Tag Archives: Canadian Producer

Producer Brandon Lankar delivers hot topics for hit Canadian talk show

Brandon Lankar was just eleven years old when he first began working in the entertainment industry. Because of this, many assume his parents were involved in the industry in some way, but his father was a mechanic, and his mother a stay-at-home-mom. He grew up in a small town outside of Toronto, and still Lankar always knew just what his path would be and never strayed.

Starting off as a pre-teen television host, Lankar soon discovered his passion lay behind the camera, pulling the strings. It was not long before he found his way to producing, and now he has produced several hit programs in Canada, including the news channel CP24 and the popular iHeart Radio Much Music Video Awards, working alongside the world’s most iconic musicians.

“I’m an extremely organized and sometimes controlling person and that’s really what being a producer is all about. You have to have a vision, plan on how you will make that vision a reality and execute it. I’m not risk averse when it comes to my career and that’s something that’s incredibly beneficial when producing. If you’re trying to get an audience to really connect with something you’re producing, you can’t do something that’s been done before. You have to push the boundaries as much as you can and not be scared that you might offend someone or that someone might be uncomfortable with your work. I’ve always said that I don’t care if you hate my work or you love it as long as it makes you feel something,” said Lankar.

Lankar is currently a producer on Canada’s number one talk show, The Social, responsible for not only launching the show five years ago, but also combing through news outlets from all over the world to find stories that will spark captivating debates that will engage the at-home and digital audience. He aims to ensure a robust discussion and works side by side with the hosts to prepare them for the live show. He also produces the final segment, typically a fun game he has created or a light-hearted chat that will leave viewers excited to tune in again the next day.

The Social is a highly rated, award-nominated, national daytime talk series that brings a fresh perspective on the latest news, pop-culture topics and lifestyle subjects. Now on its fifth season, it continues to be the only format of its kind – featuring ways for viewers to be socially interactive through comments and feedback on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks.

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Brandon Lanker in rehearsal with the hosts of CTV’s The Social

“I really love working on The Social. I’m so privileged to be able to work on a show that connects with so many people across Canada. Firstly, it’s allowed me to mix the two genres of live television that I love the most: hard news and pop culture. One day I could be working on a story about the federal budget and another day I could be reaching out to Katy Perry’s publicist to find out who she wore on last night’s red carpet. Secondly, I love working with such a diverse group of people. I think if you want something to be successful, you have to be able to analyze it from several different lenses. Thirdly, I love to ask questions. I was recently working on a segment with a lawyer all about what the legalities are surrounding online dating. To be able to make a career out of being inquisitive has been such a blessing. I’m on social media for everything including news, connecting with friends, dating, travelling, etc. The Social has allowed me to use all these things I love to create content for the country,” said Lankar.

The Social is immensely popular in Canada, and attending the live shows is extremely desirable. The energy from the live audience, as Lankar describes, can be felt throughout the studio, with people travelling from all over the country solely to see the show. That is what he finds so rewarding about his work. Many people reach out to him consistently to tell him what fans they are of the show and how its affected them. He loves seeing the impact the show has had.

“I’ve had someone say they love putting their baby down for a nap and watching the show because it’s the only time they feel they can actually breathe. I’ve had someone tell me that they would watch The Social while going to chemotherapy because it was the escape they needed,” said Lankar. “Even my mom watches the show every day and that’s saying something because she typically only watches home renovation shows.”

The Social is undoubtedly the highlight of Lankar’s esteemed career. He finds himself constantly connecting with his audience, and his work excites him. Earlier this year, he realized just how much he loves what he does when he was given the opportunity to work with his all-time favorite comedian, Kathy Griffin. As a child, he and his sister would lock themselves in their basement with their father’s laptop and spend hours howling with laughter listening to stories of the comedian’s celebrity run-ins. When he heard she was coming to Toronto, he immediately got her booked on the show.

“Let me start by saying I’m a huge fan of comedy – specifically female comics. There is one specific comic that I spent hours and hours watching online when I was growing up and her name was Kathy Griffin,” said Lankar. “I booked her for three segments on our show. Two of the segments were her discussing the hot topics of the day and the third segment was a sit-down interview with her. When the day came for her to be on the show, she couldn’t have been nicer. The segment went viral and it was surreal that the young boy that used to watch her on his dad’s laptop was now working with her to make TV magic,” he concluded.

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Producer Kegan Sant helps TELUS give back with inspiring charitable campaign

It seems funny to Kegan Sant that there was once a time where he thought he wanted to be a director. Many people going into filmmaking initially see themselves leading the film set, and Sant was no different. However, when he found his way into producing, he realized it was exactly where he was meant to be. Sant understands the nuances to the role, that it isn’t just balancing a budget. The producer is responsible for making sure every single aspect of the production goes off without a hitch. That, for Sant, is what makes it so thrilling.

