NEWS: "Unforgettable" Spirit of the West documentary

There’s a moment that is indeed unforgettable in Spirit Unforgettable — the Hot Docs documentary about the final tour of the band Spirit Of The West. It’s near the end of the Celtic-rock legends’ ostensible farewell concert at Massey Hall. Fiftysomething lead singer and force-of-nature John Mann, stricken with early-onset Alzheimer’s, begins singing and then blanks on SOTW’s signature hit Home For A Rest. Virtually without pause, the audience sings the opening bars for him in powerful unison, giving an obviously-moved Mann time to collect himself, concentrate on the lyrics on his iPad and reassert his vocals as the song kicks into high gear. It seems a metaphor for a grateful audience being given a chance to give back at long last. “It’s touching, and I cry every time I see it,” says Pete McCormack, the musician/author/filmmaker behind Spirit Unforgettable. “Singing is his joy. That struggle is ongoing, and very deep in his everyday life.”

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A friend of the band since their heyday in the mid-‘90s, he’d received help from various members musically on a solo album and had drummer Vince Ditrich tour with him, “making up for my lack of rhythm.” But his first connection came out of nowhere. “John was on MuchMusic and he mentioned my first novel (Shelby: A Novel) and called it ‘the Canadian Catcher In The Rye.’ “It wasn’t anything near that kind of level. But it’s a great bonding moment when someone you don’t know — especially someone that cool — comes out and says something nice about you when you’re a young writer. I was so desperate for love,” he says with a laugh. Part of the Spirit Of The West family, he says, “I knew before the diagnosis was made public (in Sept. 2014). And there were signs of it before that.” Indeed, among the impressive archival bits is a relatively recent “home movie” type vid, shot at a living-room rehearsal, where Mann is slipping up on lyrics and cracking people up making fun of himself. But the narrative of Spirit Unforgettable — of the band playing towards a finish — was overturned somewhat by Mann’s perseverance. Spirit Of The West went on to play more dates after Massey Hall last June. Their eventual farewell date came in mid-April, with three shows at Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom. “I would have made the Commodore the end of the movie, but I honestly didn’t think he’d get that far,” McCormack says. Mann is still cognitive, and is scheduled to appear at the Hot Docs gala Saturday with his wife Jill to promote the movie (which is also scheduled to air on HBO Canada). In the course of the movie, we see him diagnosed on a cognitive scale out of 30 as an 18, dropping to a 17. “He’s probably around a 15 or 14 now,” McCormack says. “His memory of melody remains untouched. I can sing a song from the ‘70s and he’ll jump in. But he can’t play guitar anymore and he struggles with his iPad. And he struggles with reading. It’s a fascinating, insidious, relentless disease.” Mann’s troubles (including an earlier battle with colorectal cancer) are just part of the litany of health ills in the band, which we learn range from Ditrich’s kidney issues to Mann’s co-writer Geoffrey Kelly’s Crohn’s disease to bassist Tobin Frank’s gout. “That’s a lot of health issues for a bunch of guys in their 50s whose worst vice is beer,” McCormack says. “They’re beautiful people they’re worthy of a documentary, their music is pretty great. John and Geoff are brilliant songwriters. They could turn a phrase like nobody else and make it into a song. “And at the time, that Celtic sound was truly alternative. No one would start a band with a bouzouki, a bodhran and drums and try to be Bryan Adams. But they influenced a lot of bands, like Great Big Sea, who’d be the first to admit it.” Spirit Unforgettable screens Saturday, April 30, Monday, May 2 and Sunday, May 8. For tickets and info, visit hotdocs.ca.

Toronto Sun

News: Documentary on Spirit of the West singer wins VIFF award

Audiences at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival have chosen a film about the lead singer of the Vancouver band Spirit of the West and his struggle with Alzheimer’s disease as the most popular Canadian documentary.

Spirit Unforgettable, directed by Pete McCormack, was honoured with the award on Friday as this year’s festival concluded after 16 days.

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The film revolves around how being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s affected singer John Mann, his wife Jill, their family and members of Spirit. Mr. Mann attended the film’s premiere screening at VIFF.

Maudie, a dramatic film about Canadian folk artist Maud Lewis, won the Super Channel People’s Choice Award. Maudie, which is set in the 1930s and stars Sally Hawkins as Ms. Lewis and also features Ethan Hawke, opened this year’s VIFF.

Audience awards at VIFF are based on voting through post-screening ballots in which films are rated on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest grade.

