Under the bridge

Tara Thorne plays the hand she’s dealt.

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In the "who knew?" category, we're featuring a local documentary about the intricate, cutthroat world of competitive bridge. Yes, the card game.

"I followed them for about two years between 2004 and 2006," says writer-director Andy Pedersen of In the Cards, his 45-minute film about top players Gavin Wolpert and Vince Demuy. "At the beginning of the process they were the most exciting partnership in the little-known world of professional bridge."

Pedersen received funding after participating in a doc workshop headlined by Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie). "It was all sparked by a program that CTV sponsored called Inspired. It was a weekend workshop and they invited 15 filmmakers," he says. "I faked my way in—I had done a few films, but mostly just big newsmagazine pieces. We basically just got lectured to by documentary filmmakers. And then at the end of it everybody got to pitch and four projects were financed out of the weekend."

He followed Wolpert and Demuy—a Quebecois who couldn't speak English when he met his teammate, an Ontario native—to tournaments in Montreal, Toronto, Denver, Orlando, Atlanta and Sydney, Australia. "There's a real role reversal that happens in the middle," he hints of the plot. "And there's a girl. There's a love interest. She's from Sweden."

A combination of the Inspired weekend and shrewd trend-watching led Pedersen, a senior editor at Progress, to the unlikely topic of bridge. "When I was working at the Daily News, the wire was constantly flashing in front of my eyes," he says. "And during the Salt Lake City Olympics, bridge was played as a quasi-competition sport. And Canada won gold. And I'll never forget the quote—the Canadians have just won gold in bridge, and some reporter says "Don't you feel ridiculous?' And this player from Montreal, he said, "What am I supposed to do, buddy? It's called the Olympic Games, not the Olympic Sports.'" Though the Olympic angle fizzled, the card-playing Pedersen found another way in. "Once I heard about those dudes the timing was fortunate because poker was going crazy on TV."

Though he spent two years with the game, Pedersen has yet to grasp it. "In some ways I kind of think of it in a mild way in the way I think of heroin or something really addictive. Bridge players swear by the game—people really do lose their lives in it. It's an incredible thing. There's a bridge teacher I ran into in Cape Breton—he refuses to teach bridge to anyone younger than 40 because he's afraid they'll become bridge bums. It's heavy stuff, competitive bridge."

In the Cards airs on CTV at 7pm on April 7, repeating at 1pm on April 8.

Through line

One of our favourite local actor-playwright-screenwriters Josh MacDonald rang with some good news this week—he's been named one of four finalists in the Writers' Guild of Canada's screenwriting awards. His category is the Jim Burt Prize, named after the late CBC-TV writers' champ, and was created in the name of "recognizing and nurturing new screenwriting talent."

MacDonald's script is Over Under Through, which he's had on the go for a few years now. "This is one of those pieces that went through the Scripts Out Loud process at the Atlantic Film Festival, which was great," he says from his Dartmouth home. "But as a writer, projects are on your front burner or your back burner and I've had a couple other screenplays dominating my attention for a while." Those include the horror script The Corridor and a film adaptation of his popular play Halo. "So those things are at the forefront of my mind. But the WGC had this screenwriting award, and it's free of charge to enter—some of the Stateside contests are very expensive, 50 or 60 bucks American, so I thought no harm, no foul."

He describes his script as "a junior Run Lola Run meets Ferris Bueller's Day Off," a family comedy about teens who challenge one another to an urban duel—an orienteering exercise in which they must get from point A to point B in a straight line, making them only able to go over, under or through obstacles.

"It's interesting to see how you can let something lie fallow for a few years and see how it pops up," says MacDonald. "Things I've written over time keep popping back up. They all seem to develop and seem to grow. And hope springs eternal."

The WGC screenwriting awards will be handed out in Toronto on April 23.

Got big arts news in your cards? Email: tarat@thecoast.ca

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