Canadian producers are back in the saddle, putting forward a raft of new projects as the chill placed on feature production by the threat of a SAG strike passes. The possibility of a strike by US actors boosted production in Canada in the first half of the year but dampened production beyond the July 1 strike deadline and through the summer.
Jeremy Podeswa is set to direct an adaptation of Canadian novelist Anne Michaels'Fugitive Pieces for Robert Lantos' Serendipity Point Films. Podeswa, who is also writing the screenplay under consultation with Michaels, recently returned from a scouting trip in Greece, where part of the story is based. Other periods are set in Toronto. The book won the UK-based Orange Prize For Fiction in 1997. Alliance Atlantis will sell the film internationally through its output deal with Serendipity; Serendipity will sell US rights.
Lantos is also producing another book adaptation, The Statement, by the late Brian Moore. Veteran Canadian director Norman Jewison is in the frame to direct the political thriller. It's the second Brian Moore property Lantos has an option on; the other is the long-gestating No Other Life, to which Constantin Costa-Gavras was attached.
Toronto-based producer Alexandra Raffe's Savi Media is working on three projects it hopes to have in motion by the Spring of 2002. First up is Almost Japanese with director Robert Allan Ackerman attached. Ackerman's Judy Garland bio-pic Me And My Shadow was a hit for Alliance Atlantis Television and received multiple Emmy nominations. Based on the book by Canadian novelist Sara Shead, the film will be co-produced with New York-based producer Joanna Vicente, executive producer of Nicole Holofcener's Lovely And Amazing.
The next title in the offing is Canada-UK coproduction Was based on the book by UK novelist Geoff Rymond. Attached is Canadian director Laurie Lynd, who initiated the project by bringing together the book's UK rights holder, producer Miranda Robinson's Foursoul Productions, with Susan Cavan of Toronto-based Accent Entertainment. Accent has assigned the Canadian coproducer mantle to Savi but Cavan will retain an executive producer credit. The story explores the relationship between Wizard Of Oz writer L. Frank Baum and Dorothy Gail, the real-life namesake of the Oz heroine.
The third Savi project, working-titled Dead Simple, a coproduction with UK-based Ministry Of Film. Award-winning Canadian commercials director Philip Kates and screenwriter Cris Cole have developed the project based on a short story written by Peter James and James Simpson. Rafi told Screendaily, "The threat of a SAG strike was like the Millennium Bug. You spend all this time and energy preparing for it, change all your plans and then' nothing."
In Vancouver, Stephen Hegyes, producer of Toronto festival opener Last Wedding, is launching a new production company, Brightlight Pictures, partnered with Shawn Williamson. The outfit is set to shoot its debut feature, Guy Bennett's dark sex comedy Punch, in November.
Brightlight feature projects in development include: American Venus, Bruce Sweeney's next project; Golden Orchid Society, a Chinese-Canadian co-production written and directed by Mina Shum, director of Double Happiness and Drive, She Said; Shit Loves Linda, written by Penny Gay, to be directed by James Dunnison; and Peachland, a co-production with Toronto-based Triptych Media.
The company plans to expand its development slate to eight to10 features under the direction of Allison Laing. According to a release, Brightlight will be a full service production company for such projects as the German-financed Homeroom, which will be going into production this fall.