The 20th Anniversary Leo Awards

One of my favourite events to cover is an award show. Considering I’ve never attended the Leo Awards, I was in for a real treat. The organization doesn’t just roll out the red carpet for the filmmakers and the talent, they also do it for the media. I was impressed from the minute I had entered until the last award had been announced.

Once the guests had arrived and the cameras started rolling with microphones standing at attention, it was showtime.  One by one, my requested interviews would stroll over for a few generous minutes of time. Everyone was extremely pleasant and their faces were emboldened and full of appreciation for our presence and fascination.

I was very fortunate for their time and their grace as my questions went into rapid fire.

Tiera Skovbye – nominated for Best Performance by a Female in a Television MovieSecrets of my Stepdaughter and Best Performance by a Female in a Television SeriesRiverdale.

 

‘In regards to Riverdale, how is your character Polly Cooper different from other characters you’ve played?”

“It’s a lot of fun playing with the character. There is a lot to Polly that she’s not telling and it gets really interesting. There are many doors that can open and many cool things that can happen.”

 

“Can you tell me what the audition process was like?”

“It was actually quite crazy. I auditioned for the part and didn’t get it. I auditioned a second time and didn’t get it again. I auditioned a third time in front of the creator and one of the writers and still didn’t get it so out of frustration I decided to book a 2 week vacation. My agent called me that night to tell me they booked me. When you’re playing the sister of the lead, you want to make sure you get it right.”

 

Riverdale has been picked up for a 3rd season and Tiera has been fortunate to be part of the series since the first season.  

 

“How do you keep the character true?”

“Sometimes you don’t get the script until a few days before but when you’re playing a role that’s continuous and the writing is so good it’s easy to get back into character. There’s also very specific Polly things like hair, make-up and wardrobe that helps as well.”

 

Tiera Skovbye is engaged to be married to long time boyfriend and producer Jameson Parker. She was sweet enough to let me in on their wedding date. It will be in August of 2019 but I will leave the exact day a mystery out of respect for their privacy. I will add that Jameson is a very lucky man to have a very humble and ambitious woman in his life with an abundance of talent. I do wish them both the best for a successful wedding and career as she continues to raise the bar.

Kyle Rideout and Josh EpsteinAdventures in Public School – 10 nominations and winner for – Best Musical Score

                 – Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Motion Picture

 

Kyle directed and co-wrote it with Josh.

 

“How did the idea for this film come about?”

“We were doing a show together, acting up north in the Yukon and started talking about working together and we wanted to really hone in on a relationship of a home schooling mom and a helicopter parent. We didn’t think that had been mined enough. We started working on the script and sent it out to Judy Greer (lead actress). Right away she came on board and we got the project going. That was kind of the inception.”

 

“How did you finance the film?”

“Through a lot of Canadian sources; Tax credits, Telefilm, The Canadian Film Center, Bell and Keslow Cameras helped out a lot.”

 

Kyle Rideout and Josh Epstein have worked together in Eadweard back in 2015.

 

“What’s the best part about your job?”

“Collaborating with actors, getting on set and having fun. Creating something with a big huge team. A film lasts forever and gets screened around the world. It just screened in Rome and sometimes we get to go. For me that’s the best part. It’ll be screening in Poland next too, so wow.”

 

This film stars Judy Greer, Daniel Doheny, Siobhan Williams, Russell Peters, Grace Williams and Andrew McNee as well as other great talented actors.

 

“This film has such an extraordinary cast. Was it difficult to pull them all together?”

“We had a great script which attracted the talent and Judy came on board based on the script and based on looking at our past work it helped make a visual look for her. With that package, it really wasn’t too difficult in the end to attract the rest of the actors.”

 

The film did very well at TIFF and was then sold to the distributor Frog Toss, Netflix and we then got Tip Top Ten, so it’s been doing really well. It made it’s theatrical release in the US and here. Frog Toss is the US distributor and Cineplex in Canada.”

 

“What’s next for you two?”

“We have a future project with unicorns and a virgin, cause I’m unicorn obsessed. We want to keep it really grounded and down to earth so we put in some unicorns. The unicorns are actually quite vicious.”

Rupture – Follows the journey of four Arab teens on their quest to find a public pool in their new city on a hot day.

 

Written and directed by Yassmina Karajah. Starring first time actors Assad al Arid, Salam al Marzouqi, Hussein al Ahmad and Wazeera al Ahmad.   

 

Nominated for 8 Awards and Winner of:

 

                 – Best Producer in a Short Drama

                 – Best Director in a Short Drama

                 – Best Screenwriter in a Short Drama

 

I had the incredible opportunity to talk to this young first time cast about the film.     

 

“What was it like being involved in this film?”

“When it wasn’t your part and you had to act sad, nobody would look at you.”

 

They all enjoyed being involved in the film. All the children had arrived from Syria and my heart truly goes out to them for having made it safely to Canada and surviving a violent non-discriminant war. They can finally appreciate what it’s like to be a kid without the worry of knowing what tomorrow brings.

From what I could surmise in a crowded and loud red carpet room I was also speaking with their chaperone/executive producer David Findlay.

 

“How did you go about finding children to audition for this film?”