“I like to be busy and being a producer, there is always something to do. No matter how simple a project is, attention to detail is everything to me. I find that fun and challenging. Not many positions offer the flexibility in schedule, opportunity to see the world and ability to employ thousands of people over short periods of time. It’s invigorating to work with different directors as everyone has unique ways of working and dynamic thought processes. It’s incredibly satisfying to conceptualize a project with a director, budget it out, execute it, and see it come to life in post,” said Sant.

Sant’s passion for what he does translates into every project he takes on. He is perhaps most well-known for his work on the Westjet Christmas Miracle, one of the first real people/real time commercials that went viral online. He also made the award-winning Grey Cup flagship commercial for the CFL, What We’re Made Of, and last year, his work on Woods Is There campaign celebrated the company’s 100th anniversary and Canada’s 150th birthday while captivating viewers across the country with stunning scenery. His work extends to film, and his movie The Bear went on to several international film festivals, taking home prizes and impressing viewers and critics alike.

Sant’s creativity is ignited when he believes in what a project represents, and his 2016 commercial for TELUS was no different. The commercial promoted #TheGivingEffect, a campaign to encourage acts of kindness. With every act of kindness, big or small, TELUS encouraged citizens across Canada to share themselves giving back to their community with the hashtag #TheGivingEffect, with the goal of having the entire nation help each other. TELUS would then select up to five individuals who took part in the challenge and award them with $5000 to donate to the charity of their choice.

“I think this campaign is important because it sways social consciousness in the direction of doing something about problems and issues they see. It lets people know that everything counts – small or big and that it doesn’t have to be material or monetary to count. Having more of that in the world is inspiring change in the right direction and I believe this stemmed from the actual employees of TELUS giving back to their own organizations, which inspired the corporation to do the same. Truly the spirit of giving,” said Sant.

The campaign began with a 90-second video with short stories ranging from an informal bottle cleanup on a beach to a young woman shaving off her long hair to support a sick friend. The tagline is “every act of giving inspires another.” The commercial was shot in over five locations in just one day in April of 2016. There was a national TV buy for this campaign and it also lived on an online platform. It was also picked up and recognized by a couple of national marketing magazines.

“I liked that we were able to defy all norms on this project, like shooting in several locations in a single shoot day with actresses that had special FX makeup, and first-time experiences like shaving their head. I liked that this project pushed boundaries and forced me to constantly think on my feet. Being able to produce a job that matched the director’s vision was incredibly satisfying and having a happy production company, agency, client and director means I did my job well,” said Sant.

What is perhaps the most interesting and challenging part of the commercial is the scene with the girl donating her hair for her sick friend. Sant had to find an actress that was actually willing to shave her head for the scene and donate her hair. He vowed that they would make it happen, despite the casting director being confident they wouldn’t find one. The director, Stash Capar, had a vision, and it involved an actress actually shaving their head. Sant made sure to deliver. At the last minute, Sant found an actress who was happy to show her support for the cause, really selling the authenticity of the piece. Because of his commitment to the project, Sant immensely impressed all those he worked with, who he now continues to collaborate with to this day.

“You know you’re in good hands with Kegan. No matter what problems befall the project, he will find solutions and the show will go on. Kegan is the hardest working producer I know.  He finds efficiencies and strategies that other producers later mimic. He is an agent of change in the world of commercials.  An example of this was the Westjet Christmas Miracle spot, which Kegan masterminded. His methods were later copied, spawning an entire genre of copycat “surprise and delight” commercials,” said Stash Capar, Director.

When Sant was given the opportunity to work on #TheGivingEffect it felt like he had come full circle. As a teenager, his first “real job” was working for TELUS in their customer service department. He remembers wondering what it would be like to produce a commercial for them one day. Getting to do so while promoting a good cause and giving back to his community was more than he could ever have dreamed of.

“It’s a great feeling to know that the project was so successful. I’m happy to have delivered a job that met the expectations of everyone involved and was instrumental in reaching people, promoting the idea of giving back. It’s on my reel as a heartfelt piece of emotional storytelling, not only for the final product itself but the messaging it shares,” he concluded.

 

Photo by Kevin Sarasom

George Reinblatt: A Rare Gem in the Canadian Entertainment Industry

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George Reinblatt at Howard Stern’s Birthday in New York

It takes a very rare individual to not only be able to write a successful script for a production, but produce it as well. When it comes to getting a project off the ground and actually bringing it to the stage or screen, the writer is the person who knows the ins and outs of the story they’ve created and feels the most passionately about it, at least initially; so, in an ideal world it makes sense that they’d be the best person to pitch the project to networks and ensure that the world they’ve created comes across accurately once production begins.

