Everything about Web series, eh?

New family comedy ‘Overlord and the Underwoods’ to premiere Halloween weekend on CBC Gem

From a media release:

OVERLORD AND THE UNDERWOODS (20×30), an original live action, single-camera family comedy from award-winning Canadian writer Anthony Q. Farrell (NBC’s The Office, CBBC’s Secret Life of Boys) and co-creator Ryan Wiesbrock (Buddy Thunderstruck, Holly Hobbie), will land on CBC Gem on Halloween weekend. The series will premiere in two parts on CBC Gem, with the first 10 episodes all available to stream beginning Friday, October 29, and the remaining episodes in Winter 2022.

Produced by marblemedia and Cloudco Entertainment and filmed in Southern Ontario, the series features an ensemble cast including Patrice Goodman (Slasher, Sunnyside), Darryl Hinds (Second City, Little Mosque on the Prairie), Ari Resnick (Odd Squad, Clearwater Kids), Kamaia Fairburn (Endlings, Starfalls), Jayne Eastwood (Hey Lady!), Troy Feldman (Lord of the Rings musical) as “Overlord” and award-winning Canadian icon Jann Arden as the voice of “R0-FL” — a droid that has spent most of her life by Overlord’s side.

OVERLORD AND THE UNDERWOODS follows the Underwoods, a North American family, whose life is turned upside down when their distant cousin, Overlord, the second most-wanted villain in the universe, seeks refuge in their home after being forced into intergalactic witness protection. After snitching out his boss, the evil Colossatrotus, Overlord is sent to live with his incredibly nice, only known family on Planet Earth. Over the course of the series, the evil Overlord and the very sweet Underwoods discover a thing or two about each other as they learn to treasure the value of family and the importance of true friendship, diversity, and compassion.

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Production begins on the third season of CBC Gem’s Detention Adventure

From a media release:

Award-winning producer LoCo Motion Pictures is proud to announce that production on the third season of its CBC Gem original scripted tween series Detention Adventure commenced on July 5th in Toronto. In addition, Blue Ant International has secured the worldwide distribution rights to the third season of the series (outside of Canada).

In the new season, Carolyn Taylor (Baroness Von Sketch Show) will guest star in five episodes and up-and-coming singer, dancer and actor Danté Prince has been tapped to co-star as “Dash” alongside returning series regulars Simone Miller Castoro-Qualizza as “Raign Westrook,” Tomaso Sanelli as “Brett Austin,” Alina Prijono as “Joy Jayadi,” Jack Fulton as “Norman ‘Hulk’ Bean,” Lilly Bartlam as “Kelly Darnell,” Andrew Moodie as “Principal Lounsberry,” Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll as “Coach Rod,” and Stacey McGunnigle as “Miss Marner.” Benjamin Ayres will also return as a guest star as “Bruno Black.”

In season 3, the Detention Adventure Team is at it again working to uncover the secret hidden in Lawren Harris’ painting given to them by none other than Principal Lounsberry. Their investigation is interrupted after learning they will be spending one of their final weeks of school at Island School! Unimpressed when Island School proves to be a dilapidated camp, the kids soon realize that the camp is more than it appears and might just hold the answers they’re looking for. With the help of the charismatic new art school student, Dash, the team explores what Lawren Harris’ painting could mean through different art forms while forging new bonds with their fellow Island School students. But with the crew heading off to high school, does growing up mean growing apart?

Co-created by Joe Kicak and Carmen Albano, Detention Adventure is written by Kicak, Albano, Lisa Rose Snow, Jay Vaidya and Cassie Cao. The series is executive produced by Lauren Corber, Kicak and Albano. Ryan West is producer.

Detention Adventure launched in 2019 as CBC’s first original kids scripted series for CBC Gem. Since then, the series has received numerous awards and accolades including Kidscreen Award winner for Best Web/App Series: Kid and CSA winner for Best Writing, Children’s & Youth and Best Original Music. Blue Ant International has licensed the first two seasons of the series to platforms in more than 125 territories, including the US, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, the Middle East, Latin America, the Nordics and Hong Kong.

