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Spotlight on the Porter: Authentic Storytelling

The Porter (CBC, BET+) is set in the Black community of St. Antoine, Montreal in the 1920s. The series follows an ensemble of characters who hustle, dream, cross borders and pursue their ambitions on and off the railways that crossed North America. It’s a gripping story of empowerment and idealism that highlights the moment when railway workers from both Canada and the United States joined forces to create the world’s first Black union. The PSP is honoured to host Marsha Greene and Annmarie Morais on Monday February 28 for a public talk about Authentic Storytelling and being a part of Canada’s only Black-led series, with an all-Black writers’ room.

Monday, February 28, 2022

4pm PST on VIFF Connect

Attendance is free! Please register here to participate.

Our First Executive Director and Three New Board Members

Susin Nielsen, Kim Hsu Guise and Todd Ireland Join PSP’s Board of Directors, Alison Fraser Named Executive Director

 

Vancouver, January 18, 2021 – The Pacific Screenwriting Program (PSP) is thrilled to announce the appointment of three new Board Members and its first Executive Director.

The Pacific Screenwriting Program is a collaboration between Netflix, the Canadian Media Producers Association – BC Producer’s Branch, the Writer’s Guild of Canada and Creative BC with the goal of building a vibrant screenwriter community in British Columbia. The Program provides support and career-advancement opportunities to BC-based film and television writers at all levels, while generating a deep and sustainable pool of local film and TV screenwriting talent for BC-based series and films.

Susin Nielsen is the most recent addition to the Board of Directors representing the Writers Guild of Canada. She has written for many Canadian TV series, including Arctic Air, Heartland, Cedar Cove, Madison, Ready or Not, Franny’s Feet and Braceface. She also co-created and executive produced the critically-acclaimed half-hour comedy-drama, Robson Arms. She’s won an Academy of Canadian TV Gemini Award and two Canadian Screenwriter Awards for her work. Most recently Susin wrapped season two of Family Law, an hour-long comedy-drama for Global TV.

Also joining the PSP Board of Directors is Kim Hsu Guise who has 20 years of experience in the film and television industry as a lawyer, business affairs advisor and production executive. She is an independent consultant currently working with clients such as Telefilm Canada and the Directors Guild of Canada to develop training initiatives for underrepresented creatives in the audio-visual industries. She was previously the Director of Local Content at TELUS, as well the Executive in Charge of Production for TELUS Original Programming and STORYHIVE overseeing a multi-million dollar portfolio supporting BC and Alberta filmmakers and cultural organizations. Kim is passionate about enabling people from diverse backgrounds and experiences to tell stories that are meaningful to them and their communities.

Todd Ireland is EVP of Enderby Entertainment Canada, where he oversees development and production. He also sits on the Writers Guild of Canada Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Ireland was a writer on the Saturn Award-winning TV series, Continuum for Netflix/Showcase, and a writer and Story Editor for two seasons on Netflix/YTV’s ReBoot:The Guardian Code, produced by Mainframe Entertainment, which earned him a 2019 Writers Guild of Canada Screenwriting Award nomination. Todd recently completed writing the family animated feature film Sunny. Todd is a graduate of the  University of Regina and completed both the PSP’s Scripted Series Lab, as well as the Writers Guild of Canada Diverse Screenwriter Program.

“We feel privileged to collaborate with such a diverse group of industry executives to help guide the PSP through its evolution from a start-up with an ambitious vision to becoming a key local industry stakeholder championing screenwriters in British Columbia” said PSP Board Chair Brian Hamilton. “We are particularly excited to welcome our new Executive Director Alison Fraser to lead the charge on these efforts,” elaborated Hamilton. “I look forward to working with our highly respected leadership team on developing new programs and strategies to ensure that BC’s diverse voices are represented on screens at home and around the world.”

KAF Consulting Group Principal, Alison Fraser, has been retained to lead start-up to scale-up efforts as Executive Director with a focus on corporate strategy, revenue generation, and operations.

“Despite the pandemic, the industry contributed $3.4 billion to the provincial economy in 2020 and saw a 30% increase in scripted television series,” said Fraser. “By building on our four-year track record of success, and scaling up the PSP, we’re better able to ensure BC screenwriting talent and homegrown stories represent a significant portion of that ongoing growth.”

