Shakespearean action flick wins Pitch This!
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 | 8:32 PM ET
By Jessica Wong, CBC News
Kill Shakespeare, the winning movie pitch at the 2010 Pitch This! competition at TIFF, is based on a comic book series that pits the Bard's greatest heroes against his dastardly villains. (Jessica Wong/CBC)Imagine Hamlet, Juliet, Othello and Richard III all inhabiting the same world — an action-packed, quest-filled one at that — and you've got the winning movie pitch of the 2010 Telefilm Pitch This! competition.
Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery snagged the $10,000 cash prize on Tuesday for their imaginative pitch for Kill Shakespeare — a live-action adventure film inspired by the Bard's indelible characters — during the contest's 11th edition.
The contest, held each year as part of the Toronto International Film Festival, sees a whittled-down short list of six teams each deliver a six-minute film pitch to an industry audience and jury.
This year, organizers received more than 200 submissions, with past winners such as Poor Boy's Game and Amal actually being made into feature films.
Inspired by the Bard and Tarantino
Shortly after their win, the two Toronto men told CBC News they came up with the idea about seven years ago, when Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill was in theatres.
Though they were kicking around ideas for a video-game project, they began discussing the Tarantino film and Del Col joked about replacing David Carradine's reclusive titular character with William Shakespeare and inserting his iconic heroes and villains as the film's key players.
'[Teachers] see this as a gateway drug to get people excited about Shakespeare.'—Anthony Del Col
"And we sort of stopped and thought, 'That's actually a neat idea,'" recalled McCreery, who described himself and Del Col as film business guys who are "theatre geeks" inside.
Their idea blossomed into a comic book series (with a trade paperback collecting the first five issues forthcoming in November), but a film version was always part of the team's ambitious plan. Aspirations to being a Canadian answer to Peter Jackson's blockbuster The Lord of the Rings trilogy come up repeatedly.
Like the writing of J.R.R. Tolkien, Shakespeare's work can sometimes be daunting to read, they explained. Also, like Jackson, the two men — as well as their Toronto-based artists Andy Belanger, Ian Herring and Kagan McLeod — are itching to showcase Canada's beautiful landscapes as well as its filmmaking talent.
Anthony Del Col, left, and Conor McCreery are the creators of both the comic book series and the film pitch Kill Shakespeare, which won Telefilm's Pitch This! competition at TIFF on Tuesday. (Jessica Wong/CBC)"We'd love to turn this into a Lord of the Rings-style thing," Del Col said.
"With Lord of the Rings, they really highlighted New Zealand. We'd love to do that for Canada. [Winning Pitch This!] might be the first step to making it a reality."
The duo have been buoyed by the reception for the comic series, receiving positive feedback equally from theatre-lovers for whom Kill Shakespeare is their first brush with graphic novels as well as comic book fans now inspired to catch a play. Teachers have also expressed enthusiasm for the series, they said.
"We are staying honest and true to the foundation of these characters, the core of these characters — that's a major thing for the academics and teachers and scholars. As long as we have that core base, if we tour around that a bit, they're OK with that," Del Col explained.
"Basically they see this as a gateway drug to get people excited about Shakespeare."
Next, the duo is headed to Comic-Con events in New York and Halifax to promote the project and then back to New York for a gallery show of their comic's artwork. They've just been invited to attend the next Frankfurt Book Fair and are also fielding some interest from Hollywood.
According to Del Col, the goal is simple: "Shine a spotlight on the characters and the stories and really highlight that Shakespeare was the greatest entertainer of all time."