Food critic sleuth, feature films top BBR production slate

Montreal: BBR Productions, associated with L’Equipe Spectra, hopes to begin filming this summer on A Taste for Mysteries, a 26 half-hour crime and murder drama with a food critic in the lead investigative role. It’s one of the few new Canadian dramas with support from Global Television and Mystery Channel, says producer Suzanne Girard (Further Tales of the City, Nuremberg).

Taste has a $60,000 an episode price tag and is scripted by Karl Hearn and Kim Segal, with Hearn and Martin Barry slated to direct.

BBR has two features in financing, including Voyage to the Heart, one of 16 projects filed with Telefilm Canada’s Quebec feature film unit for the March 4 comparatives. It’s a $7.5-million majority Canada/France thriller set in Montreal from French director/writer Hadu Mihaileanu (Train of Life). Coproducer Cedomir Kolar of Folamour Productions in Paris is one of the producers of No Man’s Land, in the running for best foreign film at this year’s Academy Awards. Remstar Distribution and pay-TV movie nets The Movie Network and Super Ecran are on board.

Girard is also developing a $2.5-million minority coproduction feature with Israel and Germany called Metallic Blues. It’s a road movie set in Germany, with support from distrib Equinox Entertainment.

In TV, BBR projects in development include Cardinal Rules, a half-hour drama series coproduction with Toronto’s Breakthrough Film and Television and story editor Alex Galatis (Paradis Falls). Also in the works is Yarmouth Chronicles, a six-hour miniseries coproduction with Spin Films of Halifax. Yarmouth is from screenwriter Karen Jannigan and is a period saga about pioneering women in the East Coast shipyards.

Trinome’s Southern Journey

Versatile Montreal production house Trinome and director Pierre Blais recently wrapped shooting on the TV5 series Plein Sud: the Southern Journey, a 13-hour DVCAM documentary road trip from Louisiana to lands end in Tierra del Fuego, SA.

A 10-member Plein Sud team and the show’s hosts, former Radio-Canada newscaster Madeleine Poulin and Reginald Fleury, traveled over four months through Central America and the Andes Mountains interviewing all kinds of local people in Spanish, French and English. The $1-million series has an English website ( and was produced by Pierre-Paul Lariviere and Jocelyne Allard, with support from the CTF, Fonds Bell and Club Voyages. Doc series specialist Martin Leclerc is the cinematographer.

Trinome’s VP R&D Jean Tourangeau says the house is in talks with English-Canadian and U.S. broadcasters on a new tween X-Files-style series called 11 Somerset. Trinome is also looking to develop a joint venture with English partners for 2 Women, the Desert and a 4X4, a chronicle of a brutal Sahara Desert endurance road rally for women.

Ustinov’s All or Nothing

All or Nothing, Pavla Ustinov’s one-hour documentary portrait of Rosanna Seaborn, tells the unusual story of the 90-year-old society lady who has divided her time between her Ritz-Carlton hotel suite in Montreal and a ruinous mansion in the Bahamas developing the same singular movie project for the past 50 years.

The film premiered March 15 at the 20th edition of the International Festival of Films on Art (FIFA). Ustinov’s meticulously edited story chronicles Seaborn’s unrelenting determination using interviews and montages of the principal and many prominent writers and artists who have come into contact with her over the years.

Thomas Vamos and Laurent Beauchemin are the DOPs. Alain Despres and Ustinov edited over six weeks at Animavision.

Educated in the U.K. and U.S., Ustinov is the daughter of Suzanne Cloutier and Sir Peter Ustinov. She resides in Los Angeles and Montreal and has produced and directed various dramatic short films, including Time Kills Time, Save My Place and Labradorovich’s Masterpiece. An earlier Seaborn profile, An Evening with Rosanne Seaborn, was screened at the 19th FIFA.

Cloutier is the subject of Francois Girard’s Souvenirs d’Othello: Entretiens avec Suzanne Cloutier, a retracing of the actor’s remarkable performance in the Orson Welles classic, Othello.

All or Nothing was produced by Cloutier and Marcel Brisebois for Portrait Films, associated with Cloutier’s Batiscan Films. It has been commissioned by PBS and Canal D, with a French V/O by Janine Sutto

Muse crews Spielberg movie

Filming started March 1 in the U.S. on the new Steven Spielberg movie Catch Me If You Can and moves to Montreal and region for one week in early May. An advanced unit started seven weeks of prep for the film’s Quebec leg on March 11.

Catch Me stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Amy Adams, Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen and is scripted by Jeff Nathanson. The studio production houses are Bungalow 78 Productions, DreamWorks, the distributor, and Magellin Entertainment. The service provider is Muse Entertainment, which also handled the recent Columbia TriStar feature Levity, from director Ed Solomon, starring Billy Bob Thornton. It wrapped shooting here March 13.

