Program manager Elise Swerhone on the Corus Diverse TV Director boot camp 2016

Tricia Lee, Tarique Qayumi, Amy Jo Johnson, Jill Carter, Adam Garnet Jones, Jerry Cicoritti, Gail Harvey, Clément Virgo, Tanya Lemke, Dawn Wilkinson, Stacey Curtis

Above left to right: Tricia Lee, Tarique Qayumi, Amy Jo Johnson, Jill Carter, Adam Garnet Jones, Jerry Cicoritti, Gail Harvey, Clément Virgo, Tanya Lemke; front row: Dawn Wilkinson, Stacey Curtis

See also: program advisor Gail Harvey’s blog post | the student’s blog posts.

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I love directing and one of my most favourite things is to listen to directors talk about how they direct.

I just had a whole week of that with the Corus Diverse TV Director boot camp.

Gail Harvey and I put together a star-studded agenda for our five talented directors in this year’s program. I know they all learned a lot and enjoyed their time but I [also] enjoyed the week and learned as much as they did.

We started the six-day boot camp – generously hosted by the Directors Guild of Canada – with a panel of some of the best directors working in Canadian TV: Dawn Wilkinson, Stacey Curtis, Jerry Cicoritti, Jill Carter and Clement Virgo.

This lively and highly informative panel was followed by veteran director Don Shebib who spoke from the vantage point of a long career.

Then we got into the somewhat daunting task of finding an agent with Brent Sherman, one of the best agents in Canada today. A jam-packed first day.

Sudz Sutherland jetted in from LA to spend the first hour of day two regaling us with his stories of getting into the industry as a director.

Susan Alexander, Paula J. Smith, Helen Asimakis, Sudz Sutherland

Above left to right: Susan Alexander, Paula J. Smith, Helen Asimakis, Sudz Sutherland

Later, he donned his producing hat and was joined by broadcasters Susan Alexander from Corus and Helen Asimakis from the CBC and producer Paula J. Smith to talk about what a series needs from a director and how a director gets onto a series for the first time. They were generous and optimistic. There is hope.

The fabulous and funny Larysa Kondracki was our guest for the afternoon. She has directed for two of my favourite series: The Americans and Better Call Saul.

I was fascinated by her breakdown of the final scene in the season finale of The Americans and the border crossing scene in Better Call Saul – scenes I remember because they stood out as cinematic.

Tim Southam was with us for the whole day on day three. It was time to really dig into the meat of directing for TV.

Last season Tim was the producer/director on another series I love, Bates Motel. I was fascinated by his stories of working on the series. He talked about how he gets to work on the shows he loves, shared his method for breaking down a scene, working with crew, planning his shots and his days on set.

It was an opportunity to see how a master works. We all gobbled up the information. A very talented and generous man.

On day four it was time to look outside directing and get up and move around.

Tarique Qayumi, Adam Garnet Jones and Gail Harvey with Darren Cranford

Above: Tarique Qayumi, Adam Garnet Jones and Gail Harvey with Darren Cranford

The morning was spent with special FX master Darren Cranford and editor Paul Day.

That afternoon we met at Black Belt World – Grand Master Tommy Chang’s studio – to work with him on two fight scenes he choreographed with four of his stunt actor students.

The actors Melanie Phan, Ridge Menezes, John Koo and Rykell Cerezo were amazingly disciplined and versatile. It was fun to watch what they could do and to work with Tommy to design a fight that looked dynamic and real without hurting anyone on set.

Tommy Chang, Amy Jo Johnson and Ridge Menezes

Above: Tommy Chang, Amy Jo Johnson and Ridge Menezes

Tarique Qayumi, Tanya Lemke, Adam Garnet Jones, Gail Harvey, Ridge Menezes, Tommy Chang, John Koo; front row: Tricia Lee, Amy Jo Johnson, Melanie Phan and Rykel Cerezo

Above: Tarique Qayumi, Tanya Lemke, Adam Garnet Jones, Gail Harvey, Ridge Menezes, Tommy Chang, John Koo; front row: Tricia Lee, Amy Jo Johnson, Melanie Phan and Rykel Cerezo

Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski started day five with a tutorial on marketing yourself and your films. An eye opener for everyone.

She checked out everyone on social media and emphasized the need to pay for someone to help you sell yourself as well as your film. Not something us Canadians think about a lot.

She was followed by the lovely, funny and talented Ellen Vanstone – a writer and co-creator of Rookie Blue as well as other series.

Mark Pancer and Gail Harvey took over the afternoon to tell war stories about a series they just finished working on together. The assistant director can be your friend.

On our final day we moved to Hang Loose Studios to work with Michael Kennedy who talked about his career, how he approached directing, his work in comedy and his method for directing actors.

Michael Kennedy

Above: Michael Kennedy talking to the group

Sugith Varughese, Chloe Rose, Stephen Yaffee and Rachel Wilson came in to work scenes with the directors. A fun way to finish the boot camp. I had fun. I hope everyone else did.

Tricia Lee with the actors

Above: Tricia Lee with the actors

Thank you to Gail Harvey for being so open, energetic and wise and bringing it all to boot camp. Thank you to Susan Alexander, Barb Williams and everyone else at Corus for supporting this program. Thank you to the DGC for their support and for allowing us to invade their boardroom (and especially Marjorie Chu for all her assistance). Thank you to the wonderful presenters and, of course, to the students who are all great directors in their own right. What an accomplished group.

Now on to the shadowing which sadly I get to arrange but I don’t get to do. I wish this course had existed when I was getting started … and I guess that’s the point.

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The program is designed for participants with directing experience who are interested in making the leap to directing scripted television series.

Corus Diverse TV Director is supported by Presenting Sponsor Corus Entertainment; Industry Partner DGC Ontario; and Supporting Sponsors Entertainment OneSuper Channel, Breakthrough Entertainment and the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. NSI Core Funders are Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage and the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council.

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