B.C. Scene: New database Internet service wows Vancouver film industry

Vancouver: Entrepreneur Aerock Fox had difficulty breaking into the b.c. film business as a producer, but judging by the phenomenal turnout and industry reaction at the launch of his new film industry Internet service in Vancouver late last month, Fox has...

Vancouver: Entrepreneur Aerock Fox had difficulty breaking into the b.c. film business as a producer, but judging by the phenomenal turnout and industry reaction at the launch of his new film industry Internet service in Vancouver late last month, Fox has come up a big winner.

An overflow crowd spilled out into the hallways of the Wall Centre Hotel at the invitation-only event to check out The Gate, On-Line Film Services.

A full-service Internet provider to the film industry operating out of North Shore Studios, the new company offers everything from an illustrated extensive database of locations to a unique system for casting directors and agents to interact over the Net. Included in its range of services will be face-to-face online conferences, financial information, industry news, and kits of forms and information for first-time filmmakers.

Michelle Sklar, whose company B.C. Actors Network has created The Casting Network for The Gate, demonstrated how casting directors and agents can pull up head shots of performers and their credit lists to make decisions on who they want to see for auditions.

The system has already received so much interest it will be launched in the Ontario market within the next 90 days, says Fox.

Location managers were positively gaga over the prospect of cruising on The Gate’s high-speed search engine to scout out locations using a detailed database of photos and thumbnail descriptions. Just a click on the photo and up pops a full-screen blowup of details.

And a live video link-up demonstrated to producers the possibilities of making last-minute locations and casting decisions using the Internet. Fox says future plans include cost-effective transmission of dailies and audio between l.a. and Vancouver over the Net. ‘We’re still just a few months away.’

Where The Gate stands out from the plethora of other Internet services on the market, says Fox, ‘is that our system is interactive. The Gate is database-driven as opposed to directory-driven. That’s what really separates the men from the boys on the Internet. Our users don’t have to surf through a morass of information to find what they need, they can go in and do a specific job and then leave the site. We use one of the most powerful search engines in the world that is designed for growth.’

For other companies wanting to take advantage of The Gate’s sophisticated technology, which carries the B.C. Film Commission’s home pages on its site, Fox is also providing Web page and database design. The Gate can be located at //www.bcfilm.com

High stakes

Everest Entertainment partners Rob Straight and John Curtis were also busy cocktailing it last month. The dynamic duo invited a few industry folks down to Cin Cin Restaurant to celebrate the end of a long dry spell in Vancouver.

Dry is not a word we normally associate with Vancouver, but when it comes to distribution of Hollywood films by a Western Canadian company, it’s been positively parched. Let’s face it, it takes deep pockets and high-rise risk-taking, two characteristics the Vancouver production industry has been in short supply of for the last decade. Heck, it’s only been two years that Western Canada could lay claim to a full-service film and television distributor at all.

Anyhow, the celebration was for the launch of their first film, The Substitute starring Tom Berenger. Granted the film won’t be a contender at Critic’s Week, but judging by audience reaction at its Vancouver premiere, it will likely make money for Everest, and that’s darn good news for local producers like Christine Haebler, whose film Hardcore Logo will soon be the first Western Canadian theatrical feature to be distributed by Everest.

Skis, sex, snow sells

What happens to silicone at high altitudes? That might just be a cause of concern for the producers of a new series in development entitled Blackcomb. Described by executive producer and creator Nick Meredith as a sort of Baywatch of the slopes, substituting the lifeguard scenario with the snow/babe-cruising life of ski patrols. Granted, the outfits aren’t quite as skimpy, but damn it, those spandex ski suits ought to do the same trick.

Producers Jeff Barmash and George Erschbamer of Cinevu Productions, who are also partnering on the project, have written the script based on a story supplied by adventure writer Michele Beaudry.

They had hoped to shoot the pilot in April, but there just wasn’t enough snow, says Meredith, so they’ve postponed production until the first major snowfall in December, when they will head directly into production on 13 one-hour episodes.

The cast and a Canadian broadcaster have yet to be secured. Says Meredith: ‘We’re still looking for that elusive Canadian male lead who looks great, can ski and has u.s. recognition. Know anyone?’

Meanwhile, the producers are negotiating a long-term agreement with Blackcomb Enterprises, the corporation that operates the internationally renowned ski resort, for use of their facilities and registered trademark name in future ancillary merchandising opportunities. The series concept was a major hit at mipcom last year, securing a substantial German presale.

A True Prince

Producers Tony Papa and Leigh Badgley scored a major coup in the world of arts production this year when their Vancouver-based company, Papa Bear Productions, was granted exclusive rights to film ballet dancer Vladimir Malakhov, the man being hailed by European critics as the ‘new Nureyev.’

Papa, who has been filming the one-hour performance biography True Prince: Vladimir Malakhov for the past year in Vienna, Toronto and Vancouver, describes the reaction to Malakhov’s American debut last year as almost ‘cult-like, he is simply that good.’

Named ‘best male dancer’ in the world four years in a row, Malakhov is currently principal dancer for The American Ballet Theater, The Vienna State Opera and The National Ballet of Canada.

Principal photography now complete, Papa has designed the film – shot in 16mm and 35mm, using a variety of contemporary effects, including over- and undercranked and time-lapse photography – to attract both diehard dance fans and newcomers to ballet. True Prince airs on cbc primetime this fall and on Arts and Entertainment in the u.s. next spring.

Lupo goes international

Danny Antonucci, director/animator/founder of AKA Cartoons and self-described ‘all-around nice guy,’ has just signed a coproduction deal with TFC Trickcompany in Hamburg, Germany, for an international television series starring everybody’s favorite screaming landed immigrant, Lupo The Butcher.

The deal is timely, since 1996 also represents the 10th anniversary of Antonucci’s beefy creation. Set up as a syndication deal, 26 half-hour episodes will begin production by late fall.

Apparently there was a bidding war for the production between Hollywood and Europe. Antonucci says this time he opted for European partners. In typical fashion, he says, ‘the Americans immediately wanted to start tinkering with the concept while the Germans liked it as is. I think they can more readily appreciate Lupo’s unique humor.’

As for the long stretch of preproduction planned, Antonucci says he learned his lesson doing his last series, The Grunt Brothers for mtv. ‘It was a nightmare from the day we got the order to the day the first show was due for delivery – we had only eight weeks. This time, we’re going to take our time and get every angle covered first to avoid the headaches later.’

Trickcompany will handle the international distribution as well.