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Victoria Duffield is a Cross Country Fun Hunt treasure

By Chris Lackner

Canadian kids can bring singer home by nominating their own local fun spot

Canadian kids are being challenged to put their community on the map by winning their hometown a national reputation —— and a special concert performance.

With the help of the country’s youth, host Jordan Francis is uncovering Canada’s coolest spots on CBC Television’s Cross Country Fun Hunt. Between now and December, under-16 youth from across the country can submit their local fun spots at cbc.ca/kids/funhunt. The winning location will earn bragging rights as Canada’s most fun place to visit, and a special concert featuring Francis and Victoria Duffield.

“Kids across the country are going to be looking forward to a fun finale, so I can’t wait to put on a great show for them,” the 17-year-old Duffield said in an interview. “It’s going to be an amazing celebration!”

The TV series, from Apartment 11 Productions, airs every Saturday morning on CBC, and is based on Francis’s cross-country road trip. Francis visited communities across Canada and took part in activities suggested by — and, in many cases, voted on — by kids.

The Toronto-born Francis (Camp Rock) called the adventure the “trip of a lifetime” and said it opened his eyes to the diversity of youth from coast to coast.

“Canada is great. It’s huge! Just don’t stay in one province because it has so much to offer,” he said in an interview. “These Canadian kids . . .they’re crazy, they’re amazing. I did some wonderful things (with them).” Francis’s travel itinerary, as chosen by kids, exposed him to new experiences — from rock climbing in the Rockies to lobster fishing in the Atlantic.

The online contest for Canada’s top fun spot is far from over. During the TV run, kids under 17 can continue to submit a destination by posting videos, photos and writing about the activities they love to do there. They can also enter secret codes from the TV episodes to win a trip to the Fun Hunt concert. Those who enter before Oct. 31 are also eligible to win an iPod touch. In December, fans will vote on 20 top destinations, and the winning entry will earn one child — and their community — the special concert set to air on CBC in March.

“I’m really excited to find out where I’m actually going,” Francis said.

Duffield, who released her debut album, Shut Up and Dance, this summer, echoed his sentiments: “I can’t wait to see what all the people vote (for) as the most-fun,” the Abbotsford, B.C.-native said. “I haven’t seen all of Canada so this could be a treat for me, too. But, who knows, maybe it will be close to where I live!”

Francis also recorded a song for each episode, released weekly on iTunes. The soundtrack will be performed at the grand finale concert and eventually be released as an album.

“All my experiences were definitely influences (on) my songs,” Francis said. “Seeing how diverse the different provinces were definitely gave me some inspiration to add different sounds I wouldn’t normally use.”

Where is Canada’s most-fun spot? With the help of Canadian kids, we’re about to find out.

The CBC’s Cross Country Fun Hunt airs on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m. PT, 10 a.m. in Newfoundland)

Chris Lackner is a writer and media consultant with Holmes Creative Communications. His work as a journalist has appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post and Montreal Gazette.


Arctic Air discussion & screening in Vancouver October 16

From Praxis/WGC:

In partnership with Praxis, the Writers Guild of Canada presents a discussion and screening with the screenwriters behind Arctic Air, moderated by Diane Wild (hey, that’s me!).

On Tuesday, October 16, series creator Ian Weir will join showrunner Bob Carney and screenwriter Sarah Dodd to provide insights into the vision and production of the CBC drama.

Arctic Air premiered to record numbers for a CBC drama in 2012. The broad based adventure series takes the excitement of shows like ICE PILOTS NWT and gives it a drama sheen. We’ll hear about the logistics of piloting a show set in Yellowknife from Vancouver, and how the show developed and changed in its first season.

When: Tuesday, October 16, 7-10 pm

Where: SFU Harbor Centre, Room 7000, 555 West Hastings St., Vancouver

Admission is free. Seating is first-come, first-served. Please arrive early to ensure a seat. For more information, email praxis@sfu.ca.


Vamping it up: sink your teeth into a new season of My Babysitter’s a Vampire

By Chris Lackner

They could have called the show Sarah the Vampire Vampire Slayer.

Most vampires are content with easy-target human prey – they don’t go hunting their own. Most teens have their hands full just battling homework and raging hormones — they don’t have to contend with bloodlust too.

But Sarah Fox is no ordinary high school girl – and no ordinary vampire either. Played by Ottawa-born actress Vanessa Morgan, Sarah is the fledgling vampire at the heart of the series My Babysitter’s A Vampire.

A safe horror vehicle for younger audiences, the show goes for laughs more often than it goes for the jugular. But Sarah and her monster-fighting pals Ethan (Matthew Knight) and Benny (Atticus Mitchell) will have their hands full in Season 2 of the series, which recently premiered in Canada. New episodes air Thursdays on Teletoon at 7:30 p.m.

“Since Sarah is transformed into a full vampire now, she’s dealing with a lot of emotions and all this strength that she never had before,” Morgan says recently of the new season. “When you become a vampire, your strength accelerates a lot – so she’s dealing with even more cravings than before . . . but she’s trying to be a little more fun this season . . . I think I’m realizing this is who I am and I’m not changing – there is no cure for now.”

