far, the film has been sold to Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Israel and Thailand.

And since its festival recognition, TMN-The Movie Network, Superchannel and Super Ecran have picked it up.

"The bottom line is the Canadian film business caters to a certain type of film, the Jeremy Podeswa/Atom Egoyan-type films. There’s not a lot of room for high-concept comedy like in the U.S.," says Ainsworth. "Canada’s pretty homogenous. They don’t know what to do with my film."

Ainsworth, a stay-at-home dad, is currently developing two "high-concept comedy" scripts: Zombie Mom, a quasi-autobiographical piece, and The Dog Prince.

MBZ chronicles That Year in China

Toronto’S MBZ Productions and Crescendo Films in the U.K., under the auspice of Redress Films, are coproducing the WWII feature That Year in China.

Set up as a Canada/U.K. and Canada/China coproduction (two separate deals are being struck because the U.K. doesn’t have a coproduction agreement with China), the film, budgeted at roughly US$16 million, is a fictional account of the true story of Doris Reubens McCauley, an American journalist reporting from mainland China during the Sino-Japanese war.

The film chronicles her hardships and heartbreaks during her time in China from 1938 to 1939.

A first feature for coproducer Martin Grobisen, whose MBZ has been mostly making commercials and corporate videos in its five years of existence, That Year in China is a snapshot of WWII in Asia.

"It tells the truth about the Japanese atrocities. But instead of showing massive tanks and bombings, you see a female journalist interrupt a soldier raping a young girl," says Grobisen.

The film was written by Terence Doyle – a Canadian writer living in London – who was commissioned by Reubens McCauley’s son to write the story. MBZ later optioned the script and set up a partnership with coproducer Trudy Sargent (Crescendo).

A director has yet to be attached and Grobisen is currently negotiating with a third partner in China (likely Shanghai Film Studios).

The film will most likely be shot in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Toronto (doubling as New York) next spring, with post to be handled in the U.K.

Chesler/Perlmutter turn on the mystery wheel

Chesler/Perlmutter Productions has just started shooting a new mystery wheel that includes three back-to-back MOWs, all Canada/U.K. coproductions with film financier Grosvenor Park.

For broadcast on Global in Canada and Paxnet in the U.S., the films are budgeted at $3 million each and serve as pilots for potential series.

Each film, although distinct in storyline, is a light mystery produced by Paco Alvarez (Alternative Routes) and will shoot for a month in Toronto, starting mid-March and wrapping mid-May. "They’re good old-fashioned mysteries," says Alvarez. "They’re story-driven shows, no sex"and all Canadian content."

The first of the series, going to camera March 19, is Murray Maguire M.E. Directed by Vic Sarin (Sea People) and written by Joe Wiesenfeld, it follows the adventures of a medical examiner.

On April 2, Breakfast with Dick and Dorothy, directed by Eleanore Lindo (Drop the Beat) and written by Matthew Weisman, goes to camera. The story follows a pair of intrepid morning talk show cohosts as they turn off their mikes and turn on their gumshoes.

Finally, Isabella Rocks, directed by Michael Kennedy (Made in Canada) and written by Weisman and Edgar Lyall, goes into production April 16.

Lewis Chesler, David Perlmutter and Fred Silverman are exec producing.

Hallmark Entertainment is handling foreign.

Sienna keeps it eclectic

The worldwide success of New Waterford Girl has, among other things, increased interest from outside Canada in the goings on at Toronto-based Sienna Films, says producer Julia Sereny.

But while the company confirms it has a few more features up its sleeve, it is keeping tight-lipped about details.

What can be reported is Sereny and partner Jennifer Kawaja are developing a six-part, half-hour comedy series, The Yearbook, with cocreators Elyse Friedman and Mark McKinney for CBC and Showcase.

In it, McKinney plays a documentary filmmaker who, approaching 40, runs into an old high-school mate. Intrigued by what has become of his old friend, he decides to track down all his old classmates to find out where life has taken them.

The producers also just wrapped in Toronto a one-hour special called Femcab, a feminist cabaret for CBC.

Directed by Kim Derko, the special covers Night With Theatre, an annual fundraising event and tribute to theatre, held at the Bluma Appel Theatre on March 4.

This year the event featured a cross-section of dance troops called COBA.

Sienna also recently wrapped in Winnipeg on Society’s Child, an MOW for CBC that Sienna’s coproducing with Buffalo Gal Pictures of Winnipeg.

Mother Goose shoots first feature

Mother Goose Films, launched in Toronto in April 2000, just wrapped on its first feature, Bob’s Garage.

Tagged as an urban western created in the spirit of The Full Monty and Reservoir Dogs, the dark comedy is written and directed by first-timer Harper Quantrill, best known as an actor (Star Wars, Reds).

The film tells the story of an off-duty police officer and his four friends who are having one hell of a night until someone gets shot and they are forced to operate on him with the tools in Bob’s garage.

Produced by Mother Goose principals Evelijn van Brandenberg and Liisa Allicock, the $750,000 (although mostly deferred) film was shot on location in Toronto and at Freedom Films Studio from Jan. 15-29.

Andre Bennett of Cinema Esperanca is distributing the film, which was shot with three digital cameras, but will be transferred to 35mm for theatrical release.

Bennett and Mike Norton, a 25-year veteran of the Toronto police services, are exec producing.

TMN-The Movie Network has prebought the film and Bennett has guaranteed theatrical for Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, says van Brandenberg. "We’re aiming to go to Venice with it," she adds.

The partners have hired on Quantrill as the prodco’s in-house writer/director. And with the purchase of a full-service digital editing suite, the company is moving toward establishing itself as a "mini-studio," says van Brandenberg. "With the digital post facility, we come in on the front and back end," she adds. *

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WIFT-T Crystal Awards 2014

WIFT-T Crystal Awards 2014 - WIFT-T Executive Director Heather Webb in the ballroom at the 2014 WIFT-T Crystal Awards. Credit: Kowthar Omar