Banff fest finds fresh focus

The 26th edition offered one-on-one meetings, forums, seminars

BANFF, Alberta — The born-again Banff World Television Festival has carved out a new role for itself, no small achievement in the crowded fest circuit.

Achilles Media CEO Robert Montgomery and his team have given the fest, which wrapped June 15, a stronger emphasis on relationship and project germination.

“I sense a better focus in terms of our needs as a producer and distributor,” says Stephen Ellis, prexy of Toronto-based Ellis Entertainment. “There are plenty of finished program markets in the world, but Banff is an opportunity to incubate programming that will end up at those, and to me it looks like they’re on the right track.”

The 26th edition, revamped by the new management, was shorter and snappier, with hundreds more one-on-one meetings and dozens more forums and seminars for producers and broadcasters to talk shop, including a popular new series of broadcaster briefing sessions.

“Our job is to inspire people, to provide information and a forum for doing deals,” Montgomery says.

Preliminary attendance indications are that numbers are up over last year’s 1,200.

“But the goal is not about whole numbers,” says Montgomery, “it’s about having the right people here.”

The list included the largest, and most senior, U.S. delegation ever, with one attendee describing the introduction of commissioning editors at a pitch session as “a celebrity roll call” that also included dozens of reps from Canada and around the world.

The industry star contingent was robust. It included “CSI” creator Anthony Zuiker, “24” director Jon Cassar, writer Lionel Chetwynd, journalist-author Tom Fenton and reality icons David Lyle (“American Idol”), Phil Keoghan (“The Amazing Race”), Mark Rowland (“Supernanny”) and Michael Geddes (“Pop Stars”). The latter picked up the 2005 innovative producer award. All shared tips and tales with delegates.

Host-producer-author Bill (“I’m so nice I’m almost Canadian”) Kurtis, a first-time attendee, was thrilled with the fest. “This is a schoolhouse, and I’m happy to attend as many classes as I can,” he says, noting that he found the HD and other new technology sessions the most helpful.

While fest was less raucous on the social front than in the past, attendees agreed that the more professional and upbeat mood here was in tandem with a general uptick in the industry.

Business in the Canuck indigenous and service industries is brisk thanks to higher tax credits and the stability of the Canuck buck.

Adding to the good news was the announcement during the fest of several producer-friendly initiatives up north.

TV fare from the U.K., most of it from the BBC, dominated this year’s Rockie Awards, with the mini-series “Blackpool” taking the best-in-fest nod as well as for miniseries.

And the winners are…

GLOBAL TELEVISION GRAND PRIZE
“Blackpool”
UK
Produced By: BBC
Broadcaster: BBC 1

NHK PRESIDENT’S PRIZE
“L’Enfant et les Sortileges”
Finland
Produced By: KROMA PRODUCTIONS Ltd.
In Association: University of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland / Media Centre Lume / School of Motion Picture,Television and Production Design/YLE TV1/YLE Teema
Broadcaster: YLE TV1/YLE Teema

BEST CANADIAN PROGRAM
“Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire”
Canada
Produced By: White Pine Pictures
In Association: Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Societe Radio Canada
Broadcaster: CBC

SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
“Passionate Eye: Hana’s Suitcase: An Odyssey of Hope”
Canada
Produced By: CBC
Broadcaster: CBC TV

ANIMATION PROGRAMS
“Tales from the Crib: Natural Birth Control”
Canada
Produced By: National Film Board of Canada, CINEMARIA
Broadcaster: COMEDY NETWORK

ARTS DOCUMENTARIES
“Miles Davis: Miles Electric: A Different Kind of Blue”
USA UK
Produced By: MLF
In Association: Eagle Rock Entertainment Ltd

CHILDREN’S PROGRAMS
“The Magic Tree: Wooden Dog”
Poland
Produced By: TVP SA – Film Agency
Broadcaster: TVP1

COMEDIES
“Et Dieu créa Laflaque: Mambo italaflaque”
Canada
Produced By: Productions Vox Populi 1 Inc.
In Association: Productions Vox Populi 1 Inc.
Broadcaster: Radio-Canada

CONTINUING SERIES
“Desperate Housewives: Pilot”
USA
Produced By: Touchstone
Broadcaster: ABC

FAMILY & YOUTH PROGRAMS
“Extracurricular Lesson: Tell Us About Your Life: Conquer the World with Smile Power!”
Japan
Produced By: NHK ENTERPRISES 21, INC., TV MAN UNION, INC.
Broadcaster: NHK

FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARIES
“Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire”
Canada
Produced By: White Pine Pictures
In Association: Canadian Broadcasting Corp., Societe Radio Canada
Broadcaster: CBC

HISTORY & BIOGRAPHY PROGRAMS
“Storyville: House of Saud”
France UK
Produced By: ARTE France/BBC
In Association: WGBH Boston /NMO/SBS-TV Australia/YLE 2/TV2/TV2 Danmark
Broadcaster: BBC 4

INFORMATION & CURRENT AFFAIRS
“Panorama: The New Killing Fields”
UK
Produced By: BBC
Broadcaster: BBC 1

LIFESTYLE PROGRAMS
“What Not to Wear: Teenage Daughters”
UK
Produced By: BBC
Broadcaster: BBC 1

MADE-FOR-TV MOVIES
“Not Only but Always”
UK
Produced By: COMPANY PICTURES
Broadcaster: CHANNEL 4

MINI-SERIES
“Blackpool”
UK
Produced By: BBC
Broadcaster: BBC 1

PERFORMANCE PROGRAMS
“Flashmob – the Opera”
UK
Produced By: BBC
Broadcaster: BBC 3

POPULAR SCIENCE & NATURAL HISTORY PROGRAMS
“Unprecedented Fabrication”
Japan
Produced By: Japan Broadcasting Corporaiton (NHK)
Broadcaster: NHK

SOCIAL & POLITICAL DOCUMENTARIES
“FRONTLINE: Ghosts of Rwanda”
USA UK
Produced By: FRONTLINE
In Association: BBC/Silverbridge Productions
Broadcaster: PBS

SPORTS PROGRAMS
“262 HIts – Ichiro’s Perspective”
Japan
Produced By: Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK)
Broadcaster: NHK

UNSCRIPTED ENTERTAINMENT PROGRAMS
“Dragon’s Den”
UK
Produced By: BBC
In Association: Sony Pictures
Broadcaster: BBC 2

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