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LEO AWARDS: Brent Butt & Nancy Robertson Host Leo Awards on June 8th

Published May 29, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome

Hometown comedy couple Brent Butt and Nancy Robertson are set to co-host the 15th anniversary of the Leo Awards, celebrating the best of B.C.-made film and television, at the Westin Bayshore Hotel on Saturday, June 8th. Expect more than the usual hijinks with professional comedians as hosts and and a crowd of outstanding homegrown nominees led by Vancouver born-and-bred Jessie James Miller’s feature film Becoming Redwood with 14 nominations, Vancouver-cop-from-the-future series Continuum with 16 nominations and filmed-in-Vancouver-and-Yellowknife aerial adventure series Arctic Air with 14 nominations.. For tickets, click here.

The 1970s era coming-of-age film Becoming Redwood‘s 14 nominations include well-deserved director and writing nods for Jesse James Miller and performance nods for Ryan Grantham as the young golf-obsessed long-haired title character Redwood; Jennifer Copping (Miller’s wife) as Redwood’s mother; Chad Willett (producer) as Redwood’s draft-dodging, pot-dealing father; Derek Hamilton as Redwood’s red-neck stepfather Arnold and Scott Hylands as Arnold’s basement-dwelling elderly father Earl. Miller shot the Vancouver International Film Festival’s most popular Canadian feature in rural Langley for 24 days in the late spring of 2011. By contrast, Random Acts of Romance, the only other motion picture nominee I’ve seen on screen, filmed in several downtown and East Van locations like the Waldorf Hotel, as befits a movie whose tagline is “Sex, Abduction, Stalking and You Thought Romance Was Dead” about interconnected Vancouverites. Director Katrin Bowen is nominated for the twisted romcom, as is Sonja Bennett for her performance as a wacky stalker.

Becoming Redwood production still – courtesy of Jesse James Miller

In the television category, Continuum dominates with 16 nominations for its first hit season, including nods for creator and UBC grad Simon Barry for his season finale script End Times about time traveller Kiera Cameron’s failure to stop “terrorist” group Liber8 from blowing up a downtown tower, a definitive moment in her corporations-rule-the-world future. Continuum digitally-imploded an Arthur Erickson-designed tower on West Georgia on screen and then filmed the aftermath on a blast-and-rubble set at CBC Vancouver.

Read More »LEO AWARDS: Brent Butt & Nancy Robertson Host Leo Awards on June 8th

BIG READ: Vancouver Director Jeff Renfroe’s Ice Age Thriller THE COLONY

Published April 25, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome

How do you survive in a frozen world? The next ice age forces humans underground in Canadian sci-fi thriller The Colony, which opens nationwide tomorrow. Directed by Vancouver’s own Jeff Renfroe, The Colony explores what happens when hunger and desperation below an icy surface lead to the kind of savage, animalistic behaviour we’ve seen shades of in real-word disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

Reluctant hero Sam (Kevin Segers) accompanies Colony 7’s leader Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) on an expedition to the only other known outpost Colony 5 after receiving a distress call. Briggs leaves his below-ground colony at the mercy of hardass Mason (Bill Paxton) who’s itching to impose his own harsh regime where the sick are executed at the first sign of illness. “You’re a dick,” yelled a woman beside me at an advance screening. Deservedly so. But what the expedition find at Colony 5 is so much worse than Mason: wild, feral survivors who’ve lost their humanity completely.

How do you film a frozen world? Jeff Renfroe shot his $16 million feature in twenty-eight days in North Bay and Toronto, Ontario. On the first day of filming outside in North Bay, crew battled -30 temperatures which froze the camera lenses. Watching them fight the cold and pull it off, Bill Paxton dubbed the Colony crew “film animals”. Laurence Fishburne called another North Bay shoot the toughest location he’d ever seen. Weren’t you in Apocalypse Now?, Renfroe reminded the actor. Yes, Fishburne replied, but North Bay still ranked as his toughest. The frozen surface is almost all VFX. Colony crew shovelled snow into an airplane hangar, surrounded the set with green screens and shot through an open doorway.

Kevin Zegers and Laurence Fishburne in The Colony. Courtesy of EOne Films.
Laurence Fishburne, Director Jeff Renfroe and Kevin Zegers. Courtesy of EOne Films.

