Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Lone Ranger vs. Sharknado

I went to see Disney's The Lone Ranger at the SilverCity Cineplex movie theatre last night, wanting to catch it before it closes. It was a good-looking production featuring interesting portrayals of the iconic characters of my youth, and it provided some strong moments typical of the western genre. Still, my overall reaction was: "It's trying too hard to be a hit."

Contrast this to the crazy-wild interest and success of Sharknado, which played on TV last week (SyFy and Space). This was utter B-movie fare: sharks swept up by a tornado and dumped into flooded California. According to this movie, your best defense against a tornado waterspout is to have a chainsaw handy in case sharks rain down on you.

It may seem like I'm comparing apples to oranges here, but I believe these two movies speak to why audiences embraced low-budget Sharknado and have had underperforming response to high-budget The Lone Ranger.

The key word here is underperforming. While there was a lot riding on Silver, there was less sink or swim for Sharknado. Sharknado was intended to be over-the-top and silly. The producers made a movie they wanted to see. Based on the Facebook and Twitter response, others wanted to see it too.

(To The Lone Ranger's credit, the  ticket-seller said the film had sold out the night before and the theatre was pretty packed when I was there.)

The Lone Ranger had its over-the-top moments too, with a horse that defied gravity and a Saloon Madam's leg that doubled as a firearm (think Cherry in Planet Terror). But rebooting a treasured icon for modern viewers is a tricky business, and while it has worked for some films like Star Trek (2009), The Lone Ranger suffers upfront from an audience disconnect to the "western experience." What interest is there for today's kids in the need to build a physical cross-nation connection (the railway) when they can pick up their phone and reach anyone anywhere around the world? The Twitter generation is also more of a collective mindset, more Borg than John Wayne, so the notion of a "Lone Ranger" who will right wrongs may not have the same appeal or impact as it did for young audiences in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

So, why would Sharknado, which also had a 1950s vibe, fare so well? As absurd as its premise may be, Sharknado likely resonated with viewers who recently experienced mass flooding in the US midwest, Canada and other disasters. The best science fiction and horror movies exploit the fears of the time. The price was right too: free to watch or PVR. In addition, while movie theatres politely lecture  patrons to turn off their cell phones during screenings, the home-viewing audience can partake of alcoholic beverages, tweet and FB post to their heart's delight during the broadcast. This can be seen as equivalent to watching flicks from the comfy seats of big-finned cars at the drive-ins of the 1950s.

Going back to Star Trek, it's interesting to note that Gene Roddenberry pitched and sold the original TV concept as "Wagon Train to the stars." The western was in its heyday. People were connected to that genre's theme. The Lone Ranger may yet ride again, when the time is right for a white-hat hero rather than a  chainsaw-wielding one.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

OIAF PITCH THIS! deadline is July 1

TAC, The Ottawa International Film Festival’s (OIAF) industry event, announces the return of its Pitch THIS! program, presented by 9 Story Entertainment.

Pitch THIS! allows content creators the opportunity to pitch their project ideas to a panel of international broadcasters. Following the five-minute pitches, panel members will share their insight and provide valuable feedback to the presenters.
The panelists will assess each pitch based on their creative, innovative and financial merits as well as their marketability and overall appeal.
Animators are encouraged to submit their ideas. To qualify for the program, proposals from animators must include the following:
  • Project synopsis, including target audience, technique, format, rough budget (1-2 pages)
  • One episode synopsis
  • Bio of key executives
  • Short paragraph indicating your current stage of development and any additional information (i.e. interactive components, merchandise, etc.)
  • Concept art (2 or 3 images)
TAC will be accepting proposal by email ( until July 1st, 2013.
NEW FOR 2013: The two selected proposals will each win 3 nights of accommodation (value $600 each) during the event, plus one complimentary all access TAC Anima pass (value $540 each) per proposal.
TAC (The Animation Conference) is a specialized industry conference for animation professionals including content creators, developers, producers, distributors, and marketers.
The Conference brings together key players from North America and international markets to provide a forum for active networking, practical information exchange, and trade in a comfortable and intimate environment.
Now celebrating its 10th year, TAC has become North America’s preeminent animation industry conference. TAC 2013 takes place September 18-20 in Ottawa.
For complete information about TAC and the Ottawa International Animation Festival, visit

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ottawa Comiccon is hometown grand for Janet Hetherington & Ronn Sutton!

