Ottawa International Animation Festival – Blog #2

Matt Senreich, unidentified blonde, Seth Green

Matt Senreich, unidentified blonde, Seth Green

I had the pleasure of seeing the Co-Creators of Robot Chicken (Cartoon Network, Adult Swim), who were the keynote speakers on Thursday at the OIAF. Seth Green (you know him as Scott Evil from Austin Powers) and Matt Senreich produce this stop-motion sketch comedy series and are real fans of animation, actors and pop culture. They came up with the idea in 2000 – before broadband – and told some entertaining storiesabout the early years of fedexing huge tapes coast to coast, working full-time at day jobs and getting by on 3 hours of sleep a night for 9 months. They had some great advice: Make a demo or a pilot (to compensate for the utter lack of imagination of the people you’re pitching to – Green’s words).

Green also said that the immediacy of the internet makes it a great place to use as a launching pad. I really agree with that – lots of animators at the conference are talking about the ability to make something and have it seen by people almost instantaneously. We really hope that they’ll take advantage of the new animation contests here at Super U. Watch this space tomorrow for special details about the contest announcement on www.superu.ca

Ottawa International Animation Festival – Blog #1

Parliament Buildings from the National Gallery

Parliament Buildings from the National Gallery

Welcome to a special series of posts from the Ottawa International Animation Festival. This morning, the Television Animation Conference started off with a bang – the Government of Brazil announced that they have co-production funding available for animation. (Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll track down the contact info.) The keynote speaker was Brown Johnson, President of Animation for Nickelodeon which sounds like a fun place to work: they have fun houses at Halloween, funny car competitions and tie day on Friday. I wonder if Super U will beat them to the first annual “underwear on the outside day”?

Animators - and future animators - in the Book Lounge

Animators - and future animators - in the Book Lounge

The Pitch This! session pitted enthusiastic animators against experienced commissioners from CBC Kids, Teletoon, PBS Kids and Jetix. At breakfast, I sat with the guys who were pitching The Mulligans – a series set around a kids’ golf school – and they were sweating bullets. I admire their chutzpah. Here’s some great feedback I gleaned: Complex character descriptions can be used to fuel the storyline. And: defining the age-range is crucial when pitching. If you’re an animation creator, here’s the scoop on what the Canadian ‘casters are looking for: Teletoon wants boy comedy and teen/tween dramedy, CBC is taking pitches for shows for 4-6 year olds, and a 7:30 am before school show with a broad appeal for young families and they’re looking for shorts.

Stay tuned for some exciting news about animation contests on Superu.ca.

Gotta run to Happy Hour! Here’s a shot of me by the National Gallery of Canada.

Clare at the National Gallery of Canada (Louise Boureois sculpture "Maman")

Getting LGBT Content Out There

It wasn’t that long ago that gay and lesbian content was no where to be found in mainstream media. There might have been the odd illusion or whispered comment, but you certainly wouldn’t have seen a movie like Brokeback Mountain in the theatres a few decades ago. Despite the fact that there are many LGBT filmmakers, its been a long, hard struggle to get  stories about the community to the masses.

More and more we’re watching the walls come down, though. Gay and lesbian characters are emerging not only in film, but on many great TV shows – like Out There judge Adamo Ruggiero‘s characrer, Marco, on Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Let’s hope this insurgence of great LGBT film and TV continue. I can’t wait to see what emerges from the Out There contest on superu.ca.

More Tommy Chong sightings

I just heard that Tommy Chong was on the CBC quiz show “Test the Nation”. He was answering questions for the Reach for the Toppers team. We used to watch Reach for the Top during Sunday night dinner, just after The Beachcombers. We had a family friend, Donald Wilmer, who was on the show, so he became kind of a celebrity for a while. Anyone know how Tommy did? I know he was a great juror for SuperU.ca’s It’s Hilarious contest.

TIFF Special Report

TIFF Special Report from Marguerite Pigott:

Hi all, and welcome to Super U’s first blog from TIFF.  The festival has been going for a few days now, and I honestly don’t know when other folks find the time to blog!  TIFF has been fast and furious, and Canadian films are front and centre. 