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Canadian Screen Award nominees: Sharron Matthews and Vanessa Matsui

It’s Canadian Screen Awards week and we’re celebrating all week long in a very special way. We’ll feature exclusive interviews with the actors and creative folks who are nominated in the television and web series categories.

First up: Sharron Matthews, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Drama for Frankie Drake Mysteries, and Vanessa Matsui, nominated for Best Lead Performance, Web Program or Series for Ghost BFF.

Sharron Matthews, nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Drama for Frankie Drake Mysteries

How do you feel the Canadian TV industry is faring during these pandemic times?
The beginning of the pandemic was…strange, to say the least…but after our first lockdown, I went straight into TWO writers rooms, so we just kept doing what we always do in the arts…creating through adverse times. Artists and arts administrators are used to calamity and since the TV and Film industry doesn’t perform in front of large groups of people, we collectively did some recon, and kept going, kept creating. Then I feel like the TV and Film industry really pulled together and figured out a safe, secure way to physically make TV in the face of great challenges. This is what I love about the arts, it always finds a way to survive and thrive. Shout out to the stage and live theatre makers, who have pivoted and found innovative ways to express themselves and have their work be seen.

How have you fared during these pandemic times?
I’m grateful beyond measure that I had Frankie Drake Mysteries and the animated show Rebecca Liddiard (Mary Shaw on Frankie), Carmen Albano (Detention Adventure) and I created with Shaftesbury (Mary and Flo on the Go), to work on from almost the beginning of the pandemic. I spent most of the time up until we went to camera on both Frankie and Mary and Flo, writing and developing scripts for both shows, so I kept myself singularly focused on work … away from the uncertainty of the world around me. I have done my VERY best to stay positive. Some days have been better than others.

Do you think Canadian TV is stronger than ever when it comes to telling our stories?
I believe that Canadian writers and creators have become braver in expressing our unique comedic and dramatic voices. With worldwide successes such as Kim’s Convenience, Schitt’s Creek, Workin’ Moms, and even Frankie Drake Mysteries (if I may) it feels like we have realized that we don’t have to morph our visions to fit the gaze of other countries. Stories told from a Canadian perspective with a distinctly Canadian sense of humour or pathos have become sought after, which is thrilling and has laid the groundwork for an exciting and fertile future.

Does an award nomination/win serve as validation for you or is it just a nice nod that you’re on the right track, career or choice-wise?
Oh my gosh … I would be lying if I said being nominated by a group of your peer wasn’t validating. It is. It really is. I am thrilled.

What will you wear during the Canadian Screen Awards?
I will be watching all the nights with my bubble pal, Mike Bickerton (nominated for his showrunning work on Canada’s Drag Race) and I’m fairly sure we’ll be wearing caftans. Large, billowing caftans. So, basically? We will be dressed in something we bought off the internet.

What will you eat/drink/snack on during the Canadian Screen Awards?
I’m a Hamilton girl forever, so I’m not too fancy. Chips and wine. I’m a simple gal.

Is there someone who served as a mentor when you were starting out in this industry that you’d give a special shout-out to in your acceptance speech if given the chance?
If I had the chance to give an acceptance speech, the first person I would thank is the indomitable Christina Jennings, head of Shaftesbury and producer of Frankie Drake Mysteries. She’s been a supportive force in my life since the day I started on Frankie. Since then, she’s answered every question I have asked about writing and producing, encouraging me to not have limits when it comes to creating. She sets an example not just for female producers but for producers in general, about how to be tenacious and think big. She’s taught me to give pause, time and energy to ideas that spark the soul, because if they don’t work out … there is a good chance those ideas may lead to greater, more fulfillable ideas. Christina leaves no piece of energy or innovation wasted. THANK YOU, CHRISTINA!!!

Vanessa Matsui, nominated for Best Lead Performance, Web Program or Series for Ghost BFF

Congratulations on your Canadian Screen Award nomination!
Thank you!!

How do you feel the Canadian web series industry is faring during these pandemic times?
Shooting, in general, is challenging right now, so indie filmmaking is particularly challenging because so much of your budget is going to COVID precautions. Which I completely understand and appreciate. Also, I think we are going to see a surge of creations post-pandemic. Especially during that first wave, I’ve heard that so many writers and creators, myself included, finally had the time to write that thing that they’ve been wanting to write. So there may be some unintended POSITIVE consequences to shutting down the industry for a season.