A typical convention scene:
Ivy shows off art by Janet Hetherington
The second installment of Ottawa Comiccon is taking place at the end of this week (May 10-12, 2013) at the EY Centre. That's in Ottawa South, near the airport, and that's where all the fun is happening this weekend!

Having a comic con in your hometown is great. You can enjoy all the usual convention craziness and still have the comfort of sleeping in your own bed at the end of a busy day.

Ronn Sutton and I live in Ottawa. We'll both be at the show to talk to people about our work, do sketches and commissions and offer original art and comics.

Ask us about the Honey West/Kolchak the Night Stalker #1 comic, or about our work on Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. We're always happy to autograph (for free), so bring copies or check out our table offerings. Hint: If you want to get one of Ronn's original art pages from the Elvira comic book, do it now. There's not too many left!

Ronn and I are also looking forward to seeing professional colleagues (and pals) like artists Dave Ross and Leonard Kirk. And of course, there's all the film and TV stars to dazzle you.

The costumers (or cosplayers as they're called these days) are a visual treat on their own. It's always a blast to see your favourite comic characters come to life.

So now you know where Ronn and I will be this weekend. Come by our table if you're coming too!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Hello Kitty! Original comic coming to Comic-Con International 2013

Hello Kitty - off to San Diego
VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media) has announced a new publishing deal with Sanrio, Inc., to develop a series of original graphic novels, and a special single-volume comic featuring a limited-edition Hello Kitty design.

The single-volume Hello Kitty comic is scheduled to debut at the 2013 Comic-Con Show in San Diego with a Comic-Con exclusive cover by Eisner-nominated artist Jacob Chabot. The comic will feature art by Victoria Maderna, Ian McGinty and Chabot.

The main graphic novel series is scheduled to launch in the fall of 2013 with Here We Go!, a collection of comic stories about Hello Kitty’s travels. Both offerings will be rated ‘A’ for All Ages, and will be published under the company’s VIZ Kids imprint.

VIZ Media previously teamed with Sanrio and video game company Capcom to develop a pair of fun STREET FIGHTER X Sanrio books that were released in November 2012.

HELLO KITTY: Here We GO!· MSRP: $7.99 US / $9.99 CAN · Available Fall 2013  
Hello Kitty has places to be and friends to meet! Join Hello Kitty as she explores an underground realm, chases an unsavory cake thief around the world, climbs the Himalayas, travels back in time, and discovers that sometimes, the best place to get away from it all is between the pages of a good book.

HELLO KITTY FASHION MUSIC WONDERLAND · MSRP: $6.99 US / $7.99 CAN · Available Summer 2013  
It’s Hello Kitty as you've never seen her, in stories filled with fashion, music and adventure!

Sanrio is the global company behind classic iconic characters Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars, My Melody, and many more. Sanrio was founded in the 1960's in Japan by Shintaro Tsuji, whose simple dream of bringing smiles to people's faces grew into the brand's "small gift, big smile" philosophy. This philosophy has served as the inspiration for the broad spectrum of products bearing the likeness of endearing characters that have helped to skyrocket the brand into a $5 billion-a-year business. Sanrio recently acquired the classic Mr. Men Little Miss brand which also has graphic novels published by VIZ Media.

“Sanrio and Hello Kitty are synonymous with the very essence of pop culture, and we’re very excited to have Hello Kitty as part of the VIZ Kids family of titles,” says Beth Kawasaki, VIZ Media Senior Editorial Director. “The new wordless comic and graphic novel series will appeal to Hello Kitty fans of all ages. VIZ Media is having a blast creating the fun new original series and we can’t wait for everyone to see the books.”

