Bell Fund awards $3.35 million in latest round

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The Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund has announced funding for the Oct. 1, 2011 round of applications.

Overall, $3.35 million was awarded to 27 applicants in production, low-budget production, development and professional development project categories, out of 50 applications.

Funded projects and productions include: Eat St., Mr. Young, Time Tremors, The Listener, Canada’s Smartest Person, Cross Country Fun Hunt, Vivi, Rock tes bas, The Guide and King.

The list is weighted towards kids programming, as it’s a genre that tends to work best in the new media landscape, says Andra Sheffer, executive director, Bell Fund, adding that 40% of the funded projects are kids- and youth-targeted, 40% are documentaries and 20% are geared to adults.

“With the kids stuff, the [audiences expect online extensions] – they go online and the numbers are fantastic,” she says. “And the documentary [genre], interestingly, is one in which people want to know more. So they go online to research usually, or learn more about the topic. Even one-off documentaries tend to do some really interesting online activity.”

One-off docs have an especially interesting online life, she says.

“We seem to see that those sites often last way longer than the television program, so they will have an audience who are [there] three or four years later because of the topic. It’s quite the opposite of what we expect.”

Four out of seven projects receiving production grants are towards kids and youth, including tween reality series Cross Country Fun Hunt from Apartment 11 Productions, which celebrates the “funnest” places across Canada as recommended and voted on by young viewers and season two of Thunderbird Films’s teen whiz kid show Mr. Young, which will feature complementary digital collector cards, a companion game and an arcade Flash game online.

Funding will also go to Xenophile Media’s Time Tremors transmedia project, which will let players explore the Time Tremors world through a mobile, online and physical Treasure Hunt; and Skywriter Television’s animated project Vivi, which will see Vivi continuing her travels with her grandmother, and Skywriter Media and Entertainment giving young viewers an opportunity to create and share digital memory books through Vivi’s Scrapbook site.

Media Headquarters landed funds for Canada’s Smartest Person, a live televised event to find Canada’s smartest person based on six markers of intelligence that will have social media and mobile app quiz-play options.

Season three of sci-fi drama The Listener from Shaftesbury also made the cut with its online extension, web series, The Listener: Power Switch, which will explore what would happen if main character Toby was without his telepathic powers.

The Guantanamo Trap from The Guantanamo Trap Productions, which follows four people affected by Guantanamo, also received funding. The new media side of the production, My September 11th, will be a narrative on 9/11 with online video.

Five projects also received low budget grants, including Aboriginal doc series The Guide from Sivumu Northern Productions, which focuses on Inuit mentors working with local community leaders on social issues, and also offers a modular website for finding and interacting with a mentor.

King Film Production II Inc.’s King, season two, also received funding under the low budget grant program, and media component King Season II – Interactive Case Files will be integrated into a Facebook-based social network.

Also under the low budget grant program, preschooler-targeted Minimops, from Yowza Digital Inc. has musical moppets exploring the word in the show, and accompanying musical education mini-games online; the third season of Paperny’s Eat St. and its revamped mobile app; The Carbon Rush from Wide Open Exposure, which looks at the “green-gold” market of carbon trading and its online extensions, which include a carbon market simulation game on the website.

On the French-language side, funded projects include: Rock tes bas from Productions GFP, Mixmania III from Zone3, La Valse des continents from Ideacom international, Fermier urbain from Productions 350 ° and Sedna autour du monde: L’aventure humaine from Glacialis Productions all received production grants. Amazone Films’ Infirmières received a low budget production grant.

iThentic’s Real Therapy Interactive, The Secret Location’s Groj Band and GlassBOX’s Travel + Escape Top Ten all landed development grants.

Organizations receiving professional development funding include Whistler Film Summit Media Lab, Merging + Media Toronto and NUMIX 2012.

Overall, Sheffer says, Bell Fund is seeing project budgets dip slightly, due mainly to the evolving mediascape.

“The good things are that the cost of doing this stuff is going down, and people know what they’re doing now. It just doesn’t cost what it used to cost,” Sheffer tells Playback Daily. “Also, things are being simplified somewhat. We used to encourage probably too much of the fancy bells and whistles and really go all out, and I don’t think those necessarily work in all cases.”

“On the other hand,” she continues, “we’re seeing, I think, more ‘average’ projects. There isn’t that excitement that we used to see with projects where people were trying things and experimenting and doing interesting new things. I think that maybe, the CMF’s requirement that all projects have to have a second platform [is] encouraging some mediocrity.”

The fund has so far this year awarded $12.2 million. View the full list here.

Photo: Cast of Mr. Young / YTV