TV, eh? | What's up in Canadian television
TV,eh? What's up in Canadian television

CBC, BIPOC TV & Film and CFC announce participants for second year of Showrunner Catalyst Program

From a media release:

CBC, BIPOC TV & Film and the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) today announced the participants for the second year of the CBC-BIPOC TV & FILM SHOWRUNNER CATALYST, an accelerator program that supports the career advancement of senior writers who identify as Indigenous, Black or People of Colour through hands-on and personally tailored on-set experience. Designed through an anti-racist and equity-focused lens, the Catalyst provides participants with additional tools and support systems necessary to reach a showrunner level in the Canadian film and television industry, including a dedicated showrunner-mentor throughout the process. The six participants for the second year of the program, which is now underway, are Vance Banzo, Nelu Handa, Amanda Joy, JP Larocque, Robina Lord-Stafford, and Shannon Masters.

“BIPOC TV & Film is thrilled to partner again with CBC and CFC to elevate these talented and experienced writers,” said Kadon Douglas, Executive Director, BIPOC TV & Film. “Amanda, JP, Nelu, Robina, Shannon, and Vance have broken barriers, paid their dues, and contributed to some of the most memorable and exciting moments in contemporary Canadian TV. Their unique perspectives and narratives illuminate a diversity of experiences that are rarely seen on screen but resonate with audiences in Canada and across the globe. With the support of the Showrunner Catalyst and our industry partners, these creative leaders are ready to take up their well-deserved space in the Pantheon of great Canadian storytellers.”

“The past year of collaboration has further demonstrated the importance and impact of elevating senior-level Black, Indigenous and racialized creative talent and setting up these future leaders for success. We are honoured to once again work with BIPOC TV & Film and the CFC on this unique partnership,” said Trish Williams, Executive Director, Scripted Content, CBC. “Building on our learnings from the first year of the program, we look forward to supporting this year’s talented participants in their continued development, with the shared goal of nurturing and advancing more creative leaders who reflect the changing face of Canada.”

“We’re thrilled to be back for year two of this groundbreaking program with our partners BIPOC TV & Film and CBC, and to be supporting these six talented creators in their journey to becoming leading showrunners in our industry,” added maxine bailey, executive director, CFC. “This unique program brings us one step closer to a more just and equitable Canadian film and TV landscape, where equity, access and authentic representation are the standard, not the exception.”

The 2023 participants are as follows:

Vance Banzo (he/him) is a Saulteaux/Cree comedian, actor, and writer born and raised in Edmonton. Currently residing in Toronto, Banzo is a proud member of award-winning sketch comedy troupe and former CBC series, TallBoyz. In addition to writing and starring in the series, he was also a contributing director in the third season, which won four Canadian Screen Awards. As a comedian, he has performed on many stages across the country, including Just For Laughs Toronto and the Gchi Dewin Indigenous Storytelling Festival.

“My ultimate goal is to create an environment for indigenous people to learn and mentor, while ensuring they have the tools and skills needed to succeed at a professional level in this industry.” – Vance Banzo

Nelu Handa (she/her) has written for multiple seasons of award-winning comedy series, including JANN, The Odd Squad, The Beaverton, TallBoyz, and A Little Late With Lilly Singh. Most recently, she’s written for both seasons of Run the Burbs and served as Co-Executive Producer on season two. In 2021, she earned a Best Writing Canadian Screen Award for her work on Baroness von Sketch Show and a Peabody Award for her contribution to the groundbreaking first season of Sort Of. As an actor, she’s been featured in many series, including all of the previously named shows, Star Trek: Discovery, and Workin’ Moms, where she played recurring character Jade. And finally, it’s pronounced ‘knee-loo’, like the body part and a British toilet.