How have you fared during these pandemic times?
Ha! Well, it’s been a roller coaster, to say the least. I feel like each wave came with its own challenges. I’m a mom, so losing my ‘village’ has frankly been traumatic. And I’m a lucky one! I have a home and a partner and I was able to go back to work relatively quickly compared to so many. But in some ways, I’m incredibly grateful for these times. I’m a different person now and I look back on pre-pandemic Vanessa as almost a child. It hasn’t been easy, but I’m definitely a better, more me person now.

Do you think Canadian web series is stronger than ever when it comes to telling our stories?
Yes! There are so many incredible web series right now that I’m such a big fan of. Band Ladies and Bit Playas come to mind immediately.

Does an award nomination/win serve as validation for you or is it just a nice nod that you’re on the right track, career or choice-wise?
It’s a really nice nod. I’m so happy that Kaniehtiio [Horn], Jean [Yoon], and Angela [Asher] were also nominated. I think four actresses being nominated for one show is just fabulous.

What will you wear during the Canadian Screen Awards?
Ha! Sweatpants. Sorry, not sorry.

What will you eat/drink/snack on during the Canadian Screen Awards?
Pizza and wine!

Is there someone who served as a mentor when you were starting out in this industry that you’d give a special shout-out to in your acceptance speech if given the chance?
An early supporter of Ghost BFF was Ana Serrano. I don’t think this show would have gotten as far as it did without her initial support. Also, my late acting teacher, Jacqueline McClintock, who always encouraged me to write and create my own work. She is in my heart whenever I step onto set.

Stream the Canadian Screen Awards on the Academy websiteTwitter and YouTube.

Check out the list of nominees.

Monday, May 17, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – News & Documentary, Presented by CBC (Narrator: Ginella Massa)

8 p.m. ET: CTV presents the Canadian Screen Awards – Lifestyle & Reality (Narrator: Priyanka)

Tuesday, May 18, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Children’s & Animation, Presented by Shaw Rocket Fund (Narrator: Eric Bauza)

8 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Digital & Immersive, Presented with the participation of the Independent Production Fund (Narrator: Donté Colley)

Wednesday, May 19, 2021
7 p.m. ET: CTV presents the Canadian Screen Awards – Creative Arts & Performance (Narrator: Tyrone Edwards)

Thursday, May 20, 2021
7 p.m. ET: Canadian Screen Awards – Cinematic Arts, Presented by Telefilm Canada, Supported by Cineplex (Narrator: Nahéma Ricci)

8 p.m. ET: 2021 Canadian Screen Awards (Narrators: Stephan James and Karine Vanasse)

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CBC Gem’s Something Undone a genuine scare-fest

I like my horror/scary projects to be atmospheric. A jump scare is OK, but I prefer a general feeling of unease coupled with a tinge of a slow burn. It’s why I love Something Undone.

Debuting Friday on CBC Gem, Something Undone—created by and starring Madison Walsh and Michael Musi—manages what I thought was unthinkable: a genuinely spooky piece of work encapsulated in a six-episode web series.

And, it was written, produced and filmed during the pandemic. Created through funding from CBC’s Creative Relief Fund, which provided $2 million in development and production funding to a diverse range of original Canadian projects in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CBC’s hook was projects had to be produced under strict COVID-19 guidelines.

“Mike and I started brainstorming,” says Walsh during a recent call. “We thought, ‘What can you maintain the quality and enjoyment of with restrictions on visuals? If we can’t have that many actors, what can we do? If we could only have one location, what could we do?’ That’s when we started to think about sound.” The result is Something Undone.

In the first episode we meet Jo (Walsh), a foley artist and her partner, Farid (Musi), who are the successful hosts of a Canadian true crime podcast. After her mother passes away Jo returns to her small Ontario town to sort through her mother’s things while continuing her foley work on the podcast. With Farid in Newfoundland and only available over the phone, a sense of desolation, loneliness, and unease begins to permeate Jo’s life. A disturbing sound Farid hears in one of Jo’s tracks leads her on a creepy, spooky path. Did the house, or something in it, cause her mother’s death?

