Tag Archives: CBC Gem

CBC Gem’s Decoys is a heartfelt mockumentary on par with Best in Show

It’s been almost a year and a half since I spoke to David Pelech about his web series, Decoys. Back then, the Canadian creator—who was also an associate producer on the pro wrestling film Fighting with My Family—was one of over a dozen projects seeking IPF Funding. Decoys received it, and now it’s set to debut on CBC Gem.

Created and written by Pelech—who most recently got the all-clear on a post-camping COVID-19 test—Decoys is a mockumentary series in the vein of the Christopher Guest classic Best in Show. Rooted in fact, Decoys follows a handful of Canadians as they carve their way into a competition for top bird at the Northern Alberta Carving Cup (NACC).

In Episode 1, we’re introduced to Donald (Pelech), a young man who takes up duck decoy carving to connect with his recently deceased dad; Margaret (Kelly Van der Burg), his outgoing girlfriend who tolerates his hobby; Amandeep (Rup Magon), a recent immigrant to Canada using duck carving as a way to integrate himself into Canadian culture; Simran (Nelu Handa) is his supportive wife; Mary Jane (Alice Moran), Frank Brunswick (Brian Paul) and Zeke (Keram Malicki-Sánchez) are veteran competitors; Rhett (Brandon Oakes) is the original bad boy of Alberta carving; Barb (Tracey Hoyt) and Dennis (Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll) represent the Planning Committee for the NACC.

We caught up with Pelech to talk about Decoys‘ road to CBC Gem.

It could be so easy to just take this as straight-up mockery, but knowing about you and your family and this background, it still blows my mind that this is an actual thing and that people do these for competition.
David Pelech: Yes, the subcultures that exist once you start poking around are quite vast, and this is just one of the entertaining ones that I find particularly entertaining.

You initially told me that we would be following these people all the way through to the end of the competition. Were you able to stick to that original plan?
DP: Yeah. We see them begin their journey more or less, the carvers beginning their carvings, setting out and why they’re doing it, and Barb and Dennis and their struggles getting this off the ground. We follow through to the end of the Northern Alberta Carving Competition, and you see who is crowned the champion.

In your initial planning, was there a Barb and Dennis, or was that a late decision?
DP: Once I had to get down to brass tacks to scripting out the entire series … we had an outline and a bible, but I had to start putting the episodes down on the page. Part of the development process was discovering the delightful characters that were Barb and Dennis, because there were constraints on the time and the size of the episodes, so we could only have so many competitors. One way to really round out the ensemble was to have Barb and Dennis, the organizers, appear and be featured throughout to kind of guide us through how they put the event on, and the kind of behind-the-scenes intrigue. It was just a fun way and it was discovered in the writing processes that they’re fun, interested, and very representative of what these hobbies and crafts require, which is dedicated volunteers who care deeply about it.

One of the things that I love about the character of Donald is that you can see that he’s trying to connect with something that he lost when his father died. You have that heart, you’re cheering for this guy because he misses his dad and this is his only connection.
DP: Thank you. I appreciate that. It’s always the challenge of trying to balance those, as I say, some bigger performances and some frankly off-the-wall comedy scenes with that heart and that intention. I’m very proud of everyone who was willing to hold together with that notion that we were trying something that does try to pluck at the heartstrings as well as make you laugh.

For every sweet moment, there’s Brandon Oakes coming in there as Rhett just messing things up. He’s so good!
DP: Yeah. He’s fantastic. As a performer, being able to perform with him, that was pretty special. There were a few scenes that we did that, it was just amazing. He’s so talented. I think he had a really good time having some comedy things to play with because I’m not sure he always gets that, so it was fun to let him have some freedom and do things that were a little sillier or raunchier than he usually does.

The director for Decoys is Sebastian Cluer. Had you worked with Sebastian before and what was that experience like?
DP: I had not worked with him before and the experience was extremely positive. We were doing about nine pages a day and what Sebastian brought to the table, and I’m sure you know that his experience with Kenny vs. Spenny and things like that, allow him to very quickly capture the essential stuff in a very loose way, but he’s not missing anything. He does a lot of almost pre-cutting it in a way in his head, so he knows camera positions, he knows timing the cues, things like that. Then we were motoring, the operators had the cameras on their shoulders for 95 percent of the day. We were working very hard to get all of the material and let the performers have improv takes. Seb was very strong and very committed and he bought in completely and he just kept us calm and moving forward, and just on a pace that was manageable, but not burning everyone into the ground. It was great.

Do you have a plan in place if there’s going to be another season?
DP: I can only give you a hint at what I’m thinking, but there are national woodworking competitions. Just put that in the back of your mind, there are national woodworking competitions.

Season 1 of Decoys is available on CBC Gem on July 17. Get a sneak peek at the show and the characters.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Schitt’s Creek says goodbye with tear-filled Best Wishes, Warmest Regards

“It’s a double cry night.”

That’s the promise delivered by Amy Segal, describing Tuesday’s series finale of Schitt’s Creek at 8 p.m., on CBC and the one-hour documentary that follows it, Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell, at 8:30 p.m. Segal knows of what she speaks since she’s been working on Schitt’s Creek from Day 1, having produced and directed all 52 scripted webisodes, as well as Behind the Episodes. 

Segal, who got her start on CTV’s etalk before segueing to The Hills Aftershow, met and became friends with Schitt’s Creek co-creator Daniel Levy. Now, with the final episode of six seasons upon us, we spoke to Segal about her experiences working on Schitt’s Creek, and what fans can expect when they tune in to Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell.

What are the unique challenges that you run into when you’re filming the Behind the Episodes segments?
Amy Segal: The Behind the Episodes were fun. We ended up shooting them all day, and by the end, we were exhausted. But they talked for a solid 20 to 30 minutes for each show, and I had to pare it down two and a half, three minutes. I know, it’s difficult, but it’s fun. I always have a good time.