“I love being a writer – breaking a season of stories, writing scripts, punching up, and contributing my point of view into the DNA of a show. I thrive on bringing my full self to the table, and having the chance to voice my opinion on matters of representation and advocacy.” – Nelu Handa

Amanda Joy (she/her) is an Asian-Canadian screenwriter and performer based in Toronto, best known for co-creating the City/OMNI original series, Second Jen. Joy was nominated for Writers Guild of Canada Awards for the Second Jen scripts “Like a Girl” and “Couch Surfing,” and won a WGC Award in 2022 for her work on Amelia Parker. She was also nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for best comedy series for Second Jen Season 2. Her additional credits include Son of a Critch Season 2 (CBC/Lionsgate), Second Jen (City/OMNI), Take Note (NBC/Peacock), TallBoyz (CBC), Overlord and the Underwoods (CBC/Nickelodeon UK), Amelia Parker (BYU-TV), and The Parker Andersons (BYU-TV). She also has several projects currently in network development.

“I want to create spaces where people from all walks of life can have their voices heard and their stories told.” – Amanda Joy

JP Larocque (they/them) is a television writer and producer with experience in comedy (CBC’s Sort Of, CTV’s JANN), procedural drama (CBC’s Coroner, Diggstown and SkyMed), youth (HBO Max’s Home Sweet Rome, YTV’s Popularity Papers) and genre programming (Netflix’s Another Life, Shudder’s Slasher). A proud member of the 2SLGBTQ+ and BIPOC communities, JP is committed to diversity and inclusion in all their work.

“I’m at a point in my career where my ability to understand every aspect of showrunning and obtain more meaningful on-set production experience is vital to my future success. Gaining both skills can make the difference between me remaining a support player on other people’s projects versus me having the opportunity to lead my own shows. And I want to have the freedom to do both — a freedom enjoyed by generations of writers before me.” – JP Larocque

Robina Lord-Stafford (she/her) is a Jamaican-Canadian mother, historian, feminist and award-winning screenwriter. She is the co-creator of a half-hour dramedy (based on a bestselling memoir) in development with a global streamer, a co-executive producer on a drama series in development with CBC, and a mentor for NYWIFT’s prestigious The Writers Lab (supported by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman) and for BIPOC TV + Film’s Episodic Lab. She also has an original drama series in development with eOne, and is the co-creator and co-showrunner of a new drama in development that sheds light on a shameful piece of Canadian history.

In 2022, Lord-Stafford was a co-executive producer and writer on Macy Murdoch (CBC Gem), a co-producer and writer on Season 3 of Pretty Hard Cases (CBC), and a writer on Hudson & Rex (Rogers). Previously, she was a co-producer and writer on Season 2 of Moonshine (CBC), and a writer on Blood and Water (Rogers) and Frankie Drake Mysteries (CBC).

“I’m passionate about writing characters that I want to see, racialized people who’ve either been relegated to the margins, haven’t made it onto the page, or have been the standard stereotyped tropes. Daily, I’ll work diligently to achieve my writing and career goals, and once established in the industry, I’ll hold that still-elusive door wide open so my BIPOC sisters and brothers can also enter.” – Robina Lord-Stafford

Shannon Masters (she/her) is an award-winning film and television writer. Her feature film Empire of Dirt premiered at TIFF in 2013. That same year, Masters was nominated and won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Screenplay. She then made the transition from film to television as story editor on the fourth season of APTN’s half-hour comedy Mohawk Girls and has since gone on to write for CTV’s dark investigative drama Cardinal, Global Television’s hit series Private Eyes and multiple seasons of CBC’s drama series Burden of Truth and Coroner. Originally from Saskatchewan, Masters is Cree Métis and Ukrainian and is a member of the Métis Nation of Ontario.

