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Banff fest moves at rapid pace

Canadian TV confab brings Hollywood to Alberta

Even though it pains attendees to sit inside a ballroom while the gorgeous Canadian Rockies await outside, those coming to the Banff World Television Festival June 13-16 are there for a quick study.

The goal is to understand and take advantage of how quickly the TV landscape continues to evolve — from a programming, distribution and business perspective. The shift is clearly moving faster than a deer suddenly scampering down Banff’s sleepy small-town streets.

“This is the rebirth,” said exec director Peter Vamos. “Traditionally, this has been a place where producers can come and pitch ideas. This year it’s about the full integration of media and platforms. Our focus has shifted radically to disseminate where media is heading and how people are going to make money.”

Fest has been active in attracting clientele from all over North America — not just those host Canucks — and across the Pond to share knowledge. Content-wise, there’s been a big push to invite showrunners of hit skeins to share their stories. And for those who are more interested in the financial machinations behind the camera, many producers will be on hand to discuss exactly what it takes to put a deal together.

Among those speaking in intimate settings will be Golden Globe host and “The Office” creator Ricky Gervais, fellow Brit Nigel Lythgoe, Tivo topper Tom Rogers and Bill Prady, showrunner of CBS’ hot comedy “The Big Bang Theory.” PBS CEO Paula Kerger will offer the opening keynote.

“There’s definite excitement about the showrunner panels,” Vamos said. “It’s part of putting on a show. People are interested and want to know that stuff.”

Also this year, the Next Media digital conference will run concurrently with the Banff fest, rather than a few days before. With the thinking that the digital and TV worlds so closely aligned, it made better sense for attendees who wanted info from both gatherings.

The annual Banff World Television Awards and a kids and animation confab, discussing the evolution of children’s programming, are also part of the fest.

Toronto-born Eric McCormack is being honored this year with the Award of Distinction. Thesp, best known for his long-running role in NBC’s “Will and Grace,” recently starred in Lifetime telepic “Who Is Clark Rockefeller?”

Gervais set to receive Ustinov honor

Ricky Gervais has won over the masses in the U.K. and the U.S., and now has put Canada on his radar.

The co-creator of Blighty’s “The Office” — and exec producer of the Stateside Steve Carell version — will receive the Peter Ustinov Comedy Award at the Banff World Television Festival on June 15 and discuss his career, which has ranged from children’s author, writer, actor and stand-up comedian to awards show host.

“This is probably the greatest honor of my career,” Gervais said. “Only the Nobel Peace Prize can top this, but I will only accept that in person if the ceremony is held somewhere as beautiful as Banff.”

Recently wrapping a worldwide comedy tour that stopped in London, New York and Los Angeles, Gervais’ podcasts have also been turned into an animated TV series on HBO.

After Gervais emceed the Golden Globes in January — the first time in decades the event had a host — NBC made a quick decision to bring him back for 2011.

Other Ustinov recipients include John Cleese, Bob Newhart and Martin Short.

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