The wheels of the Manitoba film industry are turning once again after being frozen by a COVID-19 shutdown in November. Manitoba was the only province in which the film industry was shut down completely.
Now that the industry is back in operation as of last Friday, production companies are mobilizing with projects going to camera in the coming months.
Among the first to go will be multiple TV series from Farpoint Films, including season 2 of their true-crime series Cruise Ship Killers, which has been sold to TVA in Quebec, A&E in the U.K. and the True Crime Network in the U.S., according to producer Kyle Bornais.
"As well, we’re up in Gimli shooting season 2 of Ice Vikings, and we’re finishing up 13 hours of a series called Disaster Déjà Vu. And we just greenlit 26 hours of a show called Heartland Homicide and that’s going with A&E and True Crime Network again."
A particularly tantalizing doc in the works at Farpoint is a feature titled Harold’s Stash, which has just been greenlit by Superchannel. It’s about a Winnipeg loner who died and left behind a house filled with a secret fortune in his basement.
"He had no living relatives," Bornais says of the film’s subject. "His house was sold as is. A gentleman bought it and came across what appears to be hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of comic books, all stored beautifully in the basement around the house."
Likely the first major series to begin production will be the TV series The Porter, a CBC/BET+ TV series about the lives and challenges of Black railway workers, a show that promises to be the biggest Black-led production ever in Canada. It is scheduled to go to camera in "mid-to-late May," according to Ian Dimerman of Inferno Pictures.
Juliette Hagopian of Julijette Films, says that while she can’t go on record with any specific films, she has no fewer than five films gearing towards production, including two Lifetime TV movies and three independent films.
One major project causing some excitement is a horror film titled The Elevator Game that will be produced by a new Los Angeles-based genre start-up, Fearworks, in conjunction with local company Buffalo Gal Pictures and the London-based sales firm AMP International. The supernatural horror film will be directed by Michael Goi, who made a name for himself in the genre as the director of photography on the first five seasons of the TV series American Horror Story.
The film is based on the online phenomenon of the same name that suggests supernatural powers may be behind mysterious, elevator-related deaths and disappearances, such as that of student Elisa Lam at L.A.’s Cecil Hotel in 2013 (the subject of new Netflix docuseries Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel).
"That (film) will be the first one for us," says Buffalo Gal president Phyllis Laing of projects that have been in a holding pattern since November. "AMP is working out the details in pre-sales right now."
In the film, a socially awkward teenager investigating the disappearance of his sister discovers she may have been playing the titular game.
One figure who figures prominently in the script is "The Woman on the 5th Floor." James Norrie of AMP International told the industry publication Deadline: "The Elevator Game is hands down the scariest script I’ve ever read, and the Woman on the 5th Floor is such a terrifying creation she will forever haunt my dreams."
"What Psycho did for showers, The Elevator Game will do for lifts," Goi told Deadline. "I want the audience to be taking the stairs after they see this film."
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.