Australian born actor Caleb McClure just wrapped production on writer-director Matthew Holmes’ film The Legend of Ben Hall, which is set in the 1800’s and based on true Australian historical events focusing on Bushranger Ben Hall and his gang of outlaws.
The film co-stars Callan McAuliffe (The Great Gatsby, Homeland), Andy McPhee (Saving Mr. Banks), and displays McClure’s emotional depth as a child actor. He plays a policeman’s son who is traumatized and impacted by Ben Hall’s unlawful ring, as his father is shot down and dies in his very arms. McClure’s character drives the narrative and demonstrates that, even though he is still in his early teens, he is an actor who’s well beyond his years in terms of ￼emotional maturity.
“My role was intense at times with a lot of action and emotion so I had to be quick on my feet, and it was definitely physically challenging,” says the actor who also worked in freezing conditions while shooting on location in Victoria and New South Wales in Australia.
The Legend of Ben Hall is currently in post-production and set to be released in 2016. McClure adds, “Transforming into another era and becoming this character was great.”
Caleb McClure is no stranger to showcasing his impressive dramatic range and depicting characters in period pieces. In 2008, he starred in the sixth season of Australia’s Award Winning Television series Underbelly, entitled Underbelly: Squizzy, which was set in the early 1900’s and revolves around notorious Melbourne gangster Squizzy Taylor.
In 2011, McClure took on the leading role in the film Where Is Mum? where he played a child who conceals his HIV from his fellow classmates at school.
“I try to find something I can relate to or is challenging, and something that I can accomplish in a great way,” says the actor about choosing roles.
Recently McClure tackled the AIDS ailment once more as he co-starred in Tim Conigrave’s bestselling memoir, turned film adaptation Holding the Man, where he played Tim’s younger brother, Nick Conigrave. Holding the Man focuses on the 15-year love affair of two gay men set during the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s.
“I had to show a lot of emotion and be aggressive and upset,” says McClure.
In the film, which received rave reviews in Australia, McClure stars alongside Guy Pearce (Memento, LA Confidential, The Hurt Locker) as Tim and Nick’s father, Dick Conigrave, as well as film veteran and Oscar Winner Geoffrey Rush (Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, The King’s Speech, and Shine) who plays Tim’s acting teacher.
Like most actors who have reached pivotal success in their youth like, Leonardo Di Caprio or Tobey Maguire, McClure began building his resume when he was just a toddler. At the ripe age of four, the now dramatic actor started his career as a print model for Elle Magazine and within a few years landed his first acting gig at the age of eight.
From that point forward, McClure swiftly landed several roles from Where is Mum?A View from Below, I am Evangeline, and Underbelly. Now with over fifteen film roles under his belt there is no stopping this actor’s rocket career.
“I’m interested in whatever will carry me to the next level as an actor,” says McClure, and you can bet that audiences will continue to watch as this versatile young performer’s career flourishes.
You can find out more about Australian actor Caleb McClure through his IMDb Page: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3899794/
Whether on the stage or screen, there is one crucial ability that all of the most gifted and successful actors have in common. There are comedic actors, dramatic actors and those with a flair for action, but it’s those who can move from one genre to another without missing a beat who make their mark and capture the adoration of audiences. With each character she steps into, Birgit Ludemann displays that rare gift again and again.
Growing up in South Africa, Ludemann was just 12 years old when she knew that acting was to become her life’s pursuit. In the years since her first school performance in a Roald Dahl play, she’s gone on to tap into every facet of the human condition. From tragedy to comedy, the lifelike to the surreal, exhilarating to introspective, she has proven that no matter what the story is she can jump right into any role and deliver a knockout performance.
In Stay, Ludemann plays the best friend of a pregnant woman who goes into labor during her baby shower. The story turns tragic, however, when during labor the woman receives a phone call informing her that her husband has been shot and is dying. The woman is terrified, heartbroken and about to give birth, but Ludemann’s character continues to support and console her throughout the ordeal. What was already a difficult role emotionally was made even more challenging by the absence of spoken lines and the slow-motion style in which the film was shot. Ludemann’s performance had to walk the fine line between using only her movements and expressions to convey the story while being constantly aware of how each motion she made would appear when slowed down.
“There was no dialogue during the entire film, everything was purely physical,” she said. “The director wanted the finished edit to be in slow motion so I had to be very conscious of movements being too fast-paced or slow-paced. Also, as it was a heavily emotive-driven drama, portraying emotions strongly enough for them to read on camera in slow motion was different.”
Ludemann’s role as Suzanna in Fives is a huge shift from her character in Stay. Centered around an office romance, the film stars Alonso Grandio (Furious 7) as Eric and Melanie Steinmann (Mac Daddy’s Vegas Adventure, OddBall) as Eric’s love interest Meghan.
Suzanna is the “new girl” where Eric and Meghan work. She’s an attractive young woman, called a “7-out-of-10,” who catches the eyes of all the men in the office. All except Eric, who quickly hatches a scheme to use Suzanna to make Meghan jealous.
“Eric, the male lead, flirts with Suzanna in order to make another co-worker, Meghan, jealous,” explained Ludemann, whose character is by no means oblivious to the misguided plan. “Suzanna is fully aware of the situation and just plays along because she knows Eric and Meghan make a better couple than herself and Eric.”
On the surface Fives is a romantic comedy, but Ludemann chose to go deeper in her portrayal of Suzanna. She expertly conveyed Suzanna’s awareness of and confidence in her own beauty without making the character arrogant or unlikeable.
“One of the main challenges I faced playing this role was making sure the character did not come off as being cocky, narcissistic or vain,” she said.
Compared to the approach many of her peers might have taken, Ludemann went above and beyond in her commitment to preparing for the role. Both on- and off-camera, she was constantly focused on getting into the mindset of the beautiful and confident Suzanne. In order to embody the character, she learned what she could about the experiences attractive women had had working in office environments and incorporated what she learned into Suzanne’s onscreen personality.
“One of the themes this role highlights is the power women get from being good-looking, especially around the office space,” Ludemann said. “So that was one of the things I had to do some research on.”
Never one to become pegged down by genre, Ludemann is again stepping outside the familiar and pushing the boundaries of her acting experience. This time, she’s playing the role of Claudia in Mac Daddy’s Vegas Adventure, the sequel to the award-winning raucous comedy hit Mac Daddy and the Lovers (2013 Nevada International Film Festival’s Gold Reel Award). Audiences can catch Ludemann’s latest performance when Mac Daddy’s Vegas Adventure is released in spring 2016.
As the production designer on the films Mira, Mal de Ojo, Second Love, To See the Sunrise and the multi-award winning film Slut, Yihong Ding has proven that she has the malleable creative vision necessary to set the perfect stage for any story regardless of the genre.