For more information on VIZ Kids graphic novels and manga, visit

Thursday, January 24, 2013

CFI presents Hal Hartley cinema retrospective Feb. 1 - March 2

Hal Hartley

The Canadian Film Institute (CFI), in collaboration with the Embassy of the United States of America, is pleased to present American Possibility: The Cinema of Hal Hartley, a special retrospective celebrating the career of one of America's greatest independent filmmakers of the past quarter century.

Hal Hartley will be in Ottawa for the first three nights of the retrospective, February 1-3, 2013, to introduce and discuss his films with Ottawa audiences.

Renowned for his witty, articulate, sharp, often satirical and always compassionate films, Hal Hartley’s films have been showcased at film festivals such as Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Rotterdam, Melbourne and Sydney. His films have helped launch the careers of some of today’s biggest stars, including Edie Falco, Parker Posey, Martin Donovan, and Michael Imperioli.

“Hal Hartley is one of the most impressive and idiosyncratic contemporary American film artists,” says CFI Executive Director, Tom McSorley. “The CFI is proud to be bringing this critically acclaimed, internationally renowned American independent filmmaker to Ottawa.” In total, the CFI will devote six nights of screenings throughout February and early March to this special retrospective:

  • February 1st: Meanwhile (2012) 7:00pm and Trust (1991), 9:00 pm *
  • February 2nd: Possible Films: Hal Hartley Short Film Programme, 3:00 pm *
  • February 3rd: Amateur (1994), 7:00 pm *
  • February 27th: Henry Fool (1997), 7 pm
  • March 1st: The Girl From Monday (2005), 8:30 pm
  • March 2nd: Fay Grim (2006), 7 pm

*Hal Hartley will be in attendance on dates marked with an asterisk (February 1, 2, 3).

All screenings will take place at the Auditorium at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, except for the "Hal Hartley Short Film Programme," which will be presented at Club SAW, 67 Nicholas Street.

Tickets are $12 for the general public and $8 for CFI members, seniors, and students and can be purchased on-site with the box office opening half an hour before the start of the film

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Gene Day Awards for Canadian indie comics creators open for submission

The Joe Shuster Awards has announced that it is now accepting 2012 self-published works by Canadian creators for consideration in 2013. 
Dark Fantasy by Gene Day

The Gene Day Award for Self-Publishing honours Canadian comic book creators who self-published their work during the previous calendar year. The award includes a bursary of $500.

In order to qualify, a creator must be a citizen and current resident of Canada. Anyone who writes and illustrates a comic book of their own creation (includes creative teams) and publishes and sells that comic independently of any other publishing company and did not currently have said works originally distributed by a third party distributor may submit their publication for review. (For example: If the comic was solicited and distributed by Diamond, then it is not eligible for this category. If the comic was only dropped off at local comic shops and/or sold them at conventions, then it is eligible.)

  • Format and content is at the discretion of the creators.
  • Must include new content, not reprinted material from other sources (such as webcomics).
  • There are no language restrictions for this award.

All entries will be reviewed by an independent jury. Entries will be judged individually based on originality, literary and artistic merit, and overall presentation.

Entries should be sent to:
M6G 1B2
Closing date for submissions: May 16, 2013.

The finalists will be announced before the Awards ceremony and the winner will be announced at the Joe Shuster Awards ceremony in August 2013.

About Gene Day
Gene Day (1951-1982) began his career in the Canadian alternative comix scene. In the seventies he began his own publishing imprint, Shadow Press / House of Shadows and put out over twenty issues of Dark Fantasy, a horror/fantasy/sci-fi digest that featured the early writings of Joe Lansdale, Charles De Lint, John Bell and Charles R. Saunders, among others; a short-lived comic publication, Out of the Depths and various other one-shots, portfolios, and prints. Day drew for the Skywald magazines Psycho and Nightmare from 1974, as well as the Canadian comic anthology, ORB, and Mike Friedrich’s independent comics company Star Reach, contributing to the Star Reach anthology, Image and Quack. Day did illustrations for fantasy role-playing games and had a collection of his comic stories, ‘Future Day’, published by Flying Buttress Press as a hardcover graphic novel in 1979.

