Tag Archives: Miranda de Pencier

Epic eight-part Black Canadian history docuseries, Black Life: A Canadian History, greenlit by CBC

From a media release:

Black Life: A Canadian History, a sweeping eight-part docuseries exploring the rich history of the Black experience in Canada has been greenlit by CBC, showrunner Leslie Norville and CBC announced today. In addition to Norville and Northwood Entertainment’s Miranda de Pencier, an exceptional cadre of creative talent, activists, and historical and cultural consultants helm this epic television event. Philanthropist and NHL All-Star P.K. Subban (Ugly Duck Productions) is on board to executive produce as is multi-hyphenate Nelson George, and co-executive producer and Black Lives Matter (Canada) co-founder Sandy Hudson. Norville and de Pencier have also assembled an unparalleled team of consulting producers and writers to bring this complex and riveting story to life. The consulting producers, who have a substantial and ongoing role in shaping the series, include former Governor General the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, rapper and broadcaster Shad (Shadrach Kabango), and activist Ravyn Wngz. The producers will partner with eight Black Canadian directors, one for each episode, who will bring their unique approach and style to the series. Black Life: A Canadian History (8×60) premieres on CBC and CBC Gem in 2023.

Black Life: A Canadian History seeks to inform audiences of the vital role that Black Canadians have played in shaping our country while presenting an unvarnished examination of the picture mainstream culture has painted of Canada as a sanctuary. While tracing the complex and hopeful stories of Black Canada, the series reveals the truths of a history fraught with violence, racism, hardship, and perseverance. Black Life: A Canadian History illuminates the struggles and triumphs of Black Canadians, and celebrates the contributions of both famous and lesser-known individuals. Epic in scope, the series spans more than 400 years with an eye towards contemporary issues, culture, politics, music, art, and sports.

“The docuseries will be an honest and nuanced look at Black Canadian history – and while some may find this uncomfortable, it’s critical to understand and grapple with the complexities of Canada’s past,” said Leslie Norville, showrunner and executive producer. “I couldn’t ask for a more talented team to help bring this rich history to audiences and to explore and celebrate the stories and people whose contributions have shaped the country we know today. Miranda and I are delighted that Black Life: A Canadian History has found a home at CBC and value their support and enthusiasm for the project.”

Additionally, Studio 112 and Northwood Entertainment have gathered a preeminent group of historical/cultural consultants, academics, and writers to faithfully render the story of Black Canada, including David Austin, Dr. Claudine Bonner, Dr. Afua Cooper, Annette Henry, Issac Saney, Dr. Rinaldo Walcott, Dr. Dorothy W. Williams, and top writer Jael Richardson.

“One of the many things that attracts me to this project is that it connects events across 400 years of history to the present day,” said Sandy Hudson, co-executive producer. “Reckoning with the past and confronting our present can be a foundation through which we imagine and build liberatory Black futures.”

“I can’t wait to share the educational and engrossing stories of Black Life: A Canadian History,” said P.K. Subban, executive producer. “We’re pushing the boundaries of conventional storytelling to create a series that is gripping and dramatic in a way that audiences haven’t seen before. The inclusion of everything from civil rights to sports, and justice to music, is sure to engage viewers across the country and around the globe.”

“CBC is honoured to partner with this remarkable team to bring the untold history of Black Canadians to audiences across the country with authenticity and depth, led by the lived experiences, insight and perspectives of Black storytellers,” said Sally Catto, General Manager, Entertainment, Factual & Sports, CBC.

SELECT CREATIVE AND PRODUCING TEAM BIOS:

Leslie Norville is an award-winning producer and alumnus of the prestigious Sundance Documentary Creative Producing Fellowship. Select credits include A Ballerina’s Tale; Brooklyn Boheme; Disdain The Mundane; Finding The Funk; Any Given Day; and the upcoming The First Wave.

Miranda de Pencier is an award-winning producer and director. Select credits include the critically acclaimed and award-winning Anne with an E, The Grizzlies, Beginners, and Thanks For Sharing.

P.K. Subban is one of the most dynamic athletes and personalities in sports. Known not only as an All-Star NHL defenseman for the New Jersey Devils, Subban is also an ardent philanthropist, entrepreneur, producer, and fashion enthusiast. Subban launched Ugly Duck Productions in 2019.