“We did very informal auditions by meeting with Syrian families and just from word of mouth. We did some interviews as well as an audition for the various parts. It was a very organic process that came about. Once we had our four actors it informed the script and the story tremendously.”

 

“How did you come up with the title, Rupture?

“It represents the disconnect between their native land and a lot of the hardship they had to go through in adapting to a new life in their new country.”

 

In closing, I felt it necessary to welcome them to Canada. The four children were so humble and mature as they took in all the cameras and attention for their film.

Jonathan Lloyd WalkerVan Helsing is Nominated for 13 Awards.

 

Winner of – Best Make-up in a Dramatic Series

                – Best Casting in a Dramatic Series

                – Best Lead Performance by a Male in a Dramatic Series

 

Jonathan is the writer and executive producer.

 

“How did you get involved with this TV series?”

“When the show started I was working in Toronto on the show Private Eyes. My good friend Simon Barry, who is the executive producer of Continuum and Ghost Wars, contacted me. Simon was already working on the show.  Neil LaBute who is a playwright from New York was brought on as the show-runner.  They asked if I’d like to be part of the team, so I jumped on board. I’ve been with the show since 2016.”

 

“How often do you make an episode?”

“Our season starts shooting in February and we are set to wrap next week (second week of June) so it’s about a 4-5 month phase and then two months before we start to shoot again we start writing the scripts.”

 

“Is there an entire writing team?”

“Yes, on our show we have seven writers. We divide up the scripts and tackle the story together.”

 

“How do you keep up the fresh ideas from one episode to the next?”

“What’s really important is trying to find the connective tissue for the audience. What do they care about? Who do they invest in? What kind of things can they relate to, even though it’s a different world or a different set of circumstances? We’re always trying to think about what might be an instant way to hook them into the story before. That’s where our stories come from.”

 

“What’s the best part about being part of this show?”

“I love actually the people. The people I work with have really become family after several months of working together. I’m from here and to be able to make a show that’s for an American broadcaster in Canada using Canadian talent is an amazing opportunity.  Doing it in your home town is amazing.”

Black Kite – A story about a young Afghan boy that grows up in the 1950’s. He grows up in a time of strife in Afghanistan. His love is to fly kites but Afghanistan’s chaotic history stands in his way.  Nominated for 4 Awards in a Motion Picture

 

Winner of – Best Producer in a Motion Picture

                – Best Director in a Motion Picture

                – Best Screenwriting in a Motion Picture

               

“Did you shoot the film in Afghanistan?”

“Yes, we shot for 14 days gorilla style in 2014. There were a lot of attacks going on. One of our actors nearly died in a suicide bomb attack which made it quite dramatic.”

 

“Looking back, would you make it in Afghanistan again?”

“Yes we would. We lived in Afghanistan for four years at a television station. I worked on Sesame Street for Afghanistan and other TV shows. Before we were about to leave I realized we hadn’t made anything of our own. Shooting this film has allowed us to bring something out to the world. It’s a gift to be able to do that especially when you’ve been through 50 years of war and a million people are dead, none of those stories come out.  As we know from 911, there were so many stories to come out that helped the process of healing. This country needs a lot more stories to come out.”

 

“What is the main message in this film?”

“The main message would be that the kite is being used as a symbol of freedom and fulfilling your desires. The Taliban had condemned kite flying which was the inspiration for the story. The boy in the story has to make a decision in which he chooses to sacrifice his life for his freedom.”

 

“Are there any heroes in the story?”

“Arian is a hero because we see him transform from a boy to a man and then try to educate his daughter.  At the time of the Taliban his daughter is cooped up and can’t go to the school. He tries to give her a sense of childhood by trying to teach her how to fly kites. Everyone is a hero in Afghanistan.”

 

“So the kite is the symbol of freedom against the government?”

“Their freedom is a desire to live their life. There are stories written about books being banned, music being banned and other things like that and all those things can be political but a child’s toy like flying a kite is ridiculous to ban. The point of it all is how did the nation come to this point where they have to ban a child’s toy for no particular reason at all.”

 

“How long did it take to make the film?”

“We shot for 14 days and a month to develop the script out of a short story that Tarique Qayumi wrote ten years ago. Post production took about two and a half years.”

 

“Was it difficult to put the cast together?”

“It was. Women are hard to cast in Afghanistan. We had a hard time finding them. It was difficult to find a little boy. We found him on the street when we were location hunting. We had asked for directions and he put his hand up to say he knew where we were going.  He was so confident and I said, that’s our boy. We couldn’t find a little girl because it’s a pretty closed society when it comes to women. It wasn’t until one of our producers said we could use his sister. We had so much trust from him. We weren’t even sure if she would be good or not but we couldn’t say no to him. When she came in her performance was such a nuance. It was her first time ever doing this kind of thing.”

 

When they first got back they started editing the film. After returning from Afghanistan it felt like good therapy to sit and engage with. Going through the last years and realizing how much it had changed them.  That was a process of a few months and then they applied to the Canadian Arts Council and the BC Arts Council and received so much amazing support. They really loved the project and the idea that they really tried to go for it.  They helped them finish it, which they wouldn’t have been able to do without their support.

 

This event was a tremendous opportunity for Hollywood North Magazine to engage and introduce itself to BC’s finest talent. We hope to be invited next year!

 

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