'Turning the drama up to 11:' Halifax filmmaker picked for national TV training program
Team Jon Mann and Rob Ramsay are one of three finalists in the Canadian National Screen Institute’s Totally Television training course.
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A local filmmaker is setting out to ditch the lobster traps and sailboats and portray what life is really like in a small East Coast town with his series, Wolfville.
Halifax-based, Fredericton-born filmmaker Jon Mann and Saint John-born, Toronto-based producer Rob Ramsay developed the idea for a series set in the Nova Scotia town after they both graduated from Acadia University. The pair was just picked as one of three finalists in the Canadian National Screen Institute’s Totally Television training course, and the only ones east of Toronto.
“There’s the culture that is portrayed in media and marketing right now about the East Coast, and there’s the culture that you only know if you grew up here,” Mann said in an interview.
“I think that’s what we’re portraying here with Wolfville, obviously, and then we’re turning the drama up to 11.”
The series’ two main characters are childhood friends who chose different paths in life.
“When you meet them in the pilot, you realize that the town of Wolfville isn’t exactly what meets the eye,” Mann said. “And you realize that one of the friends is the leading cause of it and the other one is now a cop in this small little town, and the responsibility is now put on him to get to the bottom of it.”
But it’s not a cut and dried, good versus evil story.
“There are very obvious protagonists and antagonists in this story, but the protagonist isn’t necessarily a good guy and the antagonist isn’t necessarily a bad guy,” Mann said.
Mann said the series blurs the lines between comedy and drama as well, as he and Ramsay set out to do with all their work.
“We just think that life isn’t one way or the other: you should be able to find comedy in dramatic situations, and you should be able to see that stakes are actually high in comedic situations,” Mann said.
Mann and Ramsay were picked as finalists in the Totally Television course last week after they submitted a written pilot episode and what’s called a “series bible,” including a synopsis of the full season and breakdowns of each episode.
Mann goes to Toronto at the end of September for a six-day intensive boot camp, where he’ll meet with experienced screenwriters and Ramsay will meet with producers and show runners to beef up their story in the hopes of getting it picked up for a full season.
“I think what Rob and I are most excited about is just the opportunity to learn from people who’ve not just made careers in Canadian television and film, but long careers in television and film,” Mann said.
“We just want to make this project as strong as possible and these are the people that are going to be able to do that for us.”
After the boot camp, the three teams go off with their notes to improve their work, and then come back to have it judged in January. The judges will pick two teams to go to the Banff World Media Festival in June 2018, which Mann described as “a big pitch meeting” with executives from television networks across North America.