Jump Cuts

Sextant files for bankruptcy protection

Troubled Sextant Entertainment of Vancouver, which has suffered substantial layoffs and the departures of most of its founding and senior executives this year, filed for bankruptcy protection June 5.

Only through the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act, granted by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, can Sextant implement a new strategic plan and restructure its debt load, says the company in a release. In the meantime, Sextant will continue in the short term to maintain production, visual effects and distribution operations.

Hearthstone Investments of West Vancouver, Sextant’s controlling shareholder, has provided another $150,000 to finance the company’s operational requirements during the restructuring period, including the payment of professional fees associated with CCAA application. The longer-term viability of Sextant relies on the company’s ability to secure ‘strategic’ investment.

Part of the restructuring is the elimination of non-essential overhead, says the company. At press time, there were no details about planned cuts and layoffs.

On June 5, Sextant shares traded in the $0.11 range on the TSX Venture Exchange (formerly the Canadian Venture Exchange), compared to the year high of $0.70 per share and the year low of $0.06 per share.

Lyon sues TVA

Dan Lyon, dismissed as executive VP of distribution for TVA Films earlier this year, has launched a $500,000 lawsuit against his former employer claiming wrongful dismissal.

‘I was called to a meeting outside the office and I was asked not to return to the office,’ says Lyon, who is currently weighing his options in the job market.

‘I regret that it was necessary for me to launch legal proceedings against TVA, but they left me with no choice. After my 17 productive years in the saddle, I was rewarded with sudden termination without any severance pay, and ludicrous allegations.’

TVA declined to comment on the suit.

Lyon is just one of several TVA executives who have been let go in the past year including Gordon Guiry, Stephen Greenberg and Jean Bureau. That group was largely responsible for a string of successful acquisitions by the distributor including The Art of War, Amelie, Ginger Snaps, Red Green’s Duct Tape Forever and, most recently, Roman Polanski’s The Pianist, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes 2002.

In April, TVA (formerly TVA International) signed a joint-venture partnership agreement with Montreal’s Christal Films Distribution to share operating costs for sales and marketing of their respective catalogues in the Quebec market. The distributor has been hollowing out its Toronto offices ever since.

European Feature Immersion – 2002

Following last year’s successful Industry Immersion program, Telefilm Canada’s European office is organizing the five-day Canada-Europe Forum for Financing Features, Nov. 18-22 in Paris.

‘Financing of coproduction and production is really the core focus, but we want to increase the visibility of international distribution and marketing as well. It’s essential that we seek strong [foreign] distribution deals and market the product as best we can,’ says Sheila de La Varende, director of Telefilm’s European office in Paris and newly named interim director international relations. De La Varende is attending BTVF.

Last year’s major European partners (U.K. Film Council, Germany media funds, Atelier du Cinema Europeen, PACT, the Cinemart component of the Rotterdam Film Festival, etc.) are returning or signed for the 2002 Immersion.

Thirty experienced Canadian producers will be accepted. (Eligible producers will have produced or coproduced at least one feature film in the past five years and have a suitable proposal for Canada/Europe coproduction or are actively looking to coproduce.)

Telefilm hopes to attract up to 70 European-based producers along with top decision makers representing all sectors including Canadian and European funding agencies. The submission deadline is Aug. 14.

Content review begins at BTVF

The Canadian Heritage-commissioned review of content in film and TV opens with a series of informal meetings at this year’s Banff Television Festival, June 9-14.

BTVF delegates are invited to drop by the Manor lobby of the Ramsey Lodge between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. throughout the festival. Francois Macerola, former Telefilm Canada executive director and chairman, who is heading the review, says professional associations as well as government organizations or international delegates may also make arrangements for alternative meetings. Macerola will be at BTVF with Marc Seguin, a former manager with Heritage and Telefilm’s strategic planning department in Vancouver.

Following meetings in Western Canada, upcoming review roundtables are scheduled for Moncton and Charlottetown (June 17), Halifax (June 18), St. John’s and Labrador (June 19), Montreal and Ottawa (June 25) Toronto (June 26) and Quebec City (June 27).

Cannes sweet for short film director

One in Canada’s contingent at the 55th Cannes International Film Festival (May 15-26) came back with hardware, and it wasn’t David Cronenberg. Toronto-based director of photography Jesse Rosensweet captured one of two Jury Prizes for short film for The Stone of Folly, his directorial debut. Rosensweet received the award from Martin Scorsese.

The Stone of Folly is an eight-minute, stop-motion animated film featuring bizarre puppets created by sculptor Alastair Dickson and animated by Philip Marcus. Set in a medieval hospital, the story involves doctors who slice open skulls in search of the ‘stone of folly,’ supposedly the cause of madness.

The film, with a budget of $30,000 cash, was financed by Bravo!FACT, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, the National Film Board and substantial donated services and labor. Telefilm Canada submitted it to Cannes.

The 31-year-old Rosensweet’s previous credits include lensing the low-budget suspense movie It All Happens Incredibly Fast… He began as a camera assistant and operator on dramas and commercials, making the jump to DOP. His film subsequently screened at the International Animated Film Festival in Annecy, France.

