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Rawson to head L.A. operation for Sullivan

Toronto-based production company Sullivan Films is opening a Los Angeles office and has tapped Terry Rawson –until recently VP drama series and longform development at MGM TV–to head the operation.

The company kicks off the U.S. arm with a commitment from NBC and Canadian pubcaster CBC to develop a jointly produced prime time series pilot, “Lean on Me.”

It’s a one-hour show about characters in their late teens to early 20s dealing with life in various Dustbowl communities. The locations will change from week to week.

Working with Auge

Rawson will be joined at Sullivan by a former MGM cohort, George Auge, who worked with onetime MGM TV prexy Lynn Loring. She expects to have everything set up by the end of November.

During her six-year tenure at MGM, which is in the process of shutting down its production operation, Rawson was involved in such series as “In The Heat of the Night” and “The Young Riders,” as well as this week’s NBC vidpic “Fatal Memories,” which starred Shelley Long.

Sullivan joins a growing list of Canadian companies that made significant inroads on U.S. cable channels and now seek to heighten their visibility through exposure on the broadcast networks.

Productions such as the miniseries “Anne of Green Gables” and drama series “Road to Avonlea”–both carried on the Disney Channel in the U.S.–have been seen in over 70 countries.

NBC VP of drama development Kevin Reilly says the cost savings of sharing license fees and development costs with CBC should give the series a leg up, assuming that it delivers creatively. He added, “We’re not going to make a bad show just because it’s cheap.”

Sullivan Films, which was founded 10 years ago, is run by Kevin Sullivan, along with wife/partner Trudy Grant. They’re also planning to expand their Toronto office with the proposed purchase of an 18,000-square-foot building.

Both sides of border

“Our goal is to become a major supplier in the U.S. and create projects that can work from both sides of the border,” says Sullivan. “We’re now at the edge of widening the interest and programming we’re producing.”

Sullivan recently completed a $ C8 million ($ 6.8 million) miniseries, “By Way of the Stars,” co-produced with Germany’s Beta-Taurus and set to air on CBC next month.

Rawson believes an increasing number of Americans are looking to Canada as a gateway to European financing since it currently holds co-production treaties with 23 countries.

Budget growing

Sullivan estimates their production budget with the current development projects will jump from $ C25 million ($ 21.25 million) to $ C50 million ($ 42.5 million) over the next year.

Projects on Sullivan’s slate include “The Widow’s Adventure,” based on George Miller’s novel about two women, one blind, on a backroads trek across the U.S.

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