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Strike grants opportunity for Canada

Producers scurry to fill the union gap

MONTREAL — Some Canuck producers have seized on the WGA strike as an opportunity while stations are trying to figure out how to fill holes left by U.S. shows that have gone dark. If the strike drags on, it will also put a damper on Yank shooting.

“There are obviously some opportunities for companies that can develop and produce programming outside the American guild system,” says John Morayniss, CEO of Canadian prodco Blueprint Ent.

“The longer the strike lasts, the hungrier the U.S. buyers are going to be for alternative types of programming. And the Canadian companies have the best opportunity of anyone outside the U.S., because we speak the same language, we have a similar culture and we’re close to the U.S.”

Morayniss says his company has already had preliminary discussions with several American networks about developing shows using Canadian writers.

Michael Prupas from Canadian-based Muse Entertainment thinks the strike could present opportunities for his company as well.

“We think it might actually open a door for us to sell our series ‘Durham County’ in the U.S., because there will be greater demand for dramatic programming,” he says. “So there are some silver linings for Canadian producers. It’s also going to potentially raise the profile of some Canadian writers.”

But the strike has stalled other Canadian projects. That’s because the Writers Guild of Canada announced Nov. 6 that dual members of both the guilds who reside in the U.S. are not allowed to work on any projects, whether American or Canadian. Prupas had been developing a TV series with a Canadian writer based in Los Angeles, and that has been put on hold.

Meanwhile Canuck nets are revamping. CTV has turned to repeats of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report,” while filling one slot with “TMZ,” which is unaffected.

CTV-owned A-Channel stations are running repeats of “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night With Conan O’Brien.”

Susanne Boyce, president of content at CTVglobemedia, says she will sked a mix of repeats and new originals. CTV has a number of U.S. series on the shelf, including a full season of “Nip/Tuck,” and a number of Canuck shows including “Robson Arms” and “Degrassi: The Next Generation.”

“Is it making our lives harder? Sure,” Boyce says. “But it’s an opportunity. Something new often comes out of hard times.”

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