McDonald goes hard core with sex, violence

Sex, violence, sexual violence – whichever way you slice it, a large portion of Bruce McDonald’s latest round of feature films in development can be characterized by any one of these box-office attributes.

With budgets ranging from $3 million to $20 million, Shadow Shows’ newest roster of features, endowed with all the yummy stuff money-generating films are made of, corrals the writing talents of such Canadian heavyweights as Don McKellar, Semi Chellas, Noel Baker and novelist Tony Burgess.

The closest project to production, Pontypool Changes Everything, is perhaps also the closest to embodying all three proverbial players – sex, violence and sexual violence.

Written by Burgess, Baker (Hard Core Logo) and Stacey DeWolfe, and based on the novel of the same name by Burgess, Pontypool traces one man’s struggle through a poisoned world of fierce madness where a horrifying plague, spread through speech, turns its victims into flesh-eating zombies.

McDonald is set to direct the $7-million film, which is expected to go to camera by March 2001 in Northern Ontario or the Yukon. Malcolm Ingram is producing and Susan Cavan (Twitch City) is exec producing.

The $20-million feature American Creeps, written by Baker, is likely the next in line.

A potential coproduction with Good Machine of New York, the film is set in 1954 when juvenile delinquency is on the rise and moral vigilantes are panicking. A bible student is sent to New York to stamp out the most corrupting influence on American youth – the crime-and-horror comic books known as ‘creeps’ – only he too gets hooked, finds his world slipping into a comic-book hallucination, and ends up on the lam with a beautiful delinquent girl.

McDonald is set to produce and direct.

Yummy Fur, described by McDonald as a ‘freakishly bizarre film…unintentionally funny…Eraserheady,’ is a Shadow Shows/Good Machine coprod, with Cavan attached to produce and McDonald to direct.

Written by McKellar and John Frizzell (The Biggest Modern Woman of the World), and based on the comic-book series by Chester Brown, Yummy Fur tells the story of a dark world lit by the ubiquitous flicker of the tv screen. When Ed the Happy Clown is wrongly imprisoned after a severed hand is found in his bed, his vampire friend comes to his aid. Battling subterranean cannibal pygmies, her ex-boyfriend and a problem with Ed’s penis, the two struggle toward redemption.

McDonald envisions the film, budgeted at $6 million, to be brought to life by Macaulay Culkin as the Happy Clown, Rip Torn as the u.s. president and Drew Barrymore as the First Lady.

Grace: Live Free or Die, also written by Baker, is based on the true story of Grace Metalious, the author of Peyton Place, a torrid, sexually frank sledgehammer blow to the moralistic hypocrisies of small-town America.

The film chronicles the backlash to Metalious’ scandalizing book, including an on-air confrontation with Mike Wallace, and her struggle to be true to herself.

To be produced by Ingram and directed by McDonald, the film is budgeted at roughly $12 million.

Chellas’ (The Life Before This) Claire’s Hat, which McDonald says he ‘may or may not’ direct, is hanging in the balance, with the probability of a spring shoot. Meantime, McDonald has been in talks with France Film’s Michael Mosca. The film is budgeted at $5 million.

Further down the pipeline and straight out of the bowels of the ‘hard core’ porn school is Michael Holmes’ Waiting for Godot.

This is hard-core sex…full-on sex, on-screen porno…NC17, xxx,’ says McDonald.

The film, budgeted at a low $3 million, is an erotic thriller which sees a sexless couple transformed by the rabid democracy of desire and a world of exhibitionists and voyeurs into reluctant and mysterious superstars known to their hard-core fans as Katt and Dogg.

Kordic, written by Lynn Crosbie, is based on the biography of hockey goon John Kordic scribed by Toronto Star sports writer Mark Zwolinski.

Budgeted somewhere between $6 million and $10 million, the project is in very early stages of development.

And just as far down the line is Cold Dead Head, written by Burgess and described by McDonald as ‘a super violent murderous rampage;’ and The Tracey Fragments, written by Vancouver scribe Maureen Medved and to be directed by McDonald. The film, budgeted at less than $1 million, is about a foul-mouthed 15-year-old girl who one night gets stuck in a snow storm as she’s looking for her little brother who thinks he’s a dog.

A producer is yet to be attached.

With each script in development for a minimum of two years, McDonald has spent the last four years doing tv to drum up financing.

His latest tv endeavors include directing the first episode of Kill Kill Kill, a 13-part, half-hour comedy action series for USA Network, and a documentary on The Band’s Robbie Robertson, which McDonald is directing and Mark Betsworth of Captive Entertainment is producing.

And for something completely different, McDonald’s also in the midst of putting together a live-to-air drama, The Last Girl, produced by Mark McKinney (Kids in the Hall) and written by James O’Reilly for Citytv.

McDonald is set to direct the feature-length piece that will be shot in the ChumCity building during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival – a way for Moses Znaimer to take a shot at the ‘sissy film boys,’ says McDonald.

The live teleplay – a second for McDonald, whose American Whiskey Bar was shot live during the 1998 festival – is described as a dark comedy about a confrontation between a yuppie couple and an aging prostitute.