Nelson George (Good Hair, The Get Down, A Ballerina’s Tale, Finding the Funk, Dear Mama: The Life and Times of Afeni and Tupac Shakur) is a best-selling author, columnist, music and culture critic, journalist, and filmmaker who has specialized in documenting Black culture in North America for more than 40 years.

Sandy Hudson is an activist, multidisciplinary creative, and an award-winning author with a talent for inspiring others to imagine just futures. She founded the Black Lives Matter movement presence in Canada; co-founded Black Lives Matter (Toronto) and the Black Legal Action Centre; and co-authored the best-selling anthology, Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter in Canada.

The Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean is Canadian stateswoman, diplomat, and former journalist who served as the 27th Governor General of Canada. She became the UNESCO Special Envoy to support reconstruction efforts in Haiti, and later served as Chancellor of the University of Ottawa and the third Secretary General of La Francophonie (OIF). She is also the co-chair, alongside her husband, filmmaker Jean-Daniel Lafond, the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, whose programs support vulnerable young people in Canada through the power of the arts and culture, education, and training.

Shadrach Kabango is an award-winning Canadian rapper and broadcaster. He hosts HBO’s Peabody Award-winning doc series Hip-Hop Evolution and is the former host of CBC’s q.

Ravyn Wngz is an African, Bermudian, Mohawk, 2Spirit, queer and transcendent individual. She is a member of the Toronto Black Lives Matter (BLM-TO) Steering Committee; a co-founder of ILL NANA/DiverseCity Dance Company; and the artistic director of OVA (Outrageous Victorious Africans Collective).

Jael Richardson is the author of Gutter Child and The Stone Thrower: A Daughter’s Lesson, a Father’s Life – a memoir based on her relationship with her father, CFL quarterback Chuck Ealey. She is a book columnist, guest host on CBC’s q, and is the founder and executive director of the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD).

David Austin, in addition to producing and writing radio documentaries, is a professor and an award-winning author of Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal. He currently teaches in the Humanities, Philosophy, and Religion Department at John Abbott College and the McGill University’s Institute for the Study of Canada.

Dr. Claudine Bonner is a member of the Sociology Department and Women’s and Gender Studies program at Acadia University. Her research is grounded in African Canadian history, and broadly applied in analyses of race, gender, education, and identity in contemporary Canada.

Dr. Afua Cooper is a Jamaican-born Canadian historian, author, poet, and professor of Black Canadian studies at Dalhousie University where she led the creation of a program in Black and African diaspora studies. She was named poet laureate for the city of Halifax in 2018 and has released several collections and albums of poetry.

Annette Henry is an author and professor at UBC in the Department of Language and Literacy Education and cross-appointed to the Institute for Race, Gender, Sexuality and Social Justice. Her scholarship examines race, class, language, gender and culture in socio-cultural contexts of teaching and learning in the lives of Black students, Black oral histories, and Black women teachers’ practice in Canada, the U.S., and the Caribbean.

Isaac Saney is a professor and author; he holds a PhD in history from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London in the UK. His teaching has encompassed courses on Africa, the Caribbean, Cuba, and Black Canadian history. He is also an Adjunct Professor in history at Saint Mary’s University.

Dr. Rinaldo Walcott is an author and a professor of Black Diaspora Cultural Studies at the University of Toronto. His teaching and research is focused on Black diaspora cultural studies and postcolonial studies with an emphasis on questions of sexuality, gender, nation, citizenship, and multiculturalism. Walcott is the author/editor of several books including Black Like Who: Writing Black Canada.

Dr. Dorothy Williams is a historian and author who specializes in Black Canadian history. She has authored three books including Blacks in Montreal: 1628-1986 An Urban Demography and The Road to Now: A History of Blacks in Montreal.

Black Life: A Canadian History is produced by Studio 112 in association with Northwood Entertainment, and Ugly Duck. The executive producers are Leslie Norville, P.K. Subban, Miranda de Pencier, Nelson George, and with Sandy Hudson serving as co-executive producer. Consulting producers are the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Shadrach Kabango, and Ravyn Wngz.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Miranda de Pencier describes the detail that goes into Anne with an E

I’ve been impressed with Anne with an E from its debut on CBC. The scripts have been amazing, the performances stellar—and scored trophies for Amybeth McNulty, Geraldine James and R.H. Thomson—the sets sublime and the wardrobe incredible.