As a successful production designer and the leader of the entire art department, Ding has to do far more than just design every set in a production so it perfectly fits the story. In order for members of her department to be able to effectively build what she has envisioned for each set, she has to be able to guide each person on her team on the best way to execute each build, something that can only come from experience.
Ding laid the foundation for her professional career early on by working in every aspect of the art department and it has definitely paid off. Ding’s work in the art department on the series Birthday Boy and Chasing Life, a set dresser on the feature film Caught and a scenic painter on the film Mandala, have been integral to the success of the productions, but more importantly, these achievements helped her get to where she is today.
Over the years, Ding has also art directed an impressive list of productions including Ryan Velásquez’s film Drowning, the documentary A Man Before His Time, as well as several commercials including a campaign for Microsoft Outlook’s app.
For the Microsoft commercial where she had to build a café on a sound stage, Ding recalls, “We had a really busy shooting schedule, so everyone was constantly moving. For art department we always have to be one step ahead, so when the team is shooting, we will go ahead and start dressing the next set, and when they move on, we will come back and wrap out the set that they were shooting.”
The combined knowledge that comes from Ding’s experience working as an art director and production designer allows her to function at a higher level than those who work as either an art director or production designer because she knows the tools that each person requires in order to do the best job.
“An art director focuses on how to achieve the look. They are the second hand to the production designer. Their main job is to keep the production designer focused on the design, rather than getting distracted by practical problems,” explained
Ding. “I enjoy being an art director because I think it is necessary… And it helps me to be a better leader when I am production designing. You don’t want to make your ideal design sound ridiculous so it helps to work as an art director because then you know what is achievable.”
When she’s art directing Ding knows exactly what questions to ask the production designer in order to nails their vision and make sure she nothing gets lost in translation. And when the roles are reversed, she knows exactly how to break down what she wants for each scene of a production in a way that is clear and manageable for her art director.
These may seem like minor aspects of the job to outsiders, but when your department has a $100,000 budget to furnish a house with Victorian furniture, but your art director returns with a truck full of Edwardian furniture, the whole production suffers. While the differences between these two styles might only be noticeable to the trained eye, you can bet the director, producers and production designer have done their research, so not only will the shooting schedule be delayed as the art department scrambles to replace the furniture, but the art director has successfully branded themselves as a no hire for future productions.
For the inexperienced art director or production designer the level of detail Ding devotes to her work might seem insane, but that is what it takes to work in the big leagues, and to her, it’s all in a days work.
In 2013 Ding’s creativity was put to the test when she was hired on as the production designer of the film Maria Bonita. A beautifully shot film from multi-award winning directors Jacob Lundgaard Andersen (Dustland, Rumspringa), Gareth Dunnet Alcoce (Contrapelo, Veladora, Wild Horses) and Camille Stochitch (Interstate, Les Grands Espaces),Maria Bonita follows a South American woman as she transforms from a sweet and innocent girl who lives and works on her family’s farm into a fierce guerilla fighter.
The story Maria Bonita brought to the screen had no dialogue, so the narration of the unfolding events and changing tones of the film were driven by a combination of Ding’s captivating set design, the soothing music of Pedro Bromfman and the emotional expressions of the actors.
Earlier this year Ding production designed Chloe Okuno’s dramatic film Slut starring Molly McIntyre (Halloween Hell, Ditch Party, The Want Dick Dickster) and Oscar nominated actress Sally Kirkland (JFK, Valley of the Dolls, Bruce Almighty, Days of Our Lives).
Set in Texas in the 70s, Slut follows Maddy played by McIntyre, a nerdy teen who reinvents herself in order to get the male attention she’s never had; but, when a mysterious stranger comes to town, Maddy’s new look gets her much more than she bargained for.
As the production designer of the film Ding created a physical environment for the film that fit the 70s era perfectly from the plaid couch in Maddy’s grandmother’s living room and a grandiose amount of wood furnishings down to the old school television set with adjustable nobs and the pink quilted bedspread in Maddy’s room.
Ding set the tone of Maddy’s dreary small town life in Texas by designing the girl’s room with soiled floral wallpaper that is missing large portions of the paper exposing the dirty wall underneath in some places and barely hanging in others.
While decorating the sets for the scenes in the film drew on Ding’s creative side, she was also tasked with designing a break away floor and ceiling for a scene where one of the characters, and we won’t spoil it by telling you who, falls through the second floor bedroom into the living room ultimately hanging themself to death. This aspect of the production required Ding to factor in multiple variables in order to get the best shot, as well as logistics concerning how to keep the production schedule on track and continue shooting after the floor breaks.
“There were many different ways to approach this, but I wanted to give the director and the cinematographer the best option to shoot this,” explained Ding. “We built the whole living room with a breakaway ceiling and a hallway with a staircase, and a bedroom with breakaway floor on a platform. We had to build a separate puzzle breakaway floor piece so that it could be replaced with the real wood piece when we were doing the stunt.”
Nominated for seven awards at film festivals around the country, Slut won the Best Cinematography Award at the HollyShorts Film Festival, the Jury Prize at the Las Vegas International Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Atlanta Film Festival, the Festival Trophy Award from Screamfest, the Bunny Award from the Boston Underground Film Festival, as well as an award from the Sun Valley Film Festival.
Ding, who recently wrapped production as the art director on the upcoming comedy series Chasing The Dream, has propelled herself to a place in the industry that takes most people decades to get reach, and she continues to impress us with every new project she takes on.
Hundreds of people across various departments behind the scenes work grueling hours day in and day out in order to bring us our favorite television shows; and, besides the cast, few of these individuals rarely get the recognition they deserve.
Over the last week at Tinsel Town News Now we’ve brought you inside interviews with some of these incredible professionals who continue to dote their unique talents upon the entertainment industry, not for the praise, but because this is what they love to do.
This week we are excited to give you an exclusive look into the world of writing for television with Writer’s Guild of Canada Award winner and Gemini nominated screenwriter, Nicole Demerse.
Over the course of her astonishingly successful career, Demerse has written episodes for over 45 television shows. From laugh out loud comedies and teen dramas to action-packed sci-fi adventure and animated shows Demerse has done it all, and she knows exactly what it takes to keep television viewers engaged.
Some of the shows she’s written for over the years include the hit dramas Degrassi: The Next Generation, Radio Free Roscoe and Instant Star, the animated shows Fugget About it, the Total Drama Island franchise, Braceface, Ruby Gloom, Atomic Betty, I Spy, Producing Parker, Chirp, and Totally Spies!, the comedy shows She’s The Mayor, Majority Rules, The Blobheads, and many more.