*Annex leaps from action to erotic comedy

Annex Entertainment has concluded a deal with Gruppa Minerva, a European theatrical television and video distributor, to distribute its action thriller The Chunnel in Italy, Germany and Spain.

Written by Bob Boris (Air Force One) and directed by Rick Pepin, the feature is described by Annex principal Paul Wynn as ‘Die Hard at the English Channel.’

Budgeted at $6 million and to be produced by either Michael Derbas (Avalanche) or Michael Sloan (Alfred Hitchcock Presents), the film is slated to go to camera in Toronto and London in spring 2001.

Meantime, High Water Mark, Annex’s first action thriller, about a terrorism catastrophe that takes place at the Hoover Dam (also written by Boris), has been presold to TMN-The Movie Network.

Jumping over to the lighter side, My Best Friend’s Mother, a Jewish version of Class with a touch of There’s Something About Mary, is an erotic comedy written by Ben Fishel.

The $3-million film tells the story of a nice Jewish boy who befriends an Italian-American playboy type and ends up sleeping with his pal’s mother.

Presold to tmn and Buena Vista, the film is slated to shoot in Toronto this fall.

Still looking for the right director and still looking to complete financing, Wynn says, ‘We might have to sell the States to finance it at the end of the day, which pisses me off, because if we sell to hbo, we can’t go theatrical.’

*Tapestry, Equinox get Tangled in T.O.

U.S. prodco Tapestry Films (She’s All That, The Wedding Planner) has gone to camera in Toronto on Tangled, a dark and tragic love story that involves two men, one woman, a kidnapping and a murder.

Produced in association with Equinox Entertainment and shooting May 22 to June 27, the film is geared to a young adult audience (read: teeny boppers) and stars young adults Rachael Leigh Cook (She’s All That), Shawn Hatosy (The Faculty) and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Velvet Goldmine). Recent usc film-school grad Jay Lowi directs.

Robert Levy, Peter Abrams, Jennifer Gibgot and Jonathon Komack Martin are producing for Tapestry.

Equinox’s Carlo Liconti and Tapestry’s Kirk D’Amico and Robert Baruk are exec producing.

Equinox has distribution in Canada and Myriad has u.s. distribution.

*Porto-potties save The Last Band on the Planet

the Last Band on the Planet is a new sci-fi/comedy/musical series for The Comedy Network that’s shooting June 5-23 in Ottawa.

Created and produced by David Bigelow (Kevin Spencer) and Serge Cote (Butch Patterson) of Atomic Productions, and freelancers Chantal Ling (Live From the nac) and Katie Tallo (Juiced), who is also attached as writer and director, the six-part series tells the story of four band mates who are saved by ‘porto-potties’ when a gang of aliens zaps all the musicians in the world. When they realize what has happened they hit the road, only to be chased by the aliens. In each episode they meet up with a host of zany characters and at various points they break into song.

‘It’s a cross between Batman with all its cheesy special effects and The Rocky Horror Picture Show,’ says Ling.

The low-budget series ($240,000), starring Ottawa actors Pierre Brault, Tori Hammond, Thomas Michael and Ross Wilson, was financed by the Canadian Television Fund’s Licence Fee Program, The Comedy Network and deferrals.

The entire production crew is from Ottawa and the musical numbers are composed by Cote.

An air date is still unknown, but the series will be delivered Oct. 1.

*Who says bigger is better?

Touted as the shortest feature film ever made, the 40-minute Over a Small Cup of Coffee marks the directorial debut of commercial producer Sergio Navarretta.

The short film, also written by Navarretta, was shot in black and white in Waterloo, Ont. May 22-26 and combines digital technology with 35mm film.

Produced by Alessandra Piccione for Platinum Image Reproductions, Over a Small Cup is the story of an aspiring actor who breaks out from an uninspiring life working for his father in a coffee shop.

The director’s philosophy: you don’t have to make a three-hour film to get your point across either.

The film also attests to the fact that you don’t necessarily have to pay much to get your point across. Budgeted at $120,000, with deferrals and freebees, the film actually got made for less than $20,000.

Look for its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

*The NewRO moves front and centre

In a move that will not only add a little ‘urban hip’ to the heart of Ottawa but will increase the exposure of Chum Ltd.’s capital city contingent, The NewRO is relocating to a new storefront, street-front, multimedia venue in the Byward Market.

Fashioned after the Chum/City building in Toronto, the new digs, which will be shared with four Chum radio stations (CFRA, KOOL-FM, The TEAM and MAJIC 100), will include high-tech, state-of-the-art equipment, a Speaker’s Corner and 40,000 square feet of space to facilitate more programming production.

‘We’ll be able to do production work for other stations like Star and MuchMusic,’ says spokesperson Valerie Adams. ‘If there’s an artist performing in town, we’ll be able to do a live and interactive with them.’

But more importantly, The NewRO, whose only original programming is local news, will finally be able to expand its in-house production activities, starting with a new breakfast show (details are still being worked out).

The move is set for July.