Telefilm Canada, the Canadian Film Centre (CFC) and Just For Laughs have joined to launch the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab, a program to develop theatrical feature-length comedies.

The scheme was unveiled at the Just For Laughs Comedy Conference underway in Montreal, part of the city’s 27-year-old comedy festival.

The three-year program will match established filmmaking teams with established comedians, including Eugene Levy, to develop and package five viable English-language theatrical comedies by 2010 with an eye toward production by 2011-2012. Telefilm will announce other guest mentors as they are confirmed.

“While Canada has made some great comedies, such as Strange Brew, Porky’s and Bon Cop Bad Cop, for a country that is recognized globally for its sense of humour, we have not fully exploited our potential to make funny and commercially successful feature films,” said Sheila de La Varende, Telefilm’s director of national & international business development. “This is a gap in how we tell our stories to each other and the world and the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab was created to fill this gap.”

The initial two three-month development modules will be held at the CFC in November 2009 and February 2010. The $1m budget is provided by the Canadian Heritage’s Canada Feature Film Fund.