Demerse has also written several movies of the week including Mixed Up!, and The Invisible Rules of Zoe Lama, as well as several others that are currently in development.
To find out more about what it takes to become a successful writer in the television industry, some of Demerse’s personal career highlights and how she got to where she is today, make sure to read our interview below.
You can also check out more of Nicole Demerse’s work through her IMDb page.
TTNN:Where are you from and what was it like growing up there?
ND: I was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I have lived in several places (London, England and Vancouver, British Columbia). Toronto is the fifth largest city in North America and pretty safe city as far as big cities go, so it’s a great place to come of age – all the benefits of a big city and few of the risks. We also have a large film and TV industry here, both foreign and domestic, so I was exposed to the business growing up.
TTNN:How have your early experiences influenced some of the work you create today?
ND: I grew up watching WAY too much TV! Thanks, Mom and Dad. But seriously, in my case, that was a good thing. Even though I lived in a big city, television is what introduced me to the rest of the world. I always laugh when my friends say they don’t want their kids to watch TV because as long as you pick the right stuff, television can be highly educational and can help foster a great imagination in children. I used to love watching nature documentaries as a kid – especially anything to do with the ocean. Toronto is situated on the shores of Lake Ontario and while it’s a huge lake, it’s no ocean. We used to take trips to Florida every year as a family and I’ve always loved the ocean. So between yearly family vacations, I’d get my fix watching NOVA, Nature on PBS, old episodes of Jacque Costeau, The Discovery Channel, etc. It actually inspired me to get a Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology. Of course, once I graduated I realized that I actually didn’t want to do hardcore research and become a professor, I wanted to explore the world and make great television and write. As a kid, I also loved watching sci-fi and action adventure, anything that was out of my normal sphere of experience. I also read a lot, but I was always a very visual kid and television was a medium I loved from a very early age.
TTNN:When and how did you get into the industry as a screenwriter?
ND: After doing my four-year Bachelor of Science degree… and make no mistake about it, “Marine Biology” may have an artsy sound to it, it is a hardcore science degree that involves tons of math, statistics and physics. My program started with over five hundred people and only 30 graduated. I did my fourth year thesis on “Ion regulation in a population of migratory Lake Sturgeon from the James Bay Watershed.” And as I was standing there, in a northern Ontario river, waist deep in hip-waders in freezing cold water, I had this moment of realization that without a camera to document this stuff, what difference was I really making. Sure, our research would go into some periodical and hopefully it would be useful to somebody, somewhere, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I wanted to inspire kids like me to learn and think and dream. I hope to write my “Finding Nemo” or “SpongeBob Square Pants” someday so I can put my degree to some sort of use. It would make my parents proud.
After University, I did science journalism for about a year and again had a crisis of conscience because I didn’t want to do research, I just wanted to tell good stories and make stuff up. Journalism tends to frown on that… unless you work for Fox News. Then I heard that the Canadian Film Centre, founded by the iconic Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison as a film school in 1988, was venturing into television in the early aughts (2000). They were starting their “Prime Time Television Resident Program” and it sounded like something I wanted to be a part of. So on weekends, I wrote a script called “Interns” about four interns who were friends. It got me an interview and I was later picked from across Canada to be part of the program.
I recently found the script and to my horror realized I hadn’t even formatted it properly! I was totally untrained in television writing and had no clue what I was doing. I guess they saw something in there and decided to take a chance on me. I graduated from that program several months later with huge college loans to pay for and some local animated shows were hiring… and the rest is history. Kids, youth and animation are thriving industries in Canada, and we do it very well. Our stuff sells all over the world. Some of the shows I have written for have sold in over 200 countries.
I started out writing boy’s action-adventure, and then aged up to tween sitcoms, teen drama (Degrassi: The Next Generation), then adult-comedy, both live-action and late night animation. So I feel like I’ve kind of grown up along with my audience.
TTNN:How did your interest in writing for youth audiences develop?
ND: When I was a kid, the original Degrassi series was on TV and I loved that the kids looked like regular kids and were facing regular kid issues, though with hugely heightened stakes. So it was a real honor to get a chance to work on the new incarnation of the show when I was older, Degrassi: The Next Generation.
I also used to watch a CBC/Disney co-production called Danger Bay. It was a scripted show about the sea and saving wild animals in peril. Dr. Grant Roberts was a veterinarian who specialized in marine mammals and he and his family lived on a private island off the coast of British Columbia, they had a Jeep and a floatplane, which as a kid, seemed like the best life ever. I also used to love watching animation as a kid. Shows like The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy definitely shaped my sense of humor.
TTNN:Why are you passionate about writing television projects for this audience?
ND: I’ve always wanted to inspire kids to dream and see the world through the scripts I write. Sure, people might argue that ninety percent of the stuff I write doesn’t have much ‘educational benefit’ in the truest sense of the world, but I think fostering a kid’s imagination is the best thing you can do as a parent. What’s that famous Einstein quote– “Logic will get you from A to Z, Imagination will get you everywhere.” If it’s good enough for Einstein, it’s good enough for me!
Humans also love good stories, it’s ingrained in our DNA, and kids are no different. 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. 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, that the world is full of possibilities.
TTNN:Can you tell us a little bit about some of the projects you’ve written for television?
ND: Degrassi: The Next Generation was definitely a seminal show for me. Like I said, I used to watch the original when I was a kid, so to grow up and write for the new incarnation was a full-circle moment that was not lost on the inner kid in me. Degrassi: The Next Generation never shied away from tackling tough issues. Myself and two other writers wrote a two-part episode on abortion that was so controversial, it was banned in the U.S. and even the New York Times wrote a piece about it. I don’t want to get too heavily into politics here, but our storyline just told the story of a normal, average 16-year-old girl who made one mistake one night and didn’t want that mistake to be the end of her life. It was about her body, her choice, and her ability to determine the fate and future trajectory of her life… and well, it caused an uproar that no one thought a small Canadian show could ever cause. That’s the power of TV!
Like I mentioned above, I grew up watching great primetime animation, so the chance to work on two late night animated properties here in Canada was definitely a highlight of my career. Producing Parker was about a woman trying to balance family life and work, though somehow I got to write the prison episode. That’s the third ‘prison episode’ I’ve written in my career. Not sure what about me says: “hey, that blonde girl would know what it’s like to be in prison… but that’s the best compliment I can receive. It means I have a healthy imagination… or unhealthy, depending on your perspective.
Even though I’ve never been in trouble a day in my life, I can’t even let a parking ticket sit for more than a week without paying it, it’s amazing to be able to stretch the creative juices and write about a world so far removed from my own life.
Fugget About It was another late night animated comedy about a New York City mobster who was forced to live in Regina, Saskatchewan as part of the Witness Protection Program. Again, it was another opportunity for me to stretch my creative muscles and dive into the shady world of mobsters, and then make fun of it for a living.
