Sullivan extends Anne brand, greenlights more features

Sullivan Entertainment may have closed shop on Wind at my Back but it continues to forge ahead into the feature film arena with three new in-house productions: Anne: The Animated Movie, Timothy Findley's Famous Last Words and New Haven, based on Isobelle Carmody's novel The Gathering.
Sullivan's new feature film division will produce and finance the projects.

Sullivan Entertainment may have closed shop on Wind at my Back but it continues to forge ahead into the feature film arena with three new in-house productions: Anne: The Animated Movie, Timothy Findley’s Famous Last Words and New Haven, based on Isobelle Carmody’s novel The Gathering.

Sullivan’s new feature film division will produce and finance the projects.

Sullivan Entertainment Distribution, launched last year and headed by managing director Mary Barlow, will be handling international sales.

Production on Anne is already underway, with Lally Cadeau voicing the lead. Other voices featured in the film include Geoff Kahnert, Michael Beaver and Cedric Smith.

Written by Michael MacLennan (Wind at My Back), directed by company principal Kevin Sullivan and produced by Christine Davis, Anne: The Animated Movie is the prequel to the world-famous novel, Anne of Green Gables, about a scrappy orphan who captures the hearts and minds of the citizens of Avonlea, despite her well-known shenanigans, like dying her hair green and getting her best friend drunk.

The $8-million film is the latest addition to Sullivan’s established (and hotly contested) franchise property, along with its three live-action feature and miniseries productions of Anne and 91 hours of Road to Avonlea.

All key animation, digital painting and post for the new film, which will be ready for a Christmas release, is being provided by Sullivan Animation’s in-house production team.

Famous Last Words is Sullivan’s second go at bringing a Findley novel to life on screen (the first was The Piano Man’s Daughter).

The film tells the story of how Hollywood screenwriter H.S. Mauberley, who while fleeing from an assassin at the close of WWII, carves his story on the walls of a frozen luxury hotel in the Alps.

Sullivan is adapting the book and directing the film, which is scheduled for production this fall.

Chris Grismer is adapting New Haven, which Sullivan will produce and direct. The film is about a teenager and his recently widowed mother who arrive in the edgy, crime-ridden town of New Haven, where they immediately sense something sinister lurking beneath the surface.

Cuppa develops in-house

Cuppa Coffee Animation is abuzz about Gordon Giraffe and Cinema Sue, two new homegrown, cel-animated series in development.

The two series are among the company’s newest proprietary projects, which producers Adam Shaheen and Mike McGowan are toting to MIP-TV in search of presales.

‘We’re jump-starting the process,’ says McGowan. ‘We’re going to MIP to make deals with the U.K., France, Germany, U.S. and Canada, and for the territories that remain unsold, we’ll bring a distributor in to peddle the shows for the rest of the world.’

Gordon Giraffe (26 x 11) is a preschool series that follows the adventures of an over-exuberant giraffe.

‘It’s a high concept with a lot of merchandising and licensing possibilities,’ says Shaheen, who coproduces the series with creator and head writer McGowan.

Cinema Sue, currently in development with Teletoon, is a 13-part, half-hour series about a 13-year-old girl who becomes part of the movies she watches. ‘Criticism is her entry into them, insight is her way out,’ says Shaheen.

The series, targeted at a 9-12 demo, is jointly produced by Shaheen and McGowan, who also serves as pilot director and head writer.

Cuppa Coffee, which tends mostly to work as a service producer or creative partner, is about to go into production on AAC Kids’ mixed-media series Henry’s World. Created by McGowan, the 26 x 11-minute series is for broadcast on Family Channel.

The company is also in production on I Spy with partner Scholastic. Based on the popular book series of the same name, the series is directed by McGowan for HBO.

Owning Molony brings Hoffman, Driver to Toronto

Filming has begun on H2O Motion Pictures’ Owning Molony, director Richard Kwietniowski’s second feature.

Produced by Alliance Atlantis alumnus Andras Hamori, AAC production honcho Seaton McLean and Alessandro Camon, and coproduced by Victoria Hirst (Century Hotel), the film is based on Stung, Gary Ross’ best-selling account of the largest single-handed bank fraud in Canadian history.

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Almost Famous) stars as Brian Molony, an unassuming bank manager who quietly embezzled millions over a year and a half to feed his gambling addiction.

Minnie Driver (Return to Me) also stars in the film, which shoots in Toronto March 25 to May 18, with an Atlantic City shoot to follow.

Owning Molony, the third film greenlit by AAC since Hamori set up his H2O banner in May 2000, is also produced in conjunction with Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation.

Ed Pressman and Sean Furst are exec producing.

AAC has distribution.

Kwietniowski’s first feature, Love and Death on Long Island, premiered at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, winning the Pierrot Award for best first feature.

