HD production heats up

The popularity of shooting and posting in the high-definition format continues to rise throughout the province.
A recent example is Scar Tissue, a production of Shaftesbury Films in association with CBC. The MOW was shot on three sets at the CBC's Toronto studios and on location at a farm in Hockley Valley, Jan. 28 to Feb. 14. What is unique about the $1.9-million project, lensed by vet spot shooter Henry Less, is that it used a three Sony 24p HDCAM setup, provided by Sim Video Productions. This multi-camera technique, inspired by Alan Rudolph's The Moderns, enabled the crew to complete production of the two-hour movie with quality and efficiency.

The popularity of shooting and posting in the high-definition format continues to rise throughout the province.

A recent example is Scar Tissue, a production of Shaftesbury Films in association with CBC. The MOW was shot on three sets at the CBC’s Toronto studios and on location at a farm in Hockley Valley, Jan. 28 to Feb. 14. What is unique about the $1.9-million project, lensed by vet spot shooter Henry Less, is that it used a three Sony 24p HDCAM setup, provided by Sim Video Productions. This multi-camera technique, inspired by Alan Rudolph’s The Moderns, enabled the crew to complete production of the two-hour movie with quality and efficiency.

‘[The camcorders] are giving us a great film look,’ says director Peter Moss (External Affairs). ‘The colors are incredibly rich, the detail is wonderful and they pick up light fantastically.’

Scar Tissue is the dramatic adaptation by Dennis Foon (Little Criminals) of the 1993 Booker Prize-nominated novel by Michael Ignatieff. The story concerns the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on a painter, played by Roberta Maxwell (Last Night), and how it impacts her sons, played by Aidan Devine (Net Worth) and Shawn Doyle (Frequency).

Jan Peter Meyboom (Amazon) and Christina Jennings (Torso) are producing. Financing was put together with the assistance of the CTF and the Cogeco Program Development Fund. The projected delivery time is the spring, for broadcast next season.

Distinct looks for HD-caster

Distinct Features, an Ottawa TV, film and doc prodco, believed that transferring to HD would give new life to its 35mm feature House of Luk as an HD broadcast movie.

Derek Diorio, Distinct president and partner, produced and directed House of Luk, which stars Pat Morita (The Karate Kid) as the owner of a Chinese restaurant that dishes out cookie fortunes that impact the lives of their recipients. The film debuted at the 2000 Montreal World Film Festival.

The transfer, touted as the first of its kind in Canada, was done at Toronto’s Eyes Post Group and the 5.1 surround audio remix at Deluxe Post Production Sound. At AFM and NATPE, however, Distinct found itself pitching to a market that’s just not there yet.

‘The sad truth is that most broadcasters are not looking for HD product and no distributor seems to give a hoot,’ Diorio says.

This may soon change, however, with Rogers Cable’s recent announcement of several HD channels on its digital cable services, including the Toronto test transmission of CDTV. Meanwhile, Distinct sees the HD transfer as worthwhile since it makes the film look better for TV, ensures the highest resolution master and future-proofs for the eventual HD changeover. German-based Peppermint handles international distribution, with Critical Mass Releasing doing so in Canada and Distinct holding U.S. rights.

Distinct has recently completed three Diorio-helmed features: A Taste of Jupiter, a romantic comedy starring Eli Wallach and Teri Garr; Punch and Judy, a leather-and-lace romance starring Pat McKenna (The Red Green Show), Brigitte Robinson and Graham Greene; and The Kiss of Debt, a comedy about a man who falls for the wife of a Mafia don’s son, featuring Tyley Ross (Miss Saigon) and Ernest Borgnine. Distinct is waiting on results from its NATPE meetings before bringing the package to Cannes and MIP.

Distinct has also produced six half-hours of Technically Funny, a sketch comedy series about Ottawa’s quirks, to air starting Feb. 22 on Chum Television’s New RO.

