True West Films gets German partner

Vancouver: Miss Texas, a two-by-two-hour miniseries for Sat 1 in Germany, is the first German service production for West Coast-based True West Films since founder Elizabeth Yake joined with her German partner Henrik Meyer in May.

The fish-out-of-water story is about a female German photojournalist who travels to a Texas ranch only to fall in love with a cowboy. It stars Germany’s Natalia Worner (Experiment Bootcamp), costars Canadian Robert Seeliger (Paradise Falls) and is based on the autobiographical book by creative producer Claudia Kratochvil.

The production shoots 34 days until Sept. 10 in the Ashcroft-Kamloops area (spending $3 million of its $5.4-million budget) and eight days in Germany. A German-language production, the Canadian supporting actors will be dubbed in post. Ute Wieland (You Don’t Nomi) directs and Doris Zander from Studio Hamburg is the producer.

True West’s new partners say they want to develop a slate of director- and writer-driven projects that build bridges with international coproducers. European producers, they say, are more familiar with the Canadian style of financing. Yake and Meyer hope to produce three projects a year – as copros, service jobs or on their own – and are in development with two $4-million Canadian projects that have German partners.

The copros in development include Village of Widows, a 90-minute MOW for Sat 1 and Studio Hamburg, about German journalists who travel to a Dene village in Canada, and the feature Ice Man, about an Inuit man who travels to Germany to retrieve a stolen shaman wand.

‘Part of our business plan allows for the facilitation of service production for Europeans instead of the Americans, while at the same time focusing on our development of treaty coproductions,’ says Yake.

As a producer, Meyer spent 10 years working for Studio Hamburg in Germany, most recently as president of its feature film subsidiary Letterbox Filmproduktion. His credits include Stadtgesprach (aka Talk of the Town), the most successful German theatrical release in 1995, and Gran Paradiso, which premiered at the Festival des Films du Monde in Montreal and was nominated for the German Film Award as best picture in 2001.

After a successful German career, Meyer says he wanted to start a new venture. He began to look to Canada, specifically the West Coast, because of its coproduction possibilities and its quality of life. He met Yake two years ago on a German development project that stalled, but from which a business relationship flourished.

(In a separate deal from True West, Meyer is also currently developing Kid City, a $12-million family entertainment project with Warner Bros. Germany and Crescent Entertainment in Vancouver. Kid City is based on a successful children’s book.)

Yake, meanwhile, produced the Canada/Germany coproduction Desire in 2001 and produced Mile Zero in 2002. She is currently in post with It’s All Gone Pete Tong, the follow-up feature by Fubar director Michael Dowse, set to debut at next month’s Toronto International Film Festival. Shot in Ibiza, the U.K. copro is a fake biopic about a superstar club DJ who goes deaf. The film is distributed by Odeon Films and was financed by B.C. Film, Telefilm Canada, The Movie Network, Movie Central and Vertigo Films in the U.K.

Yake’s also doing two documentaries: the feature-length Hourglass, about Vancouver photographer Jeff Wall, and the 60-minute Growth Rings: Elders of the West Coast Woods.

True West, which is based on Salt Spring Island where Yake landed after moving west from Toronto, opened a Vancouver office for Meyer in May. *