Docs, comedies flourish in N.S.

PRODUCERS from Nova Scotia will be the first to give us the dramatic account of the life and works of Pierre Trudeau. Wayne Grigsby will write it and he and David MacLeod will produce it. They – Grigsby and MacLeod (Black Harbour) – are co-owners and principals in Chester, N.S.-based Big Motion Pictures, and ‘it’ is a two-part, four-hour miniseries for CBC, currently bearing the working title Trudeau.

MacLeod, who says CBC is ‘ecstatic’ about the project, says: ‘Part One will start when [Trudeau] was justice minister in 1968, look at the October Crisis and his marriage to Margaret. Part Two will look at his marriage breakup, his work on the constitution and bringing home the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms].’

MacLeod says Grigsby will have ‘access to new cabinet documents on the October Crisis.’ Big is set to shoot the $7.6-million mini in August and September, on location in Montreal and Ottawa and in-studio in Halifax.

As for marketing and packaging, MacLeod says Cochran Entertainment’s Andrew Cochran has ‘great ideas in terms of putting together packaging, setting up a website and [repurposing it] for educational purposes.’

Cochran, meantime, has other great ideas on the go, including a new series to spin off Theodore Tugboat. While Theodore chugs into new merchandise territory (The 355 ml. Sparkling Springs bottled water is all the rage), and the real Theo tug will come home Canada Day weekend to Halifax Harbour and then tour the Great Lakes, his offspring is greenlit for production.

The new series, also combining animation and live action, is tentatively titled Pugwash’s Underwater Adventures and is about ‘a deeply curious mini-sub.’ To be produced by Cochran and Doug Barnes, Pugwash is ordered for CBC Playground and may air mid-season, 2001/02.

The company will produce 40 three-minute interstitials, each with a complete narrative structure. They can be sold as self-contained eps or packaged. ‘Broadcasters are looking to fill out hours with a nice, natural flow from one program to the next,’ says Cochran. ‘It’s not necessary to do quarter-hours or half-hours [with one show], but a mix of lengths is more in demand.’

Cochran is also planning to develop a virtual aquarium of the Atlantic online.

Cochran also hoped to get EIP approval in the doc tranche for a 13 x 60 series for Discovery Canada called Superships, featuring ‘the superlative ships of the world – the biggest container ship, the largest floating crane, the toughest ice breaker – and the biggest tugboat, of course.’

Ships and water stories are naturals for the coast, but then there’s ‘a satire on the way the rest of the world, and especially Americans, envision life in Canada.’ That’s the overview synopsis for Chilly Beach, an animated series of 22 half-hours being coproduced by Salter Street Films of Halifax and Toronto’s Infopreneur, which created and launched the property as webisodes and then pitched it as a TV series.

Produced in flash animation, the program follows life in a town built on a drifting ice floe. The style is ‘brilliant comedy, somewhat satirical with an easygoing approach,’ according to Salter CEO Michael Donovan. Chilly Beach will aim for a teen/adult demo much like that of The Simpsons. The coproducers will begin delivering episodes to Teletoon after Christmas, by which time Salter exec producer Charles Bishop hopes the creative team will be well along on a Chilly Beach feature for TV, currently at a very early stage. Meantime, Bishop says CB creator Doug Sinclair, an animator and writer on the property, and co-creator Dan Hawes, are building a very exciting program for which all have high hopes. Bishop also says production continues on webisodes, with separate storylines from the TV series. The plan is to cross-promote from Web to TV and back.

Salter’s comedy slate also includes three returning series. CBC has ordered 16 half-hours of Made in Canada – three more than last season – which begins shooting June 18. Once MIC wraps, the gazillionth season of 22 Minutes will hit the set. The question is, with MIC coproducers Island Edge vowing to score a technical knockout over 22 Minutes for best comedy Gemini this year, which series will triumph? Global, meantime, has ordered 13 more half-hours of Ron James’ Blackfly, which also goes to camera June 18.

And Salter is already in production on 24 more hours of Lexx, a fourth season for Sci Fi and Space.

At Eco-Nova Productions in Halifax, principal John Wesley Chisholm is producing and directing a doc for Discovery on ‘the story of hydrofoils.’ Flying on Water is financed and ready to shoot this summer in Cape Breton and ‘around the world,’ for delivery next February.

The film will chart the course of ‘the last great invention’ of Alexander Graham Bell and his wife Mabel who, with other collaborators, launched their hydrofoil in 1921. Chisholm says Mabel, a deaf senior, gunned the vessel at speeds exceeding 70 miles an hour on Bras d’Or Lake in Cape Breton while her husband looked on in mid-stroke.

Meantime, Eco-Nova has its own hot shipping news, having sold the first two seasons (13 one-hours in Canada) of shipwreck doc series The Sea Hunters to both National Geographic U.S. and Nat Geo International. Although the first season is still in production – the peripatetic shooting schedule bumps and grinds according to how quickly the crew discovers the wrecks – Chisholm hopes it will begin airing internationally in the first quarter of 2002. History Television is aboard in Canada.

With shooting for cycle two set to begin next month, Chisholm is elated with the series’ progress: ‘People are starting to get it. People are more and more interested in ocean issues. Their two main questions about these wrecks are, ‘Who owns them?’ and ‘What are we going to do with them?’ ‘ Chisholm will produce The Sea Hunters, along with producer/ director John Davis. Bill Jardine will also direct.

At Creative Atlantic in Halifax, you could say, they’re spoof-hunters. Principal Janice Evans says Leslie ‘my whoopee cushion travels everywhere with me’ Nielsen is back to host a second season of Liography, a takeoff on Biography. The gang will shoot 13 half-hours over six weeks, beginning in August. Evans, Greg Jones and Peter Hays will produce the $3.2-million series, which will air on Comedy Network, likely launching in late 2001 or early 2002. Ed Macdonald, Alex Ganetakos and Ian Johnston are confirmed so far as returning writers. *