Tag Archives: Fab Filippo

Sort Of: Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo tease CBC’s most ambitious show

It’s part of CBC’s mandate to tell Canadian stories. To reflect the faces we see in our communities from coast to coast. So it was a true pleasure when the public broadcaster announced Sort Of would be headed our way.

Debuting Tuesday on CBC Gem before bowing next month on CBC, Sort Of is ambitious, hilarious and heartfelt. Co-created by Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo (Save Me), Sort Of tells the story of Sabi Mehboob (Baig), a fluid millennial who straddles various identities from a bartender at an LGBTQ bookstore/bar, to the youngest child in a Pakistani family, to the de facto parent of a downtown hipster family.

In the debut episode, “Sort Of Gone,” Sabi contemplates an opportunity that would change their life until an accident puts their new plans in jeopardy. With a cast boasting Grace Lynn Kung, Supinder Wraich, Alana Bale, Amanda Cordner and Gray Powell, Sort Of is definitely great. We spoke to Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo ahead of the show’s debut on CBC Gem.

Bilal, the idea for Sort Of came while you and Fab chatted during breaks a play you were both performing in, Theory. What was it about those conversations that got you excited about working with Fab?
Bilal Baig: I appreciated the sense of humour. I thought there was something really fun in figuring out what tickles each other. We had a similar sensibility in that our humour isn’t slapstick. I had also consumed both seasons of Save Me and got a sense that his sense of humour could be twisted too, and I’m all about that.

The other part of it was that he not only met me at every point in the making of this together, but he really brought his heart into it and I really appreciated that as a collaborator. It was really important that this was something we were really going to pour ourselves into.

Fab, what excited you about collaborating with Bilal?
Fab Filippo: Right off the bat, I got the sense that Bilal had an unusually clear voice for someone their age. I was taken by how they moved in the world and how much generosity they had in the world toward other people in helping see who they are.

At first, it was getting together to hang. And then, when we discovered we laughed at the same stuff and started to pitch ideas back and forth, it became really clear that there was a kinship and a kind of understanding of how to move forward in collaboration.

Sort Of co-creator Fab Filippo

Bilal, there is a lot of heart in Sort Of. Near the end of Episode 1 is a wonderful and funny scene between Sabi and their mother. Can you talk about walking the line in those moments?
BB: The word I’ve been using is truth. We didn’t go into this looking to load every episode with as many huge, knee-slapping jokes as possible. It was more, ‘What feels truthful in this moment? What would these characters actually say and do?’ What I love about that scene, in particular, is that there are these other messages inside the words that actually come out of peoples’ mouths and to strive for that is really exciting. It goes back to the type of humour Fab and I like and working with the writers we did—Jenn Engels, Ian Iqbal Rashid and Nelu Handa—they all got on board too.

Fab, how did the writing room work, with COVID?
FF: A lot of marathon Zoom meetings. [Laughs.] It was interesting to open it up to a writing room. It was, for the longest time, Bilal and I with the project. And then there is this vulnerability when you bring it to a room with the thoughts and ideas we had in our own, private, world. But they brought so much and added some much texture and dimension.

BB: It was kind of hard to step into my power because I was so in awe of these people who had come to serve this story. It’s one thing to create something on your own, but a whole other thing to have a room full of people dedicated to wanting to honour the vision. It was actually through Fab bringing me more and more into the process and reminding me that people want to hear from you and your voice is essential to all of this. I think I had forgotten that because I was so enamoured and scared.

Having two other South Asian folks in the room, the onus wasn’t just on one of us to get it right 100 percent of the time. If I missed something from our community, Nelu or Ian would step in. That was such a privilege.

Sort Of is available for streaming on CBC Gem on Tuesday. Sort Of debuts Tuesday, November 9, at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.

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CBC greenlights Sort Of, from creators Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo

From a media release:

CBC has greenlit new original comedy SORT OF (8×30) from Sienna Films (Trickster, Cardinal). Created by Bilal Baig (Acha Bacha) and Fab Filippo (Save Me) and starring Baig, SORT OF is a big-hearted series about Sabi Mehboob (Baig), a fluid millennial who straddles various identities from sexy bartender at an LGBTQ bookstore/bar, to the youngest child in a large Pakistani family, to the de facto parent of a downtown hipster family. Sabi feels like they’re in transition in every aspect of their life, from gender to love to sexuality to family to career. The half-hour single-camera comedy begins production in Toronto today.