Totally Spies was also a career highlight. It’s an animated show about three Beverly Hills teens who might look like your stereotypical beach babes, but they kick some serious ass as spies on the side. Honestly, I will write anything about spies! I love that entire world… again, it’s so far removed from my daily life and that’s what makes it exciting to write. I also love when a show takes a well-known stereotype, plays with it, and then turns it on its ear without being preachy. Totally Spies didn’t apologize for what it was – it was just good, campy fun! – and audiences in over 200 countries fell in love with it.
Recently, I worked on a cool teen show called Game On, which will begin airing on YTV in March, 2016. Game On stars Samantha Bee (The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and Jonathan Torrens (Trailer Park Boys) as sportscasters who give color commentary on the life of a 14-year-old boy named Toby Martin as he goes through the normal trials and tribulations of any teenager. The chance to work on a show with Samantha Bee was definitely a personal highlight! I am such a huge fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and Samantha Bee was always one of my favorite contributors.
I’ve also written three MOWs (“Movies of the Week” or Television Movies) in the past two years and I’ve fallen in love with the format. The Invisible Rules of the Zoe Lama was based on a book series by Tish Cohen and is set in a high school. It follows a teen guru who everyone goes to for help (the books were inspired a bit by Jane Austen’s Emma). Mixed Up!, my second MOW, is about two dolls who come to life and wreck havoc on a teen’s life. I just love any movie set in the world of high school! Perhaps I’ve never grown up. My third MOW, Committed, is about three sisters with commitment issues who must return to their small town and run the family bridal salon when their mother mysteriously disappears. Writing half hour comedy is great fun, but being able to really dig into a world and write a movie with a beginning, middle and end, a self-contained vehicle all on its own, has been a wonderful challenge. I’ve really taken to the MOW format and hope to do more in the future.
TTNN:Have any of these projects won awards?
ND: I was nominated in 2004 for a Gemini Award, which was recently renamed the Canadian Screen Awards – the highest television honor in Canada, for my work on Degrassi: The Next Generation.
I also won a Writer’s Guild of Canada, akin to the Writer’s Guild of America, Canadian Screenwriting Award in 2005 for my work on The Blobheads, a hilarious live-action show about a 14-year-old who discovers that his baby brother is the Emperor of the Universe, even though he can’t talk or even sit up on his own yet, and must now live in the same house as the three aliens who have come to be near their ‘chosen one’.
TTNN:From your perspective as screenwriter, are there differences between how you approach an animated series compared to live-action?
ND: Yes and no. It’s all the same when it comes to story. You want to tell a compelling, interesting, funny story no matter whether it’s animated people saying the lines or real, live flesh and blood humans. The only real difference comes at the script level. In live-action, it’s considered a no-no to “direct” the script, i.e. put too much detail into the action lines – therefore telling the director what to do.
In animation, you have to direct the script on the page and often, the more detail the better, i.e. props, sound effects, physical gags, you name it… it’s all there on the page. That’s not to say that directors and storyboard artists in animation don’t bring a lot to the table – they often add comedy gold! – it’s just a different formatting approach. And animation often allows you to go a bit crazier as you’re not bound by the laws of physics.
TTNN:What made you choose to participate in the projects you’ve done over the course of your career?
ND: I wouldn’t say I really ‘picked’ the projects when I first started out. I just felt incredibly lucky that anyone would want to pay me to write for a living! I basically said yes to anything and everything that came my way. Hence why I have written for 45 shows and counting. That’s a factor of several things… I had huge college loans to pay for and worked day and night to get out of debt. I’m also a type A personality and am happiest when I am insanely busy. Whenever I have some down time, I always start a new original project. I just can’t stop writing! It drives my husband a little nuts. He’s always asking me to shut my brain down so we can just chill for a bit.
TTNN:What has been some of the challenges you’ve faced in your career?
ND: The biggest challenge in this industry isn’t necessarily at the project level – it’s more of a holistic problem that all television writers face. I’ve talked to many new writers about this. Basically, you need to be a jack-of-all-trades. Not only must you be comfortable sitting alone in your office, by yourself, for 8-10 hours a day writing – just you and your imagination – you also have to be comfortable on-set when you’re running a show having hundreds of people looking to you for guidance and barking questions at you 24-7 for 6-8 months straight. Those are two very different people… one is a loner personality that likes being on their own, the other is a ‘people person’ who loves being in the thick of the action. Those two people must live simultaneously in the same person if you want to work in television, specifically. Then, on top of that, you have to be an excellent sales person who can go out and sell yourself and your writing. Agents and managers are a great help, but you can’t rely on anyone else to build your career, at least that’s how I feel. Then, as if that wasn’t enough, you also have to be good at public speaking. I am constantly asked to speak at events and have to be comfortable talking in front of crowds. Then, as if ALL that wasn’t enough, you have to be a performer because when you go in to pitch producers and network executives the people on the receiving end want a good show! They don’t want someone who blandly reads off a piece of paper, they want someone who brings the show to life. Those are the biggest challenges of being a Screenwriter in television.
TTNN:What projects do you have coming up?
ND: In addition to the three MOWs I mentioned above that are in various stages of development and production, I also have two original hour dramas in development. Washington Prep is about politicians behaving badly and the consequences of raising the next generation in their exact image. Choice is a project about a young Doctor who goes down a very dark path. Neither one is a comedy and it’s been such a wonderful challenge to transition into the world of one-hour dramas. I also have a comedy in development, New Arrival, about a family whose baby mama suddenly shows up on their doorstep sixteen years later and needs a place to live.
TTNN:As a screenwriter, where do you get your inspiration for the projects you create?
ND: People always ask me this and it all comes from my brain… not to sound trite. But that’s where it all starts. That’s why it’s so important to find some downtime and go out into the world and try new things and travel, so I have things to write about. I will try anything once, as long as it’s not illegal and there’s a good chance it won’t kill me. Everything I try will end up in a script somewhere someday, guaranteed. It’s also very hard to be friends with a writer, because anything you tell me will also end up in a script somewhere someday, guaranteed. Of course, names and details are always changed to protect the innocent.
TTNN:What do you hope to achieve with the projects you create?
ND: World peace. Sorry, that’s just me being a smart ass. There is nothing better in this world than laughing your ass off! If I can make people laugh, then I’ve done my job. If I can inspire them to dream or to get off the sofa and travel someplace exotic or try something new, then even better. There’s enough shitty stuff in this world, so it’s an honor to be a purveyor of jokes.
TTNN:Why are you passionate about working as a screenwriter?
