Pitches pay off at Banff

Final day of the festival sees some $100,000 go to projects on chess prodigies, the Mafia and summer camp counselors

BANFF — Chess prodigies, Mafiosi and summer camp counselors played well on the closing day of the Banff World Television Festival, which on Wednesday handed out some $100,000 in funding to winners of its six pitch competitions, with the biggest payout going to John Christou for Boy Genius and Bobby Fisher.

Christou, a first-time pitcher attached to EyeSteel Films, pitched the true story of Jeff Sarwer — a preteen chess prodigy and contemporary of the better-known Fisher — who disappeared from the world stage some 20 years ago to go into hiding with an abusive father.

The one-time wunderkind resurfaced just a few months ago and contacted Christou, whom he had met at summer camp when they were both 11.

‘I’m going to buy a drink and take a nap,’ Christou told Playback Daily after accepting the prize.

Boy Genius was followed by Taqwacore, a look at the Muslim punk rock movement, which scored second place and $20,000 for Omar Majeed, also with EyeSteel. Filmmaker Larry Day took $10,000 for his Murder for Love, the story of a father who killed his daughter’s drug-dealer boyfriend to protect her.

Wednesday also saw four teams vying for The N network youth drama pitch, with $10,000 in development going to Days and Nights at Camp Kanata, a Meatballs-esque half-hour about life at a summer camp, from self-described ‘greenies’ Chris Carter and Adam Jack from Toronto. The duo also won the separate $5,000 grant for film products on the strength of their raucous pitch, during which they flung armloads of underwear into the crowd.

Carter said later they were unsure if the stunt would work. ‘We thought ‘These are TV people and if they get hit in the face with underwear they might get upset.’ They have signed a shop-around deal with Barna-Alper Productions.

The UKTV Style Lifestyle competition and its ₤5,000 went to Lyndsay Duthie of the U.K.’s Ice Blue Media for Property Protégé, a sort-of-real-estate version of The Apprentice, while humorist and Maclean’s writer Scott Feschuk and partner Scott Reid took $10,000 from the comedy pitch for Frankie Fats, about a low-end Mafia hood.

‘It’s a great feeling to leave here knowing my bar tab is almost covered,’ said Feschuk upon accepting the prize.

Man Camp, a project from Josh Levy and Robi Levy, won a development deal with Fox 21, while KWAD9 by Jean-François Grenier scored $10,000 from the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund.

The 28th Banff festival drew some 1,450 attendees, according to organizers, and shepherded a number of other deals, including a signing for the 13 x 30 teen sitcom Less Than Kind, from Breakthrough Films and Television and Buffalo Gal Pictures for CHUM. Breakthrough and Silver Tip Pictures also agreed to shoot a pilot, Easton Meets West, for CBC.

Other deals announced at the closing of the festival include the 13 x 30 World’s Greenest Homes for HGTV Canada and the U.K.’s Discovery Green Planet from Cineflix Productions. HGTV also ordered a pilot for The Stagers from Vancouver’s Paperny Films.