Egoyan heads into production on Ararat

Serendipity Point Films is only moments away from going to camera on Atom Egoyan’s latest feature, Ararat, produced by Robert Lantos.

Starring Bruce Greenwood (13 Days) and French singer Charles Aznavour, along with Arsinee Khanjian (Felicia’s Journey) and Marie-Josee Croze (Maelstrom), the film is shooting in Toronto May 21 to July 27. Ararat, written and directed by Egoyan, is a film within a film about a Canadian doctor’s 15-year mission in Turkey. Greenwood plays both the doctor and an actor playing the role of the doctor in a film about his work that takes place within the film.

Sandra Cunningham is coproducing. The budget is rumored to be roughly $10 million.

Alliance Atlantis is distributing.

Catalyst, BBC team up to make Cinderella and Me

Catalyst Entertainment’s much-anticipated MOW Cinderella and Me, a coproduction with the BBC, went to camera in Toronto for a four-week shoot March 25, to be followed by two weeks of production in the U.K.

Produced by Paul Brown and Andy Rowley, the $5-million live-action, children’s (6-10 demo) film, which takes a new spin on the old Cinderella fairytale, follows the adventures of a rat that turns into one of Cinderella’s page boys only to be left behind when the clock strikes midnight.

Designed as an MOW for North America and six half-hours for the world, the series, directed by Laurie Lynd (Virtual Mom), written by British scribe Richard Carpenter (The Borrowers) and adapted from the book I Was a Rat by Philip Pullman, is scheduled to air on the BBC in late fall.

Meantime, Catalyst, the film’s worldwide distributor (except in the U.K.), is negotiating with Canadian and American broadcasters.

Confirmed cast includes Tom Conti (Shirley Valentine), Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot), Edward Fox (Day of the Jackal), Don McKellar (Last Night), Ned Beatty (Cookie’s Fortune) and Sheila McCarthy (Emily of New Moon).

Nancy Chapelle, Elaine Sperber, head of BBC children’s drama, and Kevin Gillis are executive producing.

Genuine jumps into preschool bits

Ottawa-based Genuine Pictures is in production on a series of 40 interstitials for preschoolers.

Directed and produced by company president Donna Leon, Twinkle Toes looks at the world of dance through the eyes of two- to five-year-olds, featuring everything from international dance styles to basic elements like jumps and kicks.

The series, licensed by TVOntario and The Knowledge Network in English, and TFO in French, was established to fill the gaps in TVO’s fall kids block.

Shooting is underway at various dance schools and venues in and around Ottawa.

The three-minute segments will air between preschool programming over the next five years, starting this fall on all three channels.

‘Twinkle Toes will encourage young children to shake their sillies out,’ says Leon.

Meantime, Genuine recently completed 13 half-hour episodes of Jumpstart, a live-action kids series for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. The network began airing the series in October 2000, but will not be picking up a second season, because, says Leon, it is mandated to give priority to aboriginal producers.

The series, aimed at six- to 12-year-olds, is a magazine-style show that’s about getting kids out and about.

Hosted by two 11-year-olds, the series goes all over the country shooting kids doing interesting things, like a child boxer training for the Olympics. It also incorporates what Leon calls ‘animaction,’ animating inanimate objects.

With a couple of documentary projects in development, Leon says, ‘We’re focusing more on children’s because we’ve discovered it’s more fundable.’

Both Twinkle Toes and Jumpstart are distributed by Avecom.

Academy launches new screening series

The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television has launched a monthly screening series, giving members a chance to view Genie Award-winning films and director cuts of soon-to-be released Canadian feature films.

The Academy Screening Series, which also serves as a launching pad for Canadian filmmakers, premiered on March 7 with Ron Mann’s Genie-winning documentary Grass.

The series is hosted by the Academy in conjunction with TMN-The Movie Network.

Coming attractions include Century Hotel, produced by Victoria Hirst and directed by David Weaver, as well as the Genie-nominated documentary Spirits of Havana, produced by Peter Starr.

Political doc gets human rights nod

The political documentary Life Under Mike and the war-crime expose Shadows of War were honored in the film category at the 26th annual Media Human Rights Awards, held in Toronto March 19.

Directed by James Motluk and funded in part by Michael Moore, Life Under Mike takes a critical look at the social costs of the Ontario government’s Common Sense Revolution.

It includes interviews with such notables as economist John Kenneth Galbraith and its soundtrack includes work from Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen.

Shadows of War, produced out of Edmonton by Black Spring Pictures in association with Vision TV, chronicles the work of Canadian forensic investigators searching for evidence of war crimes in Kosovo. The doc was written and produced by Dale Phillips, with Garth Pritchard directing.

The awards are presented by the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada to celebrate members of the media for alerting, informing and sensitizing the public with regard to the nature and value of human rights in Canada. *