All posts by Rachel

Rachel Langer is a TV writer based in Vancouver, BC. She is currently writing for Partners in Motion, as well as producing her first short film. She is an avid tweeter and social media junkie. Follow her on twitter:

Continuum’s Simon Barry on his WGC Screenwriting Award Nomination


This year’s Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award winners will be announced on April 22. We’ve been catching up with many of the writers nominated in the comedy and drama categories. First up, Continuum‘s Simon Barry, nominated for his episode “End Times.”

Can you describe the episode “End Times” and how it fit into the Continuum season?

“End Times” brings together many of the threads we set up in season one and resolves them while also setting up new questions and threads that carry over into season two. It also sets up some new characters and some new dynamics for established characters.

What was the biggest triumph in this particular episode?

I’m not sure there was anything worthy of the description “triumph.” I could say that one of the goals was to find the balance between a satisfying finale and an intriguing tease. I think we accomplished that goal and challenged ourselves to make an entertaining episode.

What does this recognition mean to you?

It’s great to be recognized by fellow writers who appreciate how difficult it is to get ideas from your imagination onto the page and then on screen intact. It’s great that a new show has found support in the first year and I hope we can live up to the expectations of the audience and my fellow Guild brothers and sisters.

If there was one Canadian show that is no longer on the air that you could see honoured at this year’s awards, what would it be? (If you have a specific episode, even better).

SCTV – one of my favorite all time shows. The episode where they parodied Ingmar Bergman was sublime brilliance.

Continuum is currently in production on season two, which will premiere on Showcase on April 21, 2013.


Review: Tom Green Brings His Own Brand of Comedy to Seed


A new episode of Seed airs tonight. City’s ensemble comedy, still in its first season, offers a plethora of characters in each episode. This week it’s the more the merrier as Seed makes room for a little new blood, and an infusion of a different kind of funny. Monday’s episode “Bromosomes” features Tom Green as an guest star, adding to the already busy line up. Green plays Dr. Stuart Meinertzhagen, an experimental psychologist, bordering on snake oil salesman.

The episode follows Harry and Rose as they navigate Harry’s bout of Couvade’s syndrome, or sympathetic pregnancy. He becomes moody, nauseated, and turns Rose’s request for a little sympathy in to an all out competition for who is in worse shape.

As he battles Couvade’s, Harry also must put up with Jonathon’s sudden desire to spend time with him behind Janet’s back. When she finds out that Jonathon has been seeing both Harry and Dr. Meinhertzhagen she implements her own plan to get back at her husband. On top of all this Harry is a bystander as Zoey and Michelle navigate a new minefield in their relationship: coming to terms with the effects of their hot lesbian babysitter whom Harry has labeled “divorce bait”.

Halfway through the episode Harry is at the end of his rope and manages to corral all of the above into the office of Meinhertzhagen (Green), where the good doctor uses various methods to deal with the problems in each relationship. Or not deal with them?

Green enters the episode just as you’re beginning to question the function of all of the story lines. He brings just the right kind of comedy to the show: a sort of SNL-esque silliness with the maturity of a comedian who doesn’t doubt his style or ability. He captures the screen and distracts the viewer from the busy first half of the episode. In fact, I wish there’d been more of him.

While still a young show, Seed takes on the herculean task of telling multiple stories in each episode. Though this is nothing new, the difference is that Seed inserts Harry into every story line in some capacity, making it difficult for the viewer to decipher which story is supposed to come out on top. This episode particularly emphasizes this crisis as Harry seems to be everywhere, all the time.

What compounds the hectic nature of the story lines is that Harry’s motivation for his involvement with the donor recipients isn’t always clear. In this particular episode Harry was labeled Rose’s partner on several occasions, without objecting to the term, but in the next scene professed himself fully available to another woman. Though I’ve been keeping up with the show and understand the nature of Harry’s relationship with pregnant Rose (sort of) it seems that half hours have a responsibility to re-apply this knowledge from time to time to hang on to viewers who may stop in mid-season to test out the show.