ND: I love the challenge of having to be so many different things to different people. If I wanted to just write alone all day, I’d probably be a book author or write films. I love that television demands you to be a CEO of your own show, running a huge team of people, keeping things on time and on budget.
TTNN:Do you think you’ll stick to writing TV shows for the youth audiences, or is there another area of screenwriting you’d like to explore?
ND: While I love writing television for kids and youth, and will probably always do it on some level, I also have other stories to tell now that I am married. I have written for several adult comedy programs and would love to do more of those, as well as write some one-hour dramas. I have two one-hours currently in development. One is in the older teen space (a la The OC or Gossip Girl) and the other is a character-driven drama (a la American Mary), so we’ll see what happens with those. I’d also love to write more MOWs going forward.
When a major Hollywood film production plans to bring a story to the screen filled with complex costumes with intricate details that change over the course of the story, ones that require someone capable of staying on top of all of these changes, predicting possible malfunctions and liaising between the costume designer and director to make sure the costume department nails the overall vision for the film—they call in Costume Set Supervisor Dawn Climie.
In fact, Climie’s title in the industry is actually a Canadian title, it doesn’t exist in the U.S. and that’s because usually, at least on smaller productions, Climie’s position is filled by various people, which she touches on in our interview.
Climie, who was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award along with Costume Designer Bob Mackie back in 2006 for their work on the series Once Upon a Mattress, has amassed an overwhelming list of diverse credits in the industry over the course of her 25-year career.
Some of Climie’s credits to date include the films The Chronicle of Riddick starring Vin Diesel and Judy Dench, Miami Vice starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell, The A-Team starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper, the Oscar Award nominated film Tron: Legacy and many, many more.
While Climie’s work in film is beyond dazzling, the sought after costume set supervisor has also been pulled in to lend her skills to massive television undertakings as well, an intense challenge considering that scripts change daily, sometimes just before the production is scheduled to begin shooting. Climie’s contributions to TV series including Once Upon a Time, Exes & Ohs, Secret Agent Man and Kyle XY, have helped ensure the continuity of the costumes, and in the end, the credibility of each show.
If you’re interested in the magical world of costume design for film and television, specifically the intricate and vast work of a costume set supervisor, then this interview is a must read.
Not only will you learn about the responsibilities that this integral creative contributor takes on during a film and television production, but Dawn Climie generously gives us a thorough break down of what it takes to be the best in the profession, tools of the trade, as well as dishes about some of her most memorable projects.
DC: I was born in Kitchener Ontario but I grew up in Leduc Alberta, a small city 20 minutes south of Edmonton, the capital of Alberta. I moved to Vancouver BC, in 1997 and have been living and working here for the last 18 years.
TTNN: How did you become interested in working as a costume set supervisor on film and television projects?
DC: I had grown up in this industry in a way. My father worked at a TV station in Edmonton, Alberta. My sister and I would spend time at the station where we would get to sit in the booth and watch live news broadcasts, or the back of the sound stage when movies were being shot.
My memories of the dark room blinking with lights on the boards, the feeds from each camera… it was magical. I can remember watching the filming of a dance number for “Bye Bye Blues”… the swing of the period dresses, the wonderful hair and the music filling the space. I was in awe the first time I saw the set for a road and an entire forest built inside a building. For a kid this is beyond imagination, this is magic, and it still is for me.
Costumes became my favorite expression of that magic. The transformation that occurs in a performer when they don a costume designed to be the outward expression of their character is truly a gift to behold. I wanted to be a part of that so the costume department was a natural fit.
The costume department has many different areas in which we can apply our skills. I started in sewing and building the costumes. I have had my hand at dyeing and ageing. I was an assistant designer and a designer, as well as a supervisor/coordinator. Those experiences were invaluable, but it was as a costume set supervisor that I found my calling. Having tried all the positions in our department, and gained the skills and expertise required to be fortunate enough to work at the highest levels, I have known for many years that the combination of the intensity, creativity and the problem-solving environment of working on-set as a costume set supervisor is the position that not only fulfills me professionally but suits my personal skill set best as well.
TTNN: What does the work of a costume set supervisor entail?
DC: Costume set supervisor is a job with many hats, but the guiding philosophy of the work is that I am the eyes and ears for the designer on set. The designer and I talk about the look he or she has created for each character. Although the designer creates the costumes for each character, but it is the way the costumes are worn, the nuances that help create the humanity within each character. When the characters leave the designer and come under my care on set, I maintain all the things that the designer and I have discussed to make each character unique and personalized… the tilt of the hat, the knot in the tie, the neatness or the disheveled appearance of the costume, the shiny spot on the coat where a man might clean his pocket watch… all these nuances are essential to creating believable characters and every detail falls under my supervision.
Just as important as the look is, how that look changes over time for each character is essential to the storytelling as well. I take all the particulars for each character’s look and help maintain and evolve the look from the beginning to the end of the project. Aging and breakdown on fabrics helps indicate the time, effort and circumstance of the journey. Using breakdown and aging techniques on set I ensure that each costume piece reflects the place in time that the character inhabits for each scene, that the proper time within the story is represented by the wear on the costume.
The Set Supervisor is also responsible for the continuity for each character for the show. We don’t shoot a movie in linear script sequence so we need to track which costume pieces are worn and how those pieces are worn from scene to scene. If in scene 1 our leading character walks out of the house with his hat on and a coat over his arm, in scene 2 (which may be shot a month later and possibly in another country) they must be outside the house looking exactly the same.
As a Set Supervisor I am also responsible for the costume crew that we work with. I directly supervise and manage on-set costume crews from 3 to 50 people on a daily basis depending on what the day’s shooting requires. Each scene requires different resources whether it be a stunt scene which requires doubles of the costumes and extra labor to help with those sequences or underwater scenes which require I higher level of cast comfort and logistics planning.
I use our shooting schedule to coordinate with my team for labor requirements, additional costume pieces or doubles, the logistics of our equipment trucks and having the resources we need close to us and I coordinate with each of the departments that may impact how we deal with each circumstance. For example, a stunt sequence requires that I coordinate with, at the very least, the stunt department, the special effects department and the AD department in regards to safety, shooting elements and continuity.
Each day I coordinate with my Truck or base camp Costumer to reconfirm long term schedules and plan each upcoming day’s costume requirements, our lines-ups, and address any details that may have changed. I have to make sure that we have all the costume pieces we need when we go to camera, and we have to be ready to work on the fly and adapt to moment-to-moment changes that may and do occur.
