Cameras roll on Cite-Amerique, Box TV copro Dice

MONTREAL: Cite-Amerique and Box TV of the U.K. have started filming the six-hour, majority Canadian coproduction Dice, billed as a dark, investigative exploration of the obsessive gambling psyche. The story, a psychological thriller set in a small, largely deserted Canadian university...

MONTREAL: Cite-Amerique and Box TV of the U.K. have started filming the six-hour, majority Canadian coproduction Dice, billed as a dark, investigative exploration of the obsessive gambling psyche. The story, a psychological thriller set in a small, largely deserted Canadian university town, opens with the brutal murder of a young woman.

Lorraine Richard and Greg Dummett of Cite-Amerique are producing with Gub Neal and Justin Thomson Glover of Box TV. Canadian licensees include TMN-The Movie Network (Astral Television Networks), Showcase Television, Series+, Super Channel (Corus Premium Television) and Super Ecran.

The production shoots over 45 days through to July 5 under director Rachel Talalay (Touching Evil, Band of Gold). The screenplay is from writers A.L. Kennedy and John Burnside. The miniseries is being shot on Super 16 by DOP Jean-Pierre Trudel.

Earlier on, as Richard was looking for a Brit coproducer, she actually pitched the project to Neal, then head of drama at Channel 4. ‘Later on,’ she says, ‘a British financier suggested we approach Box TV, which we didn’t know because they were a new company. So we called them, and there was Gub. We had a chat over the phone and they immediately said, ‘Yes, we’re on board.’ ‘

Leads include British actors Aidan Gillen (Queer as Folk) and Gina McKee (The Zookeeper), Canadians Martin Cummins (Love Come Down), Brendan Fletcher (The Five Senses), Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall), sometimes jazz singer Dorothee Berryman, Gary Farmer and U.S. actor Fred Ward (Henry and June).

The STCVQ crew includes art director Serge Bureau and PM Mario Nadeau. Gaetan Huot is the picture editor.

Other funding sources include Telefilm Canada, the CTF Licence Fee Program and gap financier FIDEC.

Cite-Amerique International is managing worldwide sales, working in conjunction with Box TV and Intermedia for sales in the U.K., New Zealand and Australia. Dice’s budget is $6 million.

This season, Cite-Amerique is also producing 26, 15-minute episodes of the puppet/animatronics preschoool series Zig Zag, featuring animated skidoo/kids, a big storytelling walrus and a polar bear. It’s set in the Great North of the Inuit and is licensed to APTN, Treehouse TV and VRAK-TV.

‘We also have a feature film which we really hope is going to make it – Seraphin,’ says Richard. A third rewrite is now complete, with Charles Biname slated to direct the $5.7-million project later this fall with lots of backing from distrib Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm and pubcaster Radio-Canada.

Seraphin is perhaps Quebec’s most notorious fictional character, a terrifyingly cruel rural miser who first emerged in Claude-Henri Grignon’s 1933 novel. The novel became a radio show, which became an SRC TV series that lasted for 15 seasons, as well as two early black-and-white feature films shot by Paul L’Anglais.

Everest, from the inside

UN Everest de l’interieur is a new documentary from filmmakers Sylvie Van Brabant and Claude-Andre Nadon chronicling the experience of four Quebecois climbers and their perilous ascent of the north face of Mount Everest.

The four-month expedition, which began in May 2000, crosses mystical Tibet, with stopovers at Buddhist shrines at Lake Manasarovar and Mount Kailash, before terrible weather conditions leave the exhausted and unhappy crew stranded (without benefit of Sherpa guides and oxygen) for weeks on end at a base camp some 5,400 meters up the mountain.

Music by Bob Olivier, Gordon Adamson, Nazih Bouchareb and Charles Papasoff complements the film’s stunning Himalayan imagery.

One of our most dedicated documentary filmmakers, Van Brabant’s credits include the hard-hitting doc on street kids, Seul dans mon putain d’univers, coproduced by Rapide-Blanc and the National Film Board, and The Last Stop, a one-hour investigation of teen suicide which she directed for producer Ina Fichman and Maximage.

