Tag Archives: Sphere Media

Banff World Media Festival unveils 2023 Rockies Gala recipients

From a media release:

The Banff World Media Festival (BANFF) is proud to announce this year’s exciting lineup of the Rockies Gala recipients. The intimate and glitzy in-person awards show will take place at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday, June 13th at 6:30pm MT.

Hosting the Festival’s flagship honours is actor, singer, musician and comedian Craig Robinson. Executive Producer and star of Peacock’s Killing It, Robinson is best known for his portrayal of ‘Darryl Philbin’ in The Office and has starred in films including Knocked Up, This is the End, Hot Tub Time Machine, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, Morris from America, Tragedy Girls, Dolemite is my Name!, Timmy Failure, Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon, Songbird, and The Bad Guys. He also starred in his own sitcom, Mr. Robinson, as well as Ghosted and hosted The Masked Dancer. Headlining venues and festivals across the country, Robinson does both solo acts and full sets with his band, “The Nasty Delicious.”

Rockies Gala Awards to be bestowed include:

INCLUSION AWARD: Garcelle Beauvais (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills)
Presented by A+E Networks, the Inclusion Award recognizes an individual whose efforts and vision in media champion and reflect the diversity of the world in which we live.
Past honourees include: Danielle Brooks, LeVar Burton, Jonathan Murray, Elizabeth Vargas and Vivica A. Fox.

CAREER ACHIEVEMENT: Alanis Obomsawin (Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, Rocks at Whiskey Trench, The People of the Kattawapiskak River)
The Career Achievement award recognizes the extraordinary career of someone that has had a significant impact on the screen-based industries.
Past honourees include: Dan Rather, Christine Baranski, Larry King, Ed Asner, William Shatner, James Burrows and David Attenborough.

IMPACT AWARD: Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, World of Wonder
Presented by The Hollywood Reporter, this award is bestowed annually to an individual or group that has made a significant and impactful contribution to screen-based entertainment.
Past honourees include: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, David Shore, accepting on behalf of The Good Doctor; Anthony Anderson, accepting on behalf of black-ish; Justin Simien accepting on behalf of Dear White People, and Bela Bajaria.

Presented by Lionsgate, the Innovative Producer Award recognizes the entrepreneurial excellence and achievements of an independent producer in TV/digital media.
Past honourees include: Sinking Ship Entertainment, Wattpad Studios, Scott Brothers Entertainment, New Metric Media, Wolf + Rabbit, Don Carmody, marblemedia and Eagle Vision.

AWARD OF EXCELLENCE: Sharon Horgan (Bad Sisters, Catastrophe)
Presented by Variety, The Award of Excellence acknowledges exceptional achievement through a body of work over an extended period of time.
Past honourees include: Paul Feig, Jeremy Podeswa, Kenny Ortega, Eugene Levy, Carol Mendelsohn and David E. Kelley.

Separately, the coveted CREATIVE VOICE AWARD which is bestowed on an executive or creative talent that has created outstanding work that breaks through, inspiring and connecting global audiences will be presented virtually to Jennifer Podemski (Future History, Little Bird, Empire of Dirt, above) on Sunday June 11th as part of this year’s prestigious Indigenous Screen Summit, which honours and celebrates the talents and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis storytellers and creators within the screen industries.

Additional awards to be presented at the Rockies Gala ceremony in person on Tuesday June 13th include:

SIR PETER USTINOV COMEDY AWARD: The award recognizes a creative talent who has made an outstanding comedic contribution to the media industry.
Past honourees include: Kenan Thompson, Sean Hayes, John Cleese, Tracey Ullman, Bob Newhart, Tantoo Cardinal, John Candy, Bill Hader and Ana Gasteyer.

PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: The Program of the Year award is presented to an outstanding, acclaimed, ground-breaking, and/or highly rated program from within the last calendar year that not only has earned critical and audience success, but which also is provocative and has made an impact beyond the entertainment industry.
Past recipients include: It’s a Sin, This is Us, Handmaid’s Tale, Making a Murderer and Surviving R. Kelly.