I am responsible for costume specific effects such as bullet hits and blood effects. This involves a culmination of most of the skills and requirements of my job. I schedule any extra resources I might need for the shooting that day and request any additional costume pieces or technical equipment needed. I then plan ahead to the following scenes to be shot after the effect and plan out the breakdown and matching for continuity I will have to do on each costume piece to shoot the next scenes. When we actually shoot the effect I coordinate with Stunts and Special Effects and often the Makeup Department to design and execute the aftermath of the effects (damaged clothing, blood, debris and dirt) then I must match that effect on all multiple costumes for that character.
Ultimately no matter what we do on set, we must track what we do and the look of the costumes before, during and after each scene is shot. I keep notes, photos and scene-by-scene descriptions so that all the info needed can be shared with the entire costume department. This is essential when coordinating scenes that are shot out of my direct supervision such as a second unit or a unit shooting in another country.
TTNN: What is the typical workflow for a costume set supervisor from the beginning phase of a production to the end?
DC: The beginning of a show always starts with reading the script several times and using costume specific software to break down the elements in the script that indicate costume department considerations.
I go through the script scene-by-scene and separate out the cast, day sequences, costume changes, and what will happen in the scene. This can be anything from a stunt sequence to just making dinner during a scene. Breaking down all the details helps me make a list so when I talk to the costumes team I will be able to have a projection on how many costumes that I think may be required for each section of the script, what special elements may be needed and a rough estimate of additional labor for our department.
Once my breakdown is completed I assist with the prep process. I help the designer with cast and background fittings, assist with the aging and breakdown process to help prepare the costume pieces for shooting, and I deal with cast, costumes and specific fabrics during camera and lighting tests.
Much of my prep is spent in production meetings and departmental meetings addressing cast costume and safety concerns in relations to stunts, rigging, special effects, extreme locations and other vital elements.
Once I get on set, my main tasks are two-fold; to work with the designer to make sure that their vision is maintained for the look of the show, and to track and maintain costume continuity. I keep notes and photos on everything pertaining to the costumes each day.
I need to ensure that my team of costumers are all working to achieve the same goals. That means coordinating the continuity across all the team members and working units and ensuring that each team member has a clear visual understanding of the designer’s vision.
I also need to keep an eye on our upcoming schedule so I can plan ahead and make sure myself and my team will be ready for the days ahead.
I work with our costume coordinator in the Costume Office to organize crew and equipment we should bring in depending on the requirements of each scene we are shooting and the logistics of each day’s shooting.
Planning for weather is vital to our process. I must assess on an hourly basis, as well as days in advance, what my requirements may be on-set each day in relation to weather.
The creative side of my work is to ensure that the costumes are having the impact that the director and designer want, this ranges from ensuring that the drape and flow of a Princess’ gown is as glamorous as possible to making sure that the flack jacket on a veteran soldier looks like he has been wearing it all his life to ensuring that blood work, bullet hits and wound damage conform to the desires of the director and the restrictions of standards and practices.
Once the filming of the production is finished, my main focus during wrap is to complete and deliver the continuity book to the designer and the creative production team. The continuity book contains all my photos and notes detailing each every scene of the production. This is the reference that will be referred to should any additional footage be necessary or if the production is to continue either through series or sequels in the future.
TTNN: Can you describe some of the film projects you’ve worked on and some of the challenges you’ve faced?
DC: The sets for The Chronicles of Riddick were some of the largest indoor studio sets that I have ever worked on… also one of the hottest. We did one shot inside the main space ship that had 150 fully latex and foam armor suited soldiers standing shoulder to shoulder. It was crazy hot. We had to do more than watch the costumes, we had to be very aware of Vin Diesel and the rest of the cast and background players that were covered from head to foot in latex rubber and spandex. There was very little ability for their bodies to cool easily. Just standing was unbelievably hot for everybody, but when they had to run across the stages, do stunts or rigged cable falls or jumps these were times that we needed to be aware of the potential for heat related maladies! Costuming is often much more than the costume being worn, it is about the people that are wearing them and what needs to be accomplished in that costume that makes the movie.
The Mission Impossible series of films is known for its constant drive for bigger better faster action sequences. The crew has to adapt! I can’t think of a day on Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol that didn’t involve jumping onto or off of something that was either very high or moving very fast.
But I think the most memorable time were the days we spent in Dubai on the Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world. We were filming the sequence where Tom Cruise’s character has to free climb on the outside of the building using some high tech gloves. Myself and a few other crew members had to spend our days in 5 point harnesses attached to the cement ceiling of the building, while helping strap Tom into the different harnesses that would be needed to do each piece of the stunt. I spent a lot of time with the stunt and rigging teams. We had to plan and prepare each harness, pads and costume piece that would be needed to get the shots safely and seamlessly for the sequence. I can still remember the feeling of lying on my stomach leaning out the open window on the 123rd floor, as myself and the props person tried to repair a malfunctioning light on one of Tom’s climbing gloves. The view was astounding but my prayers were, ‘Oh lord don’t let me let go of the glove!’
Tron: Legacy was visually stunning and a challenge to work on. We were continuing a story that had started almost 30 years before, the original Tron was filmed in 1982. The costumes were an amazing advancement that had never been tried in film costuming before. The foam latex superhero suit is a costume item that has seen a definite rise over the last three decades. With Tron: Legacy we added electricity and light. As costumers on set we had to take our skills to a whole new level. The foam costume material was impregnated with thin wiring that fed battery power to external light strips. Light in a costume was something that had never crossed my path before. So learning about a dressing a light grid suit, dealing with the replacing of broken lights, and re-patching broken wires was something that we all had to grasp on the fly.
For this show when our actors over heated in the suit, we had more to deal with than just a sweaty cast member. Our usual on-set repair kits that carried top stick, thread and lint brushes were changed out for tattoo ink, wire connectors, light strips, glues and powerful cooling fans.
I joined the Bourne Legacy team in Alberta for the snow sequence that starts the movie. We had an impressive challenge in this. The cold and snow are always hard to work in. Dealing with the correct layering to combat the extreme weather conditions and still create a costume that looks great on camera can be a challenge for all those involved, especially the cast.
For the opening sequence in Kananaskis, Alberta, our lead actor Jeremy Renner had to helicopter onto a mountaintop, climb rock outcrops and glacier falls, and swim in an almost frozen river below a waterfall. All of these locations were a challenge in keeping the actor warm and safe during the shoot. But the biggest challenge was the logistics of providing that care to Jeremy and all the stunt performers as well as packing and carrying all the gear required to do that job in each location. Luggage restrictions are much tighter in helicopters!
Miami Vice was an amazing and rewarding challenge because of the weather and the incredible amount of travel that was involved. Fortunately the basic requirements of how to do my job don’t really change, no matter where I am or what language I am speaking… but the hurricanes definitely provided a unique experience!