While leads Adam Korson and Carrie-Lynn Neales have no problem delivering what the show needs, their talent often gets lost in the din of the large cast. The potential to refine the series into a focused and sharp comedy is what draws me back each episode. The gags are there, the talent is there, the concept is there but something is misfiring.

Green’s presence on Seed helped to focus the storylines and provide the kind of humor that will draw comedy fans back for more. The concern now will be, who will be the bandaid for the next episode?



Almost Live at the Canadian Screen Awards

(photos by Derek Langer)


I spent last Sunday night in the press room at the inaugural Canadian Screen Awards. It was quite the night for Canada. The Sony Centre in downtown Toronto was at capacity with Canadian celebs, writers, directors and producers. The two hour broadcast aired on CBC in staggered time slots across the country, with a half hour of red carpet hosted by Shaun Majumder.


This was followed by an hour and a half of Martin Short singing show tunes and cracking one-liners. Oh yeah, I think we gave away a few awards in there too.

The biggest question surrounding the event has perhaps been what to nickname the actual award. While some felt that a nickname would present itself as Canadians talked over the event, others believed a nickname should be chosen and presented to the media as the “official nickname” of the awards. Twitter was ablaze with suggestions and theories over what the nickname should be. When I asked the winners and presenters I heard everything from the obvious “Screenie” to the more imaginative “Candy,” “Geminini,” “Ceesah,” “Huggy,” and “Awardy.” It’s safe to say that by the fifth broadcast one nickname will have broken ahead of the pack.

This was the first year that the film-based Genies and the TV-based Geminis merged into one meta-broadcast. While the ratings were up from last year’s Geminis by over 75%, there was some question about whether the separate ceremonies should have been combined at all.

With two industry galas preceding the main event, a plethora of the awards were given out earlier in the week, saving some of the audience favorites for the televised broadcast on Sunday night. While the members of the Academy worked hard to pare down the categories into a manageable amount, they didn’t quite cover everything. Writer/director Sarah Polley requested categories for crew contributors at next year’s event.


On the subject of combining the two awards shows, Kevin O’Leary (Dragon’s Den) was all for it. He agreed that combining film and tv was the smartest thing to do, creating a wider audience, building ratings and  inspiring a higher level of awareness for Canadian productions.  Spoken like a true Dragon.

A show this big doesn’t happen without its fair share of controversy. This year’s malcontent came courtesy of several decisions that surprised the audience and ruffled a few feathers. The hot-button issue was CBC’s choice to stagger the broadcasts across different timezones. While this is a classic fight between coasts, staggering this event handcuffed media to one of two realities: hold off on live tweets, announcing the winners, and posting photos until the last broadcast was airing, or spoil the results for those further west. I didn’t see anyone doing the former, especially since audience members were offering digital congratulations during the awards.

Another piece of controversy arose when the award for Best Comedy Series was given in the off-air pre-show. Taken by Less Than Kind, the award was given out to an almost empty theatre, while the attendees snagged one last cocktail before the live broadcast. A compromise was made when a pre-taped segment of the Less Than Kind winners on stage was spliced into the broadcast (the same with Brian Williams who won for Best Sports Host).


LTK showrunner Mark McKinney had positive words down in the press room. “I don’t hold it against the Academy, as they’ve done a lot of things right and done their job for year one. But next year, they won’t get away with the same thing.”

Despite the controversy, attendees of the awards were in high spirits. The red carpet was bustling with celebs and a wild scrum of photographers before the event. The post-show cocktail party was so popular that it continued until staff from the Sony Centre hustled everybody out to the after-party several blocks away.

The audience engaged with Martin Short, and the spirit of camaraderie was evident in the theatre as well as the press room where not only winners appeared, but nominees and attendees also showed up to hobnob with the media vultures and test out the press room food.

Martin Short proved not only to be a nominee and talented comedian but a true entertainer as well, when he busted out a song I’ve dubbed “Marty’s Night” about his chances at winning an award. When he lost in both categories, he kept his good humour, maintaining that his “rock bottom is everyone else’s dream.” Short wasn’t afraid to press a few buttons, poking fun at Cheryl Hickey’s pregnant “ice cream” belly, and critiquing the Housewives’ collective intelligence level. He also brought back some beloved characters from the past.

