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Behind the Scenes at the CBC Fall Launch

Eighty CBC stars from Peter Mansbridge to Pascale Hutton; 44 reporters; over 500 ad buyers. That's plenty of people, sure. But if you're not one of them, the term "Fall Launch" doesn't mean much - at least not beyond the announcement of CBC's '13-'14 line-up.

The event, though, held every year, is part of how your favourite CBC shows are made. A full day of interviews gets the word out about the new schedule; an evening event with senior clients, agencies and partners gets them better acquainted with the programs and stars they support. (In a typical year, 35 per cent of CBC's sales target is raised in the month after Fall Launch.)

And Fall Launch day - a marathon of meet-and-greets and interviews - is like a show in itself.

"It's not just business, you know, and I like that," Christine Tizzard, host of Best Recipes Ever, told CBC Live at the Fall Launch party.

From the outside, and sometimes the inside, it feels a bit like celebrity summer camp.

Famous faces from TV meet their CBC News idols for the first time - or the first time since last year's Fall Launch. Stars from every department mingle with ad buyers, with media - for something like 17 hours.

CBC Live was watching it all come together, from the first star's arrival at hair and make-up to the party clean-up. Here's the behind-the-scenes breakdown of Fall Launch's lighter side.

-- CBC Live

8:40 a.m.
David Common, CBC News correspondent, is the first CBC personality to arrive, luggage in tow, since he's just touched down from New York. "I'll change into a suit, I just don't fly in suit," he says to the talent managers awaiting his check-in as he zips toward the elevators.

By this time, preparations surrounding the event have been bustling for an hour, never mind the months of lead up that came before. A peel-and-stick Walk of Fame stretches from the Broadcast Centre John Street entrance, a path of celeb-centric breadcrumbs leading to the Welcome Centre in the atrium. Caterers are catering; decorators are placing flower arrangements. And, talent managers have been on call since 7:45 a.m., watching for everyone's scheduled arrival, stars and the wranglers who manage them included. An 8-person hair and make-up team is waiting upstairs, too - which is where most everyone is shipped upon arrival, just to get "camera ready" for the morning's big line-up announcement for media.

Everyone will be arriving soon, though maybe not exactly as scheduled. A few big names are dealing with flight delays, and there's a massive subway delay. (The TTC is good enough for Rachel McAdams, and a few CBC stars too.) "It was subway chaos!" Marketplace's Tom Harrington exclaims while checking in; Terry Fallis, whose novel Best Laid Plans, is being adapted for CBC, is another victim of public transit.

Between arrivals, downtime for talent managers and wranglers involves scanning entrances, practicing the correct pronunciation of TV stars' names and the occasional pep talk for younger staff: "You'll have no time to be nervous, 'cause you're just going all day."

9:42 a.m.
"Here is when things get busy," says Talent Manager Carolyn Rohaly. Krystin Pellerin, David Chilton, Dayo Ade, Graham Wardle, etc. etc. Everyone's arriving, everyone's being escorted upstairs for hair and make-up.

10 a.m.
The make-up room looks like the real party, if only 'cause everyone wants inside. Ron MacLean was first in line when we got there, ready for this game of musical salon chairs. CBC News' Diana Swain and Cracked stars Dayo Ade and Luisa D'Oliveira were already being powdered and hairsprayed. Ian Hanomansing waited outside, chatting with Canadian Olympic skier Dara Howell, there with her dad. If you followed one of them out to catch up on beauty-shop gossip, they'd take you straight to the Artist Lounge where everyone was gathering for a briefing on the day's events - plus coffee and breakfast and whatnot.

10:34 a.m.
Now that everyone - save for a few stragglers - is in one place, the crossover of the CBC universes is complete. Heartland's Graham Wardle chats with an animated Tom Harrington; CBC meteorologist Claire Martin enters the room by enveloping Mr. D's Mark Forward in a hug. ("Let's get drunk!" she jokes; you'll only find Perrier at the bar.)

Then - Ting! Ting! Ting! - it's time for our morning announcement, courtesy John Wimbs, CBC's Director of Publicity, Communications, Marketing and Brand. "What we're trying to do this year," he says, looking out at the room's 10th-floor view of the Toronto skyline, "is remind Canadians that we're the public broadcaster, but we're a whole lot more than just that."

10:45 a.m.
Elevator doors on the 10th floor continously pour out packs of reporters. Everyone's being corralled, standing room only, into Studio 40. It's the largest multi-camera capable studio soundstage in Canada. Today, it's the starting point for the '13-'14 Fall Launch announcement.

11 a.m.
It's the talent's turn to be herded, as wranglers assemble and begin nudging 80-some stars out of the Artist Lounge and towards Studio 40. Mr. D's Gerry Dee doesn't buy into the rush, pouring one last coffee for the road before joining the crew.

-- Twitter (@CBCLive)

11:18 a.m.
Fall Launch isn't "launched" until Peter Mansbridge makes an appearance. CBC News' Chief Correspondent welcomes media and CBC'ers alike to this year's announcement before a sizzle reel of fall programs launches. But after the titles of new shows like reality series Four Rooms and Recipe to Riches fly past on the big screen, the focus shifts to a group tour of the Canada Lives Here Experience, the Expo-style exhibit that opened to the public last week. Media and CBC stars alike spend the next half hour being bombarded with the sights and sounds of CBC-style Canada.

For more on what that's like, check out our CBC Live gallery (and just imagine Allan Hawco, Heather Hiscox and a few dozen entertainment reporters are photobombing every shot).