GRAND JURY PRIZE: The Grand Jury Prize is chosen by the esteemed Rockie Awards International Program Competition Grand Jury, including: Mo Abudu (CEO, EbonyLife Media), Alice Dickens-Koblin (SVP, Head of Unscripted Programming, Starz), Peter Gal (Chief Creative Officer, Television, DreamWorks Animation), Cynthia Kennedy (VP, Distribution, Incendo & Quebecor Content), Mark Linsey (Managing Director, Scripted, BBC Studios), Jacqueline Sacerio (EVP, Co-Head of Scripted Development, eOne), Beatrice Springborn (President, UCP & Universal International Studios). The Grand Jury’s deliberations focus on the highest scoring projects as scored by the global jury, comprising more than 150 senior industry professionals. Past recipients of the Grand Jury Prize include: I May Destroy You, Fleabag, Big Little Lies, Planet Earth II, Sharp Objects and Help.

In addition, the Rockie Awards International Program Competition, featuring 141 nominees from 29 countries across 27 categories, will take place the evening before the Rockies Gala on Monday June 12th at 5:30pm MT. This year’s competition will be co-hosted by Crystle Lightning and MC RedCloud.


Netflix announces new limited series Tall Pines with creator and co-showrunner Mae Martin

From a media release:

  • Netflix today announced a limited series order for TALL PINES, a thriller from Mae Martin. Martin will also play a leading role in the show.
  • Logline: TALL PINES is a thriller set in a bucolic but sinister town that explores the insidious underbelly of the “troubled teen industry” and the eternal struggle between one generation and the next.
  • Format / Episodes: 8 episode Limited Series
  • Creator / Co-Showrunner / Executive Producer: Mae Martin (Mae Martin: SAP, Feel Good, The Flight Attendant)
  • Co-Showrunner / Executive Producer: Ryan Scott (Servant, Treadstone, Fear The Walking Dead)
  • Executive Producers: Ben Farrell, producing through his company, Objective Fiction (Feel Good, The Gold), Hannah Mackay (Peep Show, Year of the Rabbit), Jennifer Kawaja (Sort Of, The Porter, Cardinal), Bruno Dubé (Transplant, The Sticky)
  • Production Company: Sphere Media
    • Mae Martin: “Tall Pines is a story I’ve been dying to tell for years, and I’m beyond excited for people to see what we have in store! It’s going to be an insane roller coaster and so different to anything I’ve done before. Very very grateful to Netflix for supporting it, and I can’t wait to get going.”
    • Ben Farrell, Chief Creative Officer, Executive Producer, Objective Fiction: “Tall Pines is a truly gripping, intergenerational mystery thriller. Objective Fiction is delighted to be partnering with Netflix and Sphere Media to bring Mae Martin’s latest creation to the screen.”
    • Jennifer Kawaja, President English Scripted, Executive Producer, Sphere Media: “This is a fantastic project and Sphere is thrilled to be part of the team, with Netflix and Objective Fiction, producing work with a unique Canadian voice at its center.”
    • Danielle Woodrow, Director, Content – Canada, Netflix: “Tall Pines is a wildly entertaining story that explores the complex and sometimes twisted relationship between teens and adults. We’re thrilled to be working with a singular talent like Mae and bringing their unique voice to one of our first commissions for Netflix Canada.”

About Sphere Media

Sphere Media is one of Canada’s preeminent scripted content companies. In current release are several multi-award award-winning series – half hour Peabody notable dramedy Sort Of (CBC/HBO Max/Sky/Viaplay), currently nominated for a Rockie award and multiple Canadian Screen Awards; Primetime Emmy and Indie Spirit nominated 1920s period drama The Porter (CBC/BET+); and International Emmy nominated Transplant (Bell Media/NBC/NBCU), both also nominated for multiple CSA’s.  Other recent credits include Variety Top 25 Trickster (CBC/Sky/ AMC), critically acclaimed Cardinal (Bell Media/BBC/Hulu) and 19-2 (Bell Media). They are currently in production with new seasons of Sort Of, and Transplant as well as The Sticky, a limited half hour series with Blumhouse and Amazon. 