While we were in Miami we had 6 tropical storms and 2 hurricanes; Katrina and Wilma. It was something I will never forget. I was so impressed with the local crew and how they dealt with the weather, they definitely have my highest respect. The travel was also extreme. We went from Miami to the Dominican Republic, to Uruguay then to Paraguay, back to Miami and returned to Uruguay. The biggest challenge was managing the international shipping demands on our extremely tight travel schedule. We boxed, loaded shipped and then unboxed the costumes… and did it all again… and again… and again. Together with some top-notch local costumers we managed it all and made some memories that will last forever.
TTNN: What was it like working on the series Once Upon A Time?
DC: Once Upon a Time was a wonderful chance to get to work with the incredible Eduardo Castro, who is the costume designer of the show. I loved watching him dash off flawless sketches of the stunning fairytale outfits we use on the show each day. It was even more magical when those costumes finally arrived on set for us to use during shooting… the magnificent leather capes, headdresses of lace and crystal, sequins and shimmering gold thread. But on set we have mud, horses and rain!
Our challenge was to maintain the magic throughout the Pacific Northwest winter. A princess can never look soggy, a king muddy or a charming prince waterlogged. We developed some intense strategies to keep our cast and their costumes dry-ish and magical. Neither the cast, myself, or the horses were all that impressed with having a muddy cape wrung out all over us, but it does make for a few good soggy laughs!
TTNN: What has been your favorite project so far and why?
DC: This is always a hard question… I have had so many wonderful projects and all for different reasons; but I think that Once Upon a Mattress has been my favorite project so far!
It was not a big budget and we had huge challenges trying to keep up each day, but I had an amazing team of people to work with. The costume department as a whole, and a brilliant group of people on set, starting with the cast and director right through to the PA’s, were wonderful to work with.
The cast were people that I had grown up watching as a child; Carol Burnet from Annie and of course The Carol Burnette Show, Tommy Smothers who taught me how to use a yoyo, Edward Hibbert from Fraser and all the other amazing and talented cast.
I was introduced and walked through all of Carol’s costumes by the infamous American designer Bob Mackie on the day they arrived. This for me was beyond a dream, for any costumer just meeting Bob Mackie would be a lifetime achievement!
Invariably it is not how successful a project is at the box office, the locations or the scope of the work that makes a project truly memorable… it is the people you go into the trenches with. In the case of Once Upon a Mattress, the cast and crew were both down to earth and the very best at their crafts, a combination that etches this production in my heart.
TTNN: What projects are you currently working on?
DC: I just wrapped on the The Man in the High Castle, a TV series for Amazon based on the Philip K Dick novel of that name. It is based in 1962 but with a scary twist; the Nazi’s and the Japanese won the war in 1948 and the US has been under occupation for the last 14 years.
For me the scripts are intriguing, the story is fabulous, although disturbing in the possibilities. But the costumes are a very subtle combination of period and fantasy, and what happens to the cast each episode keep us on our toes with helping create that believable world. Our costume designer Audrey Fischer is astounding. She keeps a smile on her face even while creating the costumes for our complicated world. And our cast is beyond measure. The passion they put forward in to each day keeps us all pushing ourselves to take the bar higher and higher to create an astounding finished project.
TTNN: What projects do you have coming up?
DC: I am soon to start a Bruce Lee biopic, Birth of the Dragon. I am thrilled to be joining this team. As it is another period story set in the 60’s, this project proposes to be fascinating and challenging.
TTNN: Do you have a passion for working on a specific kind of film or project, if so what kind of project and why?
DC: I love to work on it all, super heroes in foam suits, sci-fi green screen, any period piece and Disney fairytales. I mean how many people get to say, “ I have to go put Rumpelstiltskin in his suit of armor, can I call you back?”
But if I had to choose… I truly love working on projects where I get to make a mess! I love shows with lots of blood. I teach classes in film blood, and I volunteer at museum film related events to show kids all about film blood, so it is definitely a passion of mine. But really, if I get to use my creative skills with breakdown, time-wear, dirt and blood, these projects add that extra dimension of deeper creativity to the intellectual challenges of planning and logistics, and tracking continuity.
TTNN: As a costume set supervisor, are you usually hired by the production company or the head costume designer?
DC: The Costume Designer always hires their crew. I have had the pleasure to work with some truly talent and wonderful costume designers from around the world including Michael Kaplan, Mark Bridges, Janty Yates, Shay Cunliff, Eduardo Castro, Audrey Fisher, Monique Prodhomme, Karen Patch, John Bloomfield, Chris Hargadon and Bob Mackie.
Some of the production companies I’ve worked with on projects over the years include Disney, 20th Centery Fox, Universal Studios, ABC, Focus Features, Paramount Pictures, Amazon, Sony Pictures, Warner bros pictures, New line cinema and Bad Robot.
TTNN: What makes a good costume set supervisor?
DC: Deep technical understanding of costume construction, fabrics and other costume elements, and film related techniques for manipulating costumes and fabrics is essential to being an excellent set costumer. As in any profession, an instinctive understanding of your basic tools is vital to operating at the highest technical and creative level possible.
A brilliant costume set supervisor is highly organized. From breaking down script elements to tracking and documenting costume continuity, the Set Supervisor must be able to plan and organize the work flow of that information, have vital details at their fingertips and be able to disseminate resources and information effectively. Today this means working with the most effective and efficient software and technologies available and being able to adapt technologies and strategies to constantly changing conditions.
A respected set supervisor is a strong leader. A film set is a high intensity, high-pressure environment where ethics are sometimes challenged. The set supervisor as well as organizing and running the onset costume crew, must have a working knowledge of the contracts that we work under and the production goals for an efficient shooting production. The Set Supervisor must be able to stand up firmly and respectfully for their cast and crew in matters of safety and due diligence.
An invaluable costume set supervisor is an effective communicator– they are often at the center of questions and issues between the costume designer, the actors and the director. In order to effectively negotiate these questions and concerns for a best possible outcome, the costume set supervisor must be first and foremost an empathetic listener and communicator. Efficiency as a communicator becomes vital when disseminating vital and changing information to the rest of the on-set team and to the designer and costume office personnel and to the other departments affected by costume decisions.
TTNN: What specific skills do you have that separate you from the rest of the costume set supervisors working in Hollywood?
DC: The position of costume set supervisor is a Canadian designation, there is not a position in Hollywood that is comparable. When I work in the United States I am usually given the title of Key Set Costumer and this is a very unique designation… let me explain. In my experience, the costumers working in Los Angeles are some of the very best in the world. But the costume departments in Canada and the US are structured differently. Because my job as a Costume Set Supervisor in Canada gives me the combined experience of being responsible for the continuity of the entire cast, organizing and running the set costume crew, liaising with the production regarding workplace issues, and being the designated on-set head of department, I am considered a unique resource in the Hollywood and US industry.