Unfortunately for the many writers who want to make it in the highly competitive entertainment industry, the differences between being the writer and the producer on a project call upon two very different personality types. Whereas the writer can retreat into their imagination creating their work without having to interact with other people—the producer has to be able to pitch the heck out of the story getting financiers and network executives on board, and if successful, then they have to communicate and guide everyone involved in the production towards the end goal.

While these individuals are understandably few and far between, Canada’s George Reinblatt is undoubtedly one of them. Over the last decade the unique and multifariously talented producer and writer has transitioned between the two roles with ease, consistently creating successful productions along the way.

To get an idea of the success Reinblatt has had as a producer, just look at the multi-award winning production “Evil Dead: The Musical,” which he wrote as well.

The production, which initially opened at a small theatre in Toronto in 2003, was an instant hit, and by 2006 the show was running as an off-Broadway production in New York where it received extensive international acclaim. After watching the show on opening night in NY, New York Times’ critic Anita Gates wrote that the show had the makings to become the next “Rocky Horror Show.”

“This was really special for me, as it was my show – I wrote the book and lyrics. So it was important for me to be on the producing side to make sure I could have a hand in all aspects of the production — from casting to merchandising to ticketing to even choosing the venue,” explains Reinblatt about producing the initial run of the show.

As the writer of the musical, Reinblatt created a masterpiece on paper, but it was his capacity as a producer that took that hilarious cult world from that which could only be experienced in the imagination and erected it into something audiences could collectively enjoy as he intended it. Prior to going into production with the hit show, Reinblatt reached out to the movie studios and secured the rights to the Evil Dead franchise in order to make the stage production the official stage adaptation of the film trilogy.

“Evil Dead: The Musical” won the Dora Audience Choice Award as Toronto’s Favorite Show, and after having several extended runs, by 2008 it became the longest running Canadian show in Toronto in over two decades.

Over the last year Reinblatt has been working hard producing a slew of comedies for international television networks including the Comedy Central special Jeff Ross Roasts Criminals: Live from Brazos County Jail. 

“It was amazing how much time and effort had to go into this one comedy special,” admits Reinblatt. “I came up with the idea of doing a comedy show in a prison. Jeff Ross thought it was a great idea. Comedy Central thought it was a great idea. But finding a prison willing to let us come in there and roast them, that was the hard part.”

Reinblatt and everyone on board knew they had something special on their hands, and after a year of planning and researching prison life, Reinblatt helped bring the eye-opening special to the screen.

The special, which aired in June, offered audiences more than just a few good laughs as they watched renowned comic Jeff Ross, known to many as ‘The Roastmaster General,’ roast the inmates at Brazos County Jail though. Along with Ross’s satirical jokes, the show included shocking facts about the American prison system making it a valuable source of information as well. Reinblatt’s brilliant idea for the show coupled with his ability to make the project happen as a producer made the release a resounding success.

As a writer on the series The Burn with Jeff Ross, and the popular Comedy Central roast specials of Roseanne, James Franco, Charlie Sheen and Justin Bieber, Reinblatt has worked with Jeff Ross multiple times over the years. He is also known throughout the international entertainment industry for penning the scripts for an impressive list of productions including the series Just for Laughs, George Stroumboulopolos Tonight, The Arsenio Hall Show, the 2012 and 2013 MuchMusic Video Awards and more.

“Different is what I do. I’m always looking for my next project to be different from my last. And jumping from a musical to a prison comedy special to a sketch show is about as different as you can get,” admits Reinblatt.

From the standpoint of producer, George Reinblatt knows exactly what story ideas will sit best with audiences, and earlier this year he began producing yet another exciting comedy series. The new 20-episode series Almost Genius, which is slated to begin airing on Country Music Television Canada in 2016, combines popular YouTube videos with some of the best comics in the entertainment industry today. Using highly innovative production technology, the show actually inserts the comics into the YouTube clips using green screen.

Reinblatt says, “It’s going to make people look at their favorite YouTube clips in a whole new way.”

With inimitable creativity, Reinblatt has continually displayed his capacity for producing starkly different projects for both the stage and screen, all of which reveal him as someone who is not only capable of creating captivating stories, but ensuring the production process goes off without a hitch as well.

“I just want the overall experience for the audience to be a great one, so I love being involved in all aspects of a production to ensure that happens,” explains Reinblatt. “Sometimes as a writer, you write something, hand it in, and what happens from there in performance, or editing, or anything else, is completely out of your hands. As a producer you get a say in the overall direction. You may not always get exactly what you want. But your voice is always heard and you can help navigate the direction of the final product.”