“I believe showrunning requires patience and the ability to stick-handle a million different personalities and get them to work together harmoniously. It’s managing the doubts of others. More than simply having a creative vision, you’ve also got to be diplomatic while still having the ability to be the boss when you have to be, because let’s face it, if the show fails, that’s on you.” – Shannon Masters

The first part of the Catalyst, which began last month, consists of a series of substantive and hands-on masterclasses covering topics related to the role and responsibilities of a showrunner, including anti-oppressive leadership, people management, mental health, building relationships with network, studios, creative and crew, and all facets of bringing a show to life, from the writing room to prep, production, post and delivery. Participating speakers include Floyd Kane (creator, showrunner and executive producer of Diggstown), Morwyn Brebner (creator and executive producer of Coroner, Saving Hope and Rookie Blue), Noelle Carbone (co-executive producer and writer on Wynonna Earp, Coroner, Cardinal), and Jennifer Podemski (founder and CEO of Shine Network Inc.).

Through the context of a senior writing and producing role on a Canadian-produced series, the second part of the Catalyst will see each participant building upon their foundational skills in showrunning by working with an experienced showrunner and participating in all key elements of production: from prep meetings to running the floor, managing set, and taking a block of episodes through to post. Throughout the process, each participant will also be paired with an external showrunner, who will serve as a mentor. The program will be highly tailored for the needs of each writer and participating production, offering wellness and advocacy support through an anti-racism, anti-oppression lens. The second year of the program will run through the fall of 2023. This is the second year of an initial three-year commitment to the program made by CBC, BIPOC TV & Film and the CFC, with the opportunity to renew.

Catalyst participants are nominated by showrunners, producers, production companies or broadcasters, in consultation with BIPOC TV & Film and the CFC, based on their experience and readiness to further progress in their career. In order to qualify for participation, each potential candidate must be a Canadian Citizen or permanent resident of Canada (as recognized by CAVCO), and a Writers Guild of Canada member in good standing with a minimum of three episodes of “written by” credits on 30 or 60-minute prime time television or streaming platform productions in the last seven years, and at least one “co-producer” credit in the last three years, or equivalent experience. For more information on the qualification and nomination process, visit bipoctvandfilm.com/showrunner-catalyst.

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Blue Ant Media unveils three new greenlights for its Canadian specialty TV and global free streaming platforms

From a media release:

International producer, distributor and channel operator, Blue Ant Media, announced today from Prime Time three new greenlights set to air in 2023 across its Canadian specialty TV networks: T+E and Cottage Life, and its global free streaming (FAST) channels: HauntTV and Total Crime. The announcement underpins Blue Ant Media’s commitment to create premium, returnable and scalable series that offer superior storytelling and universal appeal. Overseen by Sam Linton, VP, Production and Development, Global Media, the latest originals lineup includes two world broadcast premieres on Blue Ant Media’s Canadian specialty TV channels. Blue Ant International will handle pre-sales and licensing opportunities worldwide for two new original series in the slate.

Following the ratings success of the two-part original documentary, Haunted Gold Rush, Blue Ant Media has ordered the new six-part series, Haunted by History (w/t)(6×60’; HD). The series sees the return of paranormal investigators, Corine Carey, Leanne Sallenback and Kelly Ireland, as they travel across North America and meet with real people who recount their intense, terrifying and emotional ghost experiences. Seeking the deeper meaning behind these hauntings and their ties to historic locations, the trio will undergo full-blown investigations to uncover the truth and give closure to both the witnesses and the spirits. Haunted Gold Rush launched on T+E in Canada and HauntTV in the US in October 2022. The documentary saw T+E perform 140% higher in its premiere time slot. The world broadcast premiere of Haunted by History is slated for spring 2023 on T+E in Canada during the channel’s nationwide free preview event. The series will also air on Blue Ant Media’s free streaming channel HauntTV in the US, UK and Australia in 2023.

Also commissioned is the Blue Ant Studios new original documentary, A Secret to Die For (2×60’; HD), which investigates how a person’s secret life can end up costing them their own. A Secret to Die For follows a suspenseful story arc that will keep viewers guessing who the murderer is until the very end. With emotional interviews from family and friends, the documentary weaves together a story of a seemingly successful and happy individual who’s dark past made them the perfect murder victim. The first two pilot episodes of the true crime documentary series will make its world broadcast debut on T+E in Canada this summer 2023. The series will also air in 2023 on the free streaming channel Total Crime in the US.

