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22nd Annual Gemini Awards
Shaftesbury's fabulous 42 nods
by: Oct 1, 2007 Print

Shaftesbury Films has racked up a whopping 42 nominations in this year's Gemini competition, with 10 productions (or copros) in the running for various awards.

The Toronto prodco's drama series ReGenesis - which follows a team of scientists investigating medical and ethical dilemmas - received 12 nominations this year, marking the third time it has been nominated in the best drama series category.

And with three of the five films in the TV movie category, the sheer volume of nominations seems like an embarrassment of riches for a company that operates like an extended family.

"It's a tricky one, to be honest," concedes Christina Jennings, Shaftesbury chairman and co-CEO. "It will be the same in all these categories [with multiple contenders]. I wish everyone could win. There is no favorite child."

Voting might prove difficult for those outside the company as well. Two of Shaftesbury's nominated TV movies - In God's Country and Eight Days to Live - star Kelly Rowan (The O.C.), and both were ratings winners for CTV, garnering 1.6 million and two million viewers, respectively, the latter setting an English-Canadian record for MOWs.

Eight Days to Live is a true-life story about Teresa Spring (Rowan), who spent eight days searching for her son Joe, whose car went missing in the rough interior of the Rocky Mountains.

In God's Country hits the buzz topic of polygamous Mormon marriages, as seen through the eyes of Judith (Rowan), one of eight wives and a mother of four, including a 12-year-old daughter who is molested by one of her stepbrothers. Judith is faced with consequences when she breaks the community's long-held code of silence.

Shaftesbury tends to build and extend its relationships with actors, directors and craftspeople, so Rowan not only starred in two of the nominated TV movies, she served as executive producer as well.

The prodco's third movie contender, The Robber Bride - a whodunit based on the Margaret Atwood novel and produced with Working Title Television - garnered only 535,000 viewers on CBC, but scored nominations for both an Emmy (for American lead actress Mary-Louise Parker) and five Geminis.

Still, Jennings craves "recognition" for all her productions and stresses the Geminis are a big deal.

"They've always been very, very important to us as a company," she says. "There is an enormous amount of work to get yourself organized to even become a candidate. It's huge! It's almost a full-time job for someone in the company for a month or two, because we want everyone to stand a chance for nomination."

The hard work paid off this go-round. The CBC miniseries Above and Beyond (a copro with Pope Productions) earned six nominations, The Jane Show grabbed four, and CBC TV movie Booky Makes Her Mark earned three. CBC summer drama series 11 Cameras got one nom, as did the Lifetime/Movie Central MOW Me & Luke and popular family series Life with Derek.

Although Global comedy series The Jane Show was cancelled after two seasons and Derek is shooting its final cycle for Family Channel, Jennings says more series and movies are in the works.

Rowan may begin shooting another TV movie, Good Times Are Killing Me, with Jennings' team in November, and the exec is also trying to find a new series for lead Teresa Pavlinek now that Jane is cancelled.

Shaftesbury is currently looking at another couple of projects, including an eight-part series for TMN based on Vincent Lam's Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures and an adult comedy series from Daphne Ballon, creator of Derek.

Continuing to collaborate with writers such as Ballon and actors like Rowan has been a Shaftesbury trademark since its origins in feature films in 1987. That strategy transferred to its television business, and the company has emerged as a strong multi-format content provider with a focus on projects for the global marketplace and international coproductions.

(Playback reported the prodco's production and development spending at $54 million for 2006, ranking it fifth among Canadian companies).

Its SK Films, developed with Imax Corp. cofounder Robert Kerr, produces and distributes large-format films to Imax and other giant-screen theaters worldwide. Yet television continues to be the company nucleus, and developing talent is the secret ingredient.

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