B.C. Scene

Novices take unique approach

to Sleeping With Strangers

Vancouver: Sleeping With Strangers: I expected the first line in the film’s press notes to have some obvious sexy come-on. But surprise! It begins: ‘Sleeping With Strangers is an unusual Canadian movie.’ Hmm… what could it be? Not a coming-of-age film, not a period piece, and no mountain backdrops with a blue sky, red truck and golden prairie wheat fields. Nope! And that’s because ‘the producers received absolutely no government funding.’ Well, that is novel.

Apparently the Victoria-based husband and wife producing team of David Gordian and Joan Carr-Wiggin, who filmed this feature entirely and quietly on Vancouver Island at the gastronomically famous Sooke Harbour House last year, had never even laid foot on a movie set prior to their first day of shooting.

To finance this low-budget film, Gordian raised the $2 million budget from private investors in Ontario with the help of executive producer Richard Sniderman.

With the cash in hand, Carr-Wiggins, a novelist, whipped off the screenplay in a mere two weeks.

Inspired by the 1940s films of Hollywood wunderkind director Preston Sturges, this romantic comedy, helmed by British director William Bolson, revolves around a young starlet and drunken rock star a la David Lee Roth, stunningly performed by Vancouver actor Scott McNeil, who descend on a sleepy b.c. village with their l.a. entourage and tabloid reporters hot on their heels. Their arrival upsets the already complicated lives of two rival hotel owners and the woman who is engaged to one and sleeping with the other.

Now completed, not only has the movie picked up rave reviews in advance audience screenings, but it’s being distributed theatrically in Canada by Alliance Releasing, and Paramount Pictures has picked up North American video rights. Not bad for a couple of neophytes’ first time out of the gate.

Confident in their film and strong on chutzpah, Carr-Wiggins sent off a tape to retired, revered New York film critic Pauline Kael for her reaction. She called to say she liked the film but loved McNeil’s performance and hoped the producers would be smart enough to use him in their next film.

Advice obviously well taken. The producing duo is now at work on their next romantic comedy, Careless Love, which Carr-Wiggins wrote to showcase McNeil’s talents. It begins shooting in Victoria Sept. 15.

A government windfall

the federal government’s recent decision to grandfather the production services tax shelters has provided Stephen Cheikes’ film investment company, Monarch Entertainment, with a $200 million opportunity. That’s the amount Monarch had out in offering memorandums as of budget day this year. He can now raise up to $200 million for investment in non-Canadian films that will be shot in Canada.

Cheikes says because the government eliminated so many tax shelters in this year’s budget, it has made the remaining few shelters particularly appealing to investors. ‘I’m confident we can raise the full amount before our deadline of Dec. 31, 1994.’ But he says one big question remains: ‘Can we find that many productions that can complete their production by Dec. 31, 1994?’

So far this year, Monarch has commitments for deals using the tax shelters from Paramount, Showtime, mgm and Morgan Creek Productions.

Switching into producer mode, Cheikes, through his production company The Storytellers Group, recently acquired the rights for an mow about Sue Rodrigues from John Hofgess, founder of The Right To Die Society.

Rodrigues, a Vancouver woman who suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, bravely fought for years for the right to have doctor-assisted suicide. The case eventually ended up in Canada’s Supreme Court, where she lost. Rodrigues, however, was assisted in her death by an unidentified doctor earlier this year. Hofgess was the man who originally encouraged Rodrigues to go public with her plight.

Welcome back

in the lost and found department, this month Playback caught up with producer Stephen Foster who’s been absent from our pages for several years.

After his series Max Glick was canceled by cbc in 1992, Foster says he took a long-needed break and went off traveling in Asia and the South Pacific. Now he’s ‘slowly and quietly’ inching his way back into the industry, teaching at the Vancouver Film School at night and working on his first documentary.

Entitled A Film About Intimacy, the doc deals with the work of two therapists, Doug and Naomi Mosley, who work with groups of people exploring issues surrounding intimacy. Foster shot it himself and is now editing and raising the money to finish it while hunting for a broadcast licence.

Foster is also developing a feature, Paper Tigers, with Superchannel assistance. Scripted by Toronto’s Michael Amo, it’s a dramatic comedy about three young men who go off to teach English in Japan but get caught up in life on the edge.

Snipping at the red tape

earlier this month I checked in with Sean Allan of Featureline Films to see how his proposal for a new film studio overlooking Victoria’s harbor is going. Allan says he is awaiting the findings of an independent feasibility study, which is due for release sometime in June. If all goes well on that front, it’s on to the environmental assessment for cleanup of the B.C. Hydro-owned land that has been contaminated with pcbs and coal tar. Estimates for the cleanup, he says, range from $3 million to $50 million.

Outa sight

doo, doo, doo… Don’t adjust your television sets…

Word has it Toronto’s Atlantis Communications and mgm have linked up to produce 22 one-hour episodes of a new family science-fiction series entitled Outer Limits based on the 1960s series of the same name – one of my personal faves, even though almost 30 years later I still have recurring nightmares from it.

Filming in Vancouver begins in early August. Justis Greene, who worked with Atlantis last year producing Neon Rider, has been signed on to produce Outer Limits. Hopefully, he’ll still have enough time left over to get his feature Sunnyside Canal up and running in time for a fall shoot.

Far out

rumor also has it that local animation czar Marv Newland has a new deal pending to animate a series based on Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoons.

Series and more series

after a winter dominated by feature film production in Vancouver, it looks like series production will be the main event on city streets this summer.

The B.C. Film Commission reports a total of 10 series have made it onto the boards, five of which are new – Robin’s Hoods, 22 one-hour episodes for Spelling Television; Outer Limits, 22 one-hour episodes for Atlantis Communications and mgm; The Marshall for Paramount; Mantis, 13 one-hour episodes for Universal, its first series in Vancouver; and Hawkeye for Cannell Films.

Among the returning series are The Commish, Highlander, X-Files, Takeoff and Madison.

Fingers crossed

in scouting news, TriStar’s Jumanji is causing the most excitement because it’s rumored to be starring Robin Williams. Named after an African board game, this comedic drama is about a group of kids who play the game and get drawn into a mysterious world of black magic. If Vancouver gets the thumbs-up, production on this f/x-intensive feature should begin in August.