The 2012 10 to Watch: Calum deHartog

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Each year, Playback puts out a call for the industry to recommend its best and brightest up-and-coming talent for our 10 to Watch list. And the search keeps getting tougher, as the professionals who make up the screen entertainment industry keep getting better. The selection represented here were carefully chosen with input from a variety of industry sources and organizations. This year’s 10 to Watch were revealed in Playback‘s Fall issue; the stories featured here are longer versions of the Q&As that appear in the print publication.

CALUM DEHARTOG, PRODUCER

The buzz: DeHartog co-created upcoming CBC drama Cracked, adapted Dennis Lehane’s Southern noir short story Running out of Dog, now in development with Leo DiCaprio’s prodco Appian Way, and has other projects in the works – while working as an active member of Toronto SWAT.

As a cop, how did you shift into TV and film production?

The worlds are a lot more similar than they are different, once you get past the surface of it. In both you’re surrounded by really motivated individuals who are always thinking of creative ways of solving problems, and, as it comes to producing things, they are really structured and about sticking to schedules. The reason has basically just been my love of story-telling.

What are you currently working on and what’s up next?

We’re in production on Cracked for CBC. I also optioned a Dennis Lehane short story [Running out of Dog, which was picked up for development by Appian Way after this interview].  I’ve got a series in development a series with [Stargate franchise exec producer and screenwriter] Robert Cooper in partnership with Thunderbird Films for pitching to L.A.

I’ve just secured a chunk of cash from BravoFACT! for a short film production with plan for series concept development, called Overwatch. It’s a concept based on slightly modified Cops…and they jump off the odd building.

There’s another project I’m developing with Charles Officer, inspired by… I was one of the responders on the shooting on Danzig Street in Scarborough, and that story got inspired from me standing in the middle of that chaos. It was pretty surreal, it was like nothing I’ve ever experienced…. it just brought something really deep out of me and I’ve just been channeling it with Charles. It’s called Inferno.

You co-created and are producing Cracked, which is inspired by your experiences. What made you want to bring that to screen, and what makes it stand out from other procedural cop dramas?

That world is full of stories, if you listen. It’s a world that fascinates me, and putting faces and names and creating characters, it’s like a quilt of different stories stitched together to create a show. [With Cracked] I’m hoping it’s the perspective that we’re coming at it from. It’s a pretty street-level show that comes from an honest place, an authentic place, and then you add the story elements.

What’s the story behind the Lehane story?

That was a long adventure for me. I fell in love with it years ago, and it took me that long to wear [Lehane] down. I finally got the chance to meet him and talk to him about how I saw it happening. He’s an amazing storyteller, and again it’s just the content… I actually sat down and had a beer with him – he’s the real deal, he comes from a really cool spot. And those are the types of stories and types of people that motivate me to do things.

You also founded the City Life Film Project (with Toronto creative youth program the Remix Project and Temple Street Productions). Where did this start?

That was again inspired from wanting to tell real stories from the street from a real, authentic place. At the same time as a cop, to be honest, I was getting kinda tired of stepping over bodies on the street and finding that the majority of them were young people. There’s a lot of energy out there, there’s a lot of creative people, and there’s a lot of real stories if you just listen. By happenstance – it should have been a dead end – but I ran into Gavin Sheppard from the Remix Project. It was definitely an “Aha!” moment when I found there was a place like that, that already had the creative drive. That’s just been a fascinating experience, with Temple Street as well. There’s no way I would have thought it would get to where it is. They’re the real deal – building the fabric of the projects I want to work on. Sometimes, in a way, the same way it is for me, the storytelling component is a bit of an outlet [for project participants] to let the steam out. It’s incredibly rewarding, incredibly challenging, and fun as hell.

Where do you see yourself going in the entertainment landscape?

Getting challenged and meeting people. I love being here in Canada, and I love the scene in the U.S., and just finding that sweet spot. But basically just working and running with faster people than me – that’s my challenge, that’s my goal.

Will you develop Inferno for TV?

I’d start it on the web, to be honest, to give us less boundaries. It’s just a story that we have to get out.

Is that something you’ll look to do more of – putting your projects out via web?

It’s just about the content and the stories, and wherever you gotta tell them, you tell them. I think the [industry] barriers have pretty much all been taken down, at least in my experience, from a SWAT team perspective, literally and metaphorically – just kinda keep smashing through doors.

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