All posts by Cameron

Industry Update – Adapting Bitten: From Book to Television

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Bitten was the focus of a panel discussion at the 2013 Canadian International Television Festival, at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. I had the opportunity to ask executive producers Daegan Fryklind and J.B. Sugar about the show. The Bitten panel included castmembers Greg Bryk, Joel Keller, Michael Xavier, Paulino Nunes, and Steve Lund, and was hosted by InnerSPACE‘s Ajay Fry and Morgan Hoffman.

Cameron Archer: This one would be for Daegan and J.B. Sugar. How closely did you work with Kelley Armstrong in adapting the [Women of the Otherworld] book series to this show?

J.B. Sugar: Kelley was involved in the early stages a lot more heavily, when Daegan delivered her first couple drafts of the first and second episode scripts, as well as the show bible. I think the best news for us, as creatives adapting her work, was to have her kind of give us her blessing and say “Daegan really got the world, and the voices, and the characters”…I  think that was an amazing blessing to get, and let us move forward with confidence. (whispers to Daegan Fryklind) Expand.

Daegan Fryklind: And then Kelley did come to set, also, and met the writing team, and took a tour of Stonehaven, and our standing sets, and loved it. As J.B. said, to get her stamp of approval was really an honour. She was extremely busy during our production season with her newest novel, and touring a lot, so…

Steve Lund: (attempts a menacing tone) Omens. Check it out.

Fryklind: …but would throw us a lot of good feedback on Twitter, which was great.

Sugar: Random House Canada’s about to re-release Bitten in a new edition, and there’s a nice little burst on the cover, giving some props out to the show, saying “coming to Space”.

Morgan Hoffman (InnerSPACE): Cool!…[Women of the Otherworld is] such a beloved book series, and there’s numerous books within it. What would you say were the biggest challenges in adapting [the series] to a TV show?

Sugar: I’m sure Daegan has the right answer…Bitten the first season of the show follows closely to the plotline of Bitten the novel. The Otherworld series kind of jumps in time, and goes into backstory. I think the challenge was to take this wealth of mythology, and backstory, and character that needed to be crafted into a narrative that would work for the medium of TV. That’s something that Daegan and our writing team just did so brilliantly, so I’ll let her expand on that.

Fryklind: The novel itself also stays very closely to Elena [Michaels]’ P.O.V. – that’s internal monologue. In adapting the novel to a series, I had to really blow out character arcs for (refers to male cast attending CITF panel) each of these fellows, so that they had their own storylines, and so that when we were coming away from Elena to other storylines, we had B-plots and C-plots. We sorta blow out the world, blow out their valley, and create characters there, and Toronto, and Philip [Madden]’s world, and his family, and just give everyone their own throughline, and their own want and need throughout the first season.

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Industry Update – Canadian International Television Festival

CITF-LogoThe Canadian International Television Festival debuts on November 15, 2013.  Perhaps TV, eh? readers forgot it existed.  Diane Wild – whose site I infrequently publish articles to – forgot it existed until I mentioned the CITF to her earlier this month.  CITF promotion will hit full force in the next few days, but then, it has to – there’s a press conference scheduled for November 5, after all.  As of the date I finish this article (November 3, 2013), the CITF confirms three things about itself – it’s real, there’s a Murdoch Mysteries-related event, and it promotes the #EyeOnCanada initiative.  Quite a feat, for a public festival that debuts in less than two weeks.

While I don’t know the CITF’s behind-the-scenes happenings, the festival cuts things close with its launch.  The CITF’s first Twitter posts were made on October 24, 2013.  The Canada Media Fund website has dates and times for certain parts of the festival, and the CITF’s first day is set aside for industry.  Murdoch Mysteries is the subject of the first announced screening and Q&A session.

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Industry Update – CTV/Bell Media 2013 Upfront

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CTV/Bell Media’s “Amazing” 2013 upfront was held at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, in Toronto, Ontario. It was the third straight year the upfronts were held there. The press conferences were, as always, held at Bell Media’s home offices at 299 Queen Street West.

