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The Banff World Media Festival names Lionsgates’ Kevin Beggs as board chair

From a media release:

The Banff World Media Festival (BANFF) is proud to announce that Kevin Beggs, the Television Group Chair of global content leader Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF.A, LGF.B), has been elected Chair of BANFF’s Board of Directors. He succeeds renowned executive Randy Lennox who served as Chair of the Board for three years.

“As a longtime Board member and participant in this prestigious and exciting festival, I’m deeply honoured to be named Chair of BANFF’s Board of Directors,” said Beggs. “BANFF brings together the best of the best of the international screen industry and content producers from all corners of the globe. I look forward to continuing to work with the incredible BANFF team in making BANFF the must-attend television event of the year.”

“One of the industry’s most respected executives, Kevin has been a long-time board member and a genuine champion of the festival in Hollywood and around the world. It’s an honour to welcome him as our new Chair. His creative vision and passion for the business is a perfect match to help us to continue delivering on the festival’s mandate to grow and serve the industry,” said BANFF’s Executive Director, Jenn Kuzmyk. “We thank Randy for his years of service leading the Board of Directors. His enthusiasm and innovative thinking have helped us reach new heights, including celebrating the festival’s milestone 40th anniversary and helping us to rise to the challenges caused by the pandemic.”

“I couldn’t think of a better addition and champion of BANFF than the extremely talented Kevin Beggs to take over as Chair of the Festival,” commented Lennox. “I’m thankful for having the opportunity to work with the incredible group of board members, Executive Director Jenn Kuzmyk and the team at Brunico led by Russell Goldstein. I can’t wait to see what the team will achieve under Kevin’s tenure in what I’m sure will be next level content innovation.”

A 23-year veteran of Lionsgate and a member of its corporate senior management team, Beggs has spearheaded the strategic expansion of the Company’s television production operations into one of the largest independent television businesses in the world. In 2018, Beggs was also named Lionsgate Chief Content Integration Officer responsible for overseeing the Company’s “Lionsgate 360” efforts, the cross-collaborative approach to developing new content from iconic Lionsgate intellectual properties across all of its businesses, including the 1619 Project initiative.

Since joining Lionsgate in 1998, Beggs has guided the Television Group’s growth into a leading supplier of premium content for streaming, cable and broadcast networks. Lionsgate’s roster of nearly 70 shows on dozens of different platforms includes: Home Economics (ABC); Ghosts (CBS); Mythic Quest and Acapulco (Apple TV+); Love Life (HBO Max); Selling Sunset (Netflix); the syndication success The Wendy Williams Show; and a number of STARZ shows including Power Book II: Ghost, Run the World, Heels, Blindspotting, and Power Book III: Raising Kanan. Upcoming series include Dangerous Liaisons for STARZ; Santa Inc., Julia and Minx for HBO Max; Welcome to Flatch for FOX; and The First Lady for Showtime; as well as the Roku holiday special Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas.

Beggs also shepherded eight seasons of the multiple Emmy Award® winner Mad Men, one of the most acclaimed shows in television history, seven seasons of the ground-breaking Orange is the New Black, eight seasons of the hit comedy Weeds and six seasons of the popular Dead Zone.

He is the recipient of the Alliance for Children’s Rights’ 2019 “National Champion for Children Award,” Operation Smile’s John Connor Humanitarian Award, The Help Group’s Teddy Bear Humanitarian Award, Clayton Children Museum’s “Discovery Award,” and the Broadcasting & Cable 2014 Innovation Award. In October 2017, he was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. Beggs has served on the Board and Executive Committees of the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Los Angeles Paley Center for Media and the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE), serving as its Chairman for four years. Beggs is currently a Board member of the homeless youth center My Friend’s Place, Cayton Children’s Museum, Southern California Public Radio, and Green Dot Charter Schools.

Located in Banff, Alberta, Canada, BANFF is a premium marketplace and conference, an intimate space where unparalleled access, creative inspiration and expert insight combine to launch fresh content and new business strategies. Celebrating its upcoming 43rd year in 2022, the festival has grown into a must-attend annual event where media moguls, producers, creatives and industry stakeholders along with broadcasters and digital media companies tackle issues and trends, forge relationships and nurture partnerships in one of the world’s most stunning landscapes.

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CBC/Radio Canada, APTN and Ayasew Ooskana Pictures announce casting and start of production on Marie Clements’ Bones of Crows

From a media release:

Ayasew Ooskana Pictures announced today production is underway on the new original five-part psychological drama (5X60) and feature film BONES OF CROWS, commissioned by CBC/Radio-Canada in association with APTN. Created by Marie Clements, the character-driven series features an ensemble cast of talent including Grace Dove (Monkey Beach), Philip Lewitski (Wildhood), Glen Gould (Cold Pursuit), Michelle Thrush (Pathfinder), Gail Maurice (Night Raiders), Cara Gee (The Expanse), Karine Vanasse (Cardinal), Angus Macfadyen (Robert The Bruce), Rémy Girard (District 31), Graham Greene (Molly’s Game) and Lorne Cardinal (Corner Gas).

