Ontario Scene: Accent on action for Toronto location shoots this season

It looks like Toronto’s chilly season may be heated up by not one, but three major Hollywood pics.

In addition to The Long Kiss Goodnight, the New Line feature starring Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson and possibly Arnold Schwarzenegger and directed by Renny Harlin, Jean-Claude Van Damme will be heading to town in January and February to shoot an as-yet-untitled Columbia feature based on Jack Higgins’ action thriller, The Eye of the Storm.

Director is Hong Kong action helmer Ringo Lam. A former working title of the movie was Blood Stone. Producer is Moshe Diamont and line producer is Jason Clark.

The pic is also likely to shoot in Russia and in Europe.

Finally, there’s the popular rumor that Hugh Grant is coming to town to star in the Castle Rock feature Extreme Measures, but word from up top is that while things look good, location negotiations are still at a very early stage.

Director of the pic is Michael Apted.

Turning on the Charm

Speaking of rumors, Paragon Entertainment is said to be getting ready to start prep on an mow titled Charm, but production manager Steve Wakefield says the project has not received the green light just yet.

In production at Paragon, but still missing its leads, is a new series for Life Network called Tourist Trap, a show-within-a-show concept that is, in fact, a vehicle to show travel videos (which Paragon will be soliciting from across North America).

The idea is this: our fair hosts, playing a young Canadian couple who never get to travel, intermittently watch – what else? – travel videos and talk about faraway places.

Life has ordered 39 rounds of the 30-minute program and Paragon is currently looking to sell the series elsewhere.

Brian Ainsworth is writer/producer, Julie Lee is producer and Janet Cuddy is supervising producer.

Catching up on their ZZs

ottawa-based animation house Funbag Productions has set up Zachary/Zunik, a joint partnership with Prospectus Inc. to produce a series of specials based on nine children’s books by Bertrand Gaultier, illustrated by Daniel Sylvestrie and published by Les Editions La Corte Echelle. The books (which are called Zunik in French and Zachary in English) are aimed at the eight- to 12-year-old market and are about life for a motherless boy with his father and his dad’s girlfriend.

Funbag director Rick Morrison says plans are to start with one special (probably for Father’s Day) and hopefully follow through with eight more. Potential broadcasters and funders are currently being sought out. Morrison says the inherent international interest is almost guaranteed since the books are published in over 34 countries. Prospectus optioned the entertainment rights to the books.

Funbag is also busy pitching to hbo, Dreamworks, Disney and Nickelodeon a number of 13-part, 30-minute animated kids series such as Gerry’s Insane Fish, Old Goat, Life is a Drag When Dad is a Porn Star, Gaby the Sock Horse and Mouthy Marge.

No Easy Answer

No Easy Answers, a Kushner Locke mow for cbs, is shooting in town Nov. 27 though Dec. 21 with Ted Kotcheff in the helmer’s chair. It’s a love triangle about a recent divorcee, her dying husband and a new man who comes into her life and not only befriends the ill man, but helps his new love take care of him. They sail into the sunset once ex-hubby’s out of the picture.

Line producing is Wendy Grean (The James Mink Story), executive producer is Patricia Clifford, co-executive producers are Judith Light (of Who’s The Boss?), who also stars in the lead, and Herb Hamsher.

dop is Michael Storey, production designer is William Beeton and casting here is in the hands of Deirdre Bowen. Light was the only talent cast at press time. Kushner Locke is distributing.

Bonne fete

The National Film Board Franco-Ontarian studio – now called Studio documentaire Ontario/West – celebrated its 20th anniversary late October with a bonne fete at the John Street center.

Studio producer Jacques Menard directed one of the studio’s first projects – a short drama titled Rien qu’en passent – with then-producer Georges-Andre Prud’homme.

Today, he has two films in post-production, another two headed for production this winter, one at the investigative stage and two more in early stages of development.

Being edited at the studio are Le Rendez-vous, a one-hour documentary for Radio-Canada, and Le Dernier de Franco-Ontariens, a one-hour for tfo.

Part road movie, part political treatise, Le Rendez-vous follows two twentysomething students – one a socialist anarchistic and the other a young Conservative – as they seek out then-premier Bob Rae during the election campaign last spring. Yves Bisaillon directed.

Le Dernier de Franco-Ontariens, based on a book of poems by Pierre Albert and written by Jean Marc Lariviere and Marie Cadieux, explores the concept that the displaced, disadvantaged Franco-Ontarian artist is in the right place. Menard explains: ‘If we have always believed to create effectively, the artist must be in a constant state of doubt or pain, then we’re in a perfect situation (here).’

Complete with a 100-foot tracking shot where tv sets pop out of the ground, the film is not your typical documentary. Director is Lariviere, and coproducing with the nfb is Ottawa-based Michel Cloutier of Nunacom. Both the Ontario Film Development Corporation and Telefilm Canada are supporting the project.

This winter, plans are to shoot Les Temples du Jeu, a film about the gambling epidemic, covering everything from lotteries to casinos in Ontario and in Quebec (where, Menard says, there is the highest per capita spending on lotteries anywhere in the world). There is no broadcaster on side yet. Director is Fadel Faleh (Kap sur L’avenir).

Bonne Fete Maman is a coproduction with Danielle Caloz and her new, Toronto-based production company, MediaTique. With plans to shoot mostly in and around Sudbury at Christmas time (pending Telefilm support), the documentary is about women in their 40s and 50s who discover they are gay after years of stable marriage and raising a family. Menard says the focus is the impact on the family members. Paul Carriere (Laure Riese) is directing and tfo has bought the film.

Out West, Menard says he has three projects on the go, and the one that is in the most advanced stage of development is an Edmonton film about the Revillon brothers, a couple of French aristocratic types who sought to conquer new frontiers and were among the first people to set up shop in Edmonton as furriers.

Row, row, row your boat

Nancy Sakovich has been braving the icy waters of LakeOntario for the lead role of the Carol Reynolds mow for Baton Broadcasting, The Silken Laumann Story. There have been three intentional dumps in the lake and one accidental chilly baptism when a snowy wind caught Sakovich’s boat and flipped her.

Laumann publicist Lisa Shamata says there is a stuntwoman on hand to brave the pond, but Sakovich is the type to dive into a role and has opted to do it herself. Apparently, she taught herself to row just two weeks before the shoot started and, by all accounts, she looks like a pro out there.

Production was scheduled to wrap Nov. 19. Producer is Adam Haight and Reynolds is executive producing, director is Eric Till, Ludek Bogner is dop, production designer is Ed Hanna and production manager is Michael Hadley.

Plans are to air the mow in the spring lead-up to the Olympics.