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People and organizations

Primedia Productions

  • 2006.010
  • Corporate body
  • 1981-1994

In 1981, producer/director W. Patterson Ferns and writer Richard Nielsen formed Primedia Productions Ltd. Their previous company, Nielsen-Ferns Ltd., had been created in 1972 when the two left their posts at CBC in order to focus on independent productions. In early 1985 Nielsen left Primedia to pursue his writing career and Pat Ferns took over the company.

In the years prior to Primedia’s founding, Ferns initiated several co-production arrangements with international partners; although an unusual practice in the 1970s, such co-productions have become a mainstay of the contemporary Canadian television industry. Ferns was instrumental in the creation of an independent production department within the CBC and for acceptance of independent production by private broadcasters. His arguments in front of the CRTC and other representations have been credited with sowing the seeds from which the Broadcast Fund of Telefilm Canada was born. As a result of these efforts, he has been referred to as “the father of independent production” in Canada.

Following his departure from Primedia, Neilsen founded Norflicks Productions Ltd. He has been granted a Michener Award, a Chetwynd Award and four Gemini Awards for his work. By the time Primedia folded in 1992, it had produced approximately 100 programs that had been seen around the world. Primedia’s programming falls into four general categories: performing arts programs, original TV drama, celebrity-hosted travelogues, and science programming.

In 1994, Primedia was sold to Douglas Dales, president of Production Services Ltd., one of Canada’s largest motion picture equipment rental companies.

Radke Film Group

  • 2007.010
  • Corporate body
  • 1992-

The Radke Film Group was formed in Toronto in 1992 by Richard Radke (in partnership with the company Partners’ Film Company). Radke, who was raised in New York City, had come to Canada in the early 1980s and began his advertising career in 1988. The company was intended to be a director-driven enterprise with sales agents generating contracts to produce commercials for various clients. Radke enlisted several directors to his firm, which his company then represented to various clients. In addition to representing Canadian directors, the Radke Film Group also served as a sales representative for a number of the major American production companies for business in Canada.

Following Radke’s sudden death at the age of 40 in 1994, then General Manager Edie Weiss took over the company. In 1998, Partners’ sold its 30% share to Weiss and she became the company’s full owner (she continues to serve as President). In 2003, the company opened an office in Vancouver.

The Radke Film Group also encompasses a number of affiliates:
· Steam Films was launched in 2001 to enable Radke to represent a larger number of directors; in 2003, they too opened a Vancouver office. Steam also provides crew and production for American shoots.
· Soft Citizen, a dedicated music video production company, was founded in 2003 with the intention of producing videos for both Canadian and international artists. To date, the company has produced videos for such artists as Badly Drawn Boy, Broken Social Scene, Cut Copy, and Death Cab for Cutie.
· The Vapor Music Group is a full service music house based in Toronto. The company specializes in original music, sound design, film/television branding, long format licensing, radio and voice direction. Vapor is managed for former Jungle Music head Roger Harris; clients include Nissan, Purolator, AGF, Gatorade, Nike and Toyota.

Radke directors have won every major international advertising award, including Cannes Lions, Clios, AICP’s (Association of Independent Commercial Producers), Bessies and more. Amongst the best known directors are Mike Bigelow, Antoine Fugua, Zak Snyder, Martin Shewchuk and Eric Lynne; a number of these people have also worked on feature films.