BONES OF CROWS is told through the eyes of Cree Matriarch Aline Spears as she survives a childhood in Canada’s residential school system to continue her family’s generational fight in the face of systemic starvation, racism, and sexual abuse. She uses her uncanny ability to understand and translate codes into working for a special division of the Canadian Air Force as a Cree code talker in World War II. The story unfolds over 100 years with a cumulative force that propels us into the future.

The project will be shot originally in English, with Cree and Ayajuthem spoken in key scenes and there will be both Cree and French-language versions for broadcast. Filming locations include the Thompson-Nicola Region (Kamloops, Vernon, Quilchena), Greater Victoria Area, and Greater Vancouver Area in British Columbia, and Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Winnipeg portion of production will be produced by Eagle Vision.

BONES OF CROWS is a CBC/Radio-Canada original production, produced with the financial participation of Telefilm Canada, Canada Media Fund, APTN , Independent Production Fund, Shaw Rocket Fund, Bell Fund, ISO (Indigenous Screen Office), FIBC, CAVCO, and First Peoples’ Heritage, Language and Cultural Council and Indigenous Arts Program.

BONES OF CROWS is produced, written and directed by Marie Clements (Red Snow, The Road Forward), executive produced by Trish Dolman & Christine Haebler (French Exit, Indian Horse) and Sam Grana (The Boys of St. Vincent) with Executive Producers Lisa Meeches and Kyle Irving from Eagle Vision and the DOP is Vince Arvidson (The Magnitude of All Things).

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Writers Guild of Canada releases new equity, diversity and inclusion data

From a media release:

The Writers Guild of Canada has released a new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Report with 2020 data. The initiative is part of the WGC and its Diversity Committee’s efforts to work towards addressing issues of historic underrepresentation in Canadian television. (Diversity groups are defined by the WGC as Indigenous, Black, LGBTQ2S, People of Colour, People Living with Disabilities.)

The new report provides membership data from 2017 to 2020, and includes contract data from 62 live-action and animated series that started production in 2020, in addition to the 280 series previously covered in the period from 2017 to 2019.

The data shows some marked increases between 2019 and 2020 in key credit categories, including:

  • The share of writers from underrepresented communities receiving upper-level staffing credits increased in multiple categories, including Co-Executive Producer (from 25% in 2019 to 28% in 2020) and Consulting Producer (from 24% in 2019 to 33% in 2020).
  • The combined share of Black and People of Colour who received credits for entry-level Story Editor and Executive Story Editor positions rose in 2020 by 14% to 46.9% and by 5.5% to 52.6%, respectively. Both categories of credits have reached a parity zone, when population numbers in urban centres where writers’ rooms are often located are considered (visible minorities make 54% of the population in Toronto and 51% in Vancouver).
  • Black writers have made strides to achieve representation in live action that is on-par with population numbers. The percentage of Black writers in live-action writers’ rooms increased from 8% in 2019 to 9.2% in 2020 and is slightly higher than population numbers in highly dense population centres like Toronto and Montreal. Other indicators such as writing credits show that there is still room for improvement.

Other observations on the 2020 data include:

  • The participation of Indigenous writers decreased across the board in 2020. The share of Indigenous writers working on Canadian TV dropped to 1% in 2020 from 4% in 2019. No Indigenous writers were engaged in animation productions during the same period.
  • The share of East Asian (1.4% in 2019 to 2.8% in 2020) and South Asian (3.2% in 2019 to 3.6% in 2020) writers increased slightly, but there’s still work to do to achieve representation on-par with Canadian population numbers.
  • The share of writing credits received by LGBTQ2S writers decreased across different formats. In live action, credits dropped from 8.6% in 2019 to 6.9% in 2020. When it comes to animation, writing credits going to LGBTQ2S writers decreased from 4.1% to 1.7% during the same period.

The full report is now available on the WGC’s website HERE.

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CBC and Little Mosque on the Prairie’s Zarqa Nawaz reunite for Zarqa

From a media release:

Award-winning Canadian film and television producer, author, journalist, and internationally renowned thought leader for Muslim women in media, Zarqa Nawaz, is delighted to announce the start of production on a new original comedy series for CBC Gem, ZARQA (6×11). Commissioned by CBC and financed by the Bell Fund, the Independent Production Fund (IPF) and Creative Saskatchewan (with the Canada Media Fund and IPF funding the show and trailer development phase), the series films in Regina, Saskatchewan from October 12 to 29 and will premiere on CBC Gem in 2022. International broadcast and streaming partners are yet to be determined.

