You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Canadian lab grows new laughs

Telefilm initiative bears fruit

TORONTO — Everyone knows Canadians are funny — especially Canadians, who keep homegrown standup, radio and TV comedy thriving. But bigscreen laughs tend to be a different story.

A few years ago, bizzers told government film funder Telefilm that Canadian comedies weren’t making the leap to Hollywood and beyond, says the Canadian Film Center’s film and TV programs director Kathryn Emslie. That led to the forming of the Telefilm Canada Features Comedy Lab, which was launched to help make comedy click at the domestic box office. It kicked off its third annual session Nov. 14 at the CFC in Toronto, a key lab partner along with Montreal-headquartered Just for Laughs.

“Filmmakers with comedy scripts weren’t looking to Telefilm, because most of that financing went to drama,” says Michael Sparaga, the Toronto-based writer/co-producer of lab project “Servitude.” “So the announcement of the lab marked a big shift in priorities.”

The lab also is a mechanism for determining if the projects are worthy of Telefilm development money. “The hope for the participants is that the relationship with Telefilm will continue,” say Emslie.

The lab, which focuses on fast-tracking script development and packaging of Canadian feature comedies for domestic and international auds, has already had a degree of success.

“Servitude,” a workplace comedy helmed by Warren P. Sonoda (“Cooper’s Camera”) that was developed in the lab’s first year, will close the Whistler Film Festival and is set for spring release by Alliance Films. “Atlantic Gold,” a romantic comedy penned by John Hazlett from the lab’s second year, has previous lab mentor Donald Petrie (“Miss Congeniality”) attached as director.

Several more alumni comedies (five are selected each year via a rigorous process) are now speeding through the pipeline, thanks to the lab’s project-specific matchmaking, which pairs teams of creatives — typically producer and writer and/or director — with industry heavyweights.

The lab began with an intense script-focused November session (this year’s mentor/guest roster features Kirsten Smith, David Frankel, Mike White and Ron Yerxa, among others) and concludes with a week of meetings in Los Angeles in the spring, with script drafts and frequent tete-a-tetes among creatives and mentors.

Sparaga’s first lab-enabled meeting was with Ivan Reitman, who urged the writer to make his script semi-autobiographical and R-rated. A year later — after several drafts and a writers-room style punch-up in L.A. — cameras were rolling.

Montreal-based “Atlantic Gold” producer Antonello Cozzolino found a champion in veteran producer and 2010-11 mentor Joe Medjuck. “It’s tough to get your script noticed by the right people,” Cozzolino says. “By the time we hit L.A. for the lab’s second session, we were meeting with major agencies and high profile-directors — the packaging started happening very fast.”

Three of this year’s participating projects are from British Columbia: “How to Change Everything Without Doing Anything” (producer Blake Corbet, writer-director Kris Lefcoe); “Zombie Love” (producer Mark Stephenson, writer Jonathan Williams); and “How to Break Up With Your Mother” (producers Elizabeth Levine and Adrian Salpeter, writer Kellie Benz). Another, “Fit to Print” (producer Michael McNamara, writer-director Daniel Perlmutter), is from Ontario; and “Birthmarked” (producers Pierre Even and Marie-Claude Poulin, writer Marc Tulin) comes from Quebec.

Let the crossover laffs begin.

More Film

  • Berlin Awarded 'Tess' Sells to Multiple

    Berlin Awarded 'Tess' Sells to Multiple Territories (EXCLUSIVE)

    Berlin-based sales agent Picture Tree Intl. has sold Steven Wouterlood’s coming-of-age film “My Extraordinary Summer with Tess,” which received a Special Mention from the jury of Berlin Film Festival’s Generation KPlus section, to distributors in several territories. Among the buyers are Les Films Du Preau in France, Proview Entertainment in Taiwan, Angel Films in Denmark, [...]

  • China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches

    China Box Office: ‘Wandering Earth’ Reaches $557 Million in Second Week

    The winning films from Chinese New Year remained on top of the Chinese box office in their second normal weekend of release. Locally-made sci-fi film “The Wandering Earth” advanced its score to $557 million. “Wandering Earth” earned $88.8 million between Friday and Monday, according to data from Asian film industry consultancy Artisan Gateway. That was [...]

  • Nuno Beato’s ‘My Grandfather’ Part of

    ‘My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons’ Marks Sardinha em Lata’s Animation Build

    Portuguese animator-producer-director Nuno Beato, whose credits include “Emma & Gui,” “Híssis” and the multi-prized “My Life In Your Hands,” will pitch a new project, currently in development, “My Grandfather Used to Say He Saw Demons” at Bordeaux’s upcoming Cartoon Movie, the leading European animated feature forum. Cartoon Movie runs March 5-7. Combining 2D and stop-motion, [...]

  • DF-10193 – L-R: Ben Hardy (Roger Taylor),

    'Bohemian Rhapsody' Leads MPSE Golden Reel Awards for Sound Editing

    “Bohemian Rhapsody” followed up love from Cinema Audio Society sound mixers with a pair of honors at the Motion Picture Sound Editors’ 66th annual Golden Reel Awards Sunday night. The musical biopic scored wins for dialogue and ADR as well as sound editing in a musical. The film is nominated for sound editing at the Oscars [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" in

    Writers Guild Makes It Official: This Is the Most Wide-Open Oscars Race Ever

    For the record, we’re in uncharted territory this Oscar season. While we still have the costume designers’ ceremony to get through on Tuesday, the Writers Guild Awards put a bow on the major guild kudos circuit Sunday night. The results have yielded what is, unequivocally, the most wide-open Oscar field in history. The major guild [...]

  • Melissa McCarthy as "Lee Israel" and

    WGA Awards 2019: 'Can You Ever Forgive Me?,' 'Eighth Grade' Win Screenplay Awards

    In a pair of upsets, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” has won the Writers Guild of America’s adapted screenplay award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and Bo Burnham has won the original screenplay award for “Eighth Grade.” The major television trophies went to “The Americans,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Homeland” and “Barry” for the [...]

  • Alita Battle Angel

    Box Office: 'Alita: Battle Angel' No Match for China's 'Wandering Earth' Overseas

    Hollywood movies like “Alita: Battle Angel” and “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” are doing respectable business overseas, but they’re proving no match for foreign titles at the international box office. The Chinese New Year is bringing in huge business in the Middle Kingdom. China’s sci-fi epic “The Wandering Earth” pulled in a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content