Lionsgate Entertainment

  • Corporate body
  • 1997 -

Lionsgate was founded by Frank Giustra in 1997. Giustra, the son of a nickel miner, was born in Sudbury, ON and eventually became CEO of Yorkton Securities Inc., an investment bank that specialized in funding mining ventures. A lifelong film fan, Giustra became involved with the financing for a half-dozen films before deciding to found a Canadian film company that could compete with Hollywood on its own terms. Giustra contributed $16 million of his own money to found Lion’s Gate, and secured $40 million from investors (including Yorkton, his former employer). He obtained an additional $64 million when Lion’s Gate merged with Toronto Stock Exchange listee Beringer Gold Corp. to become a publicly traded company. Beringer’s mining assets were sold off, and Lion’s Gate was soon in a position to acquire a number of existing Canadian film companies.
One of these was Cinepix Film Properties (CFP), which was founded in Montreal by John Dunning and Andre Link in 1962. Created at the height of Quebec’s Quiet Revolution, CFP quickly became the centre of risqué filmmaking with such hits as Denis Heroux’s Valerie. When this and other Cinepix titles were distributed in English Canada in the early 1970s, there was a good deal of criticism levied at the Canadian Film Development Corporation (now Telefilm Canada) for spending Canadian tax dollars on what some referred to as ‘sexploitation movies’. CFP released both English and French films, and also had an American distribution arm based in New York. The company produced 10 – 12 modestly budgeted films annually, while also distributing such arthouse titles as Hype and Buffalo 66. CFP also owned 56 percent of CineGroup, a Montreal-based animated film production company. Cinepix was renamed Lion’s Gate Films after the acquisition (though its leadership remained intact), and an offshoot, Lion’s Gate International, was later formed in Los Angeles to serve as a worldwide distribution branch.

Giustra also acquired Vancouver-based North Shore Studios in 1997. North Shore (subsequently renamed Lion’s Gate Studios) was Canada’s largest film production facility, and home to a number of American television programs (including The XFiles). Over the next several years, Lion’s Gate continued to acquire various film and television companies, including International Movie Group, Inc., Artisan, Redbus and Trimark. In addition to the feature films that they produced and/or distributed, several of these companies also brought extensive inventories of home entertainment titles. As such, Lionsgate has grown to become one of the most commercially successful independent production companies in North America.
In 2000, CEO Frank Giustra stepped down and was replaced by former Sony Pictures executive John Feltheimer. In 2005, the company changed its name from “Lion’s Gate” to “Lionsgate” across all of its divisions. Under the rebranding, division titles Lions Gate Films, Lions Gate Television, Lions Gate Documentary, Lions Gate International. Lions Gate Home Entertainment, Lions Gate Family Entertainment, Lions Gate Family Home Entertainment and Lions Gate Music disappeared.

Lionsgate currently employs ca. 800 people, and has offices in Vancouver, BC and Santa Monica, CA.

S&S Productions

  • 2005.002
  • Corporate body
  • 1980-

S & S Productions was founded by husband-and-wife comedy team Steve and Morag Smith in 1980. The company was founded just as Canada’s broadcasting industry was experiencing unprecedented growth; the new cable market was just developing, and smaller companies like S & S were able to feed the demand for new content with cost-efficient and viewer-friendly programming.

The duo first achieved success with the series Smith & Smith, and subsequent series included The Comedy Mill and Me & Max. However, S & S has achieved its greatest success with The Red Green Show. Originally aired by CHCH-TV in Hamilton in March of 1990, the comedy enjoyed a fifteen year run on television. The series also aired in the United States, Australia, India and Israel. With Red Green’s success, S & S kept diversifying and expanding: more comedy like An American in Canada and History Bites as well as lifestyle programs like Balance Television for Living Well, The Gardener’s Journal and Anything I Can Do. In 2002, the company produced their first feature film, Duct Tape Forever.

Over the course of its 30 year history, S & S Productions has won three Gemini Awards and been nominated for several more. The company has also received nominations for two Rose D’Or awards, and was a finalist in the New York Festival’s International Competition for Television Film and Video Communication.

Shaftesbury Films Inc.

