Everything about Web series, eh?

CBC Gem’s How to Buy a Baby delivers in Season 2

In the first season of How to Buy a Baby, viewers met Jane (Meghan Heffern) and Charlie (Marc Bendavid), a young couple struggling to get pregnant. From hormone injections to faulty testes and uterine walls, How to Buy a Baby opened the door to hilarity and much-needed openess about infertility.

Jane and Charlie are back for a second season—dropping on CBC Gem on August 23—tackling the next logical step in their journey: adoption.

“This is based on my own experiences and I wanted to portray things as authentically as I could,” says Wendy Litner, How to Buy a Baby‘s creator. “Because my husband and I moved on to adoption that seemed like the logical next step.” Litner—who has written for The Globe and Mail penned a blog for Today’s Parent about How to Buy a Baby.

“I really felt like I connected with Wendy and the subject matter,” Heffern says during a recent phone call. “And I really loved the idea of playing a normal woman. In some of the other roles I’ve had I’ve played sci-fi villains or very heightened versions of a normal person. It was exciting to play someone grounded in reality.”

In the first instalment of Season 2, Jane and Charlie are stressing over an upcoming visit from an adoption agency worker. But before that, Charlie runs through a questionaire they need to answer. Among the queries: will they accept a baby that was the result of a rape or incest? Once Stan (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll) arrives things escalate. He has his own questions and suggestions about how Jane and Charlie can improve their chances at adopting a baby, namely ensuring Christmas happens despite Charlie being Jewish. Outrageous? Yes. But, they are exactly the questions Litner and her husband were asked during their adoption process.

“I was actually shocked by the questions when we were filling out the questionnaire,” Litner recalls. “How often did we have sex? I mean, what is the right answer to that?! It was so jarring and they delve so deep into every aspect of your life.

“Although, you are getting a child, so I can understand why they want to make sure your electrical outlets are up to code.”

How to Buy a Baby is streaming on CBC Gem.

Image courtesy of LoCo Motion Pictures.


Preview: Save Me doles out excellent new episodes on CBC Gem

I was instantly enthralled with the first season of Save Me. Created, written and directed by Fab Filippo, the dark comedy follows Toronto EMT Goldie (Filippo) and his assorted partners (Amy Matysio and Suresh John are two), as they arrive on the scene of 911 calls.

The twist in the storytelling is Goldie et al. are the through line connecting those making an emergency call rather than being the mains. That’s not to say we don’t get some back story into Goldie and his fellow EMTs lives, but they’re not the focus.

The second chunk of new episodes have landed on CBC Gem—produced by Lisa Baylin—and they’re as strong as the first. The Canadian Screen Award-nominated program is in fine fettle, boasting not only great scenarios for EMTs Goldie, Dogf***er (John), Kevlar (Matysio) and Bizemmingway (John Bourgeois), but a plethora of guest performances by Schitt’s Creek‘s Emily Hampshire, Frankie Drake Mysteries‘ Rebecca Liddiard, Bad Blood‘s Lisa Berry, Kim’s Convenience‘s Andrew Phung, Hudson & Rex‘s Kevin Hanchard, Scott Thompson and Nicholas Campbell.

In the first instalment, it’s all hands on deck as the EMTs—including rookie Hubcap (Heartland‘s Kataem O’Connor)—are called to the scene of multiple ecstasy overdoses suffered by aging couples looking for some fun. Watching Thompson, Hanchard and Fiona Highet tripping out is something to behold. But where there is comedy, tragedy follows, and how each of the paramedics deals with it is also what makes Save Me so engaging. In just a few short minutes in each episode, the web series is able to jump from laughter to tears, while exploring the PTSD first responders experience.

In Episode 2, two men choose to trim some hedges using a lawnmower. It has the predictable, bloody, result, but also reveals a shift in the tale I didn’t see coming. You never know what’s going on in the lives of the folks calling 911; Save Me goes there with spectacular results.

Season 2 of Save Me is on CBC Gem.

Image courtesy of CBC.


Winnifred Jong explores diversity and inclusion in Tokens

With diversity and inclusion hot-button topics, Tokens couldn’t be more timely. Or scathingly on point.

Created by Winnifred Jong, the digital series—available online now—skewers representation in the entertainment industry through Tokens on Call, a casting agency that sends over actors of any stripe to a production in dire need of someone to fill a role. Whoever happens to be on call is sent, fulfilling the diversity quota for that project.

“This is a commentary on the fact that, because there are so many choices for every role, people tend to bring in people that they know,” Jong says during a recent phone call. “Until you try to create a change in the dynamic, there is no change.” For Sammie Pang (Connie Wang), that means being cast as a well-built tattooed bouncer who takes out her enemies using kung fu. Written, directed and produced by Jong and produced by Trinni Franke, the eight-part series stars a plethora of familiar faces in Sharron Matthews, Daniel Maslany, Shelley Thompson, Jonathan Cherry, Christina Song, Russell Yuen and Amy Matysio as members of Sammie’s family of part of the productions she works on.

