Producer/distributor profile: Canamedia

Canamedia is a Toronto-based producer/distributor that has been in the business for over 30 years. Lee Harris, North American sales and acquisitions, and Andrea Stokes, the international sales manager, tell realscreen about where the company's heading, what it's looking to acquire for distribution and what it's bringing to MIPTV.
February 25, 2010

Canamedia is a Toronto-based producer/distributor that has been in the business for over 30 years. Lee Harris, who heads up North American sales and acquisitions, and Andrea Stokes, the international sales manager, tell realscreen about where the company’s heading, what it’s looking to acquire and what it’s bringing to MIPTV.

What are some current projects on the way from Canamedia?
Lee Harris: We’re in production on a documentary series that is very inspirational about a young photographer named Joey Lawrence [working title: The Real Joey Lawrence, not to be confused with American actor Joey Lawrence], currently one of the most sought after commercial photographers in the world. He has a second life where he embeds himself with cultures that are on the verge of extinction. He’ll go and live with tribes in Ethiopia, develop a level of trust and [then] take these iconic, dignified pictures of these people. It’s very beautiful, inspirational programming with a bit of an arts feel. We definitely want to do more programming in that vein… there are some people who are willing to do amazing things that are heartwarming and touching.
Andrea Stokes: On the distribution side, we’re really excited about The Real Joey Lawrence and we’ll be at MIP to look for pre-sales and acquisitions internationally. We already have our U.S. broadcaster on board for the pilot and we’re looking for more international partners. On the acquisitions/distribution side, our catalog is well known throughout the industry for a lot of lifestyle programming, a lot of travel and adventure. We have new programming in every single genre in HD. We have a new show called My Green House, on how to [make your house] eco-friendly, a cooking show called Wine Sense and a crime series called Struggle for Justice. In travel we have something new called Earth Trek. So along with our brand new production, we have a solid bouquet of programming for all of our international broadcasters.

How does the balance work between the production and distribution sides of the company?
AS: I’d say that having a small but tight-knit team really helps. I’m the person you’ll always find in the office every hour of the day available on phone, email, just keeping the distribution company running day to day, while Lee is the man about town getting all of the production done. I think communication is really the key to keep everything rolling all at once.

What are some of the most popular titles in your catalog?
AS: In my opinion The Real Joey Lawrence is going to be our real show-stopper and that’s the one with the most potential. The programs that sell the best for us are travel and adventure in HD. One of our highest selling programs is called Angry Planet, a show hosted by George Kourounis, who goes all over the world chasing wild weather phenomena. Our typical home and design shows [also do well], like Homes by Design, which has been going strong for us for over 10 years.

What are some of the trends that you’re sensing from broadcasters? What are they looking for?
LH:We’re definitely still hot on the green theme. Crime is always a big seller for us and our lifestyle shows are as well.
AS: It’s great having a brand new series, but something with a lot of episodes really helps. Broadcasters are still interested in bulk deals right now, so something long-running like a magazine-style show with lots of episodes that they can play every day will help. [Also,] Canamedia has never gone away from one-off docs. If you look at our catalog we have a bevy of social docs, cultural docs – we never forget our doc programmers.

What are you looking to acquire right now?
AS: Internationally it’s all the [aforementioned] genres. Canamedia has been around for over 30 years now with clients from all around the world who come to us specifically with their wish lists. As we said, travel, adventure and enlightening programming.

With over three decades in operation, what’s been the key to Canamedia’s longevity?
LH: I think it’s the relationships more than anything else. There are a million different programs out there and a million different distributors. We make sure all the time that we’re staying in the know as to what the international networks are looking for. We’re passing that information along to our various clients.

About The Author
Andrew Jeffrey joined Realscreen in 2021 as its news editor. Here, he helps to oversee assignment, reporting and editing for Realscreen's daily newsletter. Prior to his work covering documentary and non-fiction film and TV, he worked as a reporter and associate producer for CBC Edmonton, and as a reporter for The Star Calgary, where he covered daily news on beats such as local and provincial politics, health care and harm reduction, sports and education. His work has appeared in other Canadian news outlets such as TVO, the Edmonton Journal and Avenue Magazine.