I particularly loved Atom Egoyan’s latest, Adoration, and Philippe Falardeau’s film, It’s Not Me, I Swear!  Adoration is, I think, the most emotional film Egoyan has made.  It is vintage Egoyan – cerebral, inquisitive, philosophical and highly original.  But where previous films had an emotional restraint that some find cold, Adoration does not.  The ending was genuinely moving.  Okay, I’ll admit it; Atom Egoyan made me cry.  Whodathunk? 

And Philippe Falardeau’s latest is a wonderful extension of his previous films.  I was a big fan to start with.  I loved Le Moitie Gauche du Frigo and Congorama, so my expectations were pretty high.  As always, he exceeded them.  The story is beautifully balanced between sorrow and comedy, and the performance of the boy at the centre of the film is absolutely remarkable.  When the young actor came on stage after the screening, he got a long, loud standing ovation from the 900 strong crowd. 

Bruce McDonald’s film Pontypool is also getting a lot of attention.  Last year he set the Festival on fire with The Tracey Fragments – an innovative and totally compelling film  – so I couldn’t wait to see Pontypool.  Clearly, a lot of other people felt the same way.  The industry screening was this afternoon, and for the first time, I was turned away from a TIFF screening because the theatre was filled to over capacity.  And there was already a long line of industry types outside the theatre, hoping that people inside might leave, so they could grab their seats.  Brian DePalma got turned away too, so I was in pretty good company.  I’m going to try again on Friday, but if you’re not at TIFF, or if you are at TIFF but you’re averse to line ups, you’ll be able to see it on Super Channel, so keep an eye out for it.

Of course a huge part of TIFF is the parties.  One of the parties I look forward to every year is the Canadian Film Centre barbecue.  In twenty years of CFC barbecues it has never rained, but the CFC’s luck ran out today.  It rained and rained, but the party was still great.  Everyone crowded into a few big, white marquees, and those used to ‘working the room’ learned to ‘work the tent’.  The grounds got very muddy very fast – women wearing high heels gave up and went barefoot. The ankle deep mud in the field-turned-parking lot was evocative of the fields of Passchendaele, so I suppose it was kind of appropriate.  In any case, the party was as great as it has ever been.  The food was good, the company was even better, and maybe the fact that we all defied the weather made the party even a bit more special than usual. 

One of the things I love about the festival, and about the parties in particular, is that they remind me why I work in Canadian film – not always an easy gig, as you know.  Everywhere I turn at the festival, I see people I genuinely care for; people I’ve worked with, people I know from ‘around’ or people whose work I’ve admired for years.  We’ve all made an investment in this industry and in each other, and even when it rains like hell, we all keep showing up. If I have to be soaked with rain and crowded into a tent, I can’t think of a bunch of people I’d rather be with.

I’m going to keep blogging from the festival, so please keep an eye out.  I’ll be posting a ‘market update’ with insight from international sales agent Mark Horowitz of H2O, and at the Strategic Partners conference at the Atlantic Film Festival, I’ll be interviewing Niv Fichman  and Don McKellar (Producer and Screenwriter of Blindness, respectively) at a luncheon sponsored by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.  If you have a question you’d like me to ask Niv or Don, please let me know.  I’ll be posting here after the interview, and I’ll let you know all about it.

Thanks for reading, Marguerite

Remembrance of Film Fests past…

September, with its back-to-school vibe, always makes me nostalgic. Tonight, with the opening of the Toronto International Film Festival, I look back on great moments in my film fest history.

TIFF 1989: Canadian premiere of Atom Egoyan‘s “Speaking Parts“. Lights dim, movie starts, head credits roll, lights go up, flurry of activity from the back of the cinema, Egoyan seen scurrying out. The lab printed the wrong reel after the credits. Egoyan fetched another print from his downtown Toronto office and taxied back to the theatre. The show went on. (Note: The print of “Speaking Parts” also caught fire in Cannes that same year.)

VIFF 1994: Krzysztof Kieslowski premiered Three Colours Red and was a special guest of the VIFF. I think they also showed a few of his Decalogue films in a special presentation. That year I was a film school drop-out and volunteered at the Hospitality Suite.