CTV expanded the number of press conferences this year, from six to seven. The Canadian originals – The Amazing Race Canada and Satisfaction – came first. CTV’s press conferences are largely a showcase for new imported programs. This year featured ABC’s The Goldbergs, CBS’ Intelligence (this one’s about a microchip-enhanced operative — it looks silly), CBS’ Hostages, and syndicated talk show Bethenny. Fox’s The Following rounded out the bill, as the “returning favourite.”

Bell Media’s upfront presentation was fairly straightforward. It was the longest of the Big Three upfronts, at ninety-plus minutes. For its length, it didn’t have much to say beyond the standard talking points. I assume this was by design. Bell Media formally welcomed Astral Media into its family in 2012, barring “little things” like CRTC regulations…that were actually acted upon. For 2013, Bell showcased what they actually owned.

Bell Media dialed back the hubris, compared to last year. The only hint of the Bell-Astral deal was the announced Bravo GO multi-screen initiative. Mostly, Bell showcased supporting players from its American imports, as well as stars from its Canadian shows.

The clips for Canadian shows were blended with the clips for American shows, so CTV wasn’t shoving its original content into a cultural ghetto. CTV took pride of place in Bell Media’s hierarchy, with CTV Two announcing The Big Bang Theory…in syndicated weekday rerun form. Anger Management and Hot in Cleveland — six nights a week of Hot in Cleveland were also patched into CTV Two, as well as six nights a week of Mike & Molly. It’s obvious CTV Two is the home of shows CTV doesn’t want to lose to CHCH.

Cirque du Soleil topped and tailed the upfront presentation. Castmembers from Saving Hope, The Listener, Orphan Black, The Amazing Race Canada and Motive were on hand for pictures during the afterparty.

There’s a commercial element to this, of course. Bell Media runs a joint venture with Cirque du Soleil. Bell wants The Amazing Race Canada to be a hit for CTV. Motive, The Listener and Saving Hope are hits for CTV. Orphan Black does well on SPACE, and on BBC America.

One thing that bothered me about the 2013 CTV/Bell Media upfront: I was told I couldn’t take pictures of the presentation, the afterparty, or the tweets (including one of mine) that cycled during the upfronts. Come the afterparty, the tweet cycle included pictures of both events. Many of the pictures were of a giant birdcage, with Cirque du Soleil performers inside.

Bell Media showcased afterparty tweets — a few from accredited press members — as part of the afterparty. I’m not criticizing Bell Media; I just found the miscommunication strange. Bell Media announced a relationship with Twitter Canada as part of the upfront. Ad buyers were no doubt going to tweet about the cage, and Jon Montgomery handing CTV Programming and Sports executive Phil King a beer pitcher.

As for The Social, I didn’t find its sales pitch that strong. It came across to me as The View, with social media elements. That’s a thin premise to hang a talk show on. Perhaps The Social will make more sense once it airs. If the chemistry between the four hosts aren’t there, Twitter AMPLIFY content won’t make up the difference.

I didn’t mind the CTV/Bell Media 2013 upfront. Bell Media is still slow to embrace video-on-demand, but it has a better overall grasp of how to handle its Canadian content. Whether it follows through on a statement to make more Canadian content remains to be seen.

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Industry Update – The cast and creator of Satisfaction

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As Satisfaction was one of the two Canadian shows participating in the 2013 CTV Upfront Press Conference, I had the opportunity to speak to castmembers Luke Macfarlane, Leah Renee, and Ryan Belleville, plus showrunner/creator Tim McAuliffe:

How will Satisfaction differ from CTV’s previous series, Hiccups and Dan for Mayor?

Tim McAuliffe: Well, it’s funny. I wrote for Dan for Mayor for a brief period of time, and briefly for Corner Gas as well. We actually have Gabrielle Miller on our show. I think [Satisfaction] is different in that it’s skewing a little younger … This is a story about people living in the city, in their twenties.

How worried are you about ratings? Dan for Mayor and Hiccups both debuted to an audience of around two million viewers; the audiences dwindled to around half a million by the end of their second seasons.

McAuliffe: Worry about the ratings? Yeah, I’m super worried.

Leah Renee: I always worry about the ratings!

Ryan Belleville: Well, the sign of a good showrunner is, of course, he’s always worried about the ratings. He’s also worried about the paint fillers being used on his sets; he’s worried about new scripts. [McAuliffe] has non-stop worries going on. I mean, there’s really nothing you can do. It’s a really funny show, and I think people will like it. It’s nice to have an urban comedy about young people in Canada. It’s a really refreshing thing, I found. We just have to hope people will agree with us.