Are you making notes while they’re talking and saying, ‘OK, I think this might make for a good soundbite or short conversation.’ Or do you wait until you’re in the editing suite after? How does that work?
AS: I’m always listening and I’m asking them questions and leading the conversation a little bit. I definitely take notes, but I think it comes down to see how it flows in the edit. I edit everything myself, so it’s sort of picking and choosing what I like and having to get rid of things that I do like because it’s too long. But I’m just really making sure that I know I have content before we finish wrapping up. I definitely take notes and I go in with, so I know what parts I want to highlight.

What were some of the logistics behind filming Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell? How much filming did you do for that?
AS: So much. I originally wanted to do the 44-minute version, and then an actual documentary length version. I’m hoping that will maybe find its way somewhere, eventually, because like I do with the behind the episodes, I had to cut so much gold and it crushed me. You want to get in the important things, but it doesn’t leave a lot of room for longer moments and pauses, and that was hard for me to get over.

It’s a celebration of the show and the fans and the cultural impact that the show has had. So there was a lot to say, and at the same time, I really wanted to show what it was like to make a final season of a show. Because it’s not easy. We started in the writer’s room in Los Angeles, in their incubation room in November 2018. And then we shot for almost a year and a half.

Who floated that idea of there being a farewell documentary?
AS: It was Dan and I. It’s always been my dream to make a documentary and we were talking and I said, ‘What if we do something for the last season?’ Because we were fans of Girls and they did a miniature, not really a documentary, but like a little clip show kind of thing. Originally, the intention was a look back, interviewing the cast and just their favourite moments, highlights, whatever. And then it ended up turning into a much bigger beast, a celebration of the show and just seeing the process of it.

You’ve been with the show since Day 1. How does it feel to be for this all to be ending on Tuesday?
AS: Oh gosh. It’s devastating. It’s a huge part of all of our lives. And it’s weird because now is the time we usually go back to set and start prepping for the next season. And it is sad. The last shows started airing, and I’ve been so preoccupied with making this that I haven’t really had a moment to think. But now that it’s winding up, it’s kind of a surreal moment. But, yeah, very sad.

I’ve been a fan of Schitt’s Creek from the very beginning and have been getting a lump in my throat as we get closer to the end and to the wedding. What’s the cultural impact from your standpoint that Schitt’s Creek has had on us?
AS: That was another reason I wanted to make the documentary. In Canada, we’re so removed from Hollywood and that world and the first four seasons were just like any other television show that we’ve worked on. The fan base just started to get really into it. Dan would show me messages that he had gotten from fans and people even messaged me, which is so nice.

The fans are just so lovely and there were so many stories that were so positive and beautiful … kids coming out to their parents … and then I met fans on the tour … their parents have embraced them because they watched Johnny and Moira embrace David.

Amy, can you pretty much guarantee that if you’re a fan of the show, that someone like myself is going to cry after watching this special?
AS: You will 110% be bawling at the end. A good, therapeutic cry. You’ll cry at the end of the episode as well. It’s a double cry night.

Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell airs Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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Filming in Winnipeg has begun on Entertainment One’s Burden of Truth Season 3 for CBC

From a media release:

Entertainment One (eOne), ICF Films and Eagle Vision today announced that cameras are rolling on Season 3 of CBC original drama series Burden of Truth (8×60). Following attorney Joanna Chang (Kristin Kreuk; Smallville, Beauty and the Beast), Burden of Truth continues production in Winnipeg until late October. Burden of Truth airs on CBC in Canada and the CW in the US.

In Season 2, corporate attorney Joanna Chang was dragged into the shadowy world of hackers and activists in a case that threatened her life. In the new season Joanna and Billy Crawford are working together in their new boutique law firm, Crawford Chang, when an old friend abruptly re-enters Joanna’s life in desperate need of help. To save her friend, Joanna must take on an impossible-to-win case and confront a long-buried secret from her childhood that may threaten her relationship and partnership with Billy. After this case, nothing will be the same again.

Reprising their roles for Season 3 are Peter Mooney (Rookie Blue, Saving Hope) as Billy Crawford, Millwood’s local attorney; Star Slade (Emerald Code) as Luna Spence; Meegwun Fairbrother (Mohawk Girls, Hemlock Grove) as Officer Owen Beckbie; and Anwen O’Driscoll (Emerald Code, Flint) as Taylor Matheson.

A CBC original series, Burden of Truth is produced by ICF Films, Entertainment One and Eagle Vision. The series is created by Brad Simpson (Rookie Blue, King). Adam Pettle (Saving Hope, Nurses) returns as showrunner and will also write on Season 3. Burden of Truth is executive produced by Ilana Frank (Saving Hope, Rookie Blue, The Detail), Adam Pettle, Linda Pope (Saving Hope, Rookie Blue, The Detail), Brad Simpson, Jocelyn Hamilton (Mary Kills People, Cardinal), Kristin Kreuk and Eagle Vision’s Kyle Irving (Taken, Ice Road Truckers, Lovesick). Co-Executive producers are Lisa Meeches (Taken, Ice Road Truckers) and Tyson Caron (Lovesick, Wynter). For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Programming; Trish Williams is Executive Director, Scripted Content; Helen Asimakis is Senior Director, Scripted Content; and Sarah Adams is Executive in Charge of Production.

BURDEN OF TRUTH is produced with the participation of the Canada Media Fund and Manitoba Film and Music, and with the assistance of the Government of Manitoba – Manitoba Film & Video Production Tax Credit, the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit and the Canadian Film or Video Tax Credit. eOne holds worldwide distribution rights to the series.

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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.

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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.

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