Everything about Web series, eh?

Vampires, a communist’s daughter and cosmetics-selling sisters seek 2018 IPF funding

It’s a year after our inaugural spotlight on web series seeking Independent Production Fund support, and the state of those series in Canada is booming. Projects like But I’m Chris Jericho, The Amazing Gayl Pile, Whatever, Linda, Space Riders: Division Earth and Inhuman Condition are just a few of the many that received IPF support in the past and have gone on to full-blown web and television series.

Established in 1991 to provide financial support for dramatic television series, the IPF was expanded in 2010 to include financing drama series for the web. That mandate has been extended indefinitely. The result? Dozens of trailers for potential projects have been posted on YouTube. Check them out here.

With a deadline of March 31 approaching, creators are looking for support via views and comments about their potential projects before the IPF makes their decision; in 2017 the IPF approved funding for 15 scripted series (10 in English and five in French); three were renewals for past projects with the other 12 being new ones. (One was My 90-Year-Old Roommate, starring Lauren Corber, Ethan Cole and Josh Schultz.)

Here are a few projects that caught our eye, as well as the links to some honourable mentions. Watch, click, comment and help them all gain funding!


The Series: Silver

The Creator(s): Simu Liu

The Idea: In the year 2025, a vampire named Reeve (Liu) works for a group called the Silver Corps—a paramilitary group charged with keeping vampires in check. Reeve ignores an order to kill a vampire child. Now his own organization is hunting them.

The Inspiration: Simu Liu has been looking to do something in the genre space for a long time. Inspired by the sci-fi and action projects he watched as a kid and a love of stunts, he combined them all into Silver. “When you attack something that is already out there and has been done, you want a fresh take on it,” he says. “Instead of having the vampires be these creatures that are respected and revered, they are the social outcasts and a stand-in for a lot of minority groups today and throughout history.”

The Plan: A 10-episode web series of 10 minutes each that Liu likens as a comic book on film: “A visually-driven story where every frame is beautiful.”


The Series: The Communist’s Daughter

The Creator(s): Leah Cameron

The Idea: Amid 1980s Canada, Dunyasha McDougald, the daughter of two Communists struggles with fitting in at high school and supporting her family’s beliefs.

The Inspiration: The Communist’s Daughter is loosely based on Cameron’s childhood: her father was a Communist during the 1980s. As a result—Cameron explains—the family car was a Lada, Soviet Life magazine was delivered to the door, and family vacations were to Cuba to “support the economy.” It was only looking back on her childhood that Cameron realized how odd—and funny—her life was. The trailer stars Jessica Holmes (Air Farce), Aaron Poole (Strange Empire), Bruce Novakowski (Inconceivable) and Hilary McCormack.

The Plan: Cameron’s creation will live on the web as 10- to 12-minute episodes; she’s got major plans for the family that takes advantage of a more serialized setup. “The father is going to run for election in a highly-embarrassing and highly public campaign,” Cameron says. “Which will make his daughter’s attempt to fit in at high school even harder and that needs a story arc.” Additionally, Cameron is excited to show Gen Xers and millennials who are interested in what Toronto looked like in the 1980s to actually see the city—and the diversity of its population—represented during that time.


The Series: Don’t Ask Alice (The Adventures of Collie and Doli)

The Creator(s): Connie Wang and Lakna Edilima

The Idea: Two millennials, Collie (Wang) and Doli (Edilima), offer new-age advice to fellow twentysomethings.

The Inspiration: Connie Wang and Lakna Edilima, friends since Grade 9 math class, weren’t getting the gigs (Wang in acting, Edilima in a writer’s room) in the Canadian TV industry they’d hoped for. After a night out cracking each other up, they decided to just create their own series. “Collie and Doli think they know everything,” Wang says. “At the time, Lakna and I thought we knew everything when we wrote it.”

The Plan: Season 1 of 12 webisodes of about five minutes each. Each one features a caller needing advice from Collie and Doli. The pair offer something outrageous to their caller … and then try out their own advice. “We find out that, ‘Oh, this doesn’t actually work.’ The moral of the story is, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have called him that,’ or ‘Maybe I shouldn’t just assume that guys like that.'”


The Series: Beattie & Mae

The Creator(s): Melanie Leishman and Emily Coutts

The Idea: Two sisters, Beattie (Leishman) and Mae (Coutts), find themselves recruited by a competitive direct-sales cosmetics company in the fashion-and-feminism influenced world of 1997.