He was a longtime inker on Marvel’s ‘Master of Kung Fu’ title by Mike Zeck, starting in 1976 and later took over as full penciler on the series. He also inked on the licensed ‘Star Wars’ series, pencilled by Carmine Infantino, as well as ‘The Mighty Thor’ and ‘Marvel Two-in-One’ featuring ‘The Thing’. From 1985 to 1986, Renegade Press published four issues of Gene Day’s ‘Black Zeppelin’, an anthology series primarily featuring stories and painted covers Day completed before his death, as well new contributions by Sim, Bruce Conklin, Augustine Funnell, and Charles Vess. More of his work appeared posthumously in Caliber Comics’ anthology series Day Brothers Presents, which also featured the work of Day’s artist brothers, David and Dan Day.

Dave Sim credits Gene Day as his earliest and most influential mentor and the inspiration for his own self-publishing efforts. Gene Day was inducted into the Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame in 2007.

About The Joe Shuster Awards
Established in 2004, The Joe Shuster Awards are Canada’s first national award recognizing outstanding achievement in the creation of comic books and graphic novels and are named after pioneering Toronto-born artist Joe Shuster who, along with writer Jerry Siegel, created the iconic super-powered hero, Superman. The name is used with the approval of the Estate of Joe Shuster – Michael Catron, Estate Agent.
For more information contact

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

CFI welcomes acclaimed Canadian director Peter Mettler to Ottawa Jan. 31

The Canadian Film Institute (CFI), is pleased to present The Enlightened Screen: Peter Mettler, the latest installment of an ongoing screening and guest artist series which profiles Canada’s leading independent filmmakers.

On January 31, 2013, the CFI will celebrate the career of the acclaimed Canadian filmmaker, by screening his 2012 release, The End of Time. Tackling mankind’s perception of time, The End of Time takes viewers on a journey around the globe, with visits to the particle accelerator in Switzerland, lava flows in Hawaii, inner city Detroit and to a Hindu funeral rite. It has been selected as one of Canada’s Top Ten films of 2012.
Peter Mettler will be in attendance to introduce The End of Time and following the screening, he'll participate in a discussion with CFI executive director Tom McSorley as well as a question and answer session with the audience.
“Mettler’s provocative films explore unique ideas and feature breathtaking images,” says McSorley.
“The Canadian Film Institute is honoured to have him in Ottawa, showcasing his most recent production. He is one of the most important and influential figures in contemporary Canadian cinema, having worked with Atom Egoyan, Robert Lepage, and others, in addition to his own remarkable films.”
This special screening will take place at the Auditorium at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Tickets are $12 for the general public and $8 for CFI members, seniors, and students and can be purchased on-site with the box office opening half an hour before the start of the film. Showtime is 7:00 pm.
The Canadian Film Institute (CFI) was incorporated in 1935 as a federally-chartered, non-governmental, non-profit cultural organization. It is the oldest film institution in Canada and the second oldest film institute in the world. More information can be found online at

Monday, January 21, 2013

CFI to screen "The Boxing Girls of Kabul" by Oscar-nominated Canadian Ariel Nasr January 30

The Canadian Film Institute (CFI), will present a special screening of The Boxing Girls of Kabul on Wednesday, January 30, at 7:00 pm at the Auditorium at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, Canada.

Directed by independent Afghan-Canadian filmmaker, Ariel Nasr, this powerful documentary follows three young Afghan women, who risk everything in their pursuit to become world-class boxers, despite training without even the most basic facilities.

Led by their trainer, an ex-boxer who once dreamed of competing in the Olympics, the film follows his proteges as they travel to boxing competitions in Vietnam and Kazakhstan. The film also reveals the life-threatening risks these athletes and their families face by participating in a sport that many in their country believe is inappropriate for women.

A National Film Board production, The Boxing Girls of Kabul was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award while Nasr, the film’s director who makes his home in Montreal, was nominated for an Oscar in the Short Film - Live Action category for his work as a producer on the film Buzkashi Boys.