Nawaz was the creator of the ground-breaking Muslim sitcom Little Mosque on the Prairie (2007-2012), which was widely recognized as the world’s first comedy about Muslims living in the West when it launched in 2007. The show premiered on CBC with record-breaking ratings and won awards at home and internationally. The series aired 91 episodes over six seasons, and was broadcast internationally in France, Switzerland, Africa, Israel, UAE, Finland, Turkey and more, and is now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Nawaz’s next project is ZARQA; she is the creator, showrunner, and lead actor in the series. ZARQA follows its titular character, a complex, middle-aged Muslim woman (played by Nawaz) who learns on social media that her ex-husband is marrying a white yoga instructor half his age named Bethany. Zarqa impulsively comments that she will attend the wedding with her own cliché: a white brain surgeon named Brian. Now she just has to find him. Watch the trailer here.

The comical chaos continues with the arrival of Zarqa’s former love interest, Yusuf, played by Rizwan Manji. Manji received a 2021 Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Guest Actor for his portrayal of Ray Butani, Emmy-award-winning series Schitt’s Creek’s jack-of-all-trades. He is also well-known for his role as Rajiv Gidwani in the NBC comedy, Outsourced.

ZARQA, a project of Nawaz’s Regina-based production company FUNdamentalist Films, boasts a team of award-winning writers, producers, and directors, several of whom are diverse, and all of whom are women. Show writers – Zarqa Nawaz (Gemini award-winning Little Mosque on the Prairie, Me and the Mosque), Sadiya Durrani (Little Mosque on the Prairie, Overlord and the Underwoods, The Parker Andersons/Amelia Parker) and Claire Ross Dunn (Little Mosque on the Prairie, Degrassi, Falling For Look Lodge, Cupids on Beacon Street) – each wrote two episodes of ZARQA’s first season.

With the exception of Nawaz who is now stepping into acting in addition to a career in television production, all other ZARQA producers started their careers as actors. These include Dunn (producer for DHX’s Make it Pop for Nickelodeon, The Smart Woman Survival Guide for W/Cosmo TV), Dawn Bird (Producer of Beyond the Curve International Film Festival Best Queer Narrative Film Mercy, producer of Canadian International Film Festival’s Rising Star Award Winner Bread Thieves, TV series Why Am I?), and Liz Whitmere (producer of CSA Award-winning CBC Gem series The Neddeaus of Duqesne Island, Late Night in the Studio). ZARQA directors are Whitmere (award-winning shorts Up To Here, Cat’s Got Your Tongue, the original ZARQA trailer, Candy Fox (ahkâmêyimo nitânis / Keep Going, My Daughter, The Other Side) and Iman Zawahry (Emmy-winning short film Tough Crowd, Undercover, award-winning feature film Americanish).

ABOUT ZARQA NAWAZ
Zarqa Nawaz is a Canadian producer for film and television, a published author, public speaker, journalist, and former broadcaster. She created, wrote, directed, and produced episodes for the international CBC comedy series Little Mosque on the Prairie, which won a Gemini Award as well as Best International Television Series and Best Screenplay at the 2007 RomaFictionFest. The television series was inspired by Me and the Mosque, Zarqa’s ground-breaking National Film Board documentary which premiered at the Montreal International Film Festival, examining how patriarchal cultural traditions have become mixed up with theology.

In addition, Nawaz has sold four pilots to ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox Studios, has written a bestselling comedic memoir, Laughing All the Way to the Mosque (published by HarperCollins), was an advice columnist for The Globe & Mail, a broadcast personality for CBC Radio, the host of CBC Saskatchewan’s “The Morning Edition,” and anchored CBC Saskatchewan News at 6.

In addition to launching her new self-titled CBC Gem series in 2022, in which she stars, writes, and produces, Nawaz will also debut her new novel, Jameela Green Ruins Everything (Simon & Schuster Canada in Canada, and Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, in the U.S.). The new book is a satire about a disillusioned American Muslim woman who becomes embroiled in a plot to infiltrate an international terrorist organization and, in the process, reconnects with her loved ones and her faith.

A frequent public speaker on Islam and comedy, Nawaz received a Doctor of Divinity from the University of Saskatchewan for her interfaith work in the community. In recognition of her contribution to the world of arts, she received The Brampton Walk of Fame in 2019. Nawaz lives in Regina with her loving but long-suffering family and is the proud mother of four children.

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marblemedia announces Blown Away: Christmas debuts November 19 on Netflix

From a media release:

marblemedia, leading global entertainment producers of numerous award-winning TV series announces today that Netflix’s “Blown Away” is cranking up the heat for a spectacular holiday showdown!

’Tis the season for redemption as five fan favourites return to the hot shop to compete in a series of Christmas-themed challenges in the quest to become The Best in Holiday Blow.

Sharing his thoughts with Variety today, host Bobby Berk says “I’ve been a fan of Blown Away since the moment it premiered, and I’m honoured to be officially joining the family as the host of Blown Away: Christmas. I got a taste of the incredible experience and craftsmanship as a guest judge on Season 2 and can’t wait to get back into the hot shop this holiday season.”

In the spirit of giving, the winner will not only receive a $10,000 cash prize but an additional $10,000 will also be donated to their charity of choice.

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