Everything about Industry News, eh?

George Cheeks to keynote the 2023 Banff World Media Festival

From a media release:

The Banff World Media Festival (BANFF) is proud to announce President and Chief Executive Officer of CBS and Chief Content Officer, News and Sports for Paramount+ George Cheeks is confirmed to participate in the Festival’s Summit Series, a premium keynote speaker lineup featuring the boldest voices and the world’s most influential media leaders. Cheeks will speak on Monday, June 12th, in an exclusive fireside conversation. The 44th edition of the Festival will take place in-person June 11 – 14 at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

“George Cheeks has been an innovative business and creative force in the television industry for over thirty years,” commented Kevin Beggs, Chair of the Board of Directors for BANFF and Chair & Chief Creative Officer of the Lionsgate Television Group. “We at the Banff World Media Festival are honored to have George give our keynote and share his views on the evolving industry.”

“In this liminal era of the entertainment industry, George Cheeks is paving an innovative path,” said BANFF Executive Director, Jenn Kuzmyk. “We’re honoured to welcome him to the festival and look forward to hearing his vision for the future of the business as well as insights on some of the industry’s big questions.”

The BANFF Summit Series is a curated, future-focused lineup of keynote sessions that was launched in 2019 in honour of the festival’s four-decade legacy. This powerful speaker roster features the global players who are shaping the future of the media industry. Past Summit Series speakers have included Bela Bajaria, Pearlena Igbokwe, Greg Berlanti, Ted Sarandos, Channing Dungey, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Paula Kerger, Sarah Barnett, Paul Feig, Kenan Thompson, Maverick Carter, David Linde and Seth Meyers.

Cheeks oversees CBS-branded assets within Paramount Global, including the CBS Television Network, which encompasses CBS Entertainment, CBS News and CBS Sports, as well as CBS Studios, CBS Stations, CBS Media Ventures, its first-run syndication business, and CBS-branded digital assets. He is also the Chief Content Officer, News and Sports, for Paramount+, extending the world-class content from CBS News and CBS Sports to the streaming super service. In addition, his leadership portfolio across Paramount Global includes responsibility for BET, Paramount Television Studios and the company’s free-to-air networks in the United Kingdom, Australia, Argentina and Chile.

Prior to joining CBS, Cheeks served more than seven years at NBCUniversal in senior executive positions that spanned creative, business and operational roles. Most recently, he was Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal Content Studios and was also in charge of late night programming for NBC Entertainment. Previously, Cheeks was Co-Chairman of NBC Entertainment and was jointly responsible for overseeing primetime, late night and scripted daytime programming for the network, including business affairs, marketing, communications, scheduling, West Coast research and digital operations, as well as first-run syndication.

Prior to being named Co-Chairman, Cheeks served as Co-President, Universal Cable Productions and Wilshire Studios as well as President, Late Night Programming, NBC Entertainment, where he oversaw the network’s lucrative and successful late night slate. Prior to that role, Cheeks was President of Business Operations and Late Night Programming, NBC Entertainment.

Cheeks joined NBC in 2012 after serving as Executive Vice President, Business Affairs and General Counsel, Viacom Music and Entertainment Groups, Content Distribution and Marketing, as well as Head of Standards and Practices for Viacom Media Networks, in New York. In his first stint with Viacom starting in 1998, he began working as Senior Counsel for MTV Networks in the Business and Legal Affairs Department for the Nickelodeon Group. While there, he ascended to positions of increasing responsibility, and in 2005 he was elevated to Executive Vice President and General Counsel for MTV, MTV2, MTVu, MTV Films, VH1, CMT and LOGO.

In addition to Summit Series keynotes, BANFF will return with an array of provocative panel discussions, celebrity master classes and networking opportunities to connect the global media industry to ignite new projects and support business development. Also returning: the prestigious Rockies Gala honouring the most inspiring executives and talent in the industry; and the Rockie Awards International Program Competition, one of the world’s most prestigious screen industry competitions, with participation from more than 45+ countries annually including an international jury of 150 industry professionals. Category winners, including the Grand Jury Prize, the Rogers Prize for Canadian Content, the Francophone Prize, and other special prizes, will be announced during the Festival on June 12th.


Pamela Anderson’s journey continues with two new greenlights from Corus Studios

From a media release:

Corus Studios announced today the continuation of their partnership with famed Hollywood icon Pamela Anderson in two new greenlights. Pamela’s Garden of Eden is currently in production on Season 2 (8×60), continuing the renovation of her family’s legacy property on Vancouver Island. Pamela’s presence in the lifestyle space expands with the brand-new food-focused series, Pamela’s Cooking With Love (working title) (8×60), beginning production this summer and scheduled to premiere in 2024 on Food Network Canada. Produced by Fireworks Media Group, these two premium unscripted series spotlight Pamela’s open-book attitude, gift for design and entertaining, and savvy ability to create unique experiences. Corus Studios will distribute both series internationally.

“Corus Studios is proud to collaborate with Pamela Anderson on these two series as we work together to share her passion for food and entertaining with both a Canadian and international audience,” said Lisa Godfrey, Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios. “Pamela’s Cooking With Love is the perfect companion series to Pamela’s Garden of Eden, and services our commitment to authentic story-telling and building a premium library of content for the global market.”

“Creating elegant and inviting spaces that inspire a compassionate, calm and healthy environment has always been important to me and comes naturally,” said Pamela Anderson. “Corus Studios and I have set mutual goals with good intentions. It’s been a learning curve – and I am confident they will be a positive partner in helping bring my true vision to life.”

In Season 2 of Pamela’s Garden of Eden, Pamela’s quest to transform her grandmother’s six-acre legacy property on Vancouver Island continues, resolving renovation issues from Season 1 and tackling a long list of new projects. Simultaneously, Pamela travels back and forth to Los Angeles to help her son Brandon Lee renovate his newly purchased house. As a first-time homeowner, Brandon depends on his mother’s keen eye for design and renovation to help turn his new house into a home he can truly call his own. The new season follows the successful Canadian launch of the series, which ranked within the Top 10 of Canadian original series across specialty television last fall, and was the #1 entertainment specialty program when it premiered on HGTV Canada.*

Pamela sets the table for a one-of-a-kind dining experience in Pamela’s Cooking With Love (working title). In this new Corus Studios distributed series, Pamela is fueled by a craving to learn more about cooking and how she can use food to take entertaining to the next level. She works with a variety of influential chefs to develop delicious plant-based menus, gather the diverse ingredients, and prepare incredible meals and moments for her friends and family. Whether it is a casual afternoon cocktail party in the garden, an intimate dinner with family, or breakfast following a night around the campfire – Pamela shines as a host and sous-chef.

Pamela’s Garden of Eden and Pamela’s Cooking With Love (working title) are produced by Fireworks Media Group with Jesse Fawcett, Brandon Thomas Lee, and Robert Hardy serving as executive producers for both projects. Pamela Anderson serves as executive producer for Cooking With Pamela (working title).


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.


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.


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.


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).