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September 24, 2008

Behind the Scenes with Shane Corkery & Rob Sockett

In this week’s "Behind The Scenes," we speak with two of the creators of the new Little Mosque on the Prairie interactive website. Rob Sockett, Producer of the interactive website, and Shane Corkery, Associate Producer on Season 3 of Little Mosque on the Prairie and on the website, and also our behind-the-scenes blogger. They both give us a sneak preview at what to expect with the launch of the new site on October 1st.

Question 1: In your research, what were some details that made you feel it was time for a Little Mosque on the Prairies interactive site?

Rob: Near the end of Season 2, we did extensive market research on the show’s online fan-base. It was amazing what we found out. Not only was there a broad base of fans from around the world, but the level of engagement was quite deep. There were chat groups where people discussed elements of the show stretching to 70 or 80 pages of text! We started to notice patterns. For example, people wanted to hear more of Fred Tupper’s radio show. They also loved the curling episode. And they wanted to know more about the past lives of certain characters, such as Fatima. The design of the site is really a direct response to what fans are interested in.

Shane: Exactly. So for example, you’re going to get “a lot more Fred” on the new site. We’ve also worked curling – the great Canadian past-time – into the site, but the details are a surprise!

Question 2: Little Mosque on the Prairie is a family television show that is also bold in its writing. Can we expect the same for the site?

Shane: No. In order to expand our reach, the website is going to feature a lot more profanity and shocking violence…just kidding, folks! The website is very much an extension of the show. We’re definitely not trying to redefine Little Mosque, but rather allow fans to delve deeper into it the world that already exists. So yes, expect the same good feelings, and the same warm humour, much of it provided by writers from the show.

Rob: The whole family can sit down together and click away.

Question 3: Will the characters from the show continue to develop on the interactive site?

Rob: Oh, absolutely. When we first began to conceive the new site, we knew that it was essential to remain true to the characters that our TV audience knows and loves. But we also thought that we had a great opportunity to expand them – to flesh them out in ways that the 22-minute TV format doesn’t allow.

Shane: We don’t want to give too much away, but we’ll definitely hear more from the citizens of Mercy – some of whom you might not even want to hear from! It’s funny, but in many ways, Mercy is one of the characters of the show. With the new season and the new interactive site, we’re going to get to know her a whole lot better.

Thanks Rob and Shane…can’t wait to try out the new site! The new site launches on October 1.

September 17, 2008

Behind the Scenes with Shane Corkery - Part 5

One of our directors reminds me of a bird. A tall, handsome and graceful bird, but a bird nonetheless. Jim Allodi is an actor and director who is making his Little Mosque on the Prairie debut this season, and the show is all the better for it. One of the episodes he is directing features a new feature in the “Little Mosque” universe… violence! Not real world scary violence—but a couple of punches thrown in cartoonish barroom brawl never hurt anyone, right?

Naturally, in order the give the honky-tonk bar a realistic vibe, we had to include the omnipresent television over the bar. Simple enough, right? Wrong. I suspect very few of you have ever priced out the rights to include anything familiar on a television screen. (Consider yourselves even luckier if you haven't had to pay for it. Because it costs... a lot.)

So, what goes up on the television screens in the bar? Colin Brunton (Producer/shameless self-promoter) offered up a simple solution. "Hey, you could show a clip form one of my films up there!" Colin's most well-known film, which you would know if any of you had spent even three minutes with the man, is called "The Last Pogo." It is a documentary about a legendary 1978 punk show in Toronto that ended in a riot. Perfect Mosque material, wouldn't you say?

So Colin gets to shill his movie - conveniently available on DVD on October 14th - and we get to save a few bucks. What could possibly be a more elegant marriage of the two seemingly disparate brands? Oh wait... this: T-shirts available now!

September 9, 2008

Behind the Scenes with Shane Corkery - Part 4

Guess what! It was Customer Appreciation Day in Indian Head. We heard about this through the grapevine, and thought to our collective self: "Self, it sure would be nice to participate in this." The arrangements were made and a table was set-up on Grand Avenue. Manoj Sood, who plays Baber, graciously came out on what turned out to be a bitingly cold day and autographed posters for all who came. Michael Snook, the Saskatchewan producer, manned the table as well. Two other rapscallions also made their presence known to the townspeople—namely producer Colin Brunton and myself.

