BANFF — Canucks David Shore, Paul Haggis, Howard Davine and Richard Lewis are at the top of their game in the TV biz in Hollywood. Davine even quips that Los Angeles is “Canada’s fourth biggest city after Vancouver.”
All four toplined the Great White North’s Banff World TV Festival, which wrapped June 14.
But fest content director Jennifer Harkness says the quartet’s Canadian heritage wasn’t the reason they were invited.
“We just knew they were great directors, writers and producers,” she says. “We wanted the best to come to the festival, and those guys are on the cutting edge of what’s happening in TV right now.”
Other U.S. and international industryites at the three-day confab were author Steven Johnson (“Everything Bad Is Good for You,”), whose keynote was an entertaining defense of TV as high culture; “Prison Break’s” Paul Scheuring; Scott Peters of “The 4400”; Ali LeRoi of “Everybody Hates Chris”; the BBC’s Nick Fraser (“Storyville”); and FremantleMedia’s Gary Carter, all of whom shared their experiences and perspective with delegates.
“The festival performs a great networking function,” Davine says. “The more opportunities you can provide for people to meet face-to-face, the more business gets transacted.”
And while this year’s Banff fest, now in its 27th edition, had the largest U.S. presence ever among its 1,450 attendees, Davine says many Los Angeles industryites still haven’t heard of it.
Banff’s mission is to change that by expanding its U.S. and international profile, says fest chairman Robert Montgomery. “We’re hoping to segue from Banff being the best-kept secret to being the best open secret in our industry.”
“We need to get the message out to people in the U.S.,” says Shelley Blaine Goodman, VP Canada for A&E, and a longtime supporter of the fest. “I feel that people in the U.S. are missing out by not being here.”
The Banff slate was an eclectic one designed to provide something for everyone.
It included the Rockies TV awards, with the top prize going to Martin Scorsese’s documentary “No Direction Home: Bob Dylan,” as well as pitching sessions, networking programs and practical panels on product placement, script optioning and multiple platforms.
In his session, Davine talked about the multiplatform approach Touchstone is taking with “Lost” — the mobisodes, the Web site for “Lost’s” fictional Oceanic Airlines and novel “Bad Twin,” whose fake author has made the real-life New York Times bestseller list.
“But this is not a platform in search of a property,” Davine says. “We’re looking first and foremost for compelling TV.”
“CSI” producer-director Richard Lewis led a self-help session for writers, producers and directors on dealing with pressures inherent in the creative process.
Lewis told Variety that viewers can expect changes in the seventh season of “CSI” that will distinguish the show once again from its imitators.
“We always try to challenge ourselves. If we get too comfortable or too familiar with something, we try to break the mold with a new aesthetic or way of doing things. We keep varying our approach to this particular genre,” he says.
Shore talked about how “House” was conceived not as a whodunit, but as “a whatdunit with a cranky doctor.”
He told delegates they were concerned that the title would confuse auds who might mistake it for a reality show. “But we figured if it works, it works; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”