Technically my formal education in Period Costume Construction and over 2 decades as a seamstress provides the backbone for my 25 years in film, theatre and television in all aspects of costuming. My leaderships and organizational skills have been honed on multiple international blockbuster feature films and hundreds of North American Productions.
I am tremendously fortunate that when US Designers are looking for that unique skill set and level of experience I get to throw my hat in the ring. To me, that kind of consideration from Designers is an incredible honour and one I do not take lightly.
TTNN: What do you hope to achieve in your career?
DC: To continue learning! As the entertainment industry evolves… and it is evolving at an incredible rate… I am finding now more than ever it is imperative for me to continue learning my craft. This encompasses everything from understanding how digital delivery platforms are affected by different costume fabrics and patterns, to keeping ahead of the curve in on-set technology and techniques, to experiencing filmmaking in different regions of the world to see how indigenous industries have evolved… and more importantly how different cultures approach and celebrate our shared passion.
TTNN: What kind of training have you done in order to work in this field?
DC: My mother brought me into a passion for sewing and creating when I was young. This passion has shaped my formal education as well as my extra-curricular enthusiasms.
After high school, I enrolled in the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) where I studied Tailoring, Dressing Making and Drafting. I followed that with a scholarship to Banff Theater of Fine Arts where I studied the art of Costuming, drafting and building period costumes from ancient Egypt to present day.
I believe as a film industry member it is incumbent on me to self-govern my continuing education. I have taken an immense number of courses and workshops to broaden my skill base and add flair and creativity to my work. Just a few of these include:
The Craft of Tying Formal Kimono,
Camera Basics for On-Set Image Assessment,
Supervisory Skills for Film and Television,
WHYMS workshop on Safety and Hazards in the Workplace,
Contract and Union Liaison Workshop,
Excel for Spreadsheets and Continuity Templates,
TTNN: What would you say was your first foot in the door to the industry? Any advice as to how to maximize your chances for landing that first gig?
DC: My first foot in the door came from my exposure to our local television studio as a young woman. From observing the filming process whenever I could, the crew members at the station could see the passion and curiosity I had for the work. An opportunity came up for a volunteer position with the Costume Department and I jumped at the chance.
Getting your first foot in the door… as an educator (I have the honor of teaching the Blood for Film and Television course for Capilano University here in Vancouver) I always tell any one who asks me how to break into Costuming to look in your area first. Build a resume of volunteer jobs on short films, music videos, anything you can to get some practical experience. Contact your nearest film union office (our national union is IATSE) because they will often have an application that will tell you what skills and prerequisites they are looking for.
If you have the option of a film school then take a look at that as well, this is a great building block.
But if you are at the basics, then learn how to sew. You don’t have to be a couture seamstress if you do not want to go into the sewing room. But you should know how to put up a hem, sew on a button, and repair garments on the fly. These are all things that we need to do every day, from fitting background players and cast in the mornings to closing the holes on an outfit after we have finished with harnesses and stunt rigging in the afternoon.
Understand that you are entering a workplace that is directly connected to the fashion industry and its history. Know your silhouettes. Study period and cultural dress. Know the difference in what the costumes of the 1920’s look like compared to the 1880’s… the difference between desert headwear from the Saharan and Arabian regions… learn how to tie a tie in every knot including a bow tie… yes we use them all!
And most importantly, when you get your opportunity, be willing, be eager to work and don’t tell anybody that you are too good, too smart or too educated to sort hangers or sweep the floor!
High-level CIA officials filled the room, but all he wanted to do was get in, deliver a message and get out without overhearing something above his pay grade.
This was the day-to-day experience of a CIA agent named Patrick, a popular character that Canadian actor Ian Fisher thoughtfully brought to life on the USA Network’s hit spy-action-drama show Covert Affairs.
While Fisher is no newcomer, he was much younger than many of his counterparts on the series, which included accomplished actors such as Piper Perabo (The Prestige, Looper, Coyote Ugly), Christopher Gorham (Justice League: War, Ugly Betty, Felicity) and Peter Gallagher (American Beauty, The O.C., While You Were Sleeping). However, the dynamic approach Fisher brought to his character on the series made his performances flow seamlessly in line with those of the veteran actors as though the cast had been working together for years.
When Fisher first landed his role on Covert Affairs, he decided early on during the process of developing his character that he would approach Patrick with a quote from the film Ocean’s Eleven in mind.
In Ocean’s Eleven, Rusty explained to Linus, “He’s got to like you, then forget you, the moment you’ve left his side”; and, as Fisher’s character in Covet Affairs was continually the show’s bearer of bad news, the quote was the perfect inspiration. Ironically, though Patrick was known over the course of the fifth season for bringing the kind of news that would throw a monkey wrench into the CIA’s plans, this was actually good news for Fisher as his character gained traction with fans and social media.
“My character did this so often that the writers of the show once tweeted ‘Patrick, the harbinger of doom’ during an episode broadcast,” Fisher said.
Fisher’s roles span the gamut. The actor has proven his prowess in practically every genre, but where he truly thrives is in the world of comedy and drama. Last year he guest starred on the series Reign, which received a People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama the very same year, as well as Beauty & the Beast, which won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show that year as well.
Fisher’s impressive career has allowed him the rare opportunity to become a range of different people through his characters, but few have hit home for him like his recent role in Glory River, a film about a small town obsessed with its hockey team.
“It’s kind of along the same lines of what Friday Night Lights did with football,” Fisher said.
Fisher connected with Glory River because he grew up in the small Canadian town of Vernon, British Columbia. Vernon’s local hockey team of 17- to 20-year-olds was so popular that its players were “treated like gods,” he said.
Fisher used his experience of living in such a hockey-crazed town to his advantage for his role as the film’s star, Noah Gallagher, the town’s most-admired player with long shot hopes of someday playing professional hockey.
“I loved playing Noah in Glory River because of the personal connection I felt to him,” Fisher said. “We came from very similar worlds. We both were raised by single mothers, both from small towns, and both have big goals.”
The story of Noah has been the story of countless Canadians, Fisher said. Hockey’s deep and meaningful roots in Canadian culture was a large reason for Fisher wanting to play the part, and play it well.
“I knew I could do him and that story justice,” Fisher said. “It’s a story that is so ingrained in the lives of Canadians. I was really excited to be able to bring it to the screen.”
Glory River, which opened at the 2015 Calgary International Film Festival on September 29 and will screen again on October 4, was directed by Blake McWilliam, whose films have previously been nominated for awards at the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW Film Festival.
With Fisher’s passion for his craft, there’s no doubt that the talented actor will continue to shine for years to come, and his role in Glory River is definitely going to clinch some award nominations on the festival circuit this year.
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