Finally, the new original series Secrets in the Sand (6×60’; HD) examines extraordinary curiosities that were once concealed in the deserts of the planet. From lost ancient cities to mysterious geological formations, each episode comprises four stories from different regions of the world and uses CGI, stock and archival footage, along with expert testimony to expose their secrets. The six-part series is slated to premiere in summer 2023 on Cottage Life in Canada.

For more information on Blue Ant Media’s original greenlights, please see below.

T+E/HauntTV

Haunted by History (w/t) (6×60’; HD)
Producer: Small Army Entertainment
World broadcast premiere scheduled for spring 2023 on T+E
Scheduled to air on HauntTV in the US, UK and Australia in 2023
Haunted by History (w/t) follows paranormal experts Corine Carey, Leanne Sallenback and Kelly Ireland as they travel across North America meeting with those who have come face-to-face with the unknown. The trio are on a mission to unlock a deeper understanding of the hauntings that take place in the world-famous locations they visit. Featuring stylized, cinematic dramatizations of eyewitness accounts, coupled with rich context provided by experts, historians and locals, Corine, Leanne and Kelly will bridge the gap between past and present in a fresh new way. The documentary series shows how paranormal investigations can enrich people’s understanding of history by giving voices to the spirits of those who lived it. Blue Ant International handles pre-sales and licensing opportunities worldwide.

T+E/Total Crime

A Secret to Die For (2×60’; HD)
Producer: Blue Ant Studio
World broadcast premiere scheduled for spring 2023 on T+E
Scheduled to air on Total Crime in the US in 2023
The documentary series, A Secret to Die For, investigates how a person’s secret life can end up costing them their own. The two-part documentary peels back the layers of the victim’s seemingly happy life to reveal new, dark secrets that family and friends would never have believed. As the missing pieces of the victim’s life come together, new interviewees offer an entirely fresh perspective, concluding with the dramatic revelation of a secret explaining why the victim was killed and identifying the murderer. Blue Ant International handles pre-sales and licensing opportunities worldwide.

Cottage Life

Secrets in the Sand (6×60’; HD)
Producer: Shark Teeth Films
Canadian broadcast premiere scheduled for summer 2023 on Cottage Life
Deserts are often an afterthought when it comes to climate change, but as global temperatures increase, they are among the most vulnerable places on the planet. Violent sandstorms and erosion are increasingly reshaping the arid regions of the Earth and as they do, astounding discoveries are being exposed. The series examines incredible curiosities that were once concealed for thousands of years, including the Egyptian Stonehenge, a lost ancient city and a tomb of an unknown soldier.

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Executive change at Muse Entertainment – Aren Prupas becomes President and CEO

From a media release:

Muse Entertainment is proud to announce that as of January 1, 2023, Aren Prupas has been appointed as President and CEO. He takes the reins from his father, Michael Prupas, the respected industry veteran, and founder of Muse, who now assumes the mantle as Executive Chairman of the Board.

“This change represents Muse’s commitment to building a company for a future that is as successful as Muse has been over the past 25 years, with a new generation of leadership that is very attuned to the contemporary industry environment,” Michael says. “Aren has proven himself to be a strong leader during his 10 years in Business & Legal affairs at Muse and subsequently as its COO. We are supremely confident that with his experience and business know-how, he is well positioned to boldly navigate the challenging and exciting new world of audiovisual entertainment.”

Michael Prupas will maintain an active presence in the company, as both an ambassador for Muse in its relationships with the international industry and in public affairs within Canada, as well as a leading supporter of the entire team at the company.