About Objective Fiction

With bases in London and Los Angeles, Objective Fiction is a leading producer of distinct and celebrated scripted stories for the screen. Productions include multi-award-winning Feel Good for Netflix; Year of the Rabbit for IFC; Toast of Tinseltown, Eric, Ernie and Me and Witless for BBC; The Larkins for ITV; Peep Show, Toast of London, GameFace and Fresh Meat for C4, and via Tannadice Pictures, The Gold for BBC/Paramount+. Objective Fiction is part of Objective Media Group, an All3Media company.

Image courtesy of Joseph Sinclair.


Vivek Shraya’s How to Fail as a Popstar moves from stage to page to screen, with production underway on adaptation from Sphere Media and CBC

From a media release:

CBC and Sphere Media announced today that production is underway on How to Fail as a Popstar, a CBC Gem original series based on award-winning artist, author, and musician Vivek Shraya’s debut theatrical work of the same name, a one-person performance reflecting on the power of pop culture, dreams, disappointments, and self-determination. The series stars Shraya, Adrian Pavone (Star Trek: Discovery, Grand Army), and Chris D’Silva (Slumberland, The Handmaid’s Tale) as Vivek at various stages of life. Written by Shraya, the comedy series is directed by Vanessa Matsui (Midnight at the Paradise, Ghost BFF) with Shraya co-directing one episode, with filming to continue in Toronto for three weeks. The series will premiere on CBC Gem later in 2023.

How To Fail as a Popstar is a coming-of-age, eight-episode limited series about a queer brown boy with a huge voice doing everything he can to become a Popstar – as told by the queer trans femme that boy becomes, looking back on how and why that dream was never realized.

The cast includes Ayesha Mansur Gonsalves (Sort Of, Y: The Last Man, Star Trek: Discovery), Nadine Bhabha (Letterkenny, This Hour Has 22 Minutes,Terror Train), Arwen Humphreys (Murdoch Mysteries, Run the Burbs), Eric Johnson (Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin, American Gods, Vikings), Vanessa Matsui (Ghost BFF, Letterkenny, Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments), and introducing ​​Aayushma Sapkota in her first role.

Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. Her album Part-Time Woman was nominated for the Polaris Music Prize, her music was featured on the acclaimed CBC and HBO Max show Sort Of, and her best-selling book I’m Afraid of Men was heralded by Vanity Fair as “cultural rocket fuel.” She is also the founder of the award-winning publishing imprint VS. Books, which supports emerging BIPOC writers.

The stage play How to Fail as a Popstar was written and created by Vivek Shraya and directed by Brendan Healy. The original production was commissioned and produced by Canadian Stage, Toronto, Ontario.

How to Fail as a Popstar is produced by Sphere Media with the financial participation of the TELUS Fund, the Bell Fund, and the Shaw Rocket Fund. In June 2020, the project was selected as one of the recipients of development support from the CBC Creative Relief Fund, a fund created by CBC to provide immediate support to Canadian creators at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Created by Vivek Shraya, executive producers are Bruno Dubé, Jennifer Kawaja, Elise Cousineau, Caroline Habib, Laura Perlmutter, Vivek Shraya, and Vanessa Matsui.


Preview: CBC’s The Porter is an important story of Black history in Canada

The first thing that struck me about The Porter, CBC’s newest series—debuting Monday at 9 p.m.—was the sound. The flick of a lighter, the crackle of a tobacco cigarette igniting, the scrape of glass on a wooden bar. Then, it was the colour of the clothing, a peacock of brights, followed by the music. This, I told myself, was going to be different. And I was right.

Co-created by Arnold Pinnock and Bruce Ramsay, showrun by Marsha Greene and Annmarie Morais, and based on true events, The Porter delivers a rich and dramatic look at the Black community in St. Antoine, Montreal—known at the time as the Harlem of the North—the key characters who live in it and the relationship the community has with the train line between Montreal and Chicago.

