B.C. Scene: Follow-up to Live Bait means Dirty storyline for Sweeney

Vancouver: West Coast director Bruce Sweeney – creator of the Toronto International Film Festival award-winning Live Bait in 1995 – is gearing up for mid-April production of his sophomore, small-budget feature called Dirty, a slice-of-life story about an acerbic 50-year-old woman and her strained relationship with her university-going lover, among other dysfunctions.

Sweeney – self-styled as Canada’s heir-apparent to the workshop-based, character-driven filmmaking made famous by John Cassavetes and more recently by Mike Leigh – calls Dirty an amalgam of Husbands & Wives and Secrets & Lies. The University of British Columbia film graduate promises a darkly comedic feature.

The film stars Babz Chula (Live Bait), Tom Scholte (Live Bait), Benjamin Ratner (Magic in the Water) and Nancy Sivak (The Commish), all of Vancouver’s acting pool.

The mostly non-union project is executive produced by Stephen Hegyes (Drive, She Said, Double Happiness) and produced by Linda Guns (Live Bait) and John Dippong, Vancouver International Film Festival Canadian Images programmer.

Dirty’s budget will come in at $1 million and it will be distributed by Montreal’s Malofilm. Financing will come from Telefilm Canada, British Columbia Film, and the Canada Cable and Television Production Fund.

Delivery will be in December in time for the international festivals such as Berlin, Cannes and Sundance.

In other local feature news, Tommy Chong’s Best Buds, a marijuana-inspired film in the spirit of Up in Smoke (sans Cheech Marin, avec wife Shelby Chong) goes into production for three weeks beginning April 7. The film doesn’t have a distributor.

-Lotto 878-9399

The production and employment number for Baton’s new station in Vancouver – civt – is (604) 878-9399. That’s the hot line that will tell you how to apply and that most hiring won’t take place until May. But competition is stiff. There are already 400 resumes on file for 100 jobs.

-Stand on guard for thee

Lower Mainland civilians may not be safe from, let alone be saved by, the newest paramilitary squad in town. Police Academy, the slapstick comedy series based on the multiple features of the same name, begins April 17. Distributed by Warner and set for airing on Fox stations, Police Academy will shoot 26 one-hours in New Westminster. The series qualifies as Canadian content under the crtc rules, which helps the broadcaster fulfill their licences.

And, believe it or not, the Turtles are Canucks, at least at the crtc.

Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation gears up production April 14 for 26 half-hour episodes for Fox Kids Television. Locally managed by James Shavick and Randy Cheveldave, the latest Turtles incarnation introduces the world to Venus De Milo, the first female turtle (who was, at one time, to be known as Madonna). And we thought the Turtles came from the sewer.

One of the first, if not the first, Vancouver shows to qualify as Canadian under the stricter cavco rules is Deadman’s Gun, a western anthology about characters who come across a magical gun. The 19 one-hours will be shot at Vidatron’s downtown studio and went into preproduction on March 24.

Overseen by Larry Sugar and Henry Winkler, the series is being produced for Showtime in the u.s., foreign distributor Disney and Canadian rights holder Vidatron.

Last September, cavco introduced producer control guidelines that will phase out or alter the ownership structure of shows like Poltergeist and The Outer Limits that once qualified as Canadian even though they are controlled by Americans and geared for the u.s. market.

-MOW town

After a record year of mow production in 1996, Vancouver is well on its way to meeting or beating the 52 productions in 1997. Already there are 15 tv movies on the books with the peak summer season still approaching.

tv movie An Innocent Heart for nbc shoots until April 23. The show about teen angst features a cast of newcomers.

Gold Rush, a movie for the Disney family movie night on abc, features Alyssa Milano (Melrose Place) in a period piece about a typist who moves to Alaska during the gold rush. It goes to camera April 14 for three weeks.

-On key

North Vancouver producer Tony Gilbert is singing a happy little tune now that his music program Let’s Sing Again is drawing more than 300,000 per week on Vision tv. That’s a few octaves higher than his earlier expectations of only 30,000 viewers per week when he began production in mid-1994. Gilbert and his Togil Communications now have 78 shows in the can and will tape another 13 shows at a farmhouse outside of Victoria April 19-25.

The show has a simple premise: 50 people gather around a piano and sing pop songs from the 1920s through to the 1950s – show tunes, hymns and folk songs – with pianist-singer Louise Rose. It’s shot live-to-tape with a three-camera mobile unit and finished at Finale Editworks.

Clearly, the show has hit a chord with viewers. ‘They write us constantly, not only to request songs and tell us how much they like the show, but to share their life stories,’ says Gilbert. ‘This kind of music, `memory music’ some call it, obviously opens some special doors in the mind and the emotions and the stories come flooding out.’


On March 20, b.c.’s Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that protects the Griffiths family’s control of Vancouver broadcaster WIC Western International Communications.

The Court of Appeals agreed that wic’s non-voting Class-b shares should not be converted to voting shares, a move that would have wrested control from the Griffiths and left wic more open to a takeover.

CanWest, which launched the appeal after it let a shareholder buyout lapse last year, has boosted its ownership of wic to 15%. Baton Broadcasting is also looking to acquire wic’s share of ctv.

-Backup, She Said

Contrary to earlier information supplied by the production company, Sandra Oh will not play the lead in Mina Shum’s new feature Drive, She Said, which is in production until the third week of April. Because Oh has a scheduling conflict, the lead for Drive has been handed off to Moira Kelly (Chaplin, Twin Peaks – Fire Walk). But Shum’s other colleagues from her breakthrough feature Double Happiness have reconvened for the new film: producer Stephen Hegyes, dop Peter Wunstorf and production designer Michael Bjornson. Vancouver actor Sebastian Spence (Madison, Boys of St. Vincent) is on the cast list.