Alison brings more than 20 years of experience in delivering national programs, and leading large marketing, communications and content delivery initiatives with organizations such as Microsoft, Telefilm Canada, Rogers, Transcontinental Media, TELUS, and Entertainment One to this new leadership role. Alison holds a master’s degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York City, completed the Women in Film and Television Media Leadership Program at the Schulich School of Business, and is pursuing an Executive MBA at SFU. She also serves on the boards of Women in Film and Television – Vancouver, Eastside Culture Crawl and the International Association for Public Participation.

 

About the Pacific Screenwriting Program

The Pacific Screenwriting Program was established in 2018 with the goal of building a vibrant screenwriter community in British Columbia. Based in Vancouver, the not-for-profit organization provides support and career-advancement opportunities to BC-based film and television writers at all levels, while generating a deep and sustainable pool of local talent for BC-based series and films. For more information: Pacific Screenwriting Program, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram

 

About Netflix

Netflix is the world’s leading internet entertainment service with 195 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.

 

About the CMPA – BC Producers Branch

The CMPA-BC is a trade association representing member companies across British Columbia engaged in the production and distribution of television programs, feature films, and interactive media content. Producers are significant employers of BC creative talent and assume the financial and creative risk of developing our stories and original content for Canadian and international audiences. CMPA members create content for distribution on traditional film and television, internet and mobile wireless platforms. For more information: CMPA-BC

 

About WBC

The Writers Guild of Canada (WGC) is a professional association of more than 2,400 English-language screenwriters. WGC members are the creative force behind Canada’s successful TV shows, movies and digital series, and their work brings the diversity of Canadian life and culture to the world’s screens. The WGC supports Canadian screenwriters through negotiating and administering collective agreements with producers to ensure that screenwriters earn fair pay and benefits. It also advocates for policies that foster Canadian programming and production and boosts the profile of WGC members in the industry. For more information, visit wgc.ca. Follow @WGCtweet on Twitter.

 

About Creative BC

Creative BC is an independent non-profit society formed in 2013 to support the province’s film, television, music, interactive digital media as well as book and magazine publishing

industries. Creative BC works collaboratively with industry and its government partners to encourage higher levels of production, job creation and investment across all sectors of B.C.’s creative economy. For more information: Creative BC

MEDIA CONTACT: Jive PR | Richard Stafford | richard@jiveprdigital.com | 310.384.5753

VIFF Talks: Yellowjackets Co-Creators Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson

Yellowjackets (Showtime, Crave) has been seen by over 4 million viewers since its November 14, 2021 debut. The show picked up a Critics’ Choice nomination for ’Best Drama Series’, and has already been renewed for a second season. We are thrilled to present Ashley Lyle and Bart Nickerson (Narcos, Dispatches from Elsewhere) as they discuss the show’s flashback structure, character development, and cast.


Wednesday, January 26, 2022

6pm PST on VIFF Connect

Attendance is free! Please register here to participate.

KAREN McCLELLAN 2022 SHOWRUNNER-IN-RESIDENCE

Karen McClellan-PSP-2022Award-winning writer Karen McClellan will serve as Showrunner-in-Residence for the 2022 Scripted Series Lab. Starting in January 2022, Karen will mentor six up-and-coming BC-based screenwriters as they develop her original series in the PSP’s flagship training program. Karen recently served as Executive Producer and Co-Showrunner of The Next Step, a global hit series playing in over 120 countries. During her tenure, the fictional tween dramedy garnered multiple BAFTA and Canadian Screen Award nominations. Prior to joining The Next Step in its fifth season, Karen co-created and executive-produced the Victoria, BC-set mystery digital series Spiral for which she won a 2018 Writers Guild of Canada award. Her other credits cover an array of one-hour and half-hour shows, including CBC’s international hit drama Being Erica and critically acclaimed Cracked, as well as CTV’s beloved comedy Robson’s Arms. A graduate of the Shaw Media Showrunner Training Program, Karen has developed multiple projects for Canadian and American broadcasters and production companies.

SSL 2022 Applications Now Closed

Thank you to all of you who sent applications in to us. We know it’s a lot of work. All applicants can expect to hear from the PSP via email in mid November. Please make sure our emails aren’t going to your junk folder!