TAOS 2002: Room, the short film I produced, directed by Cameron Labine, played at the Taos Talking Picture Festival. It was the first festival I travelled to and I met amazing people, including Chip Hourihan, producer of Frozen River. Have to say it was a thrill being at a party when Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon were in the next room.

FilmExchange 2006: My first feature, “Love and Other Dilemmas“, directed by Larry Di Stefano and written by Deb Peraya played this intimate Canadian festival. It felt like coming home because LAOD had been selected by the NSI’s Features First program. I discovered that Terry David Mulligan is a gracious host and wine connoisseur.

Check this space for an exclusive blog for SuperU from TIFF 08 by Marguerite PigottSuper Channel’s Creative Development Representative for the province of Ontario. In addition to her work for Super Channel, Marguerite is also an independent consultant focusing on script development and project marketability.

Before the silly season starts

This week, the PM Stephen Harper pulled the Governor General Michaëlle Jean from attending the Paralympics in Beijing. Rumour has it that a federal election will be called early Tuesday. Then “Silly Season” starts: Canadian media outlets write about nothing except the election, politicians, promises, platforms and scandals (we hope, for variety’s sake) until the vote takes place, which could be as early as the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. So before the onslaught of electioneering starts… 

Here’s what’s making news: The Regina SixListeria Hysteria, Killer Sushi

At the movies: Babylon A.D., Traitor, Disaster Movie, Hamlet 2

On TV: Everest (CBC, 2-part miniseries Aug 31 and Sept 1, 8 to 10 pm). 

Oh, and David Duchovny’s a sex addict. Sigh. Maybe the election will be more interesting. 

You can always watch the latest films on Super U! Check for new films daily.

Have a great weekend.

Don’t you know who I am?

The dreaded six-word phrase uttered by would-be celebs from airports to restaurants worldwide. Now that we’re heading into festival and market season in Canada – Toronto, Atlantic, Ottawa Animation, Vancouver are all in September – it’s time to tell the world who you are by updating your bio for the delegate book.

Robert Wong, Director of the Provincial Tax Credit program for the film and television industry in BC, used to submit fake bios. He included record of his participation in the Extreme Shredding finals of the Tax Credit Games in which he lost both hands and had them replaced with flamethrowers. Bob was the hit of Strategic Partners!

In my fake life, when I am unable to find work in my chosen field as muse to Clive Owen, or find my career as pharmacist to Anna Nicole Smith abruptly ended, I decide to take a day job. So, here I am at Super U! In my spare time I enjoy green tea, macrame, visiting my friends in rehab and planning for my next police car chase to be broadcast live in prime time.

And the Gemini* goes to…

        *The 23rd annual Gemini Awards honours the best in Canadian TV

The Gemini nods were revealed today. And while there are no real surprises in who was nominated, can I make a little back-handed Canadian compliment and say that it’s a pleasant surprise that we have so many heavy-hitting dramas duking it out for the top?

We have a couple of period pieces – CityTV’s Murdoch Mysteries,(leading the noms with 14), and CBC copro The Tudors – against three cop dramas – The Movie Network/Movie Central’s Durham County, CBC’s The Border and Intelligence – for best dramatic series.

In Comedy, fan favourite Corner Gas (CTV) leads the strong pack up against CBC’s This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Comedy Network’s Odd Job Jack and Rent-A-Goalie, Kenny vs. Spenny and Cock’d Gunns, both from Showcase, for best series.

Congrats to the creators, movers and shakers of Degrassi: the Next Generation (Epitome Pictures), nominated for the umpteenth time for Best Children’s or Youth Fiction Program or Series. We’re happy to welcome DNGer Adamo Ruggiero, who plays Marco del Rossi, as one of the jurors on our latest contest: “Out There” for films by and about the GLBT community on Superu.ca.

The Gemini Awards’ main gala takes place in Toronto on November 28. Galas for news, sports and documentary; lifestyle, children’s and youth; and drama, comedy and variety shows take place Oct. 20, 21 and 22 in Toronto.

Curious? Check out the complete list of Gemini nominees.

Good luck everyone!