In addition to Baig, the cast includes Gray Powell (Hudson & Rex, Designated Survivor), Amanda Cordner (Baroness von Sketch Show, The Expanse), Ellora Patnaik (Kim’s Convenience, Schitt’s Creek), Grace Lynn Kung (Transplant, Star Trek: Discovery), Supinder Wraich (The 410, Crawford), Kaya Kanashiro, Aden Bedard, Gregory Ambrose Calderone (This Movie is Broken, Salvation) and Alanna Bale (Cardinal, Killjoys).

When Sabi’s best friend 7ven (Cordner) presents them with an opportunity to live and find themself in the “queerest place in the galaxy,” Sabi instead makes the decision to stay and care for the kids they nanny after their mom has a serious bike accident. Do they regret it? Sort of. A coming-of-age story, SORT OF exposes the labels we once poured ourselves into as no longer applicable…to anyone. A show about how each and every one of us is in transition. Sort of.

A CBC original series produced by Sienna Films, SORT OF is created by Bilal Baig and Fab Filippo, who also serve as showrunners and executive producers. The series is written by Baig, Filippo, Jenn Engels, Nelu Handa and Ian Iqbal Rashid, with Filippo and Renuka Jeyapalan (Kim’s Convenience, Workin’ Moms) directing. Sienna Films’ Jennifer Kawaja and Julia Sereny are also executive producers.

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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.

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CBC’s anthology web series Save Me is instantly bingeworthy

It’s easy to tell when a television network is truly behind one of their projects. Clearly, CBC is fully supporting Save Me. How could I tell? A half-day of interviews for show creator, writer and director Fab Filippo and producer Lisa Baylin, and a Facebook Live session for the duo plus actors Amy Matysio, Emma Hunter and Suresh John, who co-star in some of the show’s 10 episodes.

Save Me is a web series, but it’s getting the same attention from the network Still Standing or Baroness Von Sketch Show would. There’s a reason: Save Me is damned good.

Now available on CBC’s website, Save Me follows Toronto EMT Goldie (Filippo) and his assorted partners (Matysio and John are two), as they arrive on the scene of 911 calls. The twist? The paramedics are the through line connecting the people making an emergency call rather than being the focus. That’s not to say we don’t get some back story into Goldie and his fellow EMTs lives—we do—but they’re not the focus.

“Lisa called me and said, ‘Do you have anything?'” Filippo recalls during a chat at CBC’s Toronto headquarters. “It wasn’t on HBO yet, but I had been watching High Maintenance and it had the structure of it wasn’t about the pot dealer, it was about the people who bought the pot. I loved that structure because it was an anthology but had the groundedness of wanting to tune in and see the same person every week.” The former Being Erica and Billable Hours actor has a friend—nicknamed Meeps—who is an EMT and Filippo thought that career could fit into a structure like High Maintenance. Baylin agreed. Filippo went on a ridealong with Meeps, made some notes, and bounced ideas around with Baylin. A year and half later and Save Me is online.

A shot from Episode 3 of Save Me, “Possible Anaphylaxis.”

“We produce a variety of shows and are known as trailblazers because we’re always testing different models in the digital space,” Baylin, vice-president of content and production for iThentic, says. “I really wanted to do an anthology series and was looking for the right story. When Fab mentioned the paramedics, we thought it had a very natural feel for an anthology show. We could have these great emergencies and opportunities to stunt cast.” Baylin describes fleshing out the stories of people from all walks of life across Toronto, crafting the characters and approaching actors to participate in one or two shoot days for a four to 10-minute episode.

Save Me‘s guest cast is a 46-person who’s who from the television and theatre world. Brent Carver, Michael Healey, Paul Braunstein, Jean Yoon, Sonja Smits, John Bourgeois, Tony Nappo, Mayko Nguyen and Sugith Varughese are just a sampling of the talent who drop by to play instantly memorable characters. A sample: Emma Hunter portrays Cora, a woman in Episode 1, “H.B.D.,” who grows increasing drunk at a birthday brunch and then suffers a grievously hilarious injury. But for every funny moment—and there are many like “Possible Anaphylaxis”—Save Me offers thoughtfulness and hope too; scenes between Goldie and Kevlar (Matysio) are downright romantic.

“The biggest challenge was the time constraint,” Filippo says. “Mixing the genres wasn’t tough for me because that’s what I love the stuff that’s dark and makes me laugh. I was studying short form content because I didn’t want this to be a slice of life where it ends and you don’t get resolution. I wanted to build each moment so, at the end, you went, ‘OK, I just watched a story.'”

Season 1 of Save Me is available on CBC’s website.

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