BANFF TELEVISION FESTIVAL: production alliances announced

Launch of the Canadian distribution Show Case, sponsored by Team Canada.Left to right - Shelley Middlebrook, Brunico Communications Inc; Pat Ferns, Banff Television Festival; Trina McQueen, Discovery Canada and Team Canada/Heritage Canada Representative...
July 1, 1999

Launch of the Canadian distribution Show Case, sponsored by Team Canada.
Left to right – Shelley Middlebrook, Brunico Communications Inc; Pat Ferns, Banff Television Festival; Trina McQueen, Discovery Canada and Team Canada/Heritage Canada Representative

Breaking attendance records yet again, the mood was upbeat at the 20th edition of the Banff Television Festival, June 13-19.

Despite resistance in the past towards turning the event into a formal marketplace, this year’s BTVF included a ‘Canadian Showcase’ exhibition for Canadian distributors and a conference strand called ‘Selling the World’ wherein Canadian distribs pitched a captive group of international buyers. The initiative was presented by the Department of Canadian Heritage and co-sponsored by RealScreen’s sister publication, Playback. RealScreen played host to the documentary edition of ‘Selling the World.’

On the announcement front, Studio City-based GRB used the event as a platform to launch a new Canadian partnership. Great North Communications of Alberta, Canada, and GRB (which recently sold a majority share to Axel Springer in Germany), have joined to launch a new production entity, GRB Great North Entertainment. The two companies have worked together previously on 13 one-hour episodes of Storm Warning for Discovery U.S., and 15 half-hours of Inferno, for Discovery U.S. and Life Network in Canada.

Arts and Entertainment Selling the World
Left to right – Pia Maria Marquard, TV2 Denmark; Lynn Deegan, E! Entertainment; Catherine Cante, Comedy Central and Shelley Middlebrook, Brunico Communications Inc.

The new entity will be based in Canada, and will produce a minimum of 25 hours of factual annually. Distribution will be handled by Great North in North America, and internationally by grb.

Toronto-prodco Sleeping Giant (Horse Tales, Great Speeches) announced that CHUM Television has acquired a 40% minority share. The production company, which seemed to be the name on everyone’s lips at last MIPDOC, has 86 hours of new programming on this year’s slate.

RealScreen Banff Panel – ‘US Land of Opportunity?- Fact’Left to right – Chris Haws Discovery Communications; Bill Harris, A&E; Sheilagh McGee, Court TV; Kathy Quattrone, Discovery Health and Media and Shelley Middlebrook, Brunico Communications Inc.

‘We’ll increase carefully,’ explains ceo and exec producer Jim Hanley. ‘You could expand exponentially to the point that you get yourself in trouble. That’s what we don’t want to happen. That’s one of the reasons we wanted a company like chum on board, to help us manage the growth carefully.’ Part of that growth will include forays into the world of fiction.

The partnership will also help sg make inroads into the international market, as CHUM is a recognizable name thanks to well-sold shows like Fashion Television.

Leo Rice Barker, Montreal Correspondent from Playback Magazine moderating Drama Panel – ‘Selling the World’ as Kevin DeWalt of Minds Eye Entertainment makes his pitch.

Economics, says Hanley, also played a part in the deal. ‘One of the things we wanted to do was to free ourselves from the chaotic tyranny of the Canadian [production] funds. It’s not that we don’t want to take advantage of those funds, but the rules change, and more and more people are lining up for them.

‘We had a lot of international partners and we tripled our volume, but we were looking for a partner that could help us fiscally. The way it goes is that the broadcasters give you the order, but they don’t give you the money, so you have to produce in advance of the actual final delivery of the program. You need bridge financing.’

Distribution of Sleeping Giant’s productions will be handled on a case-by-case basis. While the fiscal terms of the deal were not disclosed, based on annual production numbers recently supplied to Playback, the deal is worth approximately CDN$2 million.

About The Author
Managing editor with realscreen publication, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Darah is an award-winning journalist who has spent over two decades covering a wide range of issues from real estate and urban development to immigration, politics and human rights, primarily with The Vancouver Sun. Prior to joining realscreen, she was editor of Stream Daily, realscreen's sister publication covering the dynamic global digital video industry. She also served a stint as a war reporter in Afghanistan for television and print, and was a national business blogger with Yahoo Canada.