Firstly, let me say this—it was a delight. It was so great to meet some of the people from the community—not to mention the nearby communities of Wolsely, Sintaluta, Balgonie, Vibank, Halifax (okay, so I just threw that one in to see if you were paying attention). They came by to eat hamburgers and buttertarts and cookies offered by local businesses. Sadly, because we are but a miserly television production with few skills applicable to the real world ("Process your negative, sir?"), we brought the only bullet in our belt—Marc DeNuzzo, Craft Services. For those of you who have been mercilessly spared a life in entertainment, craft is just another word for food. And lots of it. Marc and his brethren on other productions make a point of feeding the hard working crew for 11 out of every 12 hours a day—the other hour being lunch.

He provided plates of cheese and crackers, candy for the kids, the kids at heart, and the merely snacky, as well as hot coffee. Though it seemed like a simple offering to the residents of our new home, it was graciously received. Especially the coffee. I was reminded of how quickly the weather can turn on you in the prairies, and on this icy cold summer day, the hot coffee went fast.

Other highlights included:
Taunting a man in a Corner Gas cap. "Oh sure, he's given you myriad laughs, but did Brent Butt ever give you coffee? Huh?" (I jest. Hello Brent.)
A lovely elderly lady commenting, after finding out I am originally from Moose Jaw, "You look like you're from Toronto, but I said to my daughter, 'he's too nice.'"
Colin Brunton quizzing an elderly lady about Satchel Paige, a baseball star from the Negro leagues who played in Western Canada, including Indian Head. "We'd go to an early game, go home and do our chores, and return for the night game."

Thank you Indian Head. You are appreciated.

September 2, 2008

Behind the Scenes with Shane Corkery - Part 3

Hey folks. Shane again.

Today, set was practically ransacked by a bawdy group of teenagers. In actual fact, the bawdy group of teenagers was a perfectly lovely group of teenagers, but we paid them to pretend to be bawdy in a party scene. It's called being an actor, don't you know--actually we call it being a Background Performer so we don't have to pay you more!

A small and lovely house on Dewdney Avenue here in Indian Head became, for a brief afternoon, a scene of bacchanalian revelry the likes of which Indian Head has never scene. (Actually, that is a lie. The August 12th edition of the Indian Head - Wolseley News featured the headline "Party Turns Ugly" on the front page. The second paragraph of the article states that the damage included "two pulverized heads of cabbage." Seriously.)

It was actually a lot of fun to find myself at a high school party, so accurately recreated--though I remember less smoke machines and lasers at the parties I attended. All the more fun, because Zarqa Nawaz was sitting in the director's chair. Zarqa, for those of you who might not now, is the creator of the show. She has lived in Regina, Saskatchewan for years, and it was her own mosque that was the inspiration for the show. She's directed a whole slew of short films and a feature documentary, but this is the first time she's directed an episode of the show she created! As a Muslim, she admitted that a teenage party scene with alcohol, loud music and dancing it was "far outside of her own personal experience."

Don't worry Zarqa, it was for me too. Except that I didn't have a strong connection to my faith in my back pocket as a handy-dandy excuse. I was just highly unpopular. 


Behind the Scenes with Shane Corkery - Part 2

So, while Indian Head is a small town, relatively speaking--think of a meteor rather than Jupiter--it is still big enough to take a few minutes to get around. While I am largely confined to my little cubbyhole in my trailer, the agile crew moves with grace and dexterity to every corner of the town. Yesterday, they found themselves in the middle of a field of wheat, as well as a small forest just outside of town.  Now, because the crew is so far away from downtown, the production thought it would be a good idea to have a portable 'green room' for the cast. For those of you who don't know, the green room has nothing to do with the environment; it is just a nice space for actors to relax in between shots, etc. So in order to provide them with this, we decided to take the other trailer that was designated for producer and repurpose it to this effect.

So what happened to the producer who was in the other trailer? That's right, I have a new office buddy! Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Al Magee, co-executive producer. Between him and producer Colin Brunton, I now share a souped-up Winnebago with two titans of the Canadian film and television industry. Of course, in order to accommodate them, I had to move from one of two desks to a TV stand in the corner. Note that I have to open the cupboard on the floor to put my legs in, something I am only too happy to do.

What happens when Executive Producer Mary Darling arrives in a couple of days? For the record, I have already tried the plug-in in the bathroom, and it powers my laptop just fine. I see nothing wrong with planning ahead.

I caught a ride back to Regina yesterday--the city where I spent most of my youth. And as the sun began to sink in the Western skies, accompanied by the quietly insistent rhythm of grasshoppers splattering against the windshield, I found myself in a contemplative mood.  Staring at their glistening remains twinkling in the last of golden light, I found myself thankful to be involved in such a great project--not only to be surrounded by wonderful and creative people, not only because it sheds a positive light on an underrepresented minority--but because it brings me back to my prairie roots. Saskatchewan, it is nice to be home again.