Canucks set laffs lab

Film industryto create homegrown comedy hits

MONTREAL — Canada has always exported plenty of comic talent. Now its film industry hopes to create some homegrown comedy hits.

Canuck funder Telefilm Canada, Toronto training school the Canadian Film Center and the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal have teamed to create an advanced training program to develop theatrical feature-length comedies, the trio announced Thursday at the Just for Laughs fest. The program, to be called the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab, will launch in November.

Accomplished Canadian feature producers, writers and directors are the target of the lab, which looks to develop and package five English-language comedies by 2010. The films would go into production in 2011-12.

Telefilm Canada would help finance these pics.

But English-language Canada produces far fewer mainstream comedies than Canada’s French-lingo industry, which produces a fair number of successful laffers. The top film so far this year in Quebec is a comedy: “De Pere en flic.”

“While Canada has made some great comedies — such as ‘Strange Brew,’ ‘Porky’s’ and ‘Bon Cop, Bad Cop’ — for a country that is recognized globally for its sense of humor, we have not fully exploited our potential to make funny and commercially successful feature films,” said Sheila de La Varende, director of business development at Telefilm. “There is a gap in how we tell our stories to each other and the world, and the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab was created to fill this gap.”

The three-year program will be funded by the Canada Feature Fund and will have a budget of just over C$1 million ($918,000).

The program will bring together five producers and their writers and directors to engage in workshops, master classes and one-on-one sessions with leading industryites in an effort to strengthen the scripts.

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