Un Everest de l’interieur is a coproduction between Productions du Rapide-Blanc, producers Van Brabant and Nicole Hebert, and the NFB’s French Program producer Yves Bisaillon. The film has been licensed by Reseau de l’Information, Radio-Canada’s specialty news network, with additional financing from the CTF.

Hysteria, the Def Lep biopic

PRODUCERS Claudio Castravelli of Taurus 7 Film Corp. and Patricia Clifford on behalf of Viacom and VH1 are reprising their partnership with the new movie Hysteria, The Def Leppard Story. Last fall, the producing team shot two musical MOWs here, A Christmas Diva and Love Song.

Hysteria is budgeted at $6 million and is directed by Bob Mandel, with Eric Cayla on board as DOP. The film tells the story of the rise to international superstardom of heavy metal Brit head-bangers Def Leppard. Triumph and personal tragedy (alcoholism leading to death, a devastating car accident) are part of the mix as we follow Def Lep, originally from Sheffield, Eng., through the recording of its first album, On Through the Night, to High ‘N’ Dry and its third album, Pyromania, which rockets to the top of the U.S. pop charts.

As the story winds down, the band is in studio on what ultimately becomes its biggest selling album, Hysteria, which goes platinum 12 times and contains the monster hit single Pour Some Sugar on Me.

Principal cast members include Orlando Seale as lead singer Joe Elliot, Tat Whalley as drummer Rick Allen, Karl Geary and Esteban Powell as the ‘Terror Twins,’ guitarists Steve Clark and Phil Collen, respectively, and Adam MacDonald as fifth band member Rick ‘Sav’ Savage.

Andre Chamberland is production designer, Jean-Pierre Paquet is the art director and Michelle Hamel is costumiere. The PM is Kristine Michaels and casting is by Elite Productions.

Taurus 7 VP Jean-Guy Despres says the house is in casting on two pictures which it intends to shoot this summer and fall: Perseverance, budgeted at $6 million, and Crossbow, a retelling of the William Tell legend, budgeted at $15 million. The producers have approached Christian Slater, Donald Sutherland and Peter Postlethwaite, among others.

Melancon helms Asbestos

ANDRE Melancon (Cher Olivier) is directing the six-hour historical miniseries Asbestos, a love story and dramatization from the perspective of the workers of the epoch-making events surrounding the 1949 asbestos strike.

The miniseries is budgeted at $850,000 per hour and is written by Genevieve Lefebvre and produced by Jacques Blain and Josee Vallee of Cirrus Productions (La Vie, La Vie, 2 Freres).

The production represents a huge investment in terms of art direction for interiors and villages and period costumes.

The old Normandie Mine at Vimy Ridge in Thetford Mines was reopened and modified for the three-month shoot, with additional location shooting in St-Cesaire, Ste-Clothilde, Montreal, Lachine, Carignan and Hudson.

Players include Stephane Gagnon, the multi-talented Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Frederic de Grandpre, Normand Chouinard, Fanny Mallette, Nicole Leblanc, Murray Head, Guy Thauvette in a rare TV appearance, Lea-Marie Cantin, Normand Helms and Melissa Desormeaux Poulin. Cast numbers more than 100, with close to 1,000 extras also appearing in the show.

Blain says Asbestos is one of a nearly extinct breed of Quebec ‘fiction lourde’ drama series.

Funding sources include Telefilm Canada, the CTF, the Independent Production Fund and the Quebec and federal tax credit programs.

Asbestos will be broadcast by Radio-Canada during its 2002 winter season.

The Lathe wraps

PRINCIPAL photography wrapped May 20 after five weeks on The Lathe of Heaven, a sci-fi drama directed by Philip Haas (Up at the Villa) and produced by Marc Winemaker for A&E Networks in association with Toronto’s Alliance Atlantis Communications.

Lathe is based on the Ursala K. LeGuin novel and stars James Caan (The Godfather, The Yards), Lukas Hass and Lisa Bonet. The STCVQ crew included cinematographer Pierre Mignot, whose credits include Robert Altman’s Pret-a-Porter and the Arnold Schwarzenegger opus The 6th Day, the latter shot in B.C. Ginette Guillard is PM and Sylvain Gingras is the art director.