Catch Me is an action drama about an FBI agent who tracks down a young con artist and master impersonator who successfully scams more than $6 million in fraudulent cheques in 26 countries.

Barry Kemp, Michel Shane, Tony Romano and Laurie MacDonald are exec producers on Catch Me. Spielberg, Walter F. Parkes and Daniel Lupi are the producers. Muse’s Irene Litinsky is the shoot’s Montreal supervising producer. Ric Nash is the PM.

Apparently, Spielberg (Saving Private Ryan, Empire of the Sun) actually flew into the old St. Hubert airforce base some three or four years ago looking to buy a permanent Canadian studio installation, before Moli-Flex White turned the facility into the Cine Cite Montreal studio complex. The presence of prestigious visitors like Spielberg pleases tireless Montreal Film Commissioner Andre Lafond. ‘This could be the start of something big,’ sighs the wishful commish.

New features at Domino

Veteran distrib Jeanne Rittter, president of Domino Film and Television International, is active in the development of a slate of new Canadian feature films, including three in financing for 2002/03. Writer/director Carolyn Combs’ contemporary immigrant drama Kareena is budgeted at $900,000, with development support from Telefilm and SODEC. Andrew Noble of Productions Jeux d’Ombres is producing.

Nicholas Kendall’s latest feature is The Big Nickel, a $7.5-million Canada/U.K. coproduction between Orca Productions of Vancouver and the U.K.’s Studio 8, which has confirmed a $2.3-million investment. It’s a road movie and a father-son relationship story from writer John Barker slated to film in Ontario, with development support from Telefilm.

Producer/director Christian Bruyere’s Swamp Angel is a dramatic story of a woman’s redemptive experience in an isolated B.C. fishing camp. It’s budgeted at $2.5 million.

Domino has released about 10 films in theatres in recent years, including Davor Marjanovic’s transposed Bosnian drama My Father’s Angel, starring Genie Award-winning actor Tony Nardi.

Upcoming film action

In U.S. service action, as reported by the STCVQ, the Robert Benton feature film The Human Stain, a Stone Village Productions/Lakeshore Entertainment production for distributor Miramax Films, shoots March 18 to May 31 on location in Montreal and at Mel’s Cite du Cinema/Technoparc. It’s scripted by Nichols Meyer and Philip Roth and based on the Roth novel. It stars Golden Globe winner Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge) and Sir Anthony Hopkins (Titus, Hannibal). Jean-Yves Escoffier is the DOP, David Gropman is the designer, Francois Sylvestre is PM and Zoe Sakellaropoulo (Stardom) is the shoot’s art director.

Richard Donner’s time-travel thriller Timeline, a Paramount Pictures pickup (Artists Management Group/The Donners Co.) based on the Michael Crichton novel, films at Cine-Cite Montreal studios from April 8 to July 20.

Moncton’s Grana Productions and Montreal’s Cite-Amerique (Dice, Lost & Delirious) are coproducing the four-hour Radio-Canada dramatic miniseries Samuel. A majority New Brunswick shoot, Samuel is scripted by Robert Hache and Sam Grana (The Boys of St.Vincent, Train of Dreams) and films on location in New Brunswick April 2 to May 24. Pierre Gang is the director and Pierre Letarte is the DOP. Louise Jobin is the production designer.

Christal Films Productions starts principal photography in May on the Stefan Pleszczynski feature Les Secrets des Grands Cours d’Eau. Christian Larouche and Ginette Petit (Le Collectionneur) are producing. Pierre Jodoin is the DOP, Donald McEwen is the art director and Michel Martin is PM.

More film action on the spring/summer horizon, with dates still to be confirmed, includes a new Transfilm project called Robinson Crusoe from director Francois Chabert, the Cirrus Communications low-budget DV feature Ecart de Conduite, the Faulkner Productions feature film Fear of Dark and the Cite-Amerique miniseries sequel Dice II.

Aetios Productions is in preproduction on two returning French-track primetime TV dramas, the top-rated Reseau TVA police profiler series Fortier IV (the only Quebec network drama with an audience of over two million), slated to start up in May with Francois Gingras in the director’s chair, and the SRC miniseries Music-Hall II, with director Alain Desrochers.

Also on tap: the Telefiction drama series Jacques Normand – L’Enfant Terrible; the Cinemaginaire feature Mambo Italiano, from Golden Reel-winning director Emile Gaudreault (Nuit de Noces); the new Stopfilm feature Le Piege d’Issoudun, from director/producer Micheline Lanctot; a new JB Media International TV movie called Nightwaves; and the CineGroupe Images series Stranger Tales.