Tag Archives: Canadian TV

Brett Morris sheds insight into his journey from Young Magneto to seasoned producer

Human beings are known to set limits and work within them. With that, we understand and evaluate the world through binary opposites like black versus white, up versus down, in versus out, and so on. Then, sometimes, positive disrupters emerge and they challenge us to read between the lines; to understand the world’s wonders along spectrums rather than within extremes. They empower us to test the limits that we set for ourselves and to determine alternative understandings of our world that we might not have otherwise considered. More often than not, these disrupters are known as artists, innovators, and pioneers. In the case of Brett Morris, however, titles like “cinematographer,” “editor,” “director,” and “producer” come to mind. For the highly sought-after creative, there are no lengths that he will not go to in order to stimulate the minds of his audiences and allow them to wander into worlds that they have never explored before.

“What I love about producing, in particular, is that, when challenged to produce something, you’re only limited by your own resourcefulness. Not your resources. If there is a will, there is a way and I love being able to solve a multitude of problems. My job is to make the day go as smoothly as possible and appear as if there was never a challenge in the first place,” said Morris.

Having kick started his career as a child actor, Morris has built himself from the ground up, experimenting with just about every role involved in the creation and production of a film or television show. As such, he has earned a certain understanding and appreciation of the intricacies of his art form that other artists may never fully experience. At the age of 12, Morris landed himself the role of Young Magneto in the hit film, X-Men, and was inspired by talented actors like Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman. What he hadn’t anticipated; however, was how fascinated he became by the role of the director. He was determined to become a part of the directing community and today, he can be credited with producing and directing fan-favorites like Big Brother Canada, Hockey Wives, So You Think You Can Dance, and many more. 

In 2016, Insight Productions were looking to re-boot the widely adored series, Top Chef, for a fifth season with an added “all-star” twist. Top Chef Canada is a Canadian reality competition television series airing on Food Network Canada. Each week, chef contestants compete against each other in culinary challenges and are subsequently judged by a panel of professional food and wine gurus. At the end of each week, one or more contestants are eliminated in order to determine who Canada’s “Top Chef” will be.

For Top Chef Canada All-Star, the show’s production team was intent on finding a field producer with the skill and expertise necessary to take it to the next level without sacrificing any of the elements that made their show the success it is today. Essentially, a field producer is responsible for handling all in-field directing, as well as conducting on-camera competitor interviews. The role typically involves juggling technical in-field directing abilities with achieving optimal story beats in order to effectively craft each episode during post-production. Fortunately for Morris, the decision to select a field producer landed in the hands of a former co-worker and member of Top Chef’s production team, Eric Abboud, who knew that Morris was the ideal candidate for the job. Abboud approached Morris about the opportunity to work alongside the show’s story team, including talented writer, Jennifer Pratt, and highly skilled story-editor, Liam Colle. For Morris, joining such a high performing team acted as further motivation to show Food Network lovers everywhere just what he is capable of.

From the outside looking in, it is easy to see how intense and pressure-ridden each Top Chef competition can be for contestants, whether or not you’re watching a regular season or an all-star edition. What is more difficult to imagine, therefore, is the type of demand that places on a production crew to capture each and every moment as authentically as possible. Morris recalls episodes being shot in the span of two days, across multiple locations. When the chefs were cooking, Morris was behind the camera crew, prompting them to speak loudly about their creative process and having to break their heavy focus in order to heighten the drama-filled, entertainment factors of the show. Other times, while chefs were navigating their weekly budget to shop for groceries, Morris was directing crews of six camera operators and three audio engineers in order to effectively capture all of the suspense. Then, for each episode, he was tasked with keeping track of every action-packed second of filming in order to know which content to probe the chefs about during their interview segments afterward. Despite the demanding nature of this role, Morris loved every moment. Particularly, he enjoyed the unique chance he had to interact with all of the chefs up close and personally.

“These chefs are true all-stars, restaurant owners, and at the top of their field. Any time you get to immerse yourself into the world of an expert, it is exciting. From the way they prepared their ingredients, to the meticulousness of cleaning their work stations, everything was like a rehearsed dance to them. It was exhilarating to watch. I found that I became a “foodie” by proximity and I took that learning with me every time I order at a restaurant or prepare a dish at home. It was an unbelievable experience,” recalled Morris.

Ironically, while Morris found himself fascinated by the opportunity to witness these culinary experts in their element, his co-workers, like Colle, were experiencing similar sentiments while watching him at work. According to Colle, working with Morris was a learning experience in itself and he enjoyed the distinct pleasure he had to learn Morris’ approaches and techniques for his own use. When asked what makes him so great at what he does, Colle had the following to say:

“I’ve never come across anyone else with the skill set and talent of Brett Morris. He is whip-smart, with an uncanny ability to tell compelling stories and deliver polished and professional productions. I think a big part of what makes him so good at what he does is that he’s got the perfect mix of creativity and analytics. Whether it’s in the edit suite or on set, his instincts are always on point and the finished product is never less than impressive,” told Colle.