“I am humbled and honoured by the trust and faith placed in me by the entire board and management team,” says Aren. “It will be my singular purpose to continue Muse’s legacy over another quarter century, telling inspiring screen-based stories with commercial appeal that reflect the societal fabric of today.

“As a nation of immigrants that displaced countless indigenous peoples and communities, we as Canadian producers have a profound duty in our storytelling to speak for and with equity, sovereignty and diversity-seeking peoples in a way that honours our unique histories and aspires to an inclusive and shared future we can all be proud of.

“As we move forward, I am lucky to count on the continued unflagging support of the entire Muse team, including, in particular, Irene Litinsky, President of Production, Canada; Joel Rice, President of Muse USA; Jesse Prupas, SVP Scripted; Shawn Rosengarten, SVP Distribution; Evan Tussman, VP Post Production, and Jonas Prupas, Managing Director, Ontario.”

Since 1998, Muse has been producing and distributing prize-winning, international television programming (www.muse.ca). Production highlights from 2022 included the release of Single All the Way (Netflix); Coroner Season 4 (CBC, CW); Best Foot Forward (Apple TV+); Campfire Christmas (Hallmark); Ghosts Season 2 (CBS); and The Recruit (E1, Netflix). Its current 2023 production slate (ownership and service) includes False Prophet – the Gwen Shamblin Story (Lifetime, CTV); A Tourist’s Guide to Love (Netflix); Family History Mysteries: Buried Past (Hallmark); Alert (Sony Pictures); Pradeep of Pittsburgh (Sony Pictures); and The Venery of Samantha Bird (Lionsgate, Starz).

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Scott McGillivray and Bryan Baemler join forces in Renovation Resort

From a media release:

Two of HGTV Canada’s biggest stars, Scott McGillivray and Bryan Baeumler, reunite in Renovation Resort (7×60), a one-of-a-kind vacation rental renovation competition series premiering Sunday, March 5 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada and STACKTV. In this brand-new series distributed by Corus Studios, Scott’s recently purchased lakeside vacation resort needs a complete overhaul, so he enlists friendly rival and expert builder Bryan to help get his rundown property into shape. To transform the resort into a modern-day vacation destination, they bring in four professional designer-contractor duos who are up for the challenge. Each week, the pairs battle against each other in a riveting renovation showdown to impress Scott, Bryan, and the expert guest judges. In the end, the team with the best cabin wins the title of Renovation Resort Champions and a reward of $100,000.

At the start of the competition, the duos are assigned to one of four identical cabins that will be entirely renovated over the course of seven weeks. In each episode, they are tasked with remodeling a new space in the cabin, bringing their skills to transform the interior and exterior of the cabins into stunning retreats ahead of the peak rental season. Armed with their signature banter and keen observations, Scott and Bryan will check in regularly to evaluate the teams’ work and guide them through each cabin challenge. Facing off in this unique competition is dynamic husband-and-wife duo Rotem and Troy from Toronto, Ont., entrepreneurs April and Arnold from Chicago, Ill., business partners Jena and Sean from Toronto, Ont., and partners in life and work, Savannah and Kyle, hailing from Phoenix, Ariz. To learn more about the professional duos, visit hgtv.ca.

Throughout the season, Scott and Bryan are joined by expert guest judges, including Debra Salmoni (designer, Scott’s Vacation House Rules), Heather Greenwood Davis (travel writer and lifestyle host), Sarah Keenleyside (designer, Backyard Builds), Christine Tizzard (cookbook author and food stylist), Natalie Preddie (travel expert and writer), and Carson Arthur (landscape designer and television personality). Alongside Scott and Bryan, the judges will evaluate the renovations by assessing the quality, creativity, and functionality to determine the winning vacation cabin. In the first episode, the competitors’ mission is to tackle the primary bedroom and main-floor bathroom in one week. As these super-skilled teams work against the clock and under pressure, they will have to deliver exceptional designs if they want to be the best.