Catching Up with Corey Liu

 

Screenwriter Corey Liu has been working steadily since finishing the Scripted Series Lab 2019 program, including a stint in the room on Susin Nielsen’s new drama, Family Law, set to premier on Global later this year. Thank goodness he’s getting good at writing in a system rather than letting adrenaline and deadlines run the schedule. Corey says he’s a fan of the Pomodoro method.  “You tell yourself you only have to feel crappy for 30m if the writing doesn’t start to flow. (But it usually does.)”

When Corey thinks back to the Scripted Series Lab, he says “learning how to break a mystery with Showrunner, Sarah Dodd, and getting experience with how to organize an episode, was an invaluable experience. In a mystery you’re trying to steer the audience’s attention. You give them enough clues but also you’re trying to manipulate the viewer into thinking certain things. So much is centered in structure. Every act is a unified thought. The same goes for episodes.” He adds, Sarah Dodd taught them that “every show leaves questions that we manipulate the audience into thinking they have the answer to to.”

Corey’s advice to this year’s participants is “don’t get attached to you or ideas in the room.” Most of his ideas don’t end up on the wall, “and that’s fine!” Also, don’t get too automatically critical of other people’s pitched ideas. He adds, “Remember when you get notes from the mentor, still just really sit with it and think about where it might be coming from. What are they identifying even if you don’t love their solution.”

Checking In with Huelah Lander

Screenwriter Huelah Lander wasted no time after leaving the Scripted Series Lab 2020 last year. She wrote one of this year’s selected Crazy8s films, iDorothy, directed by Luvia Petersen and produced by Amanda Konkin. The film premiers at the Crazy8s gala on May 1st. Tix available at: http://crazy8s.film/
The same team, (Download Joy Productions), is pleased to announce that their Harold Greenburg funded short film, hAPPiness, will be debuting in Canada on Crave and internationally through Dust in July.
Oh, and a TV movie that she wrote,  Evil Stepmom,  is in production. No biggie!
Looking back at what she learned from her time at the PSP, Huelah says, “It’s an industry built on connections which can make people feel it’s inaccessible but the PSP helped me understand you don’t know where opportunities are going to come from. It’s okay if you don’t click with everybody. If you aren’t a super connector you can still work on making real connections with people.”
To this year’s cohort, Huelah says, “Don’t be afraid to reach out with people. When this program ends you have a bit of name recognition to work with. Also keep in contact with your cohort.” Huelah’s advice to potential PSP applicants is, “Showcase yourself. Show your personality in your letter and your work and the interview. It’s better to be real and who you are and interesting so that if you get in, it’s the right fit. And be nice. Be someone people would want to spend a lot of time with.”

Checking in with Adam Hussein

Since completing the Scripted Series Lab 2020, screenwriter Adam Hussein has signed with an agent and continues to work on several projects. He’s particularly excited about a novel he’s been adapting that sounds like a perfect match for his legal background and social justice interests.

Reflecting on his time in the room, Adam thinks showrunner, Rob Cooper, was “really good about pressing us on our networking skills, on taking chances and reaching out as much as we can. This has already served me well and helped me to stay on top of it.”

His advice for future applicants? Work on a sample that is the clearest representation of who you are and what your voice is. “What’s gotten the most attention for me,” he explains, “hasn’t always been my most marketable work but it shows my voice and shows my passion. Focus on that above all else.”

Petie Chalifoux says “Never give up!”

Petie Chalifoux has a whole folder of rejections at home but she says, “you can’t give up. Accept the “no,” and keep moving forward. Never give up. Somebody out there is ready for your project, you just don’t know who until they see it.”

Petie runs a production company, Tohkapi Cinema,  with her partner, Micheal Auger. Tohkapi is a Cree word meaning “Opening Eyes” and it’s a 100% owned and operated Indigenous company. Her hard work and her dedication to putting herself out there is bearing fruit. The project she worked on at the PSP, “Disappearing Moon,” has received development money and is currently being worked into a feature and a short. Petie and her team will be filming the short this summer, “and we continue to push for it to become a TV series.” Petie’s documentary, “Bella’s Story,” recently aired on APTN.

Looking back at her time with the PSP, Petie says she’s grateful to Sarah Dodd for holding a space for her to use her voice in the way Petie was taught, in a way that was respectful to her own culture. She adds, the most useful skill she came away with was “learning how to break a story.”