Aussie, Russian fests showcase Canadian movies

A selection of Canadian feature films and shorts is being screened at the 49th Sydney Film Festival, June 7-21, including Denis Chouinard’s L’Ange de Goudron, Paul Cowan’s Genie-winning mining disaster doc Westray and the Canada/Iran coproduction My Name is Rocky.

Nine Canadian films are on the program at the 9th Sochi International Film Festival, which unspools in the Russian Black Sea resort town of Sochi, June 3-13. Filmmaker John Greyson is attending with his film The Law of Enclosures, as is producer Kevin Tierney, a member of the international jury.

The Canadian lineup at Sochi includes Post Mortem, La Moitie gauche du frigo, Les Fantomes des trois Madeleine, waydowntown, Ginger Snaps, The Uncles, Le Collectionneur and Varian’s War.

Canada’s ambassador to Russia Rodney Irwin hosted a reception in honor of this year’s Canadian retrospective.

Gala premieres for L’Odyssee d’Alice

Distrib Alliance Atlantis Vivafilm will release the Denise Filiatrault satirical family comedy L’Odyssee d’Alice Tremblay on 80 Quebec screens June 28. The film’s P&A investment is $700,000 and includes a six-week, full-color promotional ad campaign in the Journal de Montreal. AAV is organizing Hollywood-style gala premieres in Montreal June 13 and in Quebec City June 16. Produced by Cinemaginaire, producer of this year’s Golden Reel winner Nuit de Noces, Alice Tremblay stars Sophie Lorain, Martin Drainville, Pierrette Robitaille and Mitsou.

In other news, Odeon Films reports by Zacharias Kunuk’s multiple award-winning film Atanarjuat – The Fast Runner has surpassed $1-million mark at the Canadian box office. The Fast Runner, an Igloolik Isuma Productions coproduction with the National Film Board, opened commercially on April 12 and has been screened for audiences from Victoria, B.C. to St. John’s to Cambridge Bay in the Far North.

Kunuk, who has also produced and directed documentaries and TV drama, is the subject of a Cinematheque Quebecoise retrospective, June 11-21.

Meantime, Christal Films Distribution reports Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatre earned $626,943 in 95 theatres during its opening May 31 to June 2 weekend, an all-time record for a French film in the Quebec market. ACTRA wants more Cancon
ACTRA has called on the CRTC to redefine Canadian content as productions that are produced, written, directed and acted ‘entirely by Canadians.’
Following a two-day national policy conference, June 1 and 2, the actors union took direct aim at the erosion of Canadian culture, pressing for funding models and regulations that require even greater Canadian participation in film and television productions.
‘It’s time to stop the hollowing out of Canadian culture,’ Thor Bishopric, ACTRA’s national president, told the conference. ‘After half a century of government support measures for Canadian television and an even longer period of support for movies, it is virtually impossible for me to find a Canadian story on either the big screen or small.’
The union also endorsed a policy initiative that will focus on income security for performers.
DOP launches kids’ film workshop
Got any aspiring Spielbergs in your house with time on their hands this summer? Well, you may consider foregoing the usual canoeing and campfire scenario and sending them to filmmaking camp.
The Young Filmmakers Workshop, to be held at a school in Toronto’s Beaches community, is the brainchild of DOP Craig Mullins, who has lensed numerous commercials and teaches cinematography part-time at Humber College. His day camp, open to kids 11 to 16, runs in July and August and will provide instruction in planning, shooting and editing video productions. Campers will be divided into small groups, with second- and third-year film students serving as counselors.
Each group will work towards producing a short film, music video or commercial, going through the process of brainstorming, scripting, storyboarding, shooting and digital editing. Guest speakers from various aspects of the production industry will be on hand to share their expertise. Finished projects are screened for the families at the end of the exercise.
TIFF programming begins
The 27th Toronto International Film Festival will pay tribute to late filmmaker and veteran festival programmer Ramiro Puerto with a screening of his short films and a selection of highlights marking his contribution during his 11-year tenure as a festival programmer.
Diana Sanchez, a former program administrator for the festival, replaces Ramiro as international programmer, handling new Spanish-language and Latin American films. She will also spearhead the tribute.
In other festival programming news, Sprockets director Jane Schoettle increases her programming duties to include international titles for the 10-day festival, this year running Sept. 5-14.
The festival’s complete lineup will be announced in July.
Netstar rebrands to fit CTV
In an effort to further integrate NetStar into the CTV fold, NetStar Communications and NetStar Enterprises have been renamed CTV Specialty Television and CTV Specialty Television Enterprises, respectively.
Helmed by president Rick Brace, CTV Specialty Television has interests in TSN, RDS, Discovery Channel Canada, Dome Productions, Exploration Production and Viewers Choice Canada, as well as the newly launched diginets WTSN, Animal Planet, Discovery Civilization, ESPN Classic Canada and the NHL Network.
CTV bought NetStar in 2000 for a reported $394 million.

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The Alpern Group 20th Anniversary Party

The Alpern Group 20th Anniversary Party - Matt Hornburg (Marble Media), Leila Kelly (Marble Media), Mik Perlus (Marble Media), Diana Moore (TAG Client)

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