Renovation Resort welcomes series sponsor Tim Hortons, offering the competitors a well-deserved lunch of loaded wraps and bowls, plus an assortment of treats, coffee, and cold beverages throughout the season. In several episodes, SICO paint, available at RONA, highlights the brand’s line of Endurance and Prestige paint options to create inviting spaces. The curb appeal of the property is transformed with Techo-Bloc’s modern paving stones and landscaping products, allowing the competitors to extend their designs outside.

Renovation Resort is produced by M.E.M, Scott McGillivray is CEO, Angela Jennings is President, Nanci MacLean is COO, Jeff Baker is Head of Production and Kelly Wray is Executive Producer.

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AMI announces production is underway on Season 2 of Fashion Dis, hosted by Ardra Shephard

From a media release:

AMI, in partnership with Nikki Ray Media Agency (Fire Masters, Home to Win), is pleased to announce that principal photography has started on six Season 2 episodes of AMI-tv’s Fashion Dis in Toronto.

Called “groundbreaking” by Postmedia, Season 2 of Fashion Dis promises to be a game-changer in the makeover space, challenging traditional norms that lack inclusion. Each episode of Fashion Dis celebrates the head-to-toe overhaul of a frustrated style seeker discouraged by an industry that lacks adaptive options.

Utilizing innovative fashion design and transformative beauty techniques provided by partner companies, the Fashion Dis expert team reveals the latest in fashion-forward thinking and shows those ready to rock their best body exactly how to do it.

“Universal design is exploding and it’s such an exciting moment in fashion and beauty,” says show creator and host Ardra Shephard. “Season 2 is stacked with more engaging and fun participants. I can’t wait to see the looks we create for these individuals and for the disability community at large.”

Meet the Season 2 experts:

Ardra Shephard, host
Ardra is an influential Canadian blogger, speaker, leader in the Multiple Sclerosis community and host of the Tripping On Air podcast.

Bella Strange, makeup artist
Bella is a makeup artist catering to the LGBTQ+, disability and special effects communities.

Susan Shipley, hair stylist
Susan is a master stylist with extensive experience in accessible hair care services.

Izzy Camilleri, style expert
Izzy is one of Canada’s leading fashion designers and a pioneer in adaptive clothing.

Melonie Lawrence, art director
Melonie is a fashion stylist who believes great style can be achieved regardless of size, colour, creed or cash flow.

Alkan Emin, photographer
Alkan is an award-nominated photographer.

Returning partners to Fashion Dis include Guide Beauty, June Adaptive, ByAcre, Rollz, MagnaReady, BILLY Footwear, Liberare, Slick Chicks and Cheekbone Beauty.

New Fashion Dis partners include Will & Well, BeedleBug, Consonant Skincare, Elba London, Aille Design, MIGA Swimwear, Blue Dahlia, The Vault By Volpe Beringer, Chamiah Dewey Fashion, It Actually Fits, Auf Augenhoehe, Crease Piece, Deafmetal, Amaterasu Beauty, Sweet LeiLani, Elate Beauty, EazyHold, Roncy Packs, Ambutech and Sahajan.

About Nikki Ray Media Agency
Nikki Ray Media Agency (formerly known as Architect Films) is a world-class creator of original mass-audience content. Since 2010, Nikki Ray has produced hundreds of hours of content that has been sold in territories all around the world. Titles include Fire Masters, The Big Bake, Great Chocolate Showdown, Hot Market, Extreme Ice Machines, Donut Showdown, Sugar Showdown and Home To Win.

About Accessible Media Inc.
AMI is a not-for-profit media company that entertains, informs and empowers Canadians who are blind or partially sighted. Operating three broadcast services, AMI-tv and AMI-audio in English and AMI-télé in French, AMI’s vision is to establish and support a voice for Canadians with disabilities, representing their interests, concerns and values through accessible media, reflection and portrayal. To learn more visit AMI.ca and AMItele.ca.

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