Meet the Writers of the 2017 Bell Media Prime Time TV Program
By Cory Angeletti-Szasz ● September 08, 2017 10:00
The 2017 residents of the Bell Media Prime Time TV Program (from left to right): Jordi Mand, Julia Holdway, Lisa Codrington, Dennis Heaton (2017 Executive Producer in Residence), A.J. Demers, RJ Lackie, Laurie Anne Smith
It’s understandable if you’ve been too busy binging on the latest plethora of hit TV series, web series, mini series, etc. to notice the changes happening in the TV industry. TV is changing. Or rather, has changed. There are numerous ways to consume content now and a range of new platforms for viewers to choose from – there is more content and more options for viewers than ever before. The demand for fresh and exciting content is higher than ever as viewers hunger for new shows. That’s why our renowned program, the Bell Media Prime Time TV Program, remains one constant in the TV industry: it’s a go-to source for scouting new talent and original voices who go on to create must-watch TV (in all its forms).
The Bell Media Prime Time TV Program, presented in association with ABC Signature Studios, delivers a real-world story room experience and an intense professional and project development process for six TV writers a year. The program has attracted some of Canada’s most prolific and successful showrunners to lead the story room as Executive Producer in Residence (like Michael MacLennan [ Bomb Girls], Graeme Manson [Orphan Black], Karen Walton [Orphan Black, The Listener] and Brad Wright [Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe], to name a few), but what’s more is that the program draws some of Canada’s finest creative talent, that studios and networks seek out as being the next hot writers and showrunners. Many alumni of the program have gone on to create their own series and to write for hit TV series.
Tara Armstrong, a 2014 alumna, is currently in production on Season 2 of her series Mary Kills People (Global TV). Comedy series What Would Sal Do?, created by 2008 alumnus Andrew De Angelis, premiered on HBO Canada and CraveTV in March 2017. Blain Watters, who was part of the 2013 program, wrote for Season 1 of Between (Netflix). Karen Nielsen, an alumna of last year’s program, has been hired to write an episode of the next X-Files revival season.
Additionally, eOne recently announced that 2010 alumna Sandra Chwialkowska will pen their co-pro, the French-language series Mensonges, which it is adapting for English-speaking markets, and they tapped 2013 alumna Marsha Greene to pen their short-form series, The Six. The program also helped develop smash-hit Emmy Award-winning series Orphan Black, which recently saw its series finale, in the 2008 story room, and Travelers, whose second season is set to premiere this Fall on Netflix, began its development during the 2014 Prime Time TV Program.
What’s next for the program? Six new writers will join the ranks of these CFC alumni as they embark on the 2017 Bell Media Prime Time TV Program, which officially starts on September 18, 2017.
“We have remarkable TV writers in Canada,” said Kathryn Emslie, CFC’s Chief Programs Officer. “Year after year, we are excited to welcome talented TV creators into our program and learn what sorts of stories and themes drive them. This year was another very strong year of applicants, and we are delighted to have these six writers on board.”
With award-winning writer/producer Dennis Heaton at the helm of the 2017 story room, these writers are armed with an amazing showrunner and mentor, as well as the talent and skills to take on the changing TV industry, pens (keyboards?) blazing.
Meet the 2017 Bell Media Prime Time TV Program residents:
Lisa Codrington is an actor and writer based in Toronto. She has been nominated for the Governor General’s Award for Drama and is a recipient of the K.M. Hunter Theatre Award and the Carol Bolt Award for Playwrights. Selected playwriting credits include The Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God (Shaw Festival); Up the Garden Path (Obsidian Theatre); The Aftermath (The New Groundswell Festival – Nightwood Theatre); The Colony (Opera to Go – Tapestry); Cast Iron (Nightwood Theatre & Obsidian Theatre). Originally from Winnipeg, she holds a BA in Criminology from the University of Manitoba and a BFA in Acting from Ryerson University.
A.J. Demers is an award-winning screenwriter, playwright and producer. He has written and performed 100 episodes of his satire segment, The Spin (Sam Ross Award) for CityTV. His television writing credits include shows on Viceland, CMT, and CBC. He is an alumnus of the NSI’s Feature First Program and his feature film Rust, a punk rock mother-daughter drama, with producer Trinni Franke and director Anita Doron, is slated for production in 2018. Demers is currently developing two original series, the horror/police drama, Dunwich, and the private investigator procedural, Impossible. In addition to his writing, as an improviser, Demers has performed in well over two thousand stage shows around the world and spent three years touring with the ABBA tribute band, Bjorn Again, where he rapped for Bill Gates. Demers holds an MFA from UBC in creative writing.
Julia Holdway is a Vancouver-based screenwriter with two produced TV movies and a third one going into production in October 2017. Her pilot Infamous was a finalist for the Sundance Episodic Lab. She has written and directed four short films, which have screened at festivals and art galleries in New York and London. Holdway has worked on the production side of television and film as a script coordinator and producers’ assistant on various shows, including Bates Motel, Warcraft and Roadies. Last summer, she was invited by the Executive Producers, Kerry Ehrin and Carlton Cuse, to be part of the writers’ room in LA for the final season of Bates Motel. She began her career working in the art world in London and then Los Angeles before pursuing her career in screenwriting. Holdway holds a BFA from Ryerson University Image Arts Film Program and an MA in Contemporary Art and Critical Theory from Sotheby’s Institute of Art (an affiliate of Manchester University.
RJ Lackie is a writer-producer and a graduate of Ryerson University's RTA School of Media. He has written and co-written more than 100 produced episodes of dramatic digital series, including Inhuman Condition (Canadian Screen Award 2016 nominee), All For One (Official Selection, T.O. Webfest 2017), forthcoming dark thriller Damaged, and LGBT personality Kaitlyn Alexander's Couple-ish (Streamy Awards 2016 nominee). His feature debut as a screenwriter, sci-fi adventure Darken (dir. Audrey Cummings), will premiere later this year. His work in digital series has been praised in The Guardian, Vox and AfterEllen, and called "a step forward for the medium" by Bloody Disgusting.
Jordi Mand is a Toronto-based playwright who has worked with some of Canada’s most prominent theatre companies. Her first play, Between the Sheets, was produced by Nightwood Theatre in 2012 and has been produced nationally, internationally and was published by Playwrights Canada Press. Her second play, Caught, was produced by Theatre Passe Muraille in 2016. Mand has been a Playwright-in-Residence with Theatre Passe Muraille, Carousel Players and Nightswimming Theatre. She is a past member of the Tarragon Theatre’s Playwrights Unit and the Stratford Festival's Playwrights Retreat. Upcoming: world premiere of her new plays This Will Be Excellent (Carousel Players) and Brontë: The World Without (Stratford Festival). Mand is a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada.
Laurie Anne Smith
Laurie Anne “LA” Smith is an adventurous storyteller who has spent the last 15 years in unscripted TV as a writer and director, and in senior story positions. Smith travelled the world as a story producer for the last two seasons of The Amazing Race Canada, and has been a passionate leader on other competition series such as Game of Homes and the UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Canada vs Australia. Smith has crafted stories for more than 60 hours of television with story editor credits that include Discovery’s hit shows Highway Thru Hell and Heavy Rescue: 401. Her work has aired internationally and on North America’s top-rated networks. Smith has conducted hundreds of hours of interviews and specializes in coaxing out stories and transforming them into entertainment. She graduated with distinction from the University of Regina’s post-graduate Journalism program, and holds a BA in English and Psychology from Carleton University.
CLICK HERE to learn more about the Bell Media Prime Time TV Program.