That’s all by design says executive producer Miranda de Pencier, who along with fellow executive producer and showrunner Moira Walley-Beckett have taken L.M. Montogomery’s creation and truly made it their own. We recently spoke to de Pencier about the importance of being authentic when creating a show like this.

Anne is 16 this season and the hormones are raging. It seems as though all the girls are interested in the boys, but the boys seem to be pretty clueless when it comes to this relationship thing.
Miranda de Pencier: Well, and isn’t that just reality? As we all know, boys develop a little slower than and, eventually, you guys catch up. It’s fun to explore it, and I think there’s going to be a lot of surprises and a lot of relationships blooming and bursting that will be fun for the audience to see.

In the second season of Anne with an E, we had people of colour on the show. In this third season, we’ve got Indigenous characters. Are these are organic things that have been touchpoints for you and Moira Walley-Beckett along the way?
MDP: It has been organic. I think it’s also what’s going on in the world, but also what’s interesting to us. Back in the first season, Moira and I started talking about the idea of Indigenous characters. Then when and how that got introduced came out when it made sense for the story and the show. I think we touch on these things and talk about them in very organic ways and then they need to get executed practically.

According to the press release that CBC sent out earlier this year, it was quite the journey to cast Kiawenti:io Tarbell as Ka’kwet.
MDP: She is amazing. I think, fortunately, I had the experience of finding young Indigenous cast on The Grizzlies, so it was helpful to have gone through that large and challenging process that was so worthwhile. We basically repeated a version of that search to find Kiawenti:io. We wanted to search across the country. We reached out to casting agents from the west to the east. We went everywhere, Quebec, Six Nations and the west coast. Then ultimately from that large search and a lot of submissions, we culled that down to four girls that we brought to Toronto.

Then Melee Hutton, who was the extraordinary acting coach who helped train the young actors in The Grizzlies, also helped out, and still helps out with our younger cast on Anne with an E; she came in and led a workshop over a weekend where those four girls were taken through a number of acting exercises and play, and at the end of that process Kiawenti:io was the actress we felt made the most sense for the role and the other girls in that process we ended up putting into the show in other roles. We were able to give a positive experience and work to all those final actresses.

Sometimes I’ll hear casting agents or producers say, ‘Well, it’s just really hard to find Indigenous actors,’ and it is hard, but it’s not because they don’t exist, and it’s not because there isn’t a lot of talent out there. It’s just because it takes an extra effort and financing to find them, and you’ve got to go to them. You cannot expect to sit back and have those young people already have agents or access to casting directors. So it’s a larger process, but it’s so worth it, and it’s so exciting to find this amazing talent and all these amazing, amazing talents out there waiting to be discovered.

It would have been easy to have the Indigenous peoples speaking English, but you didn’t go that way. 
MDP: From the beginning, our goal has been to create a show that has a documentary level of realism. We’ve maintained that from the very start, whether it’s making sure we’ve got hand stitching on the bottom of the dress because the 4K camera can pick up anything, or whether it’s what would be true and would have been true in that time, socially, visually, economically. [Indigenous peoples in the region were] speaking Mi’kmaq in that time period, so it was important to be authentic. It was a challenge, because Mi’kmaq is a language that that some people would say is moving towards extinction, and there’s a lot of hope and effort in the Mi’kmaq community to bring it back. We were desperately looking for an elder, for instance, to speak Mi’kmaq, and I found one through Jeff Barnaby, who is Mi’kmaq.

A lot of people won’t know about the efforts we made to make sure that the Mi’kmaq was pronounced properly, but it was important for us to get it right. It’s about respect and it’s about being authentic.

The scripts and performances have been top-notch since Episode 1 of Season 1.
MDP: Thank you so much. We were sitting in sound mix. We were looking at the screen and just really in awe of the performances throughout this whole season. It’s been exciting to watch especially the younger actors all grow and start to really get to know their characters in a way that makes them soar. There’s less and less work for the directors to do performance-wise when this cast is just A-plus, and really become who they’re portraying in a way that I think is exciting and extraordinary. Across the board, we work really hard casting the show, each and every role, even if someone’s coming in for just a few lines. We spend a lot of time looking at a lot of actors for each and every part so that the audience is hopefully experiencing a show that feels real, and they’re not ever seeing the acting. That’s something we’re proud of, and I continue to be in awe of all the extraordinary talent in the show.

