Raymont on The Border
Almost six years after it was pitched in the wake of Sept. 11, The Border has gone to camera for CBC’s midseason slate. The series, a high-action drama that follows Canadian agents on the front line of immigration policing, has a lot of things ‘blowing up and high production values,’ according to executive producer Peter Raymont, ‘but it has a conscience,’ too.
The Border was commissioned as an MOW from documentary stalwart White Pine Pictures, but was later reworked. Raymont submitted the first episode of the 13 x 60 series as part of the pubcaster’s pilot scheme last December, and received the green light in February.
Episodes will be ‘informed and inspired’ by headline news stories.
The war on terror also makes the job of the agents more taxing. ‘A lot of it has to do with our relationship with the U.S.,’ says Raymont.
The Border is set across all major ports and points of entry in Canada, but the shoot is limited to Ontario locales such as Toronto, Ottawa and Oshawa, where recent filming attracted the attention of locals, who reported the mysterious landing of an executive jet on a rural road (a scene from one of the first episodes) to local news outlets.
Creative producers and writers David Barlow (Blue Murder), Janet MacLean (The Murdoch Mysteries), Denis McGrath (Blood Ties) and Sarah Dodd (Blood Ties) are on board. The ensemble cast includes James McGowan (Warriors of Terra) and Graham Abbey (Heartland) and CSI: Miami‘s Sophia Milos, who stars as a member of U.S. Homeland Security. The Border will run 13 consecutive weeks on CBC in January.
The series was the pet project of documentarian Lindalee Tracey, Raymont’s wife and business partner, who lost her long battle with cancer during the filming of the pilot episode last October. Her award-winning docs on immigration, The Undefended Border and Invisible Nation, inspired the storylines, though Raymont says this fictionalized version is somewhat more realistic.
‘We can work with a team of people now who have insider knowledge on how the border works and who won’t allow themselves to be filmed on camera,’ he says.
Raymont is particularly pumped by the series’ online component, created by Stitch Media’s Evan Jones (ReGenesis Extended Reality Game), and due to launch in November. Although it’s still early days, Raymont confides there will be interactive elements whereby viewers will follow clues, hidden within the episodes, through an online adventure. Also, user-generated content will be uploaded by players via mobile phone photographs, and there are plans to stream a web-exclusive 14th episode of the series.
CBC International will rep the televised series for worldwide distribution. Raymont says the production received considerable interest from international distributors, which suggests the homegrown series may have legs beyond its undefended border.
This story has been corrected. It previously said The Border was shelved after the Sept. 11 attacks. It was pitched after 9/11.
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