Three people sit on a couch, side by side, wearing the same clothes.One of the most outrageous scenes in Tokens finds Sammie, Demar (Ryan Allen) and Vasant (Gabe Grey) playing triplets in a scene. It’s giggle-inducing and outrageous and part of Jong’s commentary.

Known for directing episodes of Coroner and Private Eyes, the Frankie Drake digital series A Cold Case and Global’s upcoming medical drama, Nurses, Jong has been juggling making Tokens between paying gigs, and called on favours from actors to help her make it. She cast Matthews—the two worked together when Jong was a script supervisor on Frankie Drake Mysteries—after sending the flame-haired actress all eight episode scripts and letting her choose her favourite role.

“I told her, ‘If you want any role, you can have it,'” Jong recalls. “She came back and said, ‘I’d like to be Director No. 2.”

Season 1 of Tokens is available online now.

Images courtesy of A Token Entertainment Company.


Supinder Wraich’s superb digital series The 410 debuts on CBC Gem

Supinder Wraich began writing The 410 because she wanted to educate herself on the world her family is a part of. She learned a lot.

The three-part digital series, available now on CBC Gem, focuses on Suri (Wraich), a young South Asian woman who goes from social media influencer to drug dealer after her truck driver father (Gugan Deep Singh) is arrested for trafficking drugs. Wraich, who wrote The 410, based the show’s premise on news stories about Indo-Canadian truck drivers being arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs. Her family runs a truck driving school, and Wraich was surprised at how readily people shared stories about the crimes.

“There was a nonchalance with how I got the information,” Wraich says. “There wasn’t shame about it, which I was surprised by. It was, ‘Yes, this happened and this is the information that you’re looking for.'” Wraich got a lot of detail from her father, who had been approached early in his career to hide drugs in his truck. The 410‘s content didn’t hold up production either; the community opened its doors to filming in a gurdwara because they wanted the story told.

“My goal is to get this out to the community, to watch it and to say, ‘Yeah, it’s OK if somebody you know is in jail or if someone you know is suffering from depression, or you don’t have a strong relationship with your father,” Wraich says. “It’s very important for us to see ourselves on screen, so our personal issues don’t feel so isolated.”

A woman kneads bread dough.When viewers first meet Suri, she’s cocky, self-absorbed, dressed up and posting a video with the city as her backdrop. By the end of the first instalment, she’s stripped bare emotionally and physically, stunned by her father’s secret life and the hundreds of thousands in bail money she must raise. Caught in the middle is Nani (Balinder Johal), Suri’s maternal grandmother, who shuffles around her home, making chai and questioning her granddaughter’s life choices. Throw in cop ex-boyfriend JJ (Jade Hassouné) and a mysterious dude named Billa (Cas Anvar), and there are plenty of folks to complicate Suri’s plans.

Aside from the compelling storyline and performances is The 410‘s look, feel and soundtrack; it has the vibe of a music video, something Wraich credits to director Renuka Jeyapalan. She stresses the project was a true collaboration from Day 1, with producer Anya McKenzie, writer Hannah Cheesman and executive producer Matt Power all helping out immensely. That help extended to Wraich’s family too; she filmed in her parents’ Rexdale, Ont., home and things didn’t always run smoothly.

“We took over their house for eight or nine of the 12 days of production and worked around them,” she recalls. “There were times  where my dad had fallen asleep on the couch and was snoring, so we had cut a take and I’d say, ‘Dad, wake up!’ And then we’d go back to filming.”

Season 1 of The 410 can be streamed on CBC Gem.

Images courtesy of CBC.


Babe Nation Films and Vanessa Matsui announce production on Season 2 of Ghost BFF

From a media release:

Back by popular demand, Babe Nation Films and actress/writer/producer Vanessa Matsui are proud to reveal that the second season of the praised digital comedy series, GHOST BFF, has been greenlit and will begin filming in Toronto this summer.

Ghost BFF follows two best friends, one alive, one dead, across space, time and the suburbs as they struggle to find themselves and right past wrongs following a suicide.

The series will continue to challenge the stigma regarding mental health conversation, by building on the foundation set in season one. The second season of Ghost BFF promises to bring even more light, laughter, and openness to rather taboo topics like depression and suicide.

The series, created, directed, and written by Canadian Screen Award-nominated actress, Vanessa Matsui (The Handmaids Tale, Shadowhunters, The Smurfs 2) and produced and co-written by Babe Nation’s Katie Nolan, will be available for stream on Elizabeth Banks co-founded platform, WhoHaha and Whohaha channels.

“Creating the first season of GHOST BFF was an absolute dream come true,” share Matsui and Nolan. “We were overwhelmed with the amount of the love and acceptance we received from our audiences after watching the first season, that we knew we needed to create more. We are beyond excited to bring back these beloved characters for a second season, and will continue to encourage these important conversations surrounding mental health awareness”.

The series has been nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards. One for 2019 Best Web Program or Series, Fiction; and one for 2019 Best Lead Performance, Web Program or Series for actress/writer/co-creator Vanessa Matsui.