FatMartinShort_zps20d9b17aJiminy Glick (The Martin Short Show) joined Majumder during the red carpet broadcast, embodying Joan Rivers and bringing life to the pre-show. Some of the major presenters during the awards included Catherine O’Hara (SCTV), Adam Beach (Arctic Air), Kristin Lehman (Motive), Allan Hawco (Republic of Doyle), Allan Thicke (Growing Pains), Sarah Canning (Primeval: New World), Rick Mercer (Rick Mercer Report), Meg Tilley (Bomb Girls), Jody, Ronnie and Mary (The Real Housewives of Vancouver), Gerry Dee (Mr. D), Enrico Colantoni (Flashpoint) and many more.

The last award of the night was given out for Best Dramatic TV Series. Unsurprisingly the final award went to the team from Flashpoint, making them the big winners. This was undeniably a big honor after wrapping their fifth and final season by their own choosing. The series finale aired in December last year.

Flashpoint also took home awards for acting, writing, and the team was honoured for their achievements in television at the industry gala on Thursday night.


The Five Best Things About the Canadian Screen Awards:

  1. Martin Short as a bagpipe.
  2. A professional, multi-camera broadcast with an elegant stage, celebrating Canadian achievements.
  3. The sheer volume of media interested in covering this event.
  4. The mini roast beef amuse-bouches served after the awards.
  5. Seeing a theatre filled with diverse Canadian talent, excited to celebrate each other and themselves.

The Top Five “Opportunities” for Improving the Canadian Screen Awards:

  1. One live broadcast, country wide (no spoilers!).
  2. A better balance between Film and TV at the Main Event.
  3. Better media information, press packages, and subtitles on the press room feed during the awards.
  4. A longer live broadcast, or at least some wiggle room at the end for overages. If the Oscars can close in on 4 hours we can at least manage 2 and a half.
  5. PICK A DAMN NICKNAME! Tell the press and market it or they’re going to end up being called The Pointies or similar.

And just for good measure, here’s my buddy Strombo looking steeped (yep, I’m bringing it back!):


What were your favorite moments? What would you change? 


Ice, Sweat and Tears – A Filmmaker Interview


Photo of Aaron Hancox (Co-producer) and Judy Holm (Executive Producer) at the Canadian Screen Awards

(Photo by Derek Langer)

 Ice, Sweat and Tears, an hour-long figure skating documentary, is set to air on Thursday, March 7 on CBC’s Doc Zone. The film investigates the dedication, stamina and training that it takes to compete as a figure skater on the world stage, and serves as an introduction to the fiercely competitive and highly athletic world of figure skating.

Ice, Sweat and Tears takes a close look into the journeys of ice dance champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, the young pairs team Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers, and the well known men’s competitor Patrick Chan, among others, with insights from seasoned veterans who’ve retired from the competitive scene, Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko.

Spouses, family, and fans of other sports often misunderstand the world of the figure skating “super fan” and misjudge the complex sport of figure skating. Where hockey is a team effort with easily definable points, figure skating is intense athleticism hiding demurely under carefully chosen costuming. It is a solo effort with a complicated scoring system, where one athlete spends time in the spotlight performing. Ice, Sweat and Tears opens up the world of the super fan, enlightening others as to why they may hold their breath for 4 minutes and 30 seconds until the artistic performance is completed. The film gets people to understand the relational and personal nature of figure skating, and serves as a great intro to the sport for those who may not quite “get it”.

I had a chance to talk to husband and wife filmmaking team Michael McNamara (not pictured) and Judy Holm about making Ice, Sweat and Tears.

RL: What got you interested in Figure Skating in the first place?

JH: I’m a big fan – I have been for a long long time.

MM: And I live with a big fan.

JH: I would call Michael in to watch specific things, since I came from a dance background; I get really excited and totally “get” it when they do something spectacular.

RL: What was the most surprising thing you learned about skating through the course of the documentary?

MM: I really didn’t realize the level of athleticism that was involved – the speed and stamina that is required of these athletes.  As soon as I realized this, that became the goal, to get the viewers a little closer to the action. When you’re watching on TV you can’t tell how fast these kids are moving.