The Inspiration: The friends were commiserating over their shared past of being initiated by places and friends in multi-level marketing companies. The sales technique was ripe for humour, Leishman says, and the show grew from there while embracing feminism, relationships and the 1990s. “We get to the root of Beattie and Mae’s relationship and their relationship to the company,” Coutts says. The specific decade was chosen, Leishman explains, because it was before the Internet and recruitment changed to online. It also serves as a backdrop to two women coming of age.

“Feminism has come a long way in the last 20 years,” Leishman says. “The pop culture world of 1997 seemed like a hilarious place to set these two women as they try to figure out who they are in the big city for the first time.”

The Plan: An eight-episode web series of seven-minute instalments is the first step for Beattie & Mae, with a long-term goal of an adaptation for television. A main event occurs in each episode, Leishman says, with the focus on the sisters dealing with that incident differently.


Honourable mentions

The Motorcycle Project
Two half-sisters (played by Elise Bauman and Humberly González) go on a wild and crazy adventure across South America in search of the truth behind their sister’s mysterious death.

What Got Did
Created by Grace Lynn Kung and Rob Shapiro, Paige Ho will stop at nothing to turn ParKer into the next great startup in Silicon Valley North. The only thing standing in her way? Pretty much everything.

Detention Adventure
A group of sixth graders get themselves put into detention so they can explore the tunnels under their school.

A mockumentary about two co-dependant best friends Kevin (Kevin Vidal) and Christian (Christian Smith) serving as the “swings” (musical understudies) for a giant Broadway-level production of Nickelback The Musical.

The After Party Girls
The partially true, completely embarrassing stories of best friends Jules (Cheyenne Mabberley) and Fiona (Katey Hoffman), who are determined to become popular and the life of the party.

Megan Follows directs and Alanna Bale and Kristopher Turner both star in this psychological suspense series written by Alison Bingeman and based on Edeet Ravel’s novel.

The Six
Six inner city teens chase success in rap stardom, basketball fame, fashion design, drug running, self-worth and independence on the streets of Toronto.

Hospital Show
Follows the damaged actors and actresses who play doctors on Critical Condition. Created by and starring Adam G. Reid alongside co-stars Sara Canning and Adrian Holmes.

Ming’s Dynasty
Two Toronto rappers are stuck running a Chinese restaurant in smalltown Alberta. Will they chase the beats or the eats?

A peek at the drag scene through the eyes of an eclectic group of drag queens as they prep to compete in the “Miss Church Street Pageant.”

Image Killer
A gallows humour series about a serial killer who hunts down arrogant social media personas in the vein of Scream Queens meets Fargo.

A dramatic comedy about the people involved in a goal-setting group at a big-city addiction research clinic.




Creative comedy Earthling House Huntress lands real estate on CBC Comedy

Last year around this same time, I spoke to the creators of three potential series—Earthling House Huntress, Hit on Me and Free Space—looking for help from the Independent Production Fund. And though the folks behind Earthling House Huntress didn’t get the funding they’d hoped for, that didn’t stop them from going ahead with a first season of the series anyway, available on CBC.

Created by Ivy Johnson and Jordan Himelfarb, Earthling House Huntress takes place in a world where space travel is simple and aliens are coming to the Greater Toronto Area in search of real estate with curb appeal and a great price. Enter Liz Klein (Tess Degenstein), who specializes in helping ETs find a forever home.

Inspired both by Johnson’s real-life experience as a real estate agent’s assistant and the pair’s observations while buying their own home in Toronto—a good real estate agent spends a lot of time with people and has to be able to make friends with anybody—Johnson and Himelfarb thought Liz Klein would be the perfect ambassador to Earth, able to really be super-charming with the most bizarrely imaginable creatures. The bubbly introduction by Liz sets EHH‘s wacky tone.

“Do you fear an encroaching black hole?” Liz asks. “Want to take a dip in an ocean that isn’t boiling? If you’re an alien with access to high-speed intergalactic space transit and are looking to relocate, I can find your terrestrial forever home.” Nothing stops the ever-positive, endlessly energetic Liz from finding an alien a home. That’s evidenced in Episode 1 when she shows three properties to a bearded, wrinkle-faced laser gun-toting alien named Gorm (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll) who hates bright, open spaces (his enemies could attack him at any moment) and accuses a collection of twigs in a vase of mocking him.