Read More »BIG READ: Vancouver Director Jeff Renfroe’s Ice Age Thriller THE COLONY

BIG READ: CONTINUUM & Cosplay at Fan Expo Vancouver

Published April 21, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome

A year ago, Fan Expo Vancouver hosted the first panel for Vancouver-cop-from-the-future series Continuum. And what a year it’s been. Continuum debuted on Showcase as an out-of-the-box hit. Almost one million Canadians watched, making it 2012’s  number one cable drama here. Since sold to more than fifty countries around the world. Canadian Screen Award,  Writers Guild Canada and Saturn Award nominations racked up. A debut in January on Syfy in the U.S. which led to rave reviews from The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly TV critics. A second Continuum panel at Fan Expo Vancouver yesterday. And the premiere of a second season tonight on Showcase at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET. No wonder the cast and creator got giddy yesterday in Ballroom A at Canada Place.

Continuum is part sci fi, part police procedural about a future police officer Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols) who travels back in time from Vancouver in the year 2077 to Vancouver today, swept up in an escape by a group of terrorists — Liber8 — who plan to change the future from the past by targeting the corporations that will come to rule the world. Cameron ends up being partnered with Vancouver police detective Carlos Fonnegra (Victor Webster) and tasked with bringing down Liber8, with the unexpected help of teen tech genius Alec Sandler (Erik Knudsen), a boy who will grow up to become the head of mega-corp SadTech and seemingly the man responsible for sending Kiera and Liber8 back in time in the first place.

Read More »BIG READ: CONTINUUM & Cosplay at Fan Expo Vancouver

BIG READ: VIFF Favourite BECOMING REDWOOD Opens at International Village Today

Published April12, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome

Jesse James Miller’s feature film Becoming Redwood is rooted in some of his own experiences: his love of golf which led him to turn pro at the age of 19 and hero-worship Jack Nicklaus’s six green-jacket wins at The Masters golf tournament; his hippie father’s flight to Canada as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War; and the shuttle back and forth between his parents after their divorce. But Miller never dreamed as a young boy that his parents would reunite if he beat Jack Nicklaus at The Masters, as 10-year-old Redwood Forest Hanson (Ryan Grantham) does in the Vancouver writer-director’s endearing film.

Becoming Redwood opens in Vancouver today at the Cineplex International Village, one day after the 77th Masters got underway in Augusta, Georgia, with the legendary Jack Nicklaus. who’s won the tournament more than any other golfer, as an honourary starter.

The Story: In 1969, two-year-old Redwood watches helpless from the backseat of a Volkswagen van as his mother Jade (Miller’s wife Jennifer Copping) leaves his draft-dodging father Ethan (Chad Willett) at the Canadian border. Eight years later, his  father is arrested for dope dealing in B.C. and golf-obsessed long-haired Redwood (Ryan Grantham) must return to the U.S. to  live with his mother, her two teen sons (Tyler Johnson and Todd Potter), her red-neck husband Arnold (Derek Hamilton) and Arnold’s basement-dwelling elderly father Earl (Scott Hylands) in northern California. How to deal with all this trauma? Redwood imagines beating the “Golden Bear”, aka  Jack Nicklaus, at the Masters will solve all his problems. Or as the movie’s poster puts it: When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Turn Pro.

Becoming Redwood production still – Courtesy of Jesse James Miller

Becoming Redwood production still – courtesy of Jesse James Miller

Read More »BIG READ: VIFF Favourite BECOMING REDWOOD Opens at International Village Today

BIG READ: Hitchcockian BATES MOTEL Debuts on A&E Tonight

Published March 18, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome.

The Bates Motel set out in Aldergrove on 272nd Street is the spitting image of the 12-room Seafarer motel and Gothic house set from Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic Psycho, except for the missing top of the Bates house which was CGIed in post-production for tonight’s premiere on A&E.  This contemporary prequel  focuses on a younger version of Psycho movie killer Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) in a coastal Oregon town called White Pine Bay and explores his relationship with his unhinged mother (Vera Farmiga) as he approaches his evil destiny. Is this the relationship that turns Norman into a killer who stuffed his mother?