 

 

 

 

Renuka Singh on Communicating in the Room

For 2020 Scripted Series Lab Alum, Renuka Singh, writing is a family affair. Her sister is also a working TV writer and the two of them have been hard at work on a new project.

For Renuka, time spent in the room was emboldening. “Near the end of the program,” she muses, “we were reflecting on our experience and Rob Cooper told me I had to get confident and throw my ideas out there. That’s how you get your ideas heard. Your ideas might get shot down but that’s part of the process – it leads to the next idea.” That advice extends to communication with the Showrunner as well. “At any point where you are bumping on something…don’t sit on it. Go to the showrunner and ask for clarification. They will tell you exactly what they are looking for, saving you from spinning your wheels and building up your relationship with the Showrunner.”

Her advice for future participants is practical. “The program is scary and uncomfortable and all encompassing at times, so set your personal affairs up first so you can take time for self-care. The room is so fun! But it’s a challenge too. Make sure you fridge is well stocked.”

 

Steve Neufeld on Throwing Spaghetti At the Wall

Scripted Series Lab 2020 alum, Steve Neufeld, has several projects on the go, but he’s especially excited to be working on his new novel. “It’s nice to really savour the language in a way that’s different from writing scripts. On the other hand, TV is so focused on structure, that I think it’s informed my novel writing in a positive way.”

Thinking back to his PSP days, Steve says, “So many lessons sound simple but you learn through the experience. For example, interrogate your first idea and dig for more ideas. Don’t just go for the first idea. The room is the perfect place to learn this and I try to remember it when I work on solo stuff.”

He thinks of the whole process from pitching to breaking as throwing spaghetti at the wall and not getting your heart broken when something doesn’t stick. “Learning not to let the ‘no’ get you down is so organic to the process,” Steve adds. “Those muscles get flexed every day in the room. I miss the camaraderie.”

Steve’s advice to this year’s participants is to keep contacting people. “Have lots of stuff that you can pitch. Try to enjoy the whole process as a process rather than looking at it as wins and losses. See the whole thing as the dream, not just getting the show green lit.”

Catching Up with PSP Alum Mike Orlando

Scripted Series Lab 2019 Participant, Mike Orlando, enjoys teaching screenwriting online for Vancouver Community College, as well as writing coverage for a local production company. He’s had an MOW optioned, as well as the script he developed while in the Scripted Series Lab. Of course, he’s always working on writing more scripts.

I asked Mike what his most lasting impressions from his time in the room were. Mike said, “I will always remember the naked person in the apartment building across the street from our room. The naked person always seemed to interrupt my pitching! But seriously, something I think about to this day is the incredible diversity of that room – the five of us and the Showrunner. Gender, orientation, ethnicity… It felt like everyone had a free-flowing role in the room. I really appreciated that and will always want to be in a diverse room.”

Mike’s main piece of advice for this year’s cohort is to maintain their relationships with both the group and the industry people they meet. He added, “When you hear how people get their breaks it usually ends up being a non linear line of relationships and putting yourself out there.”

Mike’s advice for people hoping to get into the program is to submit a sample that is “most unique to your voice.” He suggests that genre is less important than the script that shows specific strengths and is memorable. “Show something of who you are that a Showrunner would want to add to the room.”

Catching up with PSP Alum Todd Ireland

Todd is currently the executive vice president of Enderby Entertainment Canada where he helps oversee development and production. He recently completed writing the family animated feature film Sunny.

When asked what it was like looking at projects from the production side, Todd says that his writing experience gives him an informed POV on the development end. He loves working on the market side now, supporting writers. He’s exposed to all levels of scripts and makes use of his experience getting notes now that he’s giving notes.

Todd looks back at his time at the PSP Scripted Series Lab with the key takeaway that people can come together and create something solid in a short period of time. Diversity of backgrounds in the room is vital. (Age and background as well as gender and race.)

His advice for this year’s cohort? – Contribute as much as possible and learn how to listen. Lose the idea of competition. Listen to others. When you get an idea,  sit on your big idea for a moment. To make sure it’s really formulated.

For those who reach the interview stage for next year’s SSL, he offers this sage advice: “Your script and application got you this far. Tailor your pitch prep based on who that showrunner is as much as possible. Consider what that showrunner is going to need for this particular show. Take all your skills and abilities, being honest about who you are, but think through how you can best be helpful and prepared to be of use to this Showrunner. Whatever you can do.”