Part of the fun of EHH are the reactions the aliens have to things we’re used to. A platter of cookies is a potential threat, using remote car door locks are a challenge and a bathtub could be a bed. I may be looking too deeply into it, but I felt like EHH is, through the eyes of these otherworldly beings, shining a light on what new Canadians feel when they come to this country. They feel out of place and out of sorts, needing a Liz Klein to help them feel at home.

Future “Aliens of the Week” on EHH include Anders Yates and Nelu Handa (pictured above alongside Degenstein), as well as puppetry from Brad Cook and voice work from Tyler Murree. The series is directed by Simone Stock.

All four Season 1 episodes of Earthling House Huntress can be streamed on CBC now.

Image courtesy of CBC.




Web series Ghost BFF puts the focus on mental health via two friends. And one of them is dead.

It’s important to talk about mental health. And while Bell does a great job stressing that one day a year in January, it’s something that should be done the other 364 days too.

Launching its first season of 11 episodes, Ghost BFF is available for streaming on Elizabeth Banks’ WhoHaHa’s website now. The brainchild of creator Vanessa Matsui (Lost Girl, Seed), Ghost BFF explores suicide and mental health through the eyes of Amy (Matsui). It’s been three years since Amy’s best friend, Tara (Tiio Horn, Letterkenny) died of a drug overdose. Amy has given up painting, is engaged to Mitchell (Dan Beirne, Space Riders: Division Earth) and battles with anxiety and a bad tummy. Suddenly, Tara appears—her ghost BFF, get it?—and throws Amy’s life into total disarray.

For Matsui, the idea for Ghost BFF came from a deeply personal place.

(l-r) Cristina Rosato and Vanessa Matsui

“It’s loosely inspired by a time when one of my best friends, following a period of depression, almost died by suicide,” Matsui says. “It was a very dark time. And, also, it was coupled with wanting to create my own work and being inspired by incredible female creators.” Ghost BFF is a project three years in the making, first as a short play Matsui performed in a friend’s basement before the possibility of being a short film was explored; ultimately Matsui pitched Ghost BFF as a web series to Katie Nolan (Hot Mom), who partnered to co-write and co-produce it.

The Centre for Mindfulness Studies features in several episodes as Amy strives to explore her own mental health, where she’s going in life and what her relationship with Tara was and still is. There are, of course, characters in Ghost BFF who advise Amy to “snap out” of what she’s going through mentally and stop taking her medication because they think she’s “fine.” It’s frustrating to know there are still people with that attitude towards mental health, and just drives home the need to educate and discuss.

(l-r) Jane Moffat, Dan Beirne, Rick Roberts

Yes, Ghost BFF concerns a serious topic, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are plenty of laughs thanks to Matusi’s physical humour as Amy, Horn’s foul-mouthed Tara and the gloriously shallow Mitchell, and truly heartfelt moments too. Amy and Tara’s screaming match in a later instalment opens the door to honesty and regret.

“We definitely felt like we were walking a fine line [with the content],” Matsui says. “Obviously, I wanted to be respectful and sensitive to anyone who has suffered from depression or is suffering from depression. But, at the same time, my instinct was always to make this a comedy. Comedy can be cathartic. Sometimes through pain comedy emerges.”

Ghost BFF is available for streaming on WhoHaHa’s website.

Images courtesy of Babe Nation Creations.




Kristian Bruun says goodbye to Murdoch Mysteries in The Book of Jackson

Spoiler alert! Do not continue reading unless you have watched the Season 10 finale of Murdoch Mysteries.

As much as I love Murdoch Mysteries, I didn’t like the way the show said goodbye to Constable “Slugger” Jackson. There was a lot going on in the Season 10 finale and Season 11 premiere, so his loss felt a little shoved to the side for fans. But now I feel like we—and the most lovable lug in Station House No. 4—have gotten a proper sendoff thanks to this season’s Murdoch Mysteries web series The Book of Jackson.

Written by Noelle Girard, the six-episode series—available now at CBC.ca—kicks off with the members of Station House No. 4 continuing to grieve the loss of Constable Jackson as they pack up his belongings. But the arrival of a distraught woman looking for the deceased Jackson and the discovery of a hidden notebook filled with a secret code lead Murdoch, Crabtree, Higgins and Watts working to unravel the case Jackson was working on in secret before he died.

I spoke to Kristian Bruun about playing Jackson for so many years and what it was like to return to the Murdoch Mysteries set to film The Book of Jackson.