Read More »BIG READ: Hitchcockian BATES MOTEL Debuts on A&E Tonight

BIG READ: Kokanee’s THE MOVIE OUT HERE in Theatres Next Friday

Published Feburary 22, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome

Kokanee’s The Movie Out Here hits theatres next Friday. It’s a B.C. version of Hot Tub Time Machine meets Old School populated with your favourite characters from the beer commercials like the Sasquatch, Kokanee Ranger and Glacier Girls plus a new buddy ranger duo Glacier and Fresh. Robin Nielsen, Viv Leacock and James Wallis co-star as old friends who band together to fight a land developer in the ski town of Fernie as itself. I met the Kokanee Ranger and his successors Glacier and Fresh and interviewed Nielsen and Leacock on set at Alouette Lake (before the two-week Fernie shoot), while crew filmed Wallis watching Glacier Girls change bikini tops on the beach for a Kokanee commercial within the movie.

Read More »BIG READ: Kokanee’s THE MOVIE OUT HERE in Theatres Next Friday

BIG READ: Vancouver Film Crews at Work – #SaveBCFilm

Published February 15, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome

One Valentine’s night. Three shoots. Vancouver production crews worked late into the night on Valentine’s Day to film scenes for TV series Supernatural, Arrow and Vancouver’s own Continuum in the downtown area. I looped around from Supernatural on Station Street beside Pacific Central Station to Arrow on Franklin Street near the Terminal City Ironworks complex to Continuum at the Plaza of Nations and back again to capture our crews at work.

Supernatural crew worked inside and outside the Ivanhoe Hotel at the rear on Station Street, not packing up until 2 a.m. One exterior scene had Sam and Dean Winchester (Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles) arriving at the motorhome below and possibly loading a prop dead body into the trunk of a car. Arrow set up on Franklin Street either in or near the Terminal City Ironworks complex in east Vancouver to film motorcycle scenes in the morning, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) in a rooftop meeting and much later, someone shooting arrows into a black town car. Wonder who? Arrow ran late so probably packed up past its scheduled 2 a.m. departure.. Continuum’s crew started early too at the Plaza of Nations on the dock to film scenes aboard Kellogg (Vancouver actor Stephen Lobo)’s yacht (Adriana), then moved inside their Vancouver police station set with background performers and back outside for night scenes aboard Kellogg’s yacht and a steadicam scene of mad time traveller Jason (Vancouver actor Ian Tracey).

6:22 p.m. – Supernatural crew ready to roll at motorhome.

Our crews work up to sixteen hours a day five days a week to bring scripts to life in all kinds of weather. Mostly cold and wet. Those lucky enough to still have jobs don’t have enough time to see their loved ones on Valentine’s Day far less watch the shows they work on. So no, these aren’t “Hollywood jobs”,  but they are good well-paid ones. And they’re leaving for Toronto because of Ontario’s superior tax credits.  As a result, Vancouver lost its bragging rights as North America’s third biggest film and TV production centre to Toronto (after Los Angeles and New York). And lately, it’s gone from bad to worse. British Columbia’s third biggest industry, generating over $1 billion, faced unprecedented unemployment last month. Read More »BIG READ: Vancouver Film Crews at Work – #SaveBCFilm

BIG READ: Vancouver Crime Drama MOTIVE Debuts This Sunday After Superbowl on CTV

Published January 31, 2013 on Vancouver is Awesome.

CTV has given the debut of its new Vancouver crime drama Motive a prime spot on its schedule — the post-Superbowl slot this Sunday. In a new twist on procedurals, Motive reveals the killer and the victim at the start of each of episode or as the show’s tagline puts it — The Murder is Just the Beginning. Then we follow along with “feisty female Vancouver detective” Angie Flynn (Kristin Lehman) and her partner Oscar Vega (Louis Ferreira) as they investigate the case and discover what motive drove the killer to murder.

The Foundation Features and Lark Productions series created by Dexter writer Daniel Cerone began filming thirteen episodes in the city last September and wraps its first season late next month. If I hadn’t heard that Kristin Lehman had been cast as single mother and damn fine detective Angie Flynn, I might not have recognized her in Olympic Plaza at The Village on False Creek last October. There’s very little of her haughty blue-blooded political campaign consultant Gwen Eaton from The Killing in this new character sporting  a leather jacket, kickass boots and permed hair.

Read More »BIG READ: Vancouver Crime Drama MOTIVE Debuts This Sunday After Superbowl on CTV