Renee: We all just got to see some cuts of the show. … We all saw two episodes just the other day and they were really funny, you guys. They were really funny. I was laughing out loud, and I was like, “I was a part of this, and I’m laughing!” I think we’re all a little worried, but at the same time, I’m not, really. I feel like [Satisfaction‘s] going to be good.

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Industry Update – Rogers Media/City 2013 Upfront

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Rogers Media’s 2013 upfront was held June 4, 2013, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Before the upfront, Rogers announced the renewal of Seed, as well as the rescheduling of Package Deal to fall 2013. This stuff you already know, so I won’t waste time typing about it.

The interviews started shortly after 2:30 PM ET. Surprisingly, five of the seven interview segments focused on Canadian shows. Seed and Package Deal featured cast interviews, though a majority of Seed‘s questions were answered by executive producer Mark Farrell and star Adam Korson. Eva Longoria was on hand for Mother Up! Also interviewed were the cast of OLN/City’s Storage Wars Canada, and Ray Zahab from OLN/City’s The Project: Guatemala. Rounding out the bill were James Wolk from The Crazy Ones, and Lauren Ash from Super Fun Night.

The Score, which joined the Sportsnet family as soon as the CRTC approved Rogers’ takeover of the channel, will become Sportsnet 360 on July 1. This doesn’t mean The Score is dead – the website and mobile businesses Score Digital owns still carry The Score’s lineage, and name.

Rogers promised Sportsnet 360 would retain The Score’s personality, and I hope Sportsnet 360 makes the cut. I just hope it doesn’t become a clearinghouse for Sportsnet 590 The Fan simulcasts. It’s nice Tim Micallef and Sid Seixeiro are back on The Score/Sportsnet 360, but the Tim and Sid simulcast is there for three hours of easy weekday CanCon.

The Rogers upfront presentation was typical of its kind: a rundown of Rogers’ properties, with a visible countdown displaying the number of minutes until free bar access. The most genuine surprise was two performances by Tegan and Sara, in service of City obtaining Canadian broadcast rights to the Grammy Awards. Professional wrestler Ron Killings (d/b/a WWE’s R-Truth) and IZOD IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe shepherded The Score into the Sportsnet family.

Rogers was especially interested in Mother Up!, showing unfinished and behind-the-scenes clips of the show during the upfront presentation. The clips were rough – backgrounds weren’t cleaned up and painted in. It struck me as odd to showcase Mother Up! in beta mode, yet it’s obvious Rogers has high hopes for it. Package Deal clips were also screened, while Breakfast Television formally announced a Montreal edition with a “surprising” host.

One notable thing about City’s 2013-14 fall schedule is the return of Great Canadian Movies, which will air Saturday at 9:00 PM ET, after an “encore presentation” of The Project: Guatemala. The Canadian movie block was temporarily retired in 2012-13, in favour of The Bachelor Canada, Less Than Kind and Murdoch Mysteries “encores”.

The Rogers upfront promoted OMNI’s Bollywood Star. Mohawk Girls, an APTN/OMNI series, wasn’t mentioned. It was a curious omission. CityNews Channel’s immediate termination last week was also ignored. Granted, upfronts deal in “happy news” moments, and don’t focus on the failures. I would have liked to see Rogers mention CityNews Channel; it was an integral part of Rogers’ 2011 upfront.

To promote Storage Wars Canada during the free bar, advertisers were handed “Rogers Cash”. The completion of activities – e.g., having a caricature drawn at the Mother Up! booth, playing a racing simulation and/or meeting R-Truth at the Sportsnet 360 booth, getting a Cityline beauty makeover – allowed participants to earn more “Rogers Cash”. It was a departure from standard protocol – Canadian television upfronts don’t usually have a gaming element. This was mainly for the advertisers’ amusement, but it was effective enough promotion.

In the end, Rogers Media had a relatively modest 2013 upfront, even though it was more lavish than the 2012 upfront. While not much actual news was offered, at least Rogers didn’t oversell itself. The countdown-to-free-bar display was a bit much, though.

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