  • 2007.008
  • Corporate body
  • 1987-

Shaftesbury Films was founded by Canadian Film Centre alumnus Christina Jennings 1987. The initial goal was to produce feature films with strong Canadian content and identity; their first feature, Camilla, was produced in 1992 and followed by Swann and Painted Angels. In 1996, Jennings recruited Jonathan Barker, a former IMAX Corp. executive. Due to the scarcity of funding for feature filmmaking in Canada, Shaftesbury quickly moved into television, producing their first ‘movie of the week’ (External Affairs, based on Timothy Findlay’s The Stillborn Lover) in 1998. After establishing their commitment to adapting prestigious Canadian literary works by such authors as Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields, and Mordecai Richler, Shaftesbury expanded to produce a broad range of television programming for children and adults. In 1998, Shaftesbury established a large format division (SK Films) in partnership with IMAX founder Robert Kerr. The company distributed Bugs!, Journey to Mecca, and Gold Fever, among other films. Also in 1998, Jennings and Barker further diversified their company by launching a feature-film distribution arm in partnership with Oasis Pictures. In 2008, Barker left Shaftesbury Films; he and Kerr now have sole control of SK Films.

Shaftesbury has accumulated a host of awards over its twenty-three year history, including Geminis, International Emmys, Canadian Screenwriting Awards and Directors Guild of Canada Awards. Jennings was awarded the Crystal Award for Oustanding Achievement by the Women in Film and Television organization in 2006.

True North Records

  • 2007.004
  • Corporate body
  • 1969-2006

True North Records, founded by Bernie Finkelstein, is Canada’s longest-running independent record label.

Finkelstein, the son of an Air Force warrant officer, was born in Toronto in 1944. He became involved in the Yorkville music scene in 1963, taking odd jobs and eventually dropping out of high school. While working in a club called El Patio, he met a young band called the Paupers and soon became their manager (often conducting business from a payphone on Yorkville Avenue). Finkelstein found further success managing the band Kensington Market between 1967 and 1969. After a brief period spent living on a farm in Eastern Ontario, Finkelstein returned to Toronto and founded True North Records.

Finkelstein met singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn at a Ryerson University coffeehouse in 1969, and the two established an association that lasts to this day. Cockburn has released 29 albums on True North, including such hits as ‘Wondering Where the Lions Are’, and ‘If I Had a Rocket Launcher’. Other important Canadian singer-songwriters who have recorded for True North include Murray McLaughlan, Luke Gibson, Stephen Fearing and Colin Linden. In 1979, True North ventured into the world of post-punk alternative rock, releasing albums by Carol Pope and Rough Trade. Subsequent rock artists signed to the label have included the Rheostatics, 5440, the Cowboy Junkies, the Golden Dogs, Zubot and Dawson, Lynn Miles, Hunter Valentine and Blackie and the Rodeo Kings. Artists on the True North label have won more than 40 Juno awards and put out approximately the same number of gold or platinum records.

In 1995, True North expanded its operations and released recordings by non-Canadian artists and distributing several international record labels (including U.K.based Cooking Vinyl and U.S.based Fuel 2000, Signature Sounds and Sci-fidelity). In 2007, True North was taken over by Mississauga-based Linus Entertainment; Finkelstein remains the chair and advisor while also managing a number of bands. He is also the chair of VideoFACT, the government-financed organization that funds videos for Canadian music artists.

Bernie Finkelstein has been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and named to the Order of Canada. He lives in Toronto.

Kessler-Colero

  • Corporate body
  • 1975-2002

Syd Kessler and Jody Colero operated a number of commercial studios from the 1970s to 2000. Hamilton born Syd Kessler began working in media in 1966 when he was hired by Chuck Blore Creative Services, a Los Angeles-based radio production company. Over the next five years, Kessler learned his way around a recording studio while also freelance writing for the prime time comedy show, Laugh-In. Returning to Toronto in 1971, Kessler obtained work writing for television shows such as Wayne and Schuster and began working on commercials with noted jingle writer and film composer Ben McPeek. Kessler joined the Cockfield Brown Advertising Agency in 1973; it was here that he met Cubby Marcus, who would become his mentor.

