by Tara Thorne
For years the Atlantic Film Festival has been running a program for emerging screenwriters, in which a handful of scribes spend the summer workshopping an original script each with legendary Canadian story editor Allan Magee, then pitch it to producers during the fest itself. Last year, which focused on first-draft features, was the first time development money from Telefilm and the Harold Greenberg Fund was attached to the program—$30,000 split between two writers—and the 2007 edition has been a variation on 2006: Instead of features, the writers workshopped an outline into a 20-page treatment which they then pitched to producers, and a winner was chosen from the pitch session.
The writers were the team of Iain MacLeod and Deanne Foley, Meredith Ralston, Warren Jefferies and Chris Cuthbertson and Drew Hagen, the team behind last year's AFF feature A Bug and a Bag of Weed (though they each had their own project here).
Hagen, the second writer to pitch, came away the big winner of the September 18 session, where he spun his idea to Bill Niven, local producer of Chaz Thorne's Just Buried, as well as one of our favourite Canadian films, Marion Bridge.
"Everyone pitched and then the different people who are in charge went away to a room somewhere and talked about the merits of each project," says Hagen. "And then we came back later in the day, to the Chaz and Friends talk, and they announced it there. And I had Kentucky Fried Chicken in between."
Hagen's project, Pot of Gold, which he likens to "a modern-day Goin' Down the Road," is about two guys from Dartmouth who get laid off and head out west to Fort McMurray, AB (aka Fort McMoney). But when they arrive they discover "the streets that are paved with black gold are filled with broken dreams," Hagen synopsizes for likely the countless time.
Now, it's not like Hagen walked out of the Delta with a three-picture deal and a sack of money—the onus is now on him to find a producer to get to the next stage of development. While it might seem like a rip to work all summer for a big reward that you're really only winning the chance to receive, he considers it a good thing.
"If they just gave out a cash award at the end to the best idea it's so easy for the project to die," he says. "As a writer there is a disconnect between the writing community and the producing community. This is a good guide and will help to put those two communities together. A writer is coming to a producer with attachment, with development funding. It's not enough to just show up with a great idea. If they bring it on, they will be filling out forms for the rest of their life on this project. It's not enough to show up and say "This is me, I've got a great idea, dedicate your life to making it.'"
Suck on that, Factor
Another new variation on a regular program is 10 x10 with Los Angeles video director Norwood Cheek. Cheek has attended the film festival many times to present his "Attack of the 50-Foot Reels" program, in which a handful of novice filmmakers make super-8 shorts. This year the program has expanded to include 10 local directors making music videos for 10 local artists. Considering how hard it is to get a music video made—from both sides, it's a grant-writing/funding/resources nightmare from hell—this is a compelling example of DIY. And while Super-8 videos are not exactly burning up the MuchMusic charts, it's an anything-goes kind of age, so who knows what you could see on Friday, and wherre it cold end up later.
The 10 teams are: Gia Milani and hey rosetta; Computer Says No and The Pact, Cam Erais and Tim Chaisson, Jennifer Seward and Jessica Rhaye; Jennifer Zimmer and i see rowboats; Justin Tomchuk and Mark Bragg; Steve Yorke and Steven Bowers; Siloen Daley and The Superfantastics; Charles Jannasch and Down with the Butterfly and Frank Forrestall and Caledonia. Cheek himself, who always participates, shot a clip for Dog Day.
Last week we mentioned that the eighth season of Trailer Park Boys had begun shooting. It's actually a one-hour special. We apologize for the error.
There are no Coast cash awards for your best film ideas, but if you ever make it big in the movies, we’d like to say we knew you. So... email email@example.com