U.S. execs branch out at Banff

World Television Fest kicks off

A correction was made to this article on June 9, 2006.

Industryites are making their way to the Canuck mountain resort of Banff, where the World Television Festival kicks off Sunday with its biggest ever U.S. presence.

Execs and creatives taking part in panels and/or leading master classes include “Prison Break” creator Paul Scheuring; Richard Lewis, writer, producer and director of “CSI”; “House” creator David Shore, who will also collect the fest’s award of excellence; and Ali LeRoi of “Everybody Hates Chris.”

Canadian helmer-scribe Paul Haggis (“Crash”) is accepting the first NBC Universal Canada award of distinction and will be featured at “In Conversation With …,” as will Howard Davine, exec VP of Touchstone Television; FremantleMedia’s Gary Carter; and Nick Fraser of the BBC.

Others receiving hardware at the fest include Guy Lepage (Peter Ustinov comedy award); CBS Television (achievement award); Quantel (Deluxe technical achievement award); Allan Magee (Lionsgate/Maple Pictures innovative producer award); and Wendy Mesley (ACTRA’s John Drainie Award).

Now that content is king again, CEO Robert Montgomery believes that his four-day fest really can be all things to all TV bizzers.

“Providing a critical mass of people, content and network opportunities in every major genre and subsection of the industry is what the festival’s all about,” he said. “It cuts to the central part of our mandate.”

The 27th edition is crammed with a diverse array of awards, master classes, panels, pitching and networking sessions, Canuck industry politics and a healthy dose of new media.

Two years ago, Montgomery’s company, Achilles Media, bailed out the cash-strapped fest, taking over its management and launching an ambitious strategy to make Banff “the most important production and development market in the world,” he said. “The industry needs a market for hot ideas, and we’re in a great position to provide that.”

There will be the usual networking sessions, termed “the industry’s version of speed-dating.” Following last year’s fest, C$160 million (U.S. $144 million) in deals was done either at or after the festival.

One of the changes Achilles Media has made is to move its new-media confab, NextMedia, to Banff. This year’s sold-out fest opens today and runs through Sunday, immediately preceding the TV fest, to give delegates a chance to participate in both.

About half of NextMedia’s 300 delegates stay on for the TV festival.

On the Canadian front, Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda will address the industry Sunday and Monday, Charles Dalfen, chairman of regulator the CRTC is expected to announce a review of the TV sector that will pit the broadcasters’ call for looser regulation against producers and unions’ demands for more homegrown dramatic and docu programming.

A paper titled “The Future of Television in Canada,” commissioned by Achilles Media, will be discussed on the fest’s last day, Wednesday.

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