By 1975, Kessler had started his own company, WAMO (Words and Music Organization), which then became Kessler, Morrison, Meteskey and Giacomelli Inc. Three years later, he founded Kessler Productions (later Kessler Music Corp.), which over the next several years became the largest jingle company in Canada. In 1981, Kessler acquired Berryman Studios and Sounds Interchange and formed the Air Company and Creative Interchange. These two companies dominated the advertising business in Canada for nearly a decade, with Kessler co-writing, producing and/or directing commercials for major companies including Coca-Cola, Esso, Air Canada, McDonald’s and others. In 1988, John Labatt Ltd. merged with Kessler Music Corp, thereby forming a new entity called Supercorp. Five of Kessler’s competitors came under the Supercorp umbrella; one of these, Einstein Brothers, included Jody Colero.

Following a change in direction in 1994, Kessler sold his shares in Supercorp and started a new company called The Kessler Group. In 1997, Kessler became co-director of KPMG e-commerce practice. He retired in 2000, and published a book (called The Perfect System) in 2005, and currently lives in Toronto.

Jody Colero began his professional career in 1977, working as an engineer at Thunder Sound. He subsequently worked in A & R, signing notable Canadian pop and rock artists such as Teenage Head, Harlequin and David Bendeath while helping to develop a number of successful Canadian songwriters like Mary Margaret O’Hara and Tim Thorney. Colero also worked with such notable Canadian acts as Dr. Music and Craig Russell. In 1985, Colero formed Einstein Brothers Music Inc. with two partners that he subsequently bought out. The company was acquired by Kessler’s Supercorp in 1992. Shortly afterwards, Colero created the Einstein Brothers Record label, which enjoyed some success with Cassandra Vassik and Charlie Major. Einstein Brothers Inc. was acquired by Supercorp in 1992 and, after its dissolution, Colero became the sole owner of the company that he once co-owned. After a brief sabbatical at the end of 2001, Colero returned to the advertising business with a new company called Silent Joe. He continues to create musical products for all media.

In addition to their advertising work, both Kessler and Colero served as executive producers or worked ‘hands on’ on commercial recordings by Bob and Doug MacKenzie, Rick Moranis and Mary Margaret O’Hara, among others. Kessler and Colero’s work has been well-regarded within the advertising, music and broadcasting communities, and they have earned countless awards: AMPAC (Advertising Music Producers Association of Canada), Andys (Advertising Club of New York), Bessies, Canadian Radio Commercial Awards, Canadian TV Commercials Festival, CLIOs (International Broadcasting Awards), International Film & TV Festival awards, Toronto Art Directors Club Awards, and others.

Delaney & Friends Productions

  • Corporate body
  • 1993-1998

Delaney & Friends was incorporated by Christopher Delaney in Vancouver in 1984. Delaney was joined by his brother, animation designer and comic book artist John Delaney, in 1992. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the company produced several television commercials for such clients as 711, Purex and the Vancouver Province, and they garnered a number of awards for these (including two TVB Awards, three Bessie Awards, and an IBA Award).

In 1993, Delaney & Friends produced an animated Christmas special, Christopher the Christmas Tree (the special was based on a record album of the same name, produced by George T. Bowers in 1969). The program premiered on the FOX Kids network in the United States and YTV in Canada. Over the years, several stations around the world have picked up the broadcasting rights to the special, and as of 2007 Christopher the Christmas Tree had been shown in over 35 countries while the commercially released DVD had sold over 50,000 copies.
Beginning in 1995, Delaney produced the first of two full seasons of the animated series Nilus the Sandman. Created by Michael Fawkes, each season consisted of 13 episodes; these were all either written or edited by Michael Mercer and employed the voices of Donny Osmond and Holly Cole. The first season was co-produced with Cambium Entertainment of Toronto at a studio in Manila. The studio (Typhoon Toons) employed a staff of 400 animators, though it failed due to interference from customs agents and the difficulty of managing such a large operation from afar. When production of the second season began in 1998, Delaney subcontracted production work to Morning Sun Animation studio in Shanghai. The Nilus series was recognized with numerous nominations and awards, including two Geminis, three Worldfest awards, two U.S. International Film and Video Festival awards and a Golden Sheaf Award from the Yorkton Short Film Festival.