Auditioning Sony 24p

Equipment suppliers obviously have a vested interest in spreading the HD gospel. Toronto-based David J. Woods Productions, for one, recently sponsored and helped organize the Santa Fe Workshops, a four-day professional course covering Sony 24p HD from production to post. It also recently provided gear and post services to Role of the Dice Productions for the 40-minute HD movie The Audition, which David Woods is coproducing with writer/director Peter Sheldrick.

The short, adapted from the author’s one-act play, is a quirky war-of-the-sexes comedy about the audition process. An actress strolls into an audition conducted by two male filmmakers and wins the part with her feminine wiles. Cast includes Sheldrick, Aurora McLoughlin, Gabe Bettio and Tony Pearce.

Sheldrick landed French DOP Walter Bal, whose credits include assistant camera and an acting turn in the Francois Truffaut classic Day for Night. The director says that some insiders advised him to shoot on film, although a broadcast programmer suggested that the Sony 24p format would give the film an edge.

‘I made up my mind high-def was the way to go economically, and when I saw what it could actually do, my expectations were exceeded,’ Sheldrick says.

The Audition is currently in post at David J. Woods, which is HD-ready with Apple Final Cut Pro, and audio post will soon follow at Film Sound One. Exec producers Ashley Pover of Big A Productions and Stephanie Faubert raised the $100,000 budget entirely through independent sources.

Sheldrick is holding out on approaching broadcasters, with his eye on the Toronto International Film Festival.

CLIPP’s Minor Adjustments

There is a lot of short film production going on, but not all can afford Sony 24p. The privately funded $45,000 drama Minor Adjustments, for example, was shot on DV.

The Defiant Entertainment half-hour, which recently wrapped in Toronto, is one of the last projects to have benefited from ACTRA’s defunct Canadian Low-Budget Incentive for Performers and Producers. While the short heads to post, ACTRA is contemplating a replacement for CLIPP, through which certain eligible projects were able to engage actors at rates below the Independent Production Agreement scale.

Thanks to CLIPP, Defiant was able to assemble a cast featuring Michelle Nolden (Century Hotel) as a model whose ambition leads her to ask a doctor friend (James Thomas from The Icemen) to perform a questionable procedure. Gavin Crawford (The Gavin Crawford Show) also stars, along with Sonja Smits as the model’s agent.

The short is a jump to drama for director Marc Lostracco, a Sony Music staffer who has helmed videos for Celine Dion and Chantal Kreviazuk. Script is by Allison Black of Serendipity Point Films’ development department, and Damion Nurse, a development exec victim of Alliance Atlantis’ recent layoffs, produces. Lostracco is doing the initial editing before moving post over to Stonehenge. Defiant is considering striking a 35mm print for festival submission prior to its initial broadcast window on CBC’s Canadian Reflections in January 2003, followed by windows on WTN and Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting.

CFC says: ‘Film not dead!’

While many embrace digital video, the Canadian Film Centre is moving in a high-end photochemical direction. The CFC announced that the latest round of short films coming out of its Universal Studios short dramatic film program will be originated on 35mm as opposed to cheaper but grainier 16mm.

The move comes as the CFC becomes more of a production company, realizing the potential marketability of its students’ labors. The first sign was the unexpected box-office success of the 35mm feature Cube, but the centre is also seeing its shorts travel well. Three Sisters on Moon Lake, a lyrical short directed by recent CFC grad Julia Kwan, has been invited to various festivals and recently played at Sundance.

The new slate of shorts began shooting on Feb. 11 and will wrap in mid-March. They include: the dark comedy Evelyn, written and directed by Brad Peyton and produced by Jim Mauro, about a ghostly young girl; Short Hymn Silent War, a drama about four women who cope with a gun tragedy, cowritten by Charles Officer and Tamai Kobayashi, directed by Officer and produced by Sandy Reimer and Kate Kung; Filthy, about a teacher with a phobia for dirt, cowritten by Seth Poulin and Andrea Blundell, directed by Poulin and produced by Marcia Douglas; Winter Sun, about the complicated reunion of a brother and sister, written and directed by Jessica Bradford and produced by Doug Patterson; and Family Outing, which sounds like a spin on The Birdcage, and is written by Karen Tulchinsky, directed by Peter Demas, and produced by Claire Queree.