From the Banff Media Festival:
Nominees Announced for Rockies Program Competition
BANFF is proud to announce the full list of nominees for its annual Rockies Program Competition. The internationally-recognized Award program celebrates nominees in 26 categories, spanning multiple genres including Fiction, Non-Fiction, Kids & Animation and Interactive. Read more.
Leo Awards 2013: Coming-of-age story Becoming Redwood leads with 16 nods
The Vancouver-set Showcase sci-fi series Continuum leads the TV nominations with 16 nods, followed by the action adventure series Arctic Air with 14. For best actor in a TV series, the nominees are Kevin McNulty (Arctic Air), Niall Matter (Primeval: New World), and Michael Shanks (Saving Hope). For best actress in a TV series, it’s Pascale Hutton (Arctic Air), Jodi Balfour (Bomb Girls) and Meg Tilly (Bomb Girls). Read more.
Last week the Writers Guild of Canada handed out their screenwriting awards, including the TV Comedy award to Kim Coghill for the “Jerk Chicken” episode of Less Than Kind. TV, eh?‘s Rachel Langer quizzed her on the award, the episode and lessons learned.
What does the WGC Award win mean to you?
I’m honoured that my fellow writers have judged me not only funny enough, but also strong enough to lift this award, which I believe weighs 175 pounds. Because a lighter award wouldn’t mean nearly as much. I mean, you could actually kill someone with this thing. I’m not saying anyone did. Or would. Or thought about it. I’m just saying you could. It’s just a fact. Facts aren’t illegal.
What was it like to be nominated alongside your then-fiance, now-husband Denis McGrath (Congrats!) and the showrunner of LTK, Mark McKinney? Did that change the experience of winning for you?
I was thrilled to be nominated, but not really sure how they’d take it when I won. Denis seems fine so far – he cries, but mostly at night. Mark sends hate mail scrawled on old Slings & Arrows scripts, but that’s cool too, because it’s kinda like being threatened by Shakespeare, which is pretty flattering… So, um, I think they’re fine with it.
Tell us about your episode of Less Than Kind, and what the best and worst parts of writing it were?
In this episode, Sheldon, the awkward teenaged son, tries to turn himself into one of the “jocks,” best friend Miriam tries being a coquette, and pal Danny wonders why everyone’s turning into someone else. It all spirals out of control when Sheldon throws a jock party, and Danny and Miriam crash with a vengeance.
Worst part: reliving my adolescence.
Best part: reliving my adolescence through these incredibly complex and funny characters, especially with a show set in my hometown of Winnipeg.
If you had to share the award with one other person, who would it be and why?
Just one? All the other writers on LTK, rolled into one enormous aggregate individual containing tiny pieces of each person’s funniest bits. And if I couldn’t do that, I’d share it with my new husband, because he already has one, so now we have matching bookends.
If you could pick one lesson from working on LTK to bring with you to your next writing room, what would it be?
That “comedy” and “drama” aren’t opposites; a show doesn’t have to be one or the other. Good comedy is most powerful when it plays out against real emotions – anger, sadness, fear – because that’s how we experience humour in real life.
Also, when you need a cheap laugh, there’s nothing like the word “boogers.”
Speaking of your next project, could you tell us a little bit about what you’re working on now?
I’m writing a couple of new pilots that are in that ‘comedy-with-drama’ vein.
If you could step into the writers room on any past Canadian Comedy, what would it be, and why?
My smart-ass side would pick Made in Canada, because it was so wonderfully snarky. But my playful side would pick SCTV – I adored those characters, ever since I was a kid. There’s nothing like watching a great character, written and performed with love.
Five years of working on a show you love, that’s like five giant scoops of ice cream. Having the luxury of ending a show on your own creative terms, that’s like getting whipped cream on top. Seeing so many colleagues rewarded with nominations and awards for the bar-raising work they did on the show – work that made the rest of us look great just by association – that’s covering the whole thing in sprinkles. And we couldn’t imagine a sweeter cherry on top than this very unexpected award … the most prestigious thing a TV writer can hope for.
From the beginning, we aspired to the white-knuckle suspense of 24 and the succulent, saturated production values of CSI Miami – which we explicitly referenced when we first pitched our ideas to CTV. But the transformation from the slightly darker original premise into a more commercial “action procedural”‘ happened fast and smoothly, once CTV reconsidered it as a series. That groundwork was laid in intense creative collaboration with EPs Anne Marie La Traverse and Bill Mustos, as well as our original executives from CTV – and when CBS joined up early in the process, they obviously brought a lot to the table as well, based on their strong track record in sustaining procedurals over many years. What emerged from this was a formula that we hoped would welcome new viewers every week with a self-contained story, while rewarding the more committed fans with “loyalty points” – those story moments that add up to the more complex, slow-burn, (ideally) addictive character arcs where you have to keep coming back to find out what happens next.