Clad in a summer dress, her pint-sized puppy Yoshi on her shoulder, the 20-year-old Morgan basks in the sun on a downtown Toronto patio. She doesn’t look like the newborn creature of the night she plays on TV. But she shares a sassy edge and tough-as-nails attitude with her vampire alter ego.

Sexual tension being a prerequisite for any good vampire yarn, Morgan lets on that Ethan and Sarah’s relationship will evolve this season.

“This season their relationship definitely escalates,” she says. “They become closer. I think feelings are going to be shown a little bit more and it’s . . . going to progress into something more than just friends.”

In the TV movie that inspired the series, Sarah was hired to babysit Ethan’s sister because his parents didn’t trust him. While every boy has had a crush on a babysitter, few are lucky enough to have those feelings returned. Of course, there is that whole “vampire thing” complicating their budding romance.

Atticus Mitchell, who plays spell-caster Benny Weir, is also on hand to offer his two cents. Beyond Sarah contending with her powers, he says the prime threat this season is a secret, “big bad” evil at work in the town – the source of all things that go bump in the night. Symptoms of this ultimate foe’s presence will manifest themselves slowly – including some serious trouble with a Mummy — before the ultimate reveal.

“Episode by episode the threat level we’ve seen gets worse and worse,” Mitchell says. “Things keep getting more and more dangerous and we finally realize that maybe something bigger is at work here.”

“But nobody is a match for Sarah Fox,” Morgan chimes in with a cocky smile. “Sarah is always the hero.”

Morgan’s character as a family-friendly combination of Buffy and Blade, the half-vampire hunter of the undead portrayed by Wesley Snipes in the film series and comic book. But she has more in common with the latter.

“It’s kind of like I’m against my own race,” she says. “I think it’s because I was turned into one against my will so I want to stop them – I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through. But it’s cool that I have the strength to fight them.”

The crew’s greatest weapon is their wit – not their wooden stakes or magical spells.

“(The humour is) the biggest draw of the show,” Mitchell says. “You have the horror factor, you have the action factor – but the comedy is the tie that brings in together.”

Morgan said she pretty much handled her own stunts this season. “There wasn’t anything too hard that I couldn’t handle.”

She’s asked whether she could punch out anyone – in real life or fiction? “Yeah, in both situations,” she says deadpan, with only the hint of smile.

But not every threat can be countered with a punch. This season, the team must also contend with a notorious Vampire Council intent on meddling in their affairs.

“We have this weird, uneasy relationship with them – kind of this love/hate relationship,” Mitchell explains. “Sometimes they’re like ‘hey, you guys are swell’ and other times it’s like ‘we want to eat you.’”

Morgan realizes her show is part of a wider vampire craze in pop culture – from Twilight to True Blood (she’s a fan). So what’s with society’s overall fascination with vamps?

“They’re usually pretty good looking . . . they don’t age . . .they have fun parties . . . ” she suggests.

Much like his character in the show, Mitchell interrupts with a well-timed joke. “They have sharp teeth, so they can eat well.”

But underneath our love-in with the undead are some genuine fears. Morgan herself says she has experienced the supernatural firsthand.

“People obviously think I’m crazy, but I’ve seen ghosts before. Several times… Once in my house in California, there was a little boy standing at the end of the bed, and me and my sister saw him and we ran into the other room screaming.

“In my house in Canada, I’ve seen three ghosts . . .. some people obviously think it’s crazy or you’re having a dream, but you know when you’re not dreaming?”

As for Mitchell, the most he’s experienced is a “haunted vacuum cleaner” that turns on by itself: “There is something in there. I swear to God.”

What about vamps? Could they be real. “Sure – why not?” Morgan says — a little too quickly perhaps?

“I’m pretty sure something that could be defined as a vampire has lived,” Mitchell says. “Look at Vlad the Impaler, cannibalism, people bathing in blood.”

The spookiest thing about Season 2 of My Babysitter’s a Vampire?

“My evil side might come out which might be the scariest thing,” Morgan says. But will that dark side be more the fictional Sarah or the real-life Vanessa?

“It’s a combination,” she says with a mischievous smile

“I don’t even know who I am talking to right now,” Mitchell jokes. “She could leap across this table right now and tear my throat out.”

Chris Lackner is a writer and media consultant with Holmes Creative Communications. His work as a journalist has appeared in the Globe and Mail, National Post and Montreal Gazette.


Vancouver Film School offers $2500 screenwriting scholarship

The Vancouver Film School is offering the $2500 Kat Montagu Screenwriting Scholarship to a new student in the Writing for Film & Television program. The 2013 scholarship is open to all incoming students registered in the Writing for Film & Television Class 42 (starting January 2, 2013), provided they have not previously taken any professional program at Vancouver Film School, have an undergraduate or graduate degree, and can provide a reference letter and one page of script. The deadline to apply for the Kat Montagu Scholarship is 16:30 PDT October 15, 2012. Download the application form or speak to an advisor today to learn more.