11:30 a.m.
The Canada Lives Here Experience tour opens with a 360-degree, big-screen montage of CBC personalities and Canadiana. Murdoch Mysteries star Yannick Bisson had seen it a few days before Fall Launch and loved it. He figured a few guests in the audience would feel the same way.

"One of the fun things has been seeing the expression on the Olympian kids' faces, looking around at everything happening around them," he told CBC Live at the launch party. (Olympians including Kelsey Serwa and Dara Howell were in the building all day.) "About mid morning I saw Travis Garrit who's the world champion aerial skier and I said to him, 'Wait 'til you see this presentation in the main studio, the six minute movie. I said 'You're going to be proud to be Canadian.'"

"I caught up with him again afterwards," Bisson says. He was right.

11-ish a.m.
Mingling! An extra-special CBC "family reunion" went down during the tour. One of Mark O'Brien's first acting jobs was on Kids' CBC. Murdoch Mysteries' Georgina Reilly is married to O'Brien (who's now on Republic of Doyle), but she's never seen any of his Kids' CBC clips. ("I know there's a reason why, but I'm going to find them!" she says.) Until Fall Launch, she'd never met his Kids' CBC co-stars either. "It was cool to see all his old colleagues," she told CBC Live at the launch party, remembering her highlight of the day: meeting Patty and the Kids crew.

Interviews begin!

A Fall Launch junket is that very special time of year when countless entertainment reporters forget to consult Google and ask Gerry Dee if he was ever a teacher in real life. Countless others ask very interesting questions, and in the studio where Steven and Chris usually shoots, temporary interview suites are set up for the press, while still other outlets - CBC Live, included - wait for their turn with the stars in offices lining the sixth-floor hallways.

Interviews are pre-booked, but the schedule is never predictable. (It's impossible to predict how much time you'll need to get the perfect soundbite about ab crunches out of Allan Hawco, for instance.) So publicists run between talent and journalists securing a few moments of face time before the stars rush home for an important business matter, or even more important nap. Despite the bustle, the hallways become a waiting room. Thankfully, the advent of Instagram and "selfie" photography helps pass the time.


3:15 p.m.
The junket is shutting down for the day, but CBC Live's conversations with the stars keep going, wrapping with Q&As with Allan Hawco and Krystin Pellerin. (Look for those Republic of Doyle video interviews closer to the Season 5 launch.)

4-ish p.m.
CBC chef Stefano Faita starts walking to the Broadcast Centre for the Fall Launch party, and winds up living out a dream. "One of my best moments this year for the Fall Launch was I got to meet one of my favourite goaltenders from the NHL, Martin Brodeur! We were staying at the same hotel and we actually walked out of the hotel at the same time, and we were walking toward the CBC," Faita says. "I wasn't sure if he was coming here, but then we met up again in the elevator and I was like, 'Dude. Big fan.' And he said the same thing to me: 'My wife loves your show!' It was amazing!"

-- Andi Hnatykiw

5:45 p.m.
From the atrium check-in station, the 500+ guests rocket upstairs where they'll find the party - and the Canada Lives Here tour. In a way, everything that happened this morning is about to repeat itself, but this time 80 CBC stars will mix with senior clients and agencies and partners instead of media. Mixing is easier when accompanied by platters of bite-sized chicken-and-waffles.

6 p.m.
Rick Mercer welcomes the crowd from the same "CBC gem" stage that Mansbridge appeared on hours earlier. He fights the urge to make a Rob Ford joke, instead cracking wise about Allan Hawco's abs.

6:37 p.m.
Everyone is informed that more than 60 celebs are in the room and ready to mingle. Also of interest: it's announced that a vodka-tasting station is waiting in the Canada Lives Here Experience's Hall of Sport.

-- Andi Hnatykiw

6:45 p.m.
Stars including Naomi Snieckus, Stefano Faita and Christine Tizzard head to the CBC Live Lounge - the only VIP booth in the world where everyone's invited. Set up in the 10th floor atrium, anyone who wants to get to the bar, or the bar inside the Canada Lives Here Experience, passes by. A significant percentage opts to whip out a camera and take photos of David Sutcliffe, Adam Beach and Ron James for the rest of the night.

-- Andi Hnatykiw

7:56 p.m.
Shaun Majumder photobombs Yannick Bisson with the assistance of a CBC Live interviewer.

"Sorry, Yannick!"

Says Bisson: "They'll actually be able to get money for that photo now."

8 p.m.
Heartland's Amber Marshall asks to play celebrity correspondent for CBC Live, interviewing her CBC idol, Shaun Majumder. It's believed their embargoed conversation has something to do with cats.

-- Twitter (@CBCLive)

8:36 p.m.
That very special moment when Murdoch Mysteries' Jonny Harris stops worrying about Fall Launch and starts to enjoy himself. "Right now I've got some buddies here from Republic of Doyle that I've known from St. John's for a long time," he says. "I'm not worried if there's cat hair on my suit so much now. I'm just having fun and talking with people."

-- Andi Hnatykiw

9:50 p.m.
Georgina Reilly, Jonny Harris, Naomi Snieckus, Helene Joy, Mark O'Brien, Pascale Hutton and Tom Harrington - all piled together on a CBC Live Lounge couch - crack up over Ron James, who appears to be impersonating Robert DeNiro. Reasons unknown.

-- Andi Hnatykiw

10-ish p.m.
After several hours of catching up with each other - and photo-happy fans - the stars clear out
while the rest of the party keeps dancing inside Studio 40. That's it for another year - or at least 'til the end of the month. (There's still launch events to come in Vancover and Calgary.)

VIDEO: What's the Canada Lives Here Experience Really Like?
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