We had ambitious hopes of course, but from where we stood, the level of success the show eventually hit wasn’t even on the landscape of realistic possibility at that time. Especially for a show so firmly resolved not to pretend to be American. But these were (and are) changing times in TV. And the mountains that our EPs moved to make it happen, the way they pushed for the highest standards from every technical and artistic department, and the awesome, visionary talent of our signature director David Frazee launched the show with a level of polish and unapologetic swagger we didn’t often see then on homegrown shows. US and international audiences aside, what we’re proudest of is that Canadians watched it in serious numbers, and (from what we hear from the fans) that they felt it was theirs.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced as showrunners in making this series?
When the pressure hits – and pressure is pretty much a constant on a speeding train like a TV show – it can feel overwhelming. There’s so much time-sensitive business to stay on top of. The toughest thing to remember, even in the darkest times – when you’re sure this is the episode that’s going to break you, when you literally don’t know how you’re going to keep breathing – is that it’s just a show. It’s just TV.
Your blank computer screen may not fill fast enough, you could fail to find a brilliant yet diplomatic compromise between all the creative voices needing to be heard, you could disappoint everyone and never work again. But there are human beings out there who risk a heck of a lot more every day than a missed deadline, some who are busy facing life-threatening danger in fact, not in fiction. So you get over yourself and get back to work.
We learned the best way to do that is to step back, breathe deeply, and remember why you love what you do. Re-read your original pitch document, the one that was so full of passion and ambition. Remember that your dream to have a shot at making a show actually came true. The risk of a long-running show is that in the chaos and storm of its practical demands, you forget why you began, the fire you once had to push this boulder up the hill. In our own case, every time we reconnected with the real people from our fictional world, every time we dipped back into research, the inspiration came back stronger than ever, which made the struggle feel manageable and (ultimately) worthwhile.
Tell us about the experience of being honored in front of your friends and peers at the WGC Awards.
We’ve heard that you may have a new series in development – is that correct, and if so what can you tell us about that?
We actually have two – one with CBC, one with CTV, both dramas – and we wish we could tell you more but we’re going to have to wait…
If you could step in to a “guest showrunning” position, past or present, on any Canadian show, which one would it be and why?
There are definitely shows whose writing rooms we’d have loved to hang out in and observe from the inside – not as “guest showrunners,” more for the great company, and to watch and learn. Like The Eleventh Hour for the dazzling convergence of talent in the room. Bomb Girls for the great female-fuelled stories set in a fascinating time. Slings and Arrows because of its smart and subversive take on classical theatre, a world we’ve both known from up close as actors. Among the shows in the works right now … the rooms of Orphan Black and Played have some Flashpoint alums on their staff and both sound like a lot of fun.
What are you watching these days?
From a media release:
The 2013 WGC Screenwriting Awards Winners – Celebrating Canada’s Screenwriters
It was a loud and lively night in downtown Toronto as the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) celebrated Canada’s screenwriters at the 17th annual WGC Screenwriting Awards. More than 600 revelers from the film, TV and digital media industry came together to congratulate the finalists and cheer the winners.
Screenwriters Andrew Wreggitt (The Phantoms), Martin Gero (L.A. Complex), Kim Coghill (Less Than Kind), Dan Williams & Lienne Sawatsky (Sidekick) and Julie Strassman-Cohn & Jill Golick (Ruby Skye PI) were just a few of those recognized. A complete list of winners is below.
The co-creators of Flashpoint, Mark Ellis & Stephanie Morgenstern, were recognized with the prestigious WGC Showrunner Award for their leadership and the creative vision that took the show through five spectacular seasons.
Screenwriters Anne-Marie Perrotta, Simon Racioppa and Lienne Sawatsky received the WGC Writers Block Award for their invaluable contribution at the bargaining table and beyond, assisting the WGC in obtaining minimum fees for animation writing.
The 2013 WGC Screenwriting Awards show was hosted by Ryan Belleville (Satisfaction, Almost Heroes) and written by Bob Kerr (22 Minutes). Dishing out awards were special guest presenters including Yannick Bisson (Murdoch Mysteries), Sergio Di Zio (Flashpoint), Erica Durance (Saving Hope), Susin Nielsen (Robson Arms; Arctic Air), Dave Lawrence (Fubar; Fubar II) and Ken Craw (Heartland).
2013 WGC Screenwriting Awards Winners
Sidekick “I, Sidebot”
Written by Dan Williams & Lienne Sawatsky
CHILDREN & YOUTH
How To Be Indie “How To Make a Christmas Miracle”
Written by John May & Suzanne Bolch
A Sorry State
Written by Mitch Miyagawa
MOVIES & MINISERIES
Written by Andrew Wreggitt
SHORTS & WEBSERIES
Ruby Skye P.I.: The Haunted Library “#Creepy”
Written by Julie Strassman-Cohn & Jill Golick
Less Than Kind “Jerk Chicken”
Written by Kim Coghill
The L.A. Complex “Down in L.A.”
Written by Martin Gero
WGC Showrunner Award – Mark Ellis & Stephanie Morgenstern (Flashpoint)
The Jim Burt Screenwriting Prize – Wild Medicine by Adam Garnet Jones
Writers Block Award – Anne-Marie Perrotta, Simon Racioppa & Lienne Sawatsky