Nasr will be in attendance to introduce The Boxing Girls of Kabul and, following the screening, will participate in a discussion with CFI executive director Tom McSorley, as well as a question and answer session with the audience.

This special screening will take place at the Auditorium at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Tickets are $12 for the general public and $8 for CFI members, seniors, and students and can be purchased on-site with the box office opening half an hour before the start of the film. Showtime is 7pm.

The Canadian Film Institute (CFI) was incorporated in 1935 as a federally-chartered, non-governmental, non-profit cultural organization. It is the oldest film institution in Canada and the second oldest film institute in the world. More information can be found online at

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Microsoft to Premiere ‘Pulp’ on Xbox 360 in UK March 4

In a move that marks a radical shift in the way feature films are distributed in the United Kingdom (UK), Microsoft will premiere the British comedy feature film Pulp on Xbox 360 beginning March 4, 2013. The 96-minute comedy will become the first feature film to ever premiere on Xbox 360 and will be available to watch via the Xbox LIVE service in the UK.
An irreverent comedy set in a world where comic book publishing and international crime intersect, Pulp has become a favourite on the global festival circuit.

Pulp tells the story of Tony Leary, the nice-guy owner of Junk Comics, whose new superhero title, The Sodomizer, is to launch at the British International Comic Show, and nothing will stop Tony from making it a success. Nothing except a gang of Geordie criminals who are using another comic company to launder their dirty money. Tony is drafted by the police to identify the culprits and bring them to justice. Aided by his trusty geek sidekicks, Rick and Keith, Tony must defy the odds if he is to become a real-life hero.

dareemailfooter.jpgPulp stars Jay Sutherland, Gavin Molloy, Simon Burbage, Neil Jennings, Lee Ravitz, Sarah Alexandra Marks, Lucy Cudden and John Thomson.

Pulp’s co-director and producer, Adam Hamdy, said, “Microsoft might not seem like the obvious partner for an indie comedy, but the film industry has changed. Xbox 360 can instantly distribute Pulp to millions of UK customers, and publicize the release in ways that simply aren’t possible with traditional releasing models.”

The deal was brokered by Pat Nelson of SyndicateWorks, an innovative talent and brand management agency. “The Xbox 360 team saw Pulp, and immediately spotted the appeal the film would have to their audience. It’s fun, off-the-wall, and laugh-out-loud funny. Pulp’s equity based, independent finance structure meant the producers weren’t tied to a traditional release model, and were free to strike an innovative deal that we think might herald a new model for feature film releasing.”

Phil Bland, producer of Pulp, said, “Many people in the film business talk about the threat digital media poses to film, but, as newcomers to the industry, all we can see are opportunities. Microsoft is an exciting partner, and the fact they can release our film to millions of customers at the push of a button is very attractive.”

Pulp’s extended trailer, which features a now infamous ‘Star Wars’ scene, became an online sensation earlier this year, resonating with people around the world, as it racked up over a million views (

Adam Hamdy is optimistic about the film’s prospects, “Pulp is not a remake, sequel or
adaptation of a board game. It wasn’t created by a committee of suits sitting in a
skyscraper in Los Angeles. It was born of a series of crazy events, and made by a group
of talented actors and dedicated filmmakers who fell in love with a nutty script. We had
a lot of fun making Pulp, and festival audiences who have seen the film say that fun energy shines through the film.”

Pulp was selected for the Just For Laughs Comedy Film Festival, and was nominated for the London Comedy Film Festival Discovery Award.

Phil Bland said, “Pulp has travelled the international festival circuit. Getting nominated for the Best Feature Film of 2012 at the Las Vegas Film Festival was probably our most surreal experience. Although Pulp may not be as polished as your average multi-million dollar Hollywood production, it has a rare charm and a wicked sense of humour that audiences really respond to."

Pat Nelson said, “The theatrical release model is now only financially viable for big budget films. Mid and low budget films are really struggling due to the marketing costs required to release theatrically. The DVD market is in decline and no longer supports that mid to low budget tier. If Xbox customers respond to the premiere of Pulp, this could mark a turning point in the industry and a seismic shift in how filmmakers reach their audience.”