I’ve watched The Book of Jackson and it was nice to take the time to really have a heartfelt goodbye for Slugger Jackson. He was taken so suddenly at the end of Season 10, it was hard to really grasp his exit.
Kristian Bruun: Yeah, it was nice. At the beginning of Season 11, we’re worried about Murdoch being framed for murder and that Crabtree is OK. They did have a nice little salute to him at the end of the episode that misted me up when I watched it. But it was so nice for me to have the opportunity to put the uniform back on and say goodbye my own way. I was pleasantly surprised and honoured to come back and put the uniform on.

What was the production schedule like? When did you film The Book of Jackson? It sounds like it was after Season 10 wrapped.
It was sort of similar to how we did the previous year’s web series, Beyond Time, which I was a part of as well. It’s best to film it when the season is up and running when everybody is around, the sets are in order and nothing has been shut down for the winter. Basically, they use the weekends to film the web series, so it’s extremely daunting for the cast and crew that are there all the time because they’ll shoot the regular work week and then will come in on Saturday and Sunday to shoot the web series, followed by another work week. It creates two straight weeks of super-long days. I think we shot this in November, so it was already near the end of the [filming] season and everyone was exhausted. And they fit so much into those two days. I mean, I remember working on the last one and trying to cram so much time travel jargon into my brain. It was such a blast but it’s a whirlwind.

So, I came in in November—I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a year now—and at the end of Season 10, we had a feeling one of us was going to die. We filmed the season finale and didn’t know who it was going to be at the time. I wish I’d known it was going to be me at the time because I would have taken the opportunity to say goodbye to the cast and the crew. But, they wanted to figure out what would be best for the fans and the mystery. I wanted to come back because I love the show, but I also understood that logistically I was the one actor who had moved away and that was just a timing thing because of my career and looking for the next thing after Orphan Black. I knew I was on the chopping block but I was hoping it wouldn’t be me. [Laughs.] But that’s the way it goes.

I was very sad to get that email from Peter Mitchell. He’s such a funny guy. He was like, ‘You’ll land on your feet, don’t worry.’ He wasn’t worried at all; meanwhile, I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh, what do I do? I had two shows but they just ended at the same time!’ It was stressful, but having the chance to say goodbye this way and see the crew one last time … who knows, maybe this isn’t the last time. Who knows? But it was certainly nice to come back and do some flashbacks with everybody.

It must have been emotional to return for those two days after time away and reunite with the cast and crew working that weekend.
There were a lot of strong hugs. [Laughs.]

It’s interesting to hear the circumstances surrounding your departure from Murdoch. I did think perhaps you asked to leave because you were heading to L.A. on the heels of Orphan Black ending.
I was a little bit concerned people would think that; that I had left the show for so-called greener pastures. That’s absolutely not the case and I want the fans to know that. It was a story decision and if I were to do that, I would have released a statement. It was not my decision but it’s one that I fully understand. [Laughs.] It was almost like, ‘Sorry we killed you off, here’s a web series!’

I was sorry that the relationship between Jackson and Watts wasn’t explored more fully before Jackson’s demise.
Daniel Maslany and I are good friends now because we’ve gotten to work together and because I’m really, really good friends with his sister, Tatiana, of course. I loved working with Daniel because we just had so much fun together with the dynamic between Jackson and Watts. They are two very different characters, which always makes for good TV. We were just starting to find our stride as those characters and having fun working together.

Jackson is a wonderful character. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is fiercely loyal to his friends.
They really gave me the opportunity to make him more human. Getting a chance to grow a character is an honour and you don’t always get that chance. Jackson started off as this rival constable from another station way back in Season 5 and grew into another member of the gang. In the memorial to Jackson and the picture up on the wall, they don’t forget him.

Watch all six episodes of The Book of Jackson via CBC.ca.

Were you happy to see Jackson back in the world of Murdoch Mysteries? Do you have a message for Kristian Bruun? Let me know in the comments below.




Link: New CBC series This Blows explores harnessing an unexpected power

From Bridget Liszewski of The TV Junkies:

Link: New CBC series This Blows explores harnessing an unexpected power
“Horror has always been something that’s been used to discuss fears. For us it was a fun, visceral way to empower Anna and illustrate that concept. Horror can be used in that way, though maybe it hasn’t been. We’ve got gore, but it’s comedic as well and more like Evil Dead horror and absurd, but we challenge the tropes for sure.” Continue reading.