Despite the fact that Top Chef Canada All-Star was breaking the show’s three-year hiatus from Food Network Canada, the result was better than ever. Canadian audiences still felt a deep connection with the show and Morris’ work was extremely well received. In fact, with the help of Morris, the show earned the green light to be renewed for a sixth season which will air in 2018.

“The fact that the audience loved it and it got picked up for another season means that not only did we do our job well, we were successful. It is always satisfying to see your hard work pay off,” he concluded.

 

Top photo by David Leyes

Canada’s Cassie Friedman found intriguing stories for Global TV

Cassie Friedman says being a producer is synonymous with being a storyteller. Sometimes she will become bogged down with logistics – coordinating schedules, booking locations, finding potential characters, etc. But when all those pieces come together, she is telling a story. As a producer, she ensures every part of a production is in order, and at the same time finds the most compelling stories to keep her audience engaged.

Now, Friedman is an internationally sought-after development producer, working with the independent production company Studio Lambert in both London and Los Angeles. Before that, however, she was working with one of Canada’s largest broadcasters, Global Television. Not only did she help produce The Morning Show, The News at Noon, and the station’s ‘Child Safety Awareness Week’, but she also greatly contributed to various other newsroom projects.

“Global is one of the major networks in Canada and I’d been watching Channel 3 my whole life. Global’s reputation was already top tier for me. It was a no-brainer for me to try to start my career there,” said Friedman.

Global Television is a privately-owned, Canadian English-language broadcast television network, now owned by Corus Entertainment. Friedman worked on many projects for the network, like the bi-weekly Making a Difference segment, the Ontario General Election in 2011 and covering Canada’s National Ballet School’s Assemblee Internationale in 2013. Her responsibilities included researching, shot listing, booking stories, and assisting cameramen on shoots.

The Global Toronto Newsroom was always abuzz and working there always felt like you were right where the action was. I was always driven to do my absolute best, because I was surrounded by the best journalists in one of Canada’s most respected newsrooms. So, I took extra care working on major projects. I used my research skills to tell a great story and ensure there were no errors,” she said.

Friedman’s contributions were essential to the newsroom’s success on a daily basis. During her time there, Global News won the 2013 Edward R. Murrow award for Overall News Excellence in Network Television, and Global Toronto won four RTDNA Edward R. Murrow awards in 2013, including the Bert Cannings Award – Best Newscast. For Friedman, the acclaim was absolutely fantastic.

“I always felt so lucky to be part of such an iconic, respected newsroom and working with a smart, committed team. It was so rewarding to be recognized for all the hard work we all put in day in and day out. I don’t think any of us did it for the recognition, so to be acknowledged, it definitely made me feel more appreciated. And confident that what we were doing was having an impact,” she said.

For a large part of her time at Global news, Friedman worked on anchor Susan Hay’s Making a Difference segment, where Hay would showcase inspiring people in the community who were doing charitable acts and helping others. Hay had been at Global for more than 20 years, and served as an inspiration for a 21-year-old Friedman. Friedman booked shoots, worked in the field and helped with scripts. On one occasion, when Friedman thought she may not find a story in time, she found out about a woman in the community who offered yoga programs for the elderly, and it ended up being one of the show’s best segments.

“What makes Cassie incredible to work with is her positive attitude. That goes a long way in the news industry. She was always full of energy, ideas, and willing to help. Her determination and passion for creativity has placed her where she is today – which is far ahead of many of her peers,” said Susan Hay, TV Host and Journalist.

Working on the show also allowed Friedman to discover new passions. While covering the provincial election, she found she had an affinity for politics. She looked at every riding, who might win, who’d won previously, which ridings swung in the federal election. She ended up choosing two Conservative and two Liberal locations. She also had to choose one for the New Democratic Party, and chose a seemingly random riding north of Toronto because it had swung NDP in the federal election. Her instincts proved fruitful.

“After lots of research, I had a feeling it would swing NDP again. I sent our cameras to the NDP candidate’s event, and low and behold, that candidate won and had a huge celebration with music and dancing. It made for great television and showcased a community that had never really been seen before. It was very exciting and what I took away from it was that digging deep into research pays off,” said Friedman.

There is no doubt that Friedman is an extraordinary producer, with natural instincts and a complete commitment to her craft. She will continue to bring success to whatever she works on, and audiences will enjoy watching her do it.