Telus STORYHIVE is back this week with its latest mission to fund local film and video projects selected through popular vote. Monday through Friday from Feb. 5-10, viewers can vote for their favourite web series pilot projects on the STORYHIVE site. From a pool of 30 finalists comprised of 15 teams each from British Columbia and Alberta, only one will be selected from each province to receive an additional $50,000 funding grant to produce the rest of their season. In addition to being streamed online, the winning projects will be featured on Telus Optik On Demand.
Among this year’s Alberta finalists is The Parent Council. A communal effort jam-packed with local talent, this brainchild of local actor and comedian Patrick Creery puts on display the often quirky behaviours present in any group of diverse people that unites for a single cause – in this case, the parent council of an elementary school. Since the only sure thing they have in common is that they are parents, and because everybody loves their children dearly and only wants the best for them, the characters’ personalities, backgrounds and parenting styles bump up against each other in surprising (and sometimes dramatic) ways. Creery’s character Connor plays the relatable protagonist, blindly wading into the turbulent waters of parent council and its potential hazards, such as voting for who fills which position on the board and the choice of potluck contributions.
Is Creery himself a member of a parent council? “I actually thought about it, but I decided not to because I don’t want them to think I’m making fun of them, or spying on them,” he laughs. “I volunteered at the school this morning, though. I spent the morning cutting animals out of paper.”
Originally envisioned as a full 22 minutes, the pilot script was condensed into just under nine with the help of an assigned STORYHIVE mentor, Jason Filiatrault (Entangled), who suggested they fill the first few seconds of video with images to quickly but solidly establish Connor’s home life without using words. This allowed a sizeable portion of dialogue to be trimmed while still presenting the same amount of information. Viewers are likely to feel a connection to specifics in the montage, such as the crockpot and unruly piles of laundry.
Other story elements are also drawn from real life: Connor’s wife Mel is directly based on Creery’s wife, Vicki; and co-writer Charles Andrew Payne is a father of two and brings his years as a competitive dance dad to the script. As well, some of Creery and Payne’s material came from a more official source — the Calgary Board of Education publishes the minutes of every parent council meeting online. The high-stakes importance that is attached to each issue, big or small, is what makes every one of these anecdotes funny to Creery.
The Parent Council started to take shape when Creery met with his friend Matt Watterworth (Full Swing Productions; 1st AD) a few years ago to collaborate on a TV series. After pitching the idea to STORYHIVE last September and making it through the initial round of voting, the next few months were a blur of activity as Creery got the production rolling with a goal to film in early December. Working through his list of contacts he secured Naddine Madell (Who Is Riley Oakes?, Wynonna Earp) as director, Rhonda Fisekci (Heartland) as casting director, Steve London (Canadian Screen Awards winner) as composer, Scott Westby as editor, as well as flying out his former Second City instructor, Ashley Comeau (Degrassi: Next Class), to play the part of his wife.
Graduates of SAIT’s film and video program provided a professional crew led by director of photography Kara Artym, Propellor Studios (Hell On Wheels) graciously offered help with post-production and sets were also generously provided through networking – Conner’s house belongs to a friend of the director, and Summit Kids at the West Hillhurst Community Centre donated their space for the council scenes. An impressive social media strategy was undertaken by Madison Nesom, who also filled the role of second AD, with behind-the-scenes footage provided by Lukas Schroeder.
Creery is proud to say that with the initial STORYHIVE grant of $10,000 plus extra money invested by himself and Maddell the crew was able to be hired through ACTRA and receive payment.
“I’ve got nothing but love for my cast and crew. I would love to keep working with any of them who want to keep going on this. I would love to get that $50,000 to do five more episodes.”
Whether The Parent Council wins or loses, the show will go on.
Make sure to visit the Telus STORYHIVE website between February 5-10 to vote for your favourite web series pilots. Check out all of the entrants here.
Christine Harvey is a huge fan of comedy in all its forms, especially improv and standup.