The eight-episode journey begins in Montreal in 1921 and follows train porters Junior Massey (Aml Ameen) and Zeke Garrett (Ronnie Rowe, Jr.). While Zeke fights the railway to change how Black porters are treated by unionizing them, Junior takes advantage of the existing structure to pursue money and power through gambling and bootlegging. Meanwhile, Junior’s wife, Black Cross nurse Marlene (Mouna Traore), and club performer Lucy (Loren Lott) are set on different paths to a better life after an awful tragedy.

In CBC’s press material for The Porter, series creator, executive producer and writer Pinnock, an avid reader and history buff, first came across the story of the sleeping car porters and the first Black Labour Union. It resonated with him, and the first seeds of The Porter grew in his mind.

I’m a history buff as well, and a series like The Porter not only tells a story from Canada’s past but an important Black story from this country’s past. The Porter has been grabbing a ton of headlines for its storytelling, creative team, cast and crew. So, is it worth the hype? Absolutely.

The Porter airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.

Images courtesy of CBC.


CBC and BET+ original series The Porter now in production

From a media release:

The highly anticipated start of production for Inferno Pictures and Sienna Films, THE PORTER (8×60), a CBC and BET+ original series, is now underway in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Shooting across various locations as well as in studio, THE PORTER continues until mid-September.

Exciting new additions to THE PORTER cast include Olunika Adeliyi (Titans, American Gods) and Loren Lott (American Idol, Tag). They join Aml Ameen (I May Destroy You, Yardie), Ronnie Rowe Jr. (Star Trek: Discovery, Pretty Hard Cases) and Mouna Traore (Self Made, The Umbrella Academy) who were announced earlier this year. Plus, series originators Arnold Pinnock and Bruce Ramsay take on series regular roles of Glenford and Dinger, respectively.

Adeliyi portrays Queenie, the savvy, seductive and sinister crime boss in Chicago whose lavish lifestyle and power appeals to Junior, but at what cost?; while Lott plays headstrong Lucy, a talented performer who yearns for the spotlight as she battles shadeism and an instinct for music that’s out of step with the times.

Set in the roaring 20s, THE PORTER offers a dramatic and compelling look at the Black community in St. Antoine, Montreal, known, at the time, as the Harlem of the North. The story is told through the eyes of two Black train porters taking very different paths to liberation. One pushes to create the first Black union in existence, the other chases power on the wrong side of the law, but both have the same goal: to free themselves and their families from oppression. They’re young, gifted and Black, from Canada, the Caribbean, and the U.S., and they find themselves thrown together north and south of the colour line. In an era that boasts anything is possible, if change isn’t coming for them, they will come for it.

From Montreal to Chicago and at every stop in between, in a time of extraordinary social and political change, THE PORTER tells the story of the people who fought to ignite the civil rights movement in North America.

A CBC and BET+ original series, THE PORTER is originated and created by Arnold Pinnock (Altered Carbon, Travelers) and Bruce Ramsay (19-2, Cardinal), with Annmarie Morais (Killjoys, Ransom, American Soul), Marsha Greene (Ten Days In The Valley, Mary Kills People) and Aubrey Nealon (Snowpiercer, Cardinal), and produced by Winnipeg-based Inferno Pictures Inc. and Sphere Media’s Sienna Films. Morais and Greene are showrunners and executive producers. Charles Officer (Akilla’ Escape, Coroner) and R.T. Thorne (Blindspot, Utopia Falls) will direct the series, and are executive producers. Pinnock also serves as an executive producer, and Ramsay a co-executive producer. The series is written by Morais, Greene, Andrew Burrows-Trotman, Priscilla White, Pinnock and Ramsay, with Thorne participating in the writers’ room. The series is funded with the support of the Canada Media Fund and Manitoba Film & Music and is distributed internationally by Abacus Media Rights (AMR) and Sphere Distribution.