JH: I don’t think that I really really really understood the depth of the danger that accompanies this sport.

MM: We were able to strap cameras to their arms, chests and skates to give their point of view. A whole different perspective.

RL: How would you say that Canada’s teams and program differ from other world teams.

JH: Canada has always been up there in the top competitors ever since we started. There’s always been a Canadian skater from one or two of the disciplines [singles, pairs, ice dancers] at the top. The interesting thing that is happening lately is the expansion of the disciplines that we’re at the top in.

When Tessa and Scott won at the Olympics it was the first time a North American team had won ice dance – it’s been a category dominated primarily by the Russian teams. It’s a bit more global now as they’re trained by a former soviet star: less political blocks and more global.

RL: What sort of sense did you get from the “retired” skaters?

JH: Kurt Browning and Elvis Stojko are two guys who were fascinated by athleticism and speed. They were just guys out there. Kurt continues to skate with his shows. Elvis is an adrenaline junkie doing go-cart racing.

Competitively skating is a sport that has a limited life span. You’re not doing it by your mid 30s; amateur competition even more so. I’m sure there are all kinds of stories, good, bad, and in the middle. When you’re a champion, that  continues to be a part of you even after you’re done.

RL: What was the biggest challenge in making this documentary?

JH: Remembering to bring our long underwear.

MM: Even in the summer!

MM: I’d say maybe getting the skaters used to our presence. We wanted to be flies on the wall, to capture real honest responses. We were a small team, a small crew. They’re used to cameras but usually the scrutiny begins and ends at the competition. We had to gain their trust, and I think we did.

JH: It’s a fine balance between getting enough film, because they’re distracted and focused on their season. We worked a lot with Skate Canada and did a lot of planning with Barb McDonald to get everything we needed without taking away from the skaters’ focus.

RL: How do you feel this documentary will affect the Canadian public?

JH: I think they’re gonna love it!

Doc Zone and CBC have positioned it so it’s a lead-up to the Worlds. CBC has worked very well with Skate Canada.  We’ve got some preview clips to be shown at the lead-up events.

MM: People who are skating fans can be quite obsessive; they’re a different breed than other fans. When a skater is on the ice, they’re all alone. It’s a very different kind of sport than any other sport. It’s an enormous pressure. The super fans feel very invested in the athletes, like they have a relationship and it’s reciprocal. We hope the super fans will take something away from it, and for people who don’t know anything about it at all that it will make an impact.

JH: I want to convert [more fans]!

 RL: What is your next project, if you have one in the works?

 MM: We have a couple dramas in development at the moment as well as a BravoFACT project – Incident at Lesion Fields that we are co-directing starring Mary Walsh ,Tommy Lee Williams, and Janet Burker.

Thank you Mike and Judy for taking the time to talk to me about Ice, Sweat and Tears.

Ice, Sweat and Tears airs on CBC Television’s Doc Zone Thursday, March 7, 2013 at 9pm (9:30 NT) and repeats Saturday, March 9 at 11pm ET/PT on CBC News Network.


Seed’s Adam Korson and Carrie-Lynn Neales at the Canadian Screen Awards


Adam Korson and Carrie-Lynn Neales (Seed) on Writers

(Photo by Derek Langer)

You may notice a trend in these interviews. Since a big part of this Industry Gala was dedicated to writing awards, and I may have a slight bias towards that profession, a lot of my questions focused in that direction.

CLN: “We had the BEST writing team.”

AK: “We really did. What was amazing and still fascinates me today was how they really crafted 22 minutes of television, and did it consistently throughout the entire season. We had 9 people in our cast, and they jam-packed the entire season. Three different story lines going on, funny, relatable, and that still astounds me.”

“I’ve always had respect for writers, and I write myself but now it’s like WOW, I have SO much learning to do, and so much more respect for writers. It was a pleasure to speak their words.”

CLN: “And they took such an interest in how our relationship on set was forming. I think they really wrote for both of us, and for all of the cast. They were incredibly in tune with it, and that really helps.”