I, Daniel Blake, directed by Ken Loach, was named the VIFF Most Popular International Feature, and the French film Human, directed by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, was named the VIFF Most Popular Documentary.

Canadian filmmaker Nettie Wild won the Women in Film and Television Artistic Merit Award for her documentary KONELINE: Our Land Beautiful, which chronicles the politics of development in northwestern British Columbia.

Earlier at VIFF, nine awards spotlighted the work of B.C. and Canadian filmmakers.

Directs Jessica Parsons and Jennifer Chiu won the Ignite Award for exceptional work in a key creative role on a B.C.-produced feature or short film for their work on Cabbie, a short film about three cab drivers in Vancouver.

Anne Marie Fleming won the Best B.C. Film Award for her animated film Window Horses (The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming). Ms. Fleming was also honoured with an award for Best Canadian film.

Kevan Funk won the B.C. Emerging Filmmaker Award for his hockey drama Hello Destroyer.

Sofia Bohdanowicz won the award for Emerging Canadian Director for Never Eat Alone, an Ontario-set feature about aging and memory.

Directors Sebastien Rist and Aude Leroux-Levesque were honoured with the Best Canadian Documentary award for their film Living with Giants, which is about native youth in the Canadian north.

The Best B.C. Short Film award went to Julia Hutchings for the film Here Nor There.

The Best Canadian Short Film award went to Ceux qui restent/Those Who Remain, directed by Mathieu Vachon.

And the award for Most Promising Director of a Canadian Short Film went to Parent, Teacher, directed by Roman Tchjen.

The VIFF Impact Award for a notable issues-oriented documentary went to Power to Change – The Energy Rebellion, directed by Carl-A Fechner.

The Globe and Mail

NEWS: John Mann, lead singer of Spirit of the West, battles Alzheimer’s in documentary ‘Spirit Unforgettable’

If you grew up in Canada during the ’80s and ’90s, then you are most likely familiar with the music of Spirit of the West, a B.C. band that infuses Scottish heritage into its songs in a way no other group had done before. Led by singer John Mann, songs like Home for a Rest secured the band on the local bar’s playlist, and in the hearts of every Canadian.

Now Mann and his wife, Jill Daum, are facing an entirely new battle. In 2014, Mann announced that he’d been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and while the band continued to tour, his condition deteriorated and they had to come up with inventive methods to keep Mann performing. Daum, along with Mann’s bandmates, did their best to adjust to the changing landscape and not separate Mann from his true talent and love: the music.

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Hot Docs documentary Spirit Unforgettable follows Mann and Daum as they work their way towards Spirit of the West’s final Toronto show at Massey Hall in 2015. (The band recently played some shows in Vancouver as well — officially their final bow.) It is a poignant, at times heartbreaking journey, but overall it depicts a group of people so invested and full of love for one another they’ll do whatever it takes to make Mann’s life comfortable and familiar. Global News spoke to Daum about the documentary and the band, as well as the personal toll its taken on the married couple as they face this unabating opponent. (Mann, too, was present for the interview, but was there merely as a spectator. For the record, he laughed and smiled the whole way through.) Global News: Was this a difficult process for you, or was it therapeutic in a way? Jill Daum: Super therapeutic. With John and I, from the start, it’s been about art from adversity. Pete [McCormack, the director] is also a really good friend, so we felt very comfortable. How have your lives and relationship changed over the last several years? It’s a slow adaptation, so everything slowly changes. Every once in a while, shock hits you in the face. You slowly go through, and then it’s like “Whack!” then again slowly, then “Whack!” That’s what it’s like. Many things feel like they come in waves. Is that what it’s like? It’s just that you can never control when it hits you. Certainly for John. There are a lot of goodbyes. You say goodbye to a lot of things. The biggest thing is you have to put on these blinders and focus straight ahead. There’s the past to the left, there’s the future to the right, and you just have to think about the moment happening now, because if you think about either of those other things, it destroys you. At times, is it hard to summon the strength? For me, it’s harder to summon the patience. [Laughs] That’s harder. I think everybody in the band battles it with humour. Certainly John and I, that’s our big weapon. We try to make each other laugh as much as possible. Have you guys tried any new alternative therapies? First of all, everybody and their dog has a cure for Alzheimer’s. You start off with coconut oil and turmeric, and then you move into other kinds of things. We went to Switzerland for a really dramatic one — which is featured in the documentary — and John really wanted to try stem cells in Mexico. We went. We tried everything and there is some solace in that. What would you have to say to Spirit of the West fans who’ve been so supportive? Thank you. They’ve been incredible. Their support gets us through it, it really does. It’s like a flashlight in a tunnel. [Mann interjects: Yeah, thank you. It’s been fantastic.] What was it like for you watching the documentary for the first time? Well, I was really scared at first. A lot of times when I see young footage of John… I find that really hard. I laughed a lot, though. I laughed a lot about the hairstyles, about the band. We were with a community of friends and family to watch it, so it felt like it united us. ‘Spirit Unforgettable’ is screening at Hot Docs on Saturday, April 30 at 9 p.m., Monday, May 2 at 3 p.m., and Sunday, May 8 at 12:30 p.m. Check the Hot Docs site for full ticket and location information. Hot Docs runs from April 28 – May 8 in Toronto. There is also a fundraiser for the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, called The Spirit of John, taking place at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on June 2, 2016. Canadian musicians will be there singing Mann’s songs to raise funds for programs.