“I was doing research about sound and learned that we, as human beings, perceive sound so realistically that we can make them up and hear them almost as if they were actually there,” Musi says. “I think that’s why watching a horror movie in our home is such an amazing experience. It doesn’t end when the movie ends. It stays with us.”

With strict safety guidelines in place early in 2020, Walsh and Musi headed off to write Something Undone in a spot many would consider a scary setting: a cottage in the middle of nowhere with no heat. There, they wrote for 10 days, fleshing out what they had established in the pilot into one big chunk and then found ways to break it up into six episodes with a cliffhanger for each.

And while you can certainly watch Something Undone on your TV via the CBC Gem app—the colour palette, visuals and set decoration are wonderful—watching it with headphones on my laptop revealed a whole other level to the horror. Every little creak and clatter can be heard.

“We spoke to our sound designer and he spent extra time really juicing the sound for direction and to make that audio experience with your headset,” Walsh says. “Because it is sound-based, yeah, go for your headphones.”

Something Undone debuts Friday on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of 4AM Film Studios.

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CBC Gem’s The Communist’s Daughter a funny peek at the 80s in all its excess

My formative years were spent in the 1980s. Though I didn’t know it at the time, the 80s celebrated consumerism and excess. I was, however, aware of the media’s portrayal of Communism—and the Soviet Union, specifically—during that decade through movies like Rocky IV, Red Dawn and then-WWF wrestlers Nikolai Volkoff and Boris Zhukov. And I was aware of how it all came to a head in 1989 when the Berlin Wall tumbled, signifying the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

That time, and the tumult that came with it, is explored in the new web series The Communist’s Daughter. Available now on CBC Gem, the eight first-season episodes are the creation of head writer and director Leah Cameron (Coroner), who has first-hand knowledge of the subject matter.

The Communist’s Daughter is loosely based on Cameron’s childhood: her father was a Communist during the 1980s. As a result, the family car was a Lada, Soviet Life magazine was delivered to the door, and family vacations were to Cuba to support the economy. In the first episode, viewers are introduced to Dunyasha McDougald (Sofia Banzhaf), a 15-year-old living in Toronto in 1989. Happily upholding the beliefs of her father Ian (Aaron Poole) and mother Carol (Jessica Holmes), Dunyasha finds her support of Communism challenged by her first day at high school when she meets Jasmine (Nadine Bhabha) and Marc (Kolton Stewart). (Look for Chris Locke, George Stroumboulopoulos and Neema Nazeri in funny supporting roles.)

It’s been a long road for The Communist’s Daughter. I first spoke to Cameron back in 2018, when she applied to the Independent Production Fund to produce the series. Now, with the debut close at hand, how did she tackle writing the web series?

“By the time I got to shooting the [IPF] teaser, I had a sense of, tonally, what I wanted the show to feel like in terms of comedy and casting,” Cameron says. “I had originally conceived of it as a half-hour comedy, so it was more a process of refining some of the characters and paring things down.” The first TV episode was broken down and served as Episodes 1 and 2 of the web series and a rough season outline followed. Cameron knew she wanted The Communist’s Daughter to be serialized and take place over time, using the frame of Ian running for a local election and Dunyasha beginning her school year in September and the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989.

“It’s a time when the family’s values couldn’t be more out of sync with what’s going on,” she says. “The Reagan 80s are a super-consumerist time, a super-conservative time and a time when I, growing up, said that my dad was a Communist and everybody thought that meant he was an evil person.”

Executive producer Lauren Corber—her LoCo Motion Pictures are behind Detention Adventure and How to Buy a Baby—is always looking for stories that speak to her, an audience for a project and if a creator is bringing something new to the table. She found all three in The Communist’s Daughter.

“Leah and [producer] Natalie Novak did an excellent job with their proof of concept video,” Corber says. “I had worked with Natalie before and was excited to work with her again. Leah came to the project with such a passion for the story. It was just undeniable that she would bring something special to the production.”

The Communist’s Daughter is available now on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of Conor Fisher for Pinko Productions Inc.

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