Subject to the economy, the whims of the provincial and federal government, tax benefits and the strength of the Canadian dollar, the local film industry is always in flux. Working in it isn't for sissies, to paraphrase a line from Bette Davis. That said, 2011 was a good year for the biz.
A lot of Canadian and American TV movies, series and mini-series were shot in and around Halifax this year. Beloved comedy troupe Picnicface bodyslammed the rest of Canada with a book, its series on The Comedy Network---shot in town this summer--- and we got to see their feature Roller Town at the Atlantic Film Festival.
Also shot in town or nearby in the past 12 months: Haven, Call Me Fitz, CBC's Artzooka, Gerry Dee's new comedy series Mr. D (airing in January on CBC), YTV's That's So Weird, yet another Jesse Stone MOW starring Tom Selleck, the A&E Stephen King adaptation Bag of Bones starring Pierce Brosnan---who regularly patronized Halifax restaurants, bars and boutiques---TV with TV's Jonathan Torrens, The Candy Show and This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
And that doesn't include a host of quality Nova Scotian short films, music videos, documentaries or web content, like Andrew Grantham's talking-dog YouTube sensation Ultimate Dog Tease, which earned him 74 million hits.
Prominent independent features made here include Jason Buxton's Bye Bye Blackbird, Michael Melski's gritty crime drama Charlie Zone---which cleaned up at the AFF awards, taking home four---and Shandi Mitchell's ambitious lost-at-sea drama The Disappeared.
Mike Clattenburg continued to pursue his post-Trailer Park Boys career in 2011 with the Dartmouth-shot The Guys Who Move Furniture. And his satiric drama made last year, Afghan Luke, closed September's AFF.
Speaking of festivals, Thom Fitzgerald's Cloudburst---which picked up the audience award at the AFF---has been earning kudos at film fests internationally. The road movie stars Brenda Fricker and Olympia Dukakis in a force-of-nature performance, with Ryan Doucette as the guy they pick up along the way.
And after having played in practically every genre fest in North America and won awards at a number of them, Evan Kelly and Josh MacDonald's The Corridor will be getting distribution in the United States through IFC Midnight.
All of this shows the Nova Scotia filmmaking community remains vital, and with news Telefilm is adjusting the ways it measures success, the chance of us getting to see local features is increasing.
But the biggest noise to come out of Atlantic Canada this year has to be Hobo with a Shotgun, the bloody exploitation drama from Dartmouth trio Jason Eisener, John Davies and Rob Cotterill. It earned flattering reviews from the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine and The Globe and Mail, and has been chosen as one of the Best of Canada by the Toronto International Film Festival organization.
Most importantly, Hobo has been embraced by the fans. It shows that in Nova Scotia we don't just tell stories about sailors, family dysfunction and the heroes of the Halifax Explosion. We can also do arterial spray. We flamethrow busloads of children and chuckle, impaling villains on our shattered ulnas. That may be considered a dubious achievement by some, but it's a distinction we should trumpet.
Coast critics pick the 10 best movies of 2011 in the January 5 issue. Check thecoast.ca for updated movie times.
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