Global News

News — POV Magazine Review: "Spirit Unforgettable"

Spirit Unforgettable (Canada, 86 min.)
Director: Pete McCormack
Programme: Artscapes (World Premiere)

“You’ll have to excuse me/ I’m not at my best…” sings Spirit of the West frontman John Mann in the band’s most popular song Home for a Rest. When “Home for a Rest” plays as the final number of Pete McCormack’s exceptionally poignant doc Spirit Unforgettable, the song reverberates with collective joys and memories as the crowd at Massey Hall pipes in and joins Mann on vocals. Mann, the lead singer of the Vancouver folk band, is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s and this doc chronicles his experience facing such rapid degeneration while pursuing his passion for music until the words of his wonderful songs tragically elude him. Spirit Unforgettable is Canada’s mellow acoustic response to the surfeit of American rockumentaries last year, and this doc is a bittersweet ditty that will attract a wide audience here and, hopefully, abroad.

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Spirit Unforgettable fearlessly explores the murky waters of memory loss as Mann works with his wife Jill and band mates to extend the notes and words of Spirit of the West’s songs as they prepare for what could be his final performance. The film does for docs what Still Alice did for drama as it bravely gives an immersive account of the symptoms and struggles of a disease that eats away at a person’s memory. Mann, like the linguistics professor played by Julianne Moore, used to be noted for his excellent command of language, so his effort to recall the words of songs he created is heart-breakingly tragic. The film, however, shows how Mann’s grasp for music and innate talent, and a few handy iPads, let him hold onto his gift while other memories escape him.

The soundtrack of Spirit Unforgettable is enthralling and propulsive as the film chronicles Mann’s success with the band even while suffering a swift decline in his energetic stage presence. One doesn’t need to be a fan of Spirit of the West or have closed a night at the pub to “Home for a Rest” to be inspired to sing along or shed some tears, for this intimately accessible film showcases one of Canada’s greatest musical ensembles and offers a swan song for a talent audiences won’t soon forget. Spirit Unforgettable is easily a standout at Hot Docs this year.

Pov Magazine

News — Now Magazine Review: "Spirit Unforgettable"

It’s hard to imagine a film about someone facing early-onset Alzheimer’s ending on a high, but when the subject is John Mann, lead singer of Spirit of the West, the joy just flows.

Spirit Unforgettable follows Mann and his bandmates as they prepare for a gig at Massey Hall – which we’re frequently reminded could be their last, since Mann’s condition could deteriorate rapidly. But Spirit of the West is not a band given to melancholy or morbidity, and as soon as Mann takes the stage, the worry behind his eyes disappears.

And what happens at Massey Hall when the band plays its signature tune, Home For A Rest, is, without mincing words, goddamn inspirational.

News — 10 to watch at Hot Docs festival

TORONTO - Step away from the reality-TV!

Real reality is on offer starting Thursday at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival.

Often a barometer of films that will end up on Oscar’s list (2015’s What Happened, Miss Simone? and the short Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah were nominees at this year’s Academy Awards), Hot Docs gets underway with Rama Rau’s League Of Exotique Dancers as its opening night gala.

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The funny and touching film is set at the Burlesque Hall Of Fame weekend in Las Vegas, and profiles the veterans of Burlesque from the ’50s-’70s — with names like Lovey Goldmine, Holiday O’Hara and Kitten Natividad (of Russ Meyer film fame). There’s even one, Toni Elling, who broke the industry’s race barrier.

And yes, they’re all still willing to peel, wrinkles and gravity be damned.

Here are 10 more Hot Docs films we saw and recommend:

MIGRANT DREAMS: You may recall French’s saved tomato farming jobs in Leamington, Ont., on the back of a boycott of Heinz ketchup. But it turns out the “jobs” are those of migrant workers who are defrauded, extorted and exploited. Kind of makes me feel a little less saintly for joining the boycott. A classic of the I-can’t-believe-this-kind-of-crap-is-going-on-in-my-backyard genre.

SPIRIT UNFORGETTABLE: Heartbreakingly, in his ’50s, John Mann of the great Canadian Celtic-rock band Spirit Of The West, was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. This intensely personal, alternately sad and joyous doc follows SOTW’s final tour, leading up to a fingers-crossed finale at Toronto’s Massey Hall. Lots of archival footage of one of the most fun and energizing bands this country has ever produced.

UNLOCKING THE CAGE: D.A. Pennebaker and his wife and partner Chris Hegedus (The War Room) go for the long haul, following the prolonged fight of lawyer Steven Wise and his Non-Human Rights project. The object is to have chimps (and then, maybe, elephants and cetaceans) declared “persons” under law. And they are farther along legally than you think. Fascinating film about a passion-raising topic.

LO AND BEHOLD: I will listen to Werner Herzog wax existential any time. And his “reveries of the connected world” are a goldmine of such daydreams (including “Does the Internet dream of itself?”) supported or humoured by experts. Subjects include artificial intelligence and the possibility of a post-human world, and essays on the curse and blessing of connectedness on our consciousness.

CHEER UP: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey” has seldom been more true than in this story of a perennially-last place Arctic Circle Finnish cheerleading squad (is there a country where cheerleading would seem more out of place?). The coach even travels to Texas for tips on how to rouse team spirit. But it’s a tough sell to a bunch of cynical young women who are simply learning how to cope with their grim surroundings. So personally shot, it’s almost a movie.

HOTEL COOLGARDIE: And more Finns. This one follows the trying times of Finnish backpackers Lina and Steph, bereft of cash and lured into a job slinging pints at a pub in a mining town deep in the Australian Outback. The customers are rough, chauvinist, sometimes menacing, sometimes touching, and every bit a product of their environment. This is a seldom-seen Australia, with wry moments of humour.

AIM FOR THE ROSES: One of the weirdest, artsiest and most oddly uplifting films at Hot Docs. The tale of three dreams/fool’s errands that piggyback each other, it starts with the story of the late Canadian daredevil Ken Carter’s rocket-car stunt over the St. Lawrence and segues into a bizarre performance album by avant garde B.C. classical musician Mark Haney. Ultimately, the film itself becomes a third-party with its audacious presentation of Carter’s story.

TICKLED: Almost too weird to believe, it’s the story of how a New Zealand filmmaker stumbled on a U.S.-based “competitive tickling” circuit on the Internet, and saw the lighthearted story turn sinister, with themes of sexual harassment, extortion and fraud. It turns into an extensive piece of investigative reporting, into fetishism that crosses the line into big-time criminality.

OFF THE RAILS: In an ideal world, this would be a feel-good story. Darius McCollum was a New York kid with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome, who fixated on the New York transit system and became a “mascot” of the drivers (who even let him drive the subway trains). Unfortunately, this was illegal, and McCollum was driven to drive trains and buses again and again, always safely and with attention to stops and schedules. As a result, the repeat offender has spent more than 20 years in prison. A frustrating story about a unique and touching character.

WIZARD MODE: The redemptive story of Vancouver’s Robert Gagno, a world-ranked pinball champ who has prevailed over and continues to deal with autism so severe that he was once deemed incapable of speech. It’s a portrait of an engaging young man with worldwide attention, overcoming fears daily with the help of a tireless family. And there’s pinball!

Hot Docs runs from today until May 8. For more info, visit hotdocs.ca.

Toronto Sun

Press Release — Andrew Barnsley’s Project 10 & Gerry Dee partner to develop comedy at CBC

Strictly embargoed until 11 am ET, Wednesday, June 10

TORONTO, June 10, 2015 – Project 10 has partnered with Gerry Dee’s (Mr. D) production company to develop a single-camera comedy, My Scottish Family, at CBC, Andrew Barnsley (Schitt’s Creek) announced today. The half hour comedy is loosely based on the real life (and Scottish relatives) of award-winning comedian and creator Gerry Dee. Project 10 is currently looking for U.S. and international partners for My Scottish Family. My Scottish Family tells the story of Francis MacPhee (Gerry Dee), a Catholic, and his extended Scottish family. 

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Canadian-born, low-key Francis lived in Scotland where he met and married Lizzy Knox, his polar opposite and a Protestant. Years later, Francis returns to Canada with Lizzy, their three teenaged children, and his “accidentally” racist and sexist father-in-law who dislikes Francis simply because he is Catholic. The Knox side of the family are brash, brutally honest, and firmly believe that “everyone wishes they were Scottish.” They drink, argue, fight, don’t trust anyone, and they’re never wrong – but they love each other fiercely. Blending into their Canadian neighbourhood won’t be easy… for the Canadians. The Knox-MacPhees have their share of challenges, and how they deal with them is awkward, hilarious, and sometimes even heartwarming. "I’m very excited and thankful to CBC for continuing to support and believe in my projects and very pleased to team up with Andrew Barnsley at Project 10,” said Gerry Dee. “‘My Scottish Family’ will introduce viewers to the unique, funny, and proud Scottish culture. I look forward to sharing the stories and characters that my family has shared with me.” Gerry Dee is receiving the 2015 Canadian Award of Distinction at the Banff World Media Festival on June 10. Project 10 recently announced it has inked development deals at Bell Media for Beyond Repair, a single camera comedy co-created by Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother) and Paul Campbell (Spun Out) and Darcy, a family sitcom co-created by stand-up comedian Darcy Michael (Spun Out) and Carl Johann. About Project 10 Productions Inc. Project 10 Productions Inc. is a vibrant, independent production company established in 2009. The company’s comedy slate includes projects for CBC and Bell Media in addition to the sports documentary series Sports On Fire for TMN and Movie Central. The principal executive for Project 10 Productions Inc. is Andrew Barnsley. Leveraging his strengths and decades of experience with those of partner and three-time MLB All-Star Vernon Wells, Project 10 develops and produces both scripted and unscripted programming. Ben Murray serves as VP of Development & Production.

For more information visit www.project10.ca

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Gabrielle Free
Free Publicity (for Project 10)
gabfree.publicity@gmail.com
416-220-0201

Gerry Dee, Project 10 pact on My Scottish Family

The half-hour comedy is currently in development with a Canadian broadcaster and is loosely based on Dee's life.

Andrew Barnsley’s Project 10 and Gerry Dee’s production company Gerard ADHD Entertainment have partnered on My Scottish Life, a half-hour comedy series currently in development with the CBC. 

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The series is loosely based on Dee’s life and his Scottish relatives. My Scottish Family tells the story of Francis MacPhee (played by Dee), a Canadian-born man who met his wife while living in Scotland. Francis eventually returns to Canada with his wife, three teen children, and his “accidentally” racist and sexist father and law. The producers are currently looking for U.S. and international broadcast partners for the series.

Project 10 is on a bit of a development spree lately. Last week, the Toronto-based prodco announced it had inked development deals with Bell Media for two comedies, Beyond Repair and Darcy, both born out of Project 10′s previous CTV comedy Spun Out.

Beyond Repair is a single-camera comedy co-created by Spun Out star Paul Campbell and Canadian actor Cobie Smulders (Avengers, How I Met Your Mother). The series follows Campbell’s character Nick, an out-of-work actor who discovers he has a son he didn’t know about.

Darcy, another half-hour sitcom, tells the story of married couple Darcy and Jeremy’s struggles with marriage, money and family. Carl Johann writes the show alongside stand-up comedian and former Spun Out cast member, Darcy Michael. At the time Project 10 indicated it was seeking out U.S. and international broadcast partners for the two series.

Playback Online

In the News — Gerry Dee developing comedy My Scottish Family with CBC TV

Comedian Gerry Dee is working in partnership with CBC to develop a new half-hour television comedy, titled My Scottish Family, Project 10 Productions announced today.

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The single camera production will tell the story of Canadian-born Francis MacPhee (Gerry Dee) who is Catholic, and his extended Scottish family. While living in Scotland, Francis marries the Protestant Lizzy Knox and eventually returns to Canada with Lizzy, her father and their teenaged children.

The series highlights the awkward, funny ways this proudly Scottish family fits into their new Canadian neighbourhood.

"My Scottish Family will introduce viewers to unique, funny, and proud Scottish culture," says Gerry Dee."I look forward to sharing the stories and characters that my family has shared with me."

Gerry Dee is receiving the 2015 Canadian Award of Distinction at the Banff World Media Festival on June 10.

The new comedic improv series Take Sides, is also in development, CBC and The Gurin Company announced today.

The show will put a hot button topic "on trial" each week, with comedians and musicians facing off with sketches, videos, music and monologues. A live audience will reach a verdict after the two sides present their cases.

"We need to take creative risks, and are delighted to go into development on this very new and innovative factual concept," said Jennifer Dettman, Executive Director, Unscripted Content, CBC.

CBC News

Press Release — Barnsley’s Project 10 parks two comedies at Bell Media

Cobie Smulders & Paul Campbell partner on Beyond Repair
Stand-up comedian Darcy Michael pens series based on his life in Darcy
Strictly embargoed until 5:30 am PT, June 5, 2015

TORONTO, June 5, 2015 — Project 10 has inked development deals for two comedies at Bell Media, Andrew Barnsley (Schitt’s Creek) announced today. Creators Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother; Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; Results; The Avengers) and Paul Campbell (Spun Out; Battlestar Galactica) are developing Beyond Repair while stand-up comedian Darcy Michael (Spun Out) and Carl Johann are collaborating on the family sitcom Darcy. Project 10 is currently looking for U.S. and international partners for both series. 

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Beyond Repair, a single camera comedy, tells the heartwarming and hilarious story of Nick Barrett, a charming and handsome but out-of-work actor, and Kevin, the son Nick never knew he had. When Kevin shows up on Nick’s doorstep in need of a place to live, perpetual man-child Nick must accept a position as the superintendent of the apartment building his father owns to make ends meet. Faced with “parenting” his nerdy, virgin son, Nick finally starts to grow up. In addition to co-writing the series, Paul Campbell is attached to play the role of Nick.

Darcy is a multi-cam family sitcom that follows two working class dads as they struggle with marriage, children, and money problems. Based on the sidesplitting stand up comedy and real life of comedian Darcy Michael, the series centres on the Mason Family – husbands Darcy and Jeremy, their 15 year-old daughter Grace, six year-old son Bruno, and their extended (sometimes uninvited) family Jane and Carl. Michael is attached to play the lead. “Bell Media has a great track record for developing and supporting half hour comedies and we’re thrilled to partner with the talented team there for these projects,” said Andrew Barnsley, President, Project 10.

Project 10 Productions Inc. is a vibrant, independent production company established in 2009. The company’s comedy slate includes projects for Bell Media and CBC in addition to the sports documentary series Sports On Fire for TMN and Movie Central. The principal executive for Project 10 Productions Inc. is Andrew Barnsley. Leveraging his strengths and decades of experience with those of partner and three-time MLB All-Star Vernon Wells, Project 10 develops and produces both scripted and unscripted programming. Ben Murray serves as VP of Development & Production.

For more information visit www.project10.ca

For further information or to arrange an interview, contact:

Gabrielle Free
Free Publicity (for Project 10)
gabfree.publicity@gmail.com
416-220-0201

News — Project 10 inks development deal for Smulders, Campbell comedy

The series is one of two the Toronto-based prodco has in the works with Bell Media, both featuring ex-Spun Out cast members.

Project 10 Productions has inked development deals with Bell Media for two half-hour comedies, Beyond Repair and Darcy, both born out of Project 10′s cancelled CTV comedy Spun Out.

Beyond Repair is a single-camera comedy co-created by Spun Out star Paul Campbell and Canadian actor Cobie Smulders (Avengers, How I Met Your Mother). The series follows Campbell’s character Nick, an out-of-work actor who discovers he has a son he didn’t know about.

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Darcy, another half-hour sitcom, tells the story of married couple Darcy and Jeremy’s struggles with marriage, money and family. Carl Johann writes the show alongside stand-up comedian and former Spun Out cast member, Darcy Michael.

The seeds of the two projects were sown during the making of Spun Out, Andrew Barnsley, president, Project 10 told Playback Daily. Spun Out was set for a second season on CTV, scheduled to debut following the 2015 Super Bowl. It was abruptly taken off CTV’s schedule following criminal charges laid against one of the show’s actors, J.P. Manoux.

Barnsley said the on-set chemistry between both Campbell and Michael and Project 10 was good, and a couple of months after filming of the second season of Spun Out wrapped in December 2014, both men approached the prodco independently with their show ideas.

Currently Project 10 is looking for both U.S. and international partners to expand the financing and reach opportunities for the shows.

“We’re looking for the right partners that can help shape our shows into global shows. As Canadian producers, I feel that’s what we’ve been tasked with – elevating the stakes and making world-class television,” said Barnsley, who was named president of Project 10 this February.

Playback Online

News — Cobie Smulders & Paul Campbell Canadian Comedy Series In Works, Eyes US Nets

How I Met Your Mother star Cobie Smulders is plotting a return to comedy series as a creator. Andrew Barnsley and Vernon Wells’ Toronto-based Project 10 has inked development deals with Canada’s Bell Media for comedy series from Smulders and Paul Campbell to star, as well as Darcy Michael and Carl Johann, and is looking for U.S. and international partners for both series. Barnsley also is behind Eugene Levy’s Canadian comedy series Schitt’s Creek, which successfully found a home in the U.S. on Pop.

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Beyond Repair, a single-cam from Canadian-born Smulders and Campbell (Spun Out) tells the story of Nick Barrett (Campbell), a charming and handsome but out-of-work actor, and Kevin, the son Nick never knew he had. When Kevin shows up on Nick’s doorstep in need of a place to live, perpetual man-child Nick must accept a position as the superintendent of the apartment building his father owns to make ends meet. Faced with “parenting” his nerdy, virgin son, Nick finally starts to grow up.

Darcy is a multi-cam family sitcom that follows two working class dads as they struggle with marriage, children, and money problems. Based on the stand-up comedy and real life of comedian Darcy Michael, the series centers on the Mason Family, husbands Darcy and Jeremy, their 15 year-old daughter Grace, six year-old son Bruno, and their extended (sometimes uninvited) family Jane and Carl. Michael is attached to play the lead.

“Bell Media has a great track record for developing and supporting half hour comedies and we’re thrilled to partner with the talented team there for these projects,” said Barnsley, President, Project 10.

Deadline

Press Release — Project 10 Productions re-orgs: Barnsley upped to president; Murray hired as VP of Development & Production

For immediate release

TORONTO, ON February 24, 2015 – Project 10 has restructured its upper management and promoted Andrew Barnsley to President, effective immediately. Barnsley now oversees all aspects of the Toronto-based company including development and production activities. Reporting to Barnsley is Ben Murray, in the newly created position of Vice President of Development & Production. Murray’s appointment is also effective immediately. “Andrew is an exemplary producer with enviable business and creative instincts,” said Vernon Wells, Partner, Project 10 Productions. “We’re delighted he’s taken on this new role as we continue to grow Project 10’s development and production slates.” 

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Since 2001, Andrew Barnsley has produced television series across multiple genres including highly rated television comedies, stand-alone documentaries, and a number of live concert specials. Barnsley is an Executive Producer on the CTV/Bell Media Dave Foley-starrer Spun Out; the TMN/Movie Central documentary series Sports On Fire; and the CBC single-cam comedy Schitt’s Creek starring Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara (through Not A Real Company Productions, Inc).

As VP of Development & Production, Ben Murray’s immediate mandate is to bolster Project 10’s development slate with one-hour drama projects, along with half-hour comedies and sports-focused documentaries. As well, Murray will work to increase Project 10’s international partnerships. Murray previously served as Halfire Entertainment’s Director of Business Development and as Director of Business Affairs & Development at Serendipity Point Films. Prior to that, Murray worked as a programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“Ben’s relationships across the industry and his impeccable reputation will help Project 10 secure new projects as we look to grow our slate,” said Andrew Barnsley, President. “Ben’s a very collaborative and hardworking guy and that really suits the way we do business – I couldn’t be happier that he’s come aboard.”

Project 10 Productions Inc. is a vibrant independent production company established in 2009. The company’s current major television productions are Sports On Fire for TMN and Movie Central and Spun Out for CTV. The principal executive for Project 10 Productions Inc. is Andrew Barnsley. Leveraging his strengths and decades of experience with those of partner and three-time MLB All-Star Vernon Wells, Project 10 brings both scripted and unscripted programming and digital creative to the world in innovative ways.

For more information visit www.project10.ca

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact

Gabrielle Free (for Project 10)
Free Publicity
gabfree.publicity@gmail.com
416-220-0201

News — Andrew Barnsley named president at Project 10

Ben Murray, formerly of Halfire Entertainment, also joins Project 10 in the newly created position of VP development and production (Barnsley pictured).

Andrew Barnsley has been promoted to president at Project 10 Productions as the Toronto-based prodco restructures it upper management.

Barnsley is now tasked with overseeing all aspects of Project 10′s business activities, including development and production, and becomes the principal executive of the prodco.

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Exiting the company is Project 10 partner Kevin Foley, who will continue to work with the prodco on some projects as a creative producer. Vernon Wells remains a partner.

Joining the company is Ben Murray in the newly created position of VP development and production, reporting directly to Barnsley.

Previously, Murray was director of business development at Halfire Entertainment and director of business affairs and development at Serendipity Point Films. He also served as a programmer at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Murray will look to add more one-hour drama projects, half-hour comedies and sports-focused docs to Project 10′s development slate, Barnsley said. He will also seek out more opportunities for Project 10 to team up with international partners.

Barnsley said the primary goal of any new international partnership is to expand the financing opportunities and audiences for Project 10 shows, while still shooting projects on Canadian soil. “The idea…is to make the kind of shows we want to make in Canada, but have a way to work with international partners,” Barnsley told Playback Daily.

In addition to his new job as president at Project 10, Barnsley also serves as an executive producer on the CTV comedy series Spun Out and the TMN/Movie Central docu-series Sports on Fire. He is also executive producing CBC’s Schitt’s Creek, via Not A Real Company Productions.

Spun Out was scheduled to air on CTV in March following a post-Super Bowl preview but was “suspended indefinitely” by the broadcaster following the arrest of one of the series’ actors, J.P. Manoux. No further updates on the series’ status were available from Bell Media.

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News — The New Establishment: Andrew Barnsley

Juggling two comedies and a documentary miniseries for 2015, Barnsley is proving he's out for more than just laughs in Canadian TV.

Playback’s returning editorial feature, The New Establishment, showcases outstanding talent in the Canadian film and TV industry. Complementing our 5 to Watch, this series profiles individuals who have already established themselves in the industry and are continuing to succeed, representing unique success in their field, great achievement or new ways of doing business.

Andrew Barnsley knows how to play off his strengths.

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“I am a big believer in collaboration – I am not a creator, I’m not a showrunner, I’m not a writer. I focus on the executive producing and financing and those relationships and responsibilities,” Barnsley said.

Those skills have been put to the test in the last few years, as Barnsley has developed and produced half-hour comedy Spun Out for CTV (now heading into its second season) through the prodco he runs with Kevin Foley and Vernon Wells, Project 10 Productions, as well as executive producing CBC’s upcoming Schitt’s Creek, starring and co-created by Eugene and Dan Levy.

On the unscripted side, Barnsley is executive producing docu-series Sports on Fire. The six-episode, half-hour series, set to air on The Movie Network and Movie Central next year, is produced by Project 10 Media and Two 4 The Money Media, in association with The Movie Network and Movie Central.

Barnsley’s recent hot streak can be attributed not just to a well-honed work ethic, say his colleagues – he’s also a natural manager and adept at getting his teams to perform at their peak.

“[Those] last three projects were done back-to-back, and are all very smooth productions,” said Colin Burton, a producer/director who is currently working with Barnsley on Schitt’s Creek. “Creative, hard-working, and down-to-earth, Andrew’s special talent is his ability to navigate the mounds of paperwork flawlessly, and his instinct for hiring the best people, and simply allowing them to do their jobs.”

Barnsley, 39, got his start in the industry working on a feature film titled Prey with Paul Pogue as part of a Master’s degree Barnsley was completing in a joint program in communications and culture at York and Ryerson University. Through Pogue, Barnsley met Jane Ford, and struck up a partnership with her that led to the creation of Listen Missy, a half-hour sketch comedy show that aired on W Network and was executive produced by Hamilton-based S&S Productions (The Red Green Show, Hotbox, An American in Canada).

At S&S, Barnsley learned more about the practical side of executive producing, honing his skills in completing funding applications and tax credit forms. In 2009, he left S&S to join Project 10 Productions, where he was brought on as partner in the company’s first year. His strategy continues to be focusing on finding creative teams he works well with, and leveraging his relationships to get projects he is passionate about to air.

“I have strong relationships with broadcasters….I get a sense of when the timing is good to pitch, and then I line that up with my relationships on the creative side,” Barnsley said.

He has proven his executive producing prowess particularly well in the realm of comedy, but readily admits the genre is a challenging one.

“What we have discovered is when you are putting the financing together on dramas – there is more of a global appetite for that. Comedy has to be so culturally specific that when you’re looking to the international side to help with the financing, it’s more challenging,” Barnsley said.

With this in mind, Barnsley said he’s always evaluating the international appeal of the series he is executive producing and aims to make “global shows.” When it comes to where comedy is made, however, Barnsley said he wants to see more coming from Canada. He hopes the success of Spun Out, which was greenlit for a second season, and Schitt’s Creek (set to air on CBC in 2015) will help to elevate the comedy game in Canada.

“Comedy is important. It’s important to the industry, but it’s also important to a culture and to a society. People need to have that escape, they need to laugh,” Barnsley said.

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