All posts by whererusteve

not much to say except that I am a young guy trying to make the world a better place while trying to have as much fun as possible!

Canadian Screenwriter Nicole Demerse Brings the Comedy

Nicole Demerse
Nicole Demerse (left) and her husband Alex Bull (right) on the WB lot in Los Angeles

Occasionally a television production might struggle in developing a script that is ready to go to camera. When that happens, the producer will usually consult a list of heavyweight writers to help them bridge the gap from concept to script. In Canada, one writer has stood out to be one of those go-to writers to help turn a concept idea into a full-blown series. Nicole Demerse has a passion for telling stories that spark a conversation. Over the past 14 years her focus has been predominately writing for youth television as a sought-after screenwriter, across multiple genres, for a worldwide audience of millions.

She is not one to shy away from the tough issues. In an episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation, one of the high-school aged characters faced the difficult dilemma of abortion. There was such a strong reaction to this episode that the New York Times discussed the plot with its international audience. The show and its predecessor are part of the long running Degrassi series that is one of the most popular productions to ever come out of Canada.

And for Nicole, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She is able to weave inventive and stand-out stories across many television genres or formats, having seen great success with animated comedies for kids and adults, movies-of-the-week (MOW), and original series. The plots and characters she creates are often from very different worlds, proving her ability to speak to a variety of different audiences.

Nicole recently penned seven scripts for Game On, a show about what it would be like to have sportscasters commentating on an average suburban boy’s daily existence. The series stars Samantha Bee from The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and Jonathan Torrens of Trailer Park Boys.

Game On Executive Producer Steve Westren says, “When Nicole agreed to come aboard it was considered to be a real ‘get’ – our broadcaster was thrilled to have such a sought-after, highly respected writer joining our team. Nicole’s scripts are the perfect amalgam of funny, smart, and emotionally resonant. She doesn’t just go for the joke, she finds the core truth in a moment, which always makes comedy much funnier!”

Nicole was also a writer the long-running animated series Totally Spies!, a show about three teenage girls in Beverly Hills who also happen to be international spies. Totally Spies! is an international juggernaut and is viewed in over 200 countries worldwide.

The industry has certainly noted Nicole’s accomplishments. She was nominated for a Gemini award for her work on Degrassi: The Next Generation. The Gemini is the highest awards honor for Canadian television (recently renamed the “Canadian Screen Awards”). She also received a Writer’s Guild of Canada screenwriting award for her work on the show The Blobheads, a sci-fi comedy about a teenager whose baby brother is deemed ‘Emperor of the Universe’ by three aliens who move in with the family in order to keep their Emperor safe and happy.

Nicole’s talent has taken her to the top of the Canadian television scene so it comes as no surprise that producers in Hollywood are looking to add her to their list of writers and show creators as well. She is staying busy by keeping her creativity sharp, working on projects that keep pushing her limits for content. Nicole is currently developing two new hour-long dramas, Choice, which follows a doctor who is led down a dark path by her own poor choices, and Washington Prep, which revolves around a group of corrupt politicians who are grooming the next generation to follow in their dirty footsteps.

Nicole’s hard work has put her at the top echelon of desired writers in Canada, but for Nicole the work helps enrich her own life as much as the audiences who adore her writing.

When asked why she writes, Nicole says, “Humans love good stories, it’s ingrained in our DNA. A good story can help you through a rough time, inspire you to take risks and to grow, or just make you laugh or cry.” Asked why she’s enjoyed writing for kids all these years, Nicole says, “I think it’s really important to tell good stories to kids, stories that spark their imaginations and get them to dream and believe that the world out there is so much bigger, cooler and more exciting than the little place where they grew up.”

This talented screenwriter has also written episodes for the Emmy Award winning fantasy series The Zack Files, the Gemini Award winning animated series Atomic Betty, the International Emmy Award winning sci-fi series Dark Oracle, as well as contributed ground-breaking scripts to 42 other television shows.

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Production Designer Spotlight: Hank Mann

Production Designer Hank Mann
Production Designer Hank Mann

The visual component of a film production is an aspect often taken for granted. Combining elements of creativity with the ability to adapt the surrounding environment to fit whatever a film, television or commercial project calls for, the production designer is responsible for setting the cinematic stage. As the main head of the art department, the most labor-intensive aspect of the entire production crew, a good production designer needs to be as much of a leader as they need to be a visionary, while also being mindful of the production budget.

Hank Mann possesses all of these qualities, and then some. With an international upbringing that included the UK, Australia, and Canada, Mann’s career as a production designer has made him a sought-after asset to international film and commercial crews.

Mann’s reputation exploded early in his career as the production designer on a commercial for Ford Motor Company starring David Duchovny. In the production he was responsible for recreating an iconic American diner with a retractable roof (for filming) out in the UK countryside. The project was a success and since then Mann has designed sets on location around the world for clients such as L’Oreal, Infiniti, Audi, Barclay’s Premier League, Benjamin Moore paints and much more.

He is also a sought-after production designer in the music video industry—in fact, he was the production designer on the video for “How You Remind Me” by Nickelback, the most-played song of the decade for 2000-2009 (Neilson Research).

The video garnered over 135,000,000 views on YouTube, and the band went onto receive four Billboard Awards and four Juno Awards for the hit song. In the video Mann created a set that fused crisp modern elegance in the set design to a pre gothic-looking cinder block frame. The result was a contrast without prior labels, and sets a distinct tone for one of the most successful music videos in history.

For much of his career Hank was based in Vancouver, British Columbia, a hotbed for diverse film projects. Throughout his time there he was able to design a whole spectrum of challenging sets and locations, allowing for a rare type of versatility in his background.

“In Los Angeles a Production Designer will specialize into a niche field such as period pieces, sports movies, or science fiction, because there is enough volume of projects in each field being made to support niche skills,” he said.

“In Vancouver I have found that the diversity of experiences on all the projects over the years has made my problem solving skills quite acute. One day it’s designing a yurt village to be built in the mountains, the next it’s designing a kid’s bedroom circa 1981.”

Mann has a gift to be able to transform a setting to look like somewhere on the other side of the world. On a recent Arby’s commercial Mann turned Cape Town, South Africa into a street the looked identical to a main street straight of the USA.

For a Subaru commercial Mann and his team created a gigantic tornado-like storm with additional special effects such as explosions, flying boats, wind and rain – all on a perfectly sunny day. He has even created a prehistoric village deep in the rainforest on British Columbia’s Vancouver Island for the award-winning Discovery Channel docuseries Before We Ruled The Earth.

As important as the creative aspect of production design is the managerial side of things. In that role Mann has earned his reputation as a good delegator, able to synthesize the many moving parts of an art department such as set design, costumes, props, special effects, and more, all while keeping the producers happy and on budget and co-creating a vision in sync with the DOP and director.