Anne with an E airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Anne with an E expands its world with Indigenous characters in Season 3

In Season 2, Anne with an E creator Moira Walley-Beckett introduced black characters into her storylines. In Season 3, she does the same with Indigenous characters.

It’s all been part of Walley-Beckett’s plan to take L.M. Montgomery’s source material and expand it to be both inclusive and historically accurate. In Episode 1—returning Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBC—we meet Ka’kwet (played by 12-year-old Kiawenti:io Tarbell, a Mohawk from Akwesasne), an independent, resilient Mi’kmaq girl who befriends Anne. The addition of Tarbell, Brandon Oakes and Dana Jeffrey to the cast further enriches the Anne with an E world and makes it even more enjoyable.

We spoke to Moira Walley-Beckett ahead of Sunday’s return.

Did you always happen to have it in the back of your mind that in the Anne journey you would introduce First Nations characters?
Moira Walley-Beckett: Yes. It was always in the back of my mind for sure. In the same way that I’ve been wanting to diversify L.M. Montgomery’s novels. It was one of my mission statements.

A First Nations man and girl smile into the camera.It’s why I sent Gilbert away on at the end of Season 1. So that the show could expand its horizons and that he could gain a fresh perspective and that I could introduce people of colour and bring someone home. When we talked last year I talked about when we were in our research and discovering The Bog. And that The Bog was a place that is not in any of the history books, but that actually existed in our time period on PEI. So that was a terrible, wonderful goldmine for us and further populated our world with diverse people of colour. I’ve always tried to open up the pages of the book and I have strayed so far from it right out of the gate. The Mi’kmaq people were very much part of the community of Prince Edward Island. And so there is every reason to include them and tell their story.

The first thing that I noticed, aside from the First Nations characters, was the fact that your cast is starting to get taller. 
MWB: I know, it’s unconscionable. I’ve asked them repeatedly to stop and they just won’t heed me.

Does that affect your writing at all? Does that impact on anything with regard to the kids getting older naturally?
MWB: For sure. Yes, it’s inevitable and so it has to affect me. It’s a very interesting experience for me, actually. This is the first time I’ve done a show with kids. And because season after season on a regular series, time is kind of fluid if you need it to be. But working with kids, they’re growing and there’s nothing I can do about it. Their maturation is dictating the story for sure. But again, part of my master plan, I didn’t know that was going to happen. This season is the season where we shed childhood. Last season was the end of childish wonder and this season is the teenage years and stepping into young adulthood.

It’s crazy to see this version of social media where the notes are going up on the wall in Episode 1 and people are letting their intentions be known.
MWB: The take notice board.

A boy looks up from eating, smiling.I’m not sure if I’m ready for the intentions being known to everybody.
MWB: You know, I’m always looking to contemporize this world and make sure that it’s accessible in a meaningful way to our audience. And there is a take notice board in the book and I was just like, ‘Oh my god, that’s just Instagram for the Victorian era.’ I was super excited about that. It’s a very fun platform. We get a lot of mileage out of it.

What was it like having Tracey Deer in the writers’ room? I’m assuming that she was a big part of making sure that the Indigenous storyline stayed true.
MWB: Yes. That is why I hired her. Aside from the fact that she’s an awesome writer and producer. I set out to find an Indigenous female voice to include in my room this season, because writing an Indigenous storyline is, A) so sensitive and B), not my lived experience. It was absolutely essential for me to make sure that I had an Indigenous voice in my room. It’s been wonderful working with Tracey. Just wonderful.

What else can you say about the storylines this year?
MWB: Well, there’s multiple pertaining to the essence of these people, their hearts and the very fabric of their being. I’m sure it may have been stated that Anne goes on a quest this season to search for her identity. She’s looking for her image. She’s looking to discover who she is, where she came from, who she came from. And that scene intertwines with every character’s story, including our new character Ka’kwet who knows her identity all too well and has it taken from her. So there are some very big important things this season that are woven together into the fabric of these episodes.

Anne with an E airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail