NEWS: Project 10 rejigs senior executive roles

Ben Murray has been promoted to president of the prodco's Canadian operations, while Andrew Barnsley shifts his focus to global development opportunities.

By Jordan Pinto

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Project 10 has revealed a number of changes to the remits and titles of its senior executive team.

Among the changes, Andrew Barnsley (pictured left), the company’s former president and executive producer, has been appointed CEO. With the promotion, Toronto-based Barnsley will shift his focus away from the company’s Canadian operations and toward global development opportunities.

Barnsley joined Project 10 a decade ago and during that time has racked up executive producer credits on series including JANN (CTV), which premiered to strong ratings last month, and CSA-winning comedy Schitt’s Creek (CBC), which goes into production on its sixth and final season this month.

In addition, Ben Murray (pictured right), the former VP of development and production, has been promoted to president, Project 10 Canada. In the role, Murray will head up the prodco’s Canadian operations, with a focus on expanding its development and production slate. He joined the company in 2015.

The company said Tuesday that both Barnsley and Murray will serve as executive producers on the recently greenlit live-action series Up in the Air (15 x 22 minutes), produced by Frank van Keeken’s Beachwood Canyon Productions. The series was commissioned by DHX Television’s Family Channel and has been picked up by CBBC for distribution in the U.K.

Project 10 also confirmed that Andrew Moncrief, who joined in 2017, will continue to head up the L.A. office in the role of VP, development and production, Project 10 U.S.

PLAYBACK ONLINE

PRESS RELEASE: Global expansion announced for Project 10

For immediate release

LOS ANGELES, April 1, 2019 — Project 10 is pleased to announce the restructuring of its upper management, hot on the heels of the successful CTV launch of critically acclaimed and highly- rated half-hour comedy series, JANN, starring multi JUNO award-winning singer songwriter Jann Arden, co-produced with Seven24 Films in Alberta. Andrew Barnsley becomes Chief Executive Officer (CEO), overseeing all global development opportunities for the company. Barnsley joined the company in 2009 and among his many credits, has most recently executive produced the international television hit sitcom series, Schitt’s Creek, airing now on CBC Television in Canada and in the U.S. on PopTV. The series will begin production on its final season this spring.

Ben Murray moves into the position of President, Project 10 Canada, managing all aspects of the Toronto-based wing of the company’s ever-expanding development and production slate. Murray joined Project 10 in 2015, and along with JANN, executive produced, with Barnsley, the award-winning documentary, Spirit Unforgettable about the final tour of the band, Spirit of the West and the digital series, Tom Green’s Snowjam for CBC.

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Barnsley and Murray will also serve as executive producers on Beachwood Canyon Productions’ recently announced tween series, Up in the Air, created by Frank van Keeken and commissioned by DHX Productions and CBBC in the U.K.

Having joined the team in 2017, Andrew Moncrief will continue in his capacity as VP of Development and Production, Project 10 U.S. Heading up the Los Angeles office of the company, Moncrief began his career at Morgan Creek Productions where he served as studio executive for all features including All Eyez On Me. While there, Moncrief started MCP’s TV department by exploiting their library titles, successfully packaging and developing The Exorcist and Major League as television series. He came to Project 10 from Doug Ellin’s Halyard Park Productions after overseeing their development deals and selling projects to broadcast, cable and digital.

All new positions are effective immediately.

About Project 10 Productions Inc. Project 10 is a global television production company with offices in Toronto and Los Angeles specializing in scripted comedy. The company works closely with high-profile talent to develop and produce compelling content for the worldwide marketplace. The principal executives for Project 10 Productions Inc. are Andrew Barnsley, Ben Murray (Toronto) and Andrew Moncrief (Los Angeles). Leveraging their considerable strengths and decades of experience with those of partner and three-time MLB All-Star Vernon Wells, Project 10 has established itself as a go-to partner for domestic and international creators, broadcasters and distributors alike.

For more information visit www.project10.ca

For further information please contact:
Katherine Holmes (for Project 10)
Holmes PR
kholmes@holmespr.com
416.919.6310

NEWS: 1.4 Million Viewers in First Week Make CTV’s Critically Acclaimed JANN the #1 Canadian Comedy

” JANN is the real deal: a funny, biting satire about the entertainment industry that isn’t afraid to make fun of its star.” – Glenn Sumi, NOW Magazine

 “Arden, with her sheer force of personality, breezy blunt speak and take-no-prisoners delivery, manages to showcase remarkable comic chops. It works.” – Tony Wong, Toronto Star

 “Arden is a self-deprecating riot with a wonderful range…and if this season is any indication, we should get used to laughing and loving along with JANN.” – Michael Korb, Starweek

“Arden aces it. She is fearless, a born comedienne, as in on the joke as a Second City veteran.” – Bill Brioux

TORONTO (March 27, 2019) – Following its premiere last Wednesday (March 20), CTV confirmed today its new original comedy series JANN is the most-watched Canadian comedy this broadcast year. Following five days of PVR playback, the premiere episode of JANN currently has a cumulative average audience of 1.4 million viewers so far for its premiere and weekend encore broadcast (March 23). Building on its Wednesday night success on CTV, the episode has reached 2.8 million Canadians across all airings. It’s the biggest Canadian comedy debut since CTV’s THE INDIAN DETECTIVE starring Russell Peters.

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Becoming Bell Media’s most successful digital premiere to date, the debut episode of JANN was available during an extensive 16-day preview on multiple platforms including CTV.ca, CTV On Demand, Crave, CTV’s YouTube page, and more.

“We’re delighted Canadians are responding to the comedic brilliance of Jann Arden with such enthusiasm,” said Executive Producer and Bell Media President Randy Lennox. “We’re thrilled that JANN gets funnier with each and every episode!”

The series continues tonight (March 27) with the new episode “Go with the Flowga” at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, the CTV App, and Crave. At the same time, series star Jann Arden takes to the Canadian Screen Award stage tonight to host the CTV Gala Honouring Creative Fiction Storytelling, streaming live for free on CTV.ca and the CTV app beginning at 7 p.m. ET.

JANN premiered to critical acclaim and social media buzz, including 25 million total potential impressions during the March 20 premiere, with #JANNonCTV trending on Twitter in Canada during the premiere episode.*

What fans are saying on Twitter:

@TorrensJonathan – Great debut @jannarden! Solid jokes + physical comedy + self-deprecation = All the makings of a hit! Congrats to you and your crew. #jannonctv #cdntv

@marthaelmusic – #JANNonCTV So funny. Thank you @jannarden and congratulations on a great series

@davidLearoyd – #JannOnCTV @jannarden OMG I can’t stop laughing

@aintlifeswells – We are laughing so hard! Loooooving it!!!! #JANNonCTV

In tonight’s new episode, Jann (Jann Arden) is recording a “We Are the World”- style charity song about empowering young women. But when she learns she has merely a small part in the chorus of the single, with her voice drowned out by other singers, Jann demands a full solo part in the song. And she doesn’t care which of her managers, new or old, helps her get it! This episode guest stars Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist Kiesza.

Encore presentations of JANN air Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

About JANN Set and filmed in Calgary, JANN was co-developed by Bell Media and Project 10 Productions and is produced in association with Project 10 Productions and Seven24 Films.

JANN is executive produced by Andrew Barnsley and Ben Murray for Project 10 Productions, and Tom Cox and Jordy Randall for Seven24 Films. Jann Arden, Leah Gauthier, and Jennica Harper created the series and will also serve as Executive Producers with Jennica Harper Showrunning. For Bell Media, Chris Kelley is Production Executive; Sarah Fowlie is Director, Comedy Original Programming; Corrie Coe is Senior Vice-President, Original Programming. Pat DiVittorio is Vice-President, CTV and Specialty Programming. Mike Cosentino is President, Content and Programming, Bell Media. Randy Lennox is President, Bell Media.

BELL MEDIA

NEWS: CTV's Jann is a biting entertainment industry satire

Jann Arden's comedy series recalls the savage wit of HBO’s The Comeback, especially in depicting how demoralizing the industry can be for older women.

Well-known musicians can successfully do holiday specials, host awards shows and even pull off some non-musical sketches on SNL. Few, however, could hold your interest in a weekly sitcom.

But Jann Arden has the kind of presence, innate comic timing and acting skills that go beyond stunt casting. Her new TV show, Jann, is the real deal: a funny, biting satire about the entertainment industry that isn’t afraid to make fun of its star. 

Consider the series’ cold open, in which (fictional) Jann is sobbing while zig-zagging in her car along a wintry rural Calgary road, when her 1994 hit Insensitive comes on the radio and the DJ describes it as “an oldie but a goodie.” Her mascara running, Jann begins pathetically singing along to it when she looks in the rearview mirror to see a police car behind her. Then, her attention on the road again, she realizes she’s about to run over a couple of cows.

Welcome to celebrity life, Canadian style.

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Turns out Jann’s having a bad day. Her career’s at a standstill, since her inept manager Todd (Jason Blicker) can only land her gigs at farmer’s markets – the type where she’s paid in cheese. She gets a spot on a Cancer Fest fundraiser.... when Terri Clark cancels. Humiliations ensue at the concert when no one recognizes her without her backstage pass.

Then there’s her personal life. She’s split from her girlfriend, Cynthia (Sharon Taylor), and her sister, Max (Zoie Palmer), has just found out she’s pregnant with her fourth child and so wants their aging, forgetful mother, Nora (Deborah Grover), to move in with Jann.

The writers have lots of fun playing with their star’s persona. There have been rumours about the singer/songwriter’s sexual orientation throughout her career, so it’s refreshing to see Arden – or at least her alter ego – be out to everyone, at least in the three out of six episodes shown to reviewers.

It’s brave, too, to deal with aging and memory loss, especially since Arden’s actual mother passed away at the end of 2018 after struggling with Alzheimer’s. The way the show handles Nora’s dementia – and the adult children’s reaction to it – is sensitive, the forgetfulness and frustration getting gentle laughs.

The show’s creators are also careful in depicting TV-Jann’s economic privilege. The pilot’s title, The Big House, has a double meaning, one definition referring to the picturesque, light-filled house that the fictional Arden occasionally rents out for added income while she stays in a nearby cottage. (To reveal the celebrity guest tenant in the first episode would be a spoiler.)

We also learn Arden’s helped support her family – in the third episode she’s putting her niece through college.

But the show works best as a satire of the entertainment industry. When The Weeknd samples one of Arden’s songs, she gains a whole new generation of fans who want to take selfies with her. An ambitious manager named Cale, “with a C” (Elena Juatco in the series’ breakthrough role), gets Jann to endorse a questionable clothing item to build her social media profile. And the taping of a We Are The World-type choral number becomes an opportunity for ego-boosting and one-upmanship. At its best the show recalls the savage wit of HBO’s The Comeback, especially in depicting how demoralizing the industry can be for older women.

But grounding it all is Arden’s revelatory performance. She’s unafraid to look plain – one scene features her taking out the garbage when she should be preparing for a photo shoot. And there’s an anxiety in her eyes when she’s playing the public figure, as if she knows it’s all an act.

One of the first things Cale says to Arden is: “You look normal-sized in person,” to which Arden says, “Thank you... I think.”

Which by itself speaks volumes about celebrity culture.

NOW

NEWS: Jann Arden’s narcissistic alter ego shines in CTV’s Jann

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For Jann Arden, it was life colliding with fiction, making it an almost impossible scene to shoot.

In her CTV television series Jann, a show loosely based on her own life, writers had recreated the moment when her mother, who died from Alzheimer’s in December, first got diagnosed with the debilitating disease.

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“I cried. I think we all cried. I couldn’t stop crying,” the Canadian musician says in an interview.

“It’s a disease that’s such a f--king catastrophe. There is no one face of dementia. But I wanted that scene to be very real to educate people, but we kept doing it over and over. In television it’s the two shot, the side angle. And over again. I was emotionally exhausted.”

The wounds are still fresh for Arden, just months after the passing of her mother, Joan Richards. She has long been an outspoken advocate for erasing the stigma of the disease and wrote about Richards in the 2017 memoir Feeding My Mother.

What made the scene even more poignant is that actress Deborah Grover has an uncanny resemblance to Richards.

“It brought up all those feelings where you feel so hopeless,” says the 56-year-old Arden. “It’s the realization that you won’t have the parent you’re used to having.”

I confide to Arden that I was touched by her book, since my mother also has dementia. “I am losing my mom, an inch, a thought, a memory at a time,” she had written. She is suddenly no longer a celebrity pushing product, immediately reaching out, just as she has done to many others.

“Going forward in your life, despite all the pain, all the frustration, you know you did your best,” she says in a wandering conversation where her abundant generosity of spirit means she somehow ends up consoling the interviewer instead of the other way around.

It’s not quite the way I expected this to go, discussing the launch of Arden’s new six-part series, premiering March 20 at 8:30 p.m. on CTV. But the outspoken Arden has never been shy about straddling the line between levity and tragedy.

“You know, it’s not like I’m in an Ibsen play. I’m not Hedda Gabler or even Lady Macbeth for God’s sake. I’m just being me. I think that’s what makes the show work.”

This is uncharted territory for the chart topping multi-Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter in her first scripted role in a series.

“I’m not an actor, I’m a songwriter, so I needed to do something I could pull off.”

Still, having a show based on your life does not necessarily make things easier. Comedy takes no prisoners — just ask Roseanne or Seinfeld, whose shows were also based on the personas of their stars.

But those performers were standup comics at the top of their game, not moonlighting musicians. Arden though, with her sheer force of personality, breezy blunt speak and take-no-prisoners delivery, manages to showcase remarkable comic chops. It works.

“You could pretty much put a camera at her dining room table and you’d have a series,” said Randy Lennox, the president of Bell Media, who green-lit the show.

Lennox’s main advice: “Make it real, but not too real.”

That’s pretty much what producers did. Arden had all the writers stay in her house while she was conceptualizing the series, so her dining room table was literally the writers room.

“I cooked for everyone. I was mowing the lawn on my tractor when they were working,” laughs Arden.

Arden was never big on pomposity and the show ruthlessly takes the piss out of her onscreen persona. The pile-on is sometimes a bit much. But the fictional Arden is such a lovable, narcissistic loser, we root for her because we see so much of her in ourselves.

The show also stars Zoie Palmer (Dark Matter), Patrick Gilmore (Travelers), Elena Juatco (Open Heart) and Sharon Taylor (Bad Blood).

“I’m such an idiot in this show,” says Arden. “It’s fun to laugh at someone who really doesn’t get what’s going on around her. She’s worrying about her and what happens to her, and there’s no sense of responsibility.

“But I really don’t care if people confuse TV Jann with the real me because I think it’s hilarious. You don’t know what’s real or not, which I think makes it a little innovative.”

Real-life Jann is a lot more successful with a membership in the Order of Canada and multiple Juno Awards, including 19 top 10 singles over her 26-year recording career.

In the opening episode of Jann, we see our fictional star gigging at a farmers’ market and being paid off with a wheel of cheese.

It’s stretching it, but not all that far from the truth. Years ago, she performed at a corporate gig and was paid, she says, very well. But the sponsor also gave her $15,000 worth of gift certificates redeemable for chocolate.

“My parents loved them. I gave some to charity; every kid I knew got $50 gift cards of chocolate. They were so happy. But I had those gift cards for like 10 years.”

Not everything is based on reality. While her TV mother does have dementia, in the show she has a sister; in real life she has two brothers.

“I did need some separation because it helps to create a new world for me,” says Arden. “It gave me room and space to play a little bit. TV Jann is a fluid character, she has girlfriends and boyfriends, she makes decisions based on her heart about what she’s feeling that day.”

While the show allows its writers to launch into serious subjects such as sexuality and dementia, the bedrock remains the grounded performance of Arden. But she says it was the hardest work she’s ever had to do.

“It was crazy town. I’ve never worked so hard in my life. You’re getting up at 4:30 in the morning, you’re finished by 8 p.m. at night. With touring, you sing for two and a half hours and you’re done. But this was shot in 20 days and everything was really challenging, even just learning my lines. But I did learn a lot. Holy crap.”

This has been a standout year for Arden. On Sunday she is up for several Juno Awards, including Album of the Year (These Are The Days) — remarkably, the first nomination in that category in a storied recording career. And now she has a TV series debuting the same month.

“I think it’s mind-boggling to be on there with the Weeknd and Shawn Mendes. It felt like I won already,” Arden says of the nomination.

“You know, my grandmother always used to say that you have to spread yourself too thin, don’t put all the seeds in one spot, which was the antithesis to all those clichés. But I think she was right. It’s how I’ve approached my work my whole life.

“Don’t be afraid to suck, just put it out there. Because, as my mom also said, at some point the hens will come home to roost.”

THE STAR

NEWS: Feet on Ground, Heart in Hand: Jann Arden Taps Alter-Ego in New Original Comedy JANN, Joining CTV’s Midseason Schedule Beginning March 20

TORONTO – As announced last night during SUPER BOWL LIII, CTV’s all-new original comedy JANN begins streaming Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app beginning March 20. Starring multi-platinum award-winning Canadian singer, songwriter, broadcaster, author, and 2019 Order of Canada recipient Jann Arden as a fictionalized version of herself, the six-episode series JANN is a comedy with heart that bridges fame and family.

While Jann Arden is as talented as ever, in the world of JANN (the series), she’s no longer the household name she once was, and is now dealing with the harsh reality that her former music career is slowly fading away. She plays corporate gigs and community events, like the local farmer's market, and to make ends meet, Jann lives in the guest house on her own property, while renting out her actual big home to other, more successful people.

The series follows fictional Jann and her somewhat desperate (and hilarious) struggle to find a new audience. To get what she wants, she’ll take career advice from both her old-school manager, and a new manager who wants her as a client — a slick hipster who has fresh ideas that are scary to anyone older than 26.

As Jann is on her quest for renewed fame, she’s also dealing with obligations and pressures from her ‘real’ life. Her mom is beginning to show signs of memory loss and needs someone to look out for her. Her sister is newly (and angrily) pregnant and needs support too. Plus, Jann’s recent ex is moving on, and they’ve committed to being friends…though Jann is still hoping for more. Can Jann stage a comeback and be there for the people who love her?

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“I have never been this excited about any other project in my life,” said Jann Arden. “This has been such a rewarding experience, working with the most talented actors in the business, and the most accomplished filmmakers, writers and producers. I think the show is hilarious and heartwarming all at once and I think all of my fans will truly enjoy the show and everything it has to offer.”

Starring alongside Arden in JANN are Zoie Palmer (SEX AFTER KIDS, DARK MATTER) as Jann’s sister Max; Deborah Grover (ANNE WITH AN “E”) as Jann’s mom Nora; Patrick Gilmore (TRAVELERS; YOU, ME, HER) as Jann’s brother-in-law Dave; Elena Juatco (OPEN HEART) as Jann’s new manager Cale; Jason Blicker (F/X: THE SERIES) as Jann’s long-time manager Todd; Sharon Taylor (BAD BLOOD) as Jann’s ex-girlfriend Cynthia; Alexa Rose Steele (DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION) as Jann’s eldest niece Charley; Ceilidh MacDonald as Jann’s niece Sam; Keaira Pliva (TIN STAR) as Jann’s niece Frankie, and Donna Godlonton as Jann’s neighbour Rhonda.

Guest stars in the inaugural season of JANN include Canadian indie pop singer-songwriter and guitarist Leslie Feist, Canadian singer and multi-instrumentalist Kiesza, and TV personality Rick Mercer.

On the series premiere of JANN titled “The Big House” (Wednesday, March 20 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on CTV, CTV.ca, and the CTV app), musician and former star Jann Arden is having a rough week in both her career and personal life. Her loyal manager screws up her chance at a huge gig, and her ex has decided to move on and see someone else. Things seem to be looking up when a slick new manager comes into Jann’s life, promising to reinvigorate her career. But that might prove challenging now that her mom, showing early signs of memory loss, is moving in with her. The episode is directed by Ron Murphy (WYNONNA EARP, TRAILER PARK BOYS) and guest stars Leslie Feist.

Encore presentations of JANN air Saturdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CTV.

Set and filmed in Calgary, JANN was co-developed by Bell Media and Project 10 Productions and is produced in association with Project 10 Productions and Seven24 Films.

JANN is executive produced by Andrew Barnsley and Ben Murray for Project 10 Productions, and Tom Cox and Jordy Randall for Seven24 Films. Jann Arden, Leah Gauthier, and Jennica Harper created the series and will also serve as Executive Producers with Jennica Harper Showrunning. For Bell Media, Chris Kelley is Production Executive; Sarah Fowlie is Director, Comedy Original Programming; Corrie Coe is Senior Vice-President, Original Programming. Pat DiVittorio is Vice-President, CTV and Specialty Programming. Mike Cosentino is President, Content and Programming, Bell Media. Randy Lennox is President, Bell Media.

Bell Media

NEWS: Why Jann Arden insisted Calgary play major role in her new comedy series

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While the show takes some major flights of fiction, many of the situations are based on real events in Arden’s life, even if they are slightly exaggerated.

Jann Arden admits she was not particularly optimistic when she laid out two unnegotiable conditions for her new comedy series, Jann.

During an early meeting with her Toronto producers, Arden told them upfront that she would not shoot the show in their hometown. She wasn’t going to shoot it in Vancouver, either. Not only did she insist the series be shot in Calgary, she wanted Calgary to play Calgary.

This may not sound like an unreasonable demand, but it is a rarity.

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Most television series or films that shoot here, with a few exceptions, use Calgary as a stand-in for somewhere else. But much to Arden’s surprise, the producers in question — Project 10’s Andrew Barnsley and Ben Murray — were not only agreeable but enthusiastic about the idea.

“I thought I’m going to get shut down before I even got out the door and nobody said anything,” says Arden, in an interview last week. “I kept waiting to be stopped and nobody stopped me.”

It may be rare, but it makes perfect sense in this case. In Jann, Calgary will play Calgary and Jann Arden will play Jann Arden, albeit a very bizarre version of Jann Arden. But the character’s adventures on the new CTV series, which will air in 2019, will take her to some recognizable Cowtown landmarks: the Stampede, the Saddledome, Ranchman’s, the downtown core.

“Calgary has been used in film, but it’s never Calgary,” says Arden. “In Fargo, it’s North Dakota, in Wynonna Earp, it’s Purgatory — wherever the (expletive) that is. As far as Calgary being a character, we talk about the Saddledome and we’re shooting in locations throughout the city. It’s so memorable. It’s another character in this show. It’s very prominent. We have so much here. We’re a young, enthusiastic, really progressive place and I, for one, want to show people who we really are.”

On this particular day, Alberta was certainly showing its true self by offering crews a logistical challenge to work around. One day before CTV invited Canadian journalists down to the rural set near Bragg Creek, Mother Nature decided to deploy a sudden snowstorm. Jann is meant to be a “green” show and, as beautiful as it looked on the evergreen trees last week, the snow proved to be a bit of a headache. Certain adjustments had to be made to hide the great outdoors from the interior shots.

“As an Albertan, it’s still funny how the weather can surprise us,” says Jordy Randall of Seven24 Films, the Calgary producers of the series. “We’ve never seen a fall like this. We’re on a 19-day shoot and expecting Alberta’s usual dry, sunny fall and snowmageddon happened.”

Through the magic of television, the snow will not make much of an appearance in the final product, and it goes without saying that Alberta’s hardy crews are used to shooting in far worse conditions. And, who knows, maybe this sudden blast of winter near the end of the shooting schedule will help bolster the series’ “what’s-real-and-what-isn’t?” type vibe. While Jann is a grounded comedy based on realistic characters and situations, the Jann Arden at the centre of the six-episode series is in many ways a fictional creation. As in real life, fictional Jann is a singer who has found success. Not unlike the real Arden, she is also caring for a mother (played by Deborah Grover) who is showing signs of dementia.

Unlike the real Arden, fictional Jann’s career has taken a bit of a nosedive and she is desperate to revive it. This pits her devoted, old-school manager Todd (played by Jason Blicker) against her new manager Cale (played by Elena Juatco), a slick and ruthless millennial convinced that Jann needs a thorough career makeover to make her more palatable.

Unlike the real Arden, the fictional Jann has a younger but more mature sister named Max (Zoie Palmer), who is pregnant with her fourth child and wants her older sibling to take on more responsibility when it comes to their fading mother. Also in the mix is Cynthia (played by Sharon Taylor), fictional Jann’s ex-girlfriend who has recently decided to dump her high-maintenance partner.

But while the show takes some major flights of fiction, many of the situations are based on real events in Arden’s life, even if they are slightly exaggerated. The writer’s room for the show was actually run out of Arden’s home outside of Calgary, so the writers always had access.

“We would say ‘What’s the worse thing that ever happened to you when you were doing a radio interview?’ ” says showrunner Jennica Harper, who co-created the show with Arden and Leah Gauthier. “We were finding scenes within that, too, where we’d say ‘OK that’s going to be a comedic scene.’ Our version is totally fictional, but the stuff that comes up and the conflicts that come up, there was a real version of that.”

But the biggest difference, as most of the cast were quick to point out during this set visit, is that fictional Jann is a selfish, slightly narcissistic and occasionally oblivious diva who is poorly equipped to handle both her fading career and the encroaching real-life demands her mother requires.

“It wasn’t originally written this way,” says Arden. “Right up until the 11th hour when CTV greenlit us, the conversation came up that they wanted me to be Jann. They wanted my name to be Jann, not Stella Fredrickson or Jill Matheson. When that ball started rolling down the hill it was a bit of an avalanche and our show shifted a little bit. It was always going to be based on things that had happened to me but I wasn’t me. But we just took that final step to do that. And it’s a very bizarre version of me, indeed.”

Jann will air on CTV in 2019.

Calgary Herald

NEWS: Jann Arden’s upcoming CTV series “Jann”

CALGARY — “This is the hardest work I’ve ever done,” says Jann Arden.

The 56-year-old singer/songwriter is taking questions from a gathering of reporters and media influencers on the set of her upcoming series Jann. While an exact date has yet to be announced, the Alberta-based, six-episode comedy will premiere later this season, perhaps in March of 2019.

Arden is flanked by cast and crew at a long table inside a log cabin. On this day the cabin is doubling as a press conference room. The set is in the the middle of a snowy forest about 40 minutes west of Calgary.

Earlier, reporters huddled outside in a media tent watching and listening to Arden shooting a scene inside the main house on the lot. Heartland, North of 60 and, over the years, many other Alberta-based productions have taken advantage of this picturesque setting.

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Arden is being directed to fold a fitted sheet, something nobody seems able to do, ever. Co-creator Leah Gauthier (Real Housewives of Vancouver) says they actually looked up videos of Martha Stewart on YouTube to get instructions, “and even she didn’t seem to have it down completely.”

“Oh Geez, eh?” Arden says between takes. “Sheet happens. Holy sheet!”

Arden is playing an exaggerated version of herself and that helps, she tells reporters. “It’s not like I’m taking on Ibsen.” There are a lot of similarities; the character and the singer both grew up and live minutes from where this show is shot — a point Arden insisted upon before production began. Some details are re-arranged. In real life, Arden has a brother; in the show, she has a younger, more grounded sister (played by Zoie Palmer). Both Arden and Jann are dealing with a mom who has Alzheimer’s (played in the series by Anne with an E‘s Deborah Grover), although the disease has progressed to a more sorrowful degree in real life.

Arden with Gauthier and Harper “Jann” is also much more of a “once was” on the series, something Arden was happy to sign off on as she saw the comic possibilities presented by Gauthier and showrunner Jennica Harper (Cardinal, Motive). Think Matt Leblanc’s self-deprecating joke on himself in the UK series Episodes.

Arden has impressed in TV comedy roles before, including multiple episodes of Rick Mercer Report and, going way back, Dave Foley’s True Meaning of Christmas Specials. This time, however, she’s No. 1 on the call sheet and being asked to play scenes both deeply touching and hilariously funny. Add to that trying to juggle a “block shoot” schedule (shooting scenes from several episodes in the same location on the same day) and Arden has truly been thrown into the deep end.

While she acknowledges the hard work, her colleagues all praise her acting chops. “Forget singer, this a true actress,” says Jason Blicker, who plays Todd, Jann’s manager. Director Ron Murphy (Wynonna Earp) says Arden has made the transition from singer to actress remarkably well, memorizing lines like a pro as the 19-day shoot gallops along.

Being close to home was a deal breaker all along for Arden, who makes visits to her mom a priority. She also feels strongly about contributing to Alberta’s production scene.

Our shuttle bus driver, “Momma Dawn,” says film and TV production does seem to be ramping back up in Alberta despite a move by the provincial government to cap incentives. Besides helping out on Heartland Dawn has recently worked three weeks on the Netflix reboot of Lost in Space. That series temporarily shifted from Vancouver to Drumheller, Alta., in order to take advantage of the region’s other worldly landscapes. The so-called “Dinosaur capitol of the world” is famed for its Drumheller Hoodoos, sandstone pillars that look like giant mushrooms. Will Robinson’s robot friend would yell “Danger! Danger” if the crew ever got too close to the mushroom caps, which take millions of years to form and protect the spooky stem structures.

Dawn calculates that every hotel in the region was filled with over 400 crew members brought in — some from Vancouver and Saskatchewan — to shoot the scenes and dress the sets. “It was supposed to look like the driest planet in the universe,” says Dawn, who adds a rare rainfall kept crews sweaty maintaining the desired dry look.

While fun for visiting reporters (deer and a herd of cows crossed paths with our shuttle bus), the weather in and around Calgary was putting a chill in the Jann production team. An early and surprisingly robust snowfall during the press visit meant that crews had to paper over windows and adjust lighting to hide outside snowfall during scenes shot in Jann’s cabin in the woods. An exterior scene scheduled for Friday — the final day of shooting — was likely going to call for some artificial turf. “It’s supposed to be green outside,” says director Murphy.

There wasn’t any real wiggle room beyond that Friday cut off. Arden’s other job meant she had to travel to London, Ont., Thanksgiving Sunday to embark on a 29-city tour. The concerts start Wednesday, Oct. 10 in London and continue with dates in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.

Arden says she doesn’t expect to chat with fans about her upcoming TV series on her “These are the Days” tour because they haven’t seen it yet. “There’ll be plenty of other things to talk about,” she promises.

BRIOUX.TV

NEWS: CTV’s New Original Comedy JANN Begins Production

CALGARY – CTV, in association with Project 10 Productions and Seven24 Films, announced today that production has begun on the inaugural season of its new original comedy series JANN. Starring multi-platinum award-winning Canadian singer, songwriter, broadcaster, and author Jann Arden as a fictionalized version of herself, the six-episode comedy series takes viewers on “Jann’s” quest for renewed fame in the wake of a waning career, while also dealing with the obligations and pressures of her real life. A comedy series with heart that bridges fame and family, the supporting cast joining the series includes Zoie Palmer (SEX AFTER KIDS, DARK MATTER), Patrick Gilmore (TRAVELERS; YOU, ME, HER), Deborah Grover (ANNE WITH AN “E”), Alexa Rose Steele (DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION), Jason Blicker (F/X: THE SERIES), Sharon Taylor (BAD BLOOD), and Elena Juatco (OPEN HEART), with surprise celebrity cameos as well.  Produced by Project 10 (SPUN OUT, Spirit Unforgettable), and Seven24 Films (WYNONNA EARP, HEARTLAND) JANN shoots in Calgary until October 4, 2018, and is set to premiere as part of CTV’s 2018/19 schedule.

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In JANN, Arden plays a fictionalized version of herself: a singer songwriter of a "certain age" dealing with the harsh reality that her former music career is now on a slow, relentless slide into obscurity. But it’s not just Jann’s career that’s on life support – she’s newly single, her sister may disown her, and her mother may be showing the early signs of dementia. Although Jann's personal life is in shambles, she's convinced that the cure-all is to rebrand her image in order to reclaim her celebrity status, so she embarks on a quest to return to greatness but gets tangled in the pressures of her ‘real’ life. Jann is at the crossroads between who she was and who she wants to be – if she can just figure out what’s really important.

“Jann has a natural comedic brilliance and magnetic personality, and her fictional alter-ego is a highly relatable, lovable, flawed and emotionally messy character that audiences will love,” said Corrie Coe, Senior Vice-President, Original Programming, Bell Media. “We are delighted to welcome JANN to CTV, and I can’t think of anyone better to play a fictionalized Jann than Jann Arden!”

“Having the opportunity to get JANN on its feet is completely surreal for me and I’m grateful to all the people that have been working tirelessly for the past three years to bring this series to life,” said Arden. “I think people are going to laugh a lot and find a little piece of themselves in the brilliant characters we’ve created. This show is unique in every possible way and I have the best production companies in the business working to bring Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast some top-shelf entertainment!”

Jann Arden is the celebrated multi-platinum award-winning artist who catapulted onto the Canadian music scene in 1993 with the release of her debut album Time For Mercy featuring the hit single, “I Would Die For You”. A year later with Living Under June, she would have her career breakout hit, “Insensitive,” that would solidify her position in the music world. In November 2017, Arden released the Canadian best seller Feeding My Mother – Comfort and Laughter in the Kitchen as My Mom Lives with Memory Loss, a book that shares insights, loss, irony, and yes humour, as mother and daughter face the journey together. Arden has released 14 albums with 19 Top 10 singles; her most recent album These Are the Days was released on March 16th, 2018. A proud recipient of a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame, she has been inducted into the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame and has been given the Vantage Women of Originality Award.

JANN was put into development in Spring 2017. The comedy series was co-developed by Bell Media and Project 10 Productions and is produced in association with Project 10 Productions and Seven24 Films.

JANN is executive produced by Andrew Barnsley and Ben Murray for Project 10 Productions and Tom Cox and Jordy Randall for Seven24 Films. Jann Arden, Leah Gauthier, and Jennica Harper are co-creators of the series and will also serve as Executive Producers. For Bell Media, Chris Kelley is Production Executive; Sarah Fowlie is Director, Comedy Original Programming; Corrie Coe is Senior Vice-President, Original Programming. Pat DiVittorio is Vice-President, CTV and Specialty Programming. Mike Cosentino is President, Content and Programming, Bell Media. Randy Lennox is President, Bell Media.

Bell Media

NEWS: Jann Arden to play a fictionalized version of herself in CTV comedy series

JannArdenNews.jpg

TORONTO - Canadian singer-songwriter Jann Arden is getting her own meta comedy series on CTV.

The eight-time Juno Award winner will play a "fictionalized version of herself" on "Jann," which is set to debut next year, Bell Media announced Thursday as it unveiled details of its 2018-2019 season.

Her character is described as a newly single singer-songwriter who is trying to revive her career while grappling with her mother's early stages of dementia. Filming is set to start this fall in her home city of Calgary.

"I am more or less freaking out about this amazing opportunity to partner up with CTV!" Arden said in a statement.

"I have had a long and successful relationship with the network and can't wait to have everybody see the 'Jann' show! The support of their creative team means the world to me and I know we are going to make something hilarious and heartfelt at the same time."

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Arden is known for her quick wit and has been a guest co-host on CTV's daytime talk show "The Social." She was also a contributor to the network's recent royal wedding coverage.

"Every time Jann shows up on a CTV show, our ratings go up," said Mike Cosentino, president of content and programming at Bell Media.

"I am not a guy who laughs out loud reading scripts. I was howling reading the script," added Bell Media president Randy Lennox.

Also set to debut on CTV next year is the Martin Scorsese-directed "SCTV Reunion Special," featuring an interview Jimmy Kimmel recently did with the surviving original cast members in Toronto.

CTV has also announced a new multi-year partnership with Canada's Walk of Fame to become the official and exclusive broadcaster of the awards.

The next awards ceremony, which marks the event's 20th anniversary, will take place in December. "We're going to really super-charge the format," said Cosentino.

Other new Bell Media announcements on Thursday included the rebranding of four of its specialty channels as CTV properties, and the launch of two new video-on-demand services.

The company says Space, Bravo, Comedy and Gusto will become CTV Sci-Fi, CTV Drama, CTV Comedy, and CTV Life.

They will be joined by CTV Movies and CTV Vault, two new ad-supported VOD services, in a new CTV digital "super-hub" platform featuring all seven services.

Bell Media has unveiled a total of 13 new and 29 returning original series and specials.

Returning Canadian series include "The Launch," "Corner Gas Animated," "Cardinal," "The Amazing Race Canada," "Frontier" and the satirical news program "The Beaverton," which moves to CTV in midseason.

CraveTV's "Letterkenny" has also been renewed and, as announced Wednesday, the first two seasons will be available in the U.S. on the streaming service Hulu on July 13.

Last week Bell Media unveiled its American show acquisitions, including the soapy drama "Grand Hotel," and the cop dramas "The Rookie" and "Magnum P.I." for CTV. "Roseanne" was pulled from CTV and its streaming platform after its American network, ABC, cancelled it.

"The trends we saw in L.A. this year was more of a drama year than a comedy year, but the overwhelming singular trend was really a trend around diversity -- diversity of voices, women in strong roles," said Cosentino.

"The Higgins character on 'Magnum P.I.' is a woman. But there was a lot of minority actors in great roles this year and more diversity than ever."

Meanwhile, CraveTV will have a new, original, female-driven mockumentary series, "New Eden."

Last month Bell Media announced the shows "Daily Planet" and "Innerspace" have not been renewed, resulting in the elimination of 17 positions in Toronto.

CTV News

NEWS: Calgary-native Jann Arden will star in a new comedy series coming to CTV later this year, Bell Media announced Thursday.

The original series, titled “JANN,” will feature Arden as a fictionalized version of herself as the eight-time Juno award winner deals “with the harsh reality that her former music career is now on a slow, relentless slide into obscurity.”

The character also struggles with being newly single, the possibility her sister may disown her, and her mother beginning to suffer from the early stages of dementia.

“Although Jann’s personal life is in shambles, she’s convinced that the cure-all is to rebrand her image in order to reclaim her celebrity status, so she embarks on a quest to return to greatness but gets tangled in the pressures of her ‘real’ life,” Bell Media stated in its press release. “Jann is at the crossroads between who she was, and who she wants to be, if she can just figure out what’s really important.”

The new CTV comedy was part of Bell Media’s announcement of its first wave of original Canadian content for 2018-19.

CALGARY HERALD

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.

NOW MAGAZINE

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

NEWS: 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.

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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