In 1996, Delaney & Friends produced The Littlest Angel, based on the children’s book originally published in 1940. In addition to the material produced through Delaney & Friends, Chris Delaney has created such well-known animation programs as The Care Bears, Detective Dog, Tales of the Mouse Hockey League, Leonard Lemming’s Lament, The Legend of the Candy Cane and Phish and Chip.

In 2003, Vancouver videogame developer Radical Entertainment agreed to purchase the assets of Delaney & Company, which was no longer operational. Two years later, Radical was acquired by Vivendi Universal Games, a global games publisher.

Barna-Alper Productions

  • Corporate body
  • 1979-2004

Born to Hungarian Holocaust survivors in 1949, Laszlo Barna arrived in Montreal shortly after the Soviet Union’s Red Army suppressed the 1956 Hungarian democratic revolt. He attended McGill University in the late 1960s and, after a brief period as an academic, he became an independent filmmaker. In the late 1970s, he moved with his partner (Laura Alper) and their daughter to Toronto, where they established BarnaAlper Productions.

Initially, the company produced industrial films (primarily for unions, including the Canadian Auto Workers). Later, they produced small documentaries at the National Film Board, but their big break came in 1989 when CBC introduced the all-news channel Newsworld. Barna pitched a weekly current affairs, called Workweek, which became their first broadcast series. Over the next decade, BarnaAlper continued to produce factual series (including Frontiers of Construction, one of the first shows commissioned by Discovery Canada, and Turning Points of History, one of the first programs commissioned by History Television in 1997). Through this period, Alper began to take a less active role in the day-to-day affairs of the company, and she now serves as a consultant. In 1996, BarnaAlper entered the field of dramatic programming with the story of Teamster leader Diana Kilmury. The movie-of-the-week met with critical success in Canada and the United States, and the company began developing a slate of new dramatic projects. In 2008, BarnaAlper was acquired by Entertainment One (E1).

The company has won numerous awards, among them Geminis for Best Dramatic Series, Best Documentary Series, Best Sports Program or Series, Best Science, Technology, Nature and Environment Documentary Program, and Best History Documentary Program. They have also been recognized at prestigious TV festivals in the United States, including the Columbus International Film and Video Festival, Double Take, and the Chicago International TV Festival.

Alert Music

  • 2005.006
  • Corporate body
  • 1984-2006

Alert Music was founded in 1984 by Toronto’s W. Tom Berry and Montreal’s Marc Durand. From 1975-1983, Berry had been managing director at Anthem Records whose roster included Rush, Max Webster and Bob and Doug Mackenzie. Durand was the manager and producer of the Montreal rock band Men Without Hats. Alert’s mission was to create a unique label that could bridge the “two solitudes” of Canada, hopefully turning regional hits into national ones; the Toronto office would sign English language artists that the Montreal office would attempt to promote in French Canada, and vice versa. The Montreal office immediately signed The Box, while the Toronto office signed Kim Mitchell (who had recently begun a solo career).

In the late 1980s, Berry decided that his interest in rock music was waning and he and Durand agreed to go their separate ways. Berry kept the name Alert and all the English language artists currently signed to the label, while Durand kept The Box and the company’s Montreal office. Sometime after, Berry discovered jazz singer Holly Cole performing with pianist Aaron David and bass player David Piltch. He signed the trio and immediately set out to create a distinctive image and style for Cole. Her album Girl Talk caught the attention of jazz label Blue Note Records, and they released Cole’s next five albums in the American market. The majority of Alert’s efforts since the mid1990s have revolved around recording and marketing Cole. The label also continues to record and market other Canadian jazz, blues and roots-oriented music including Roxanne Potvin, Michael Kaeshammer and Cole’s accompanists, Piltch and Davis.

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