John Dunsworth, Cathy Jones filming web series teaser in pitch for funding

Gone are the days when new television shows wooed audiences on a weekly basis and Halifax filmmaker Caley MacLennan is filming a teaser for a web series in hopes of bolstering funding for the project featuring John Dunsworth and Cathy Jones.

Halifax filmmaker Caley MacLennan says funding models now require shows to show they have audience interest

Actor John Dunsworth with Nichols and Dimez creator Caley MacLennan will be shooting a teaser for the web series Sunday night in Halifax. (Submitted by Caley MacLennan)

Two well-known East Coast actors are in Halifax filming a new web series, or rather, a teaser for the series, which will be used to try to drum up funding for the project. 

John Dunsworth, best known as the irreverent Mr. Lahey from the Trailer Park Boys, and 22 Minutes comedian Cathy Jones, are both taking part in a shoot for "Nichols And Dimez," created by filmmaker Caley MacLennan. 

The show concept centres on a long-time drug dealing family in the fictional fishing town of Skag Harbour.

MacLennan says it's a realistic story about a family in a rural Nova Scotia town, with the added touch of the supernatural with a ghost of the murdered patriarch. 

"On the surface it's a very funny, kinda whacky show, but underneath it there's some very strong themes about modern family, about grievance and taking responsibility for yourself," he said Sunday. 

MacLennan has written six 12-minute episodes, as well as six half-hour episodes, in hopes of later re-purposing the web series for television if there's interest. Generating that interest means promoting the teaser and the series before it's shot. 

New revenue models

MacLennan, who is writing, directing and co-producing, says the first challenge is securing funding. He says the two-minute teaser was developed with the Independent Projection Fund in mind because it has money available for Canadian web drama series.

The way filmmakers pitch and market their projects has changed dramatically in recent years, he says. With the advent of Netflix original programs and a constant stream of videos on YouTube, the days when new television shows wooed audiences over weeks and months are all but gone. 

"Anyone with money and that has a larger platform, they want to see something that already has momentum because things are hitting the ground running when they do end up getting picked up," he said.

"To try to to elevate yourself above a very large pack is to come to somebody with an audience already built. With a web series, we've already been doing that."

MacLennan says the plan will be to pitch the project to online distributors, broadcasters and if needed, crowdsource funding to ensure the web series gets made.

Limited crew and equipment in Nova Scotia

Adding to the challenges, he says changes to the Nova Scotia's film tax credit mean it's a far different environment for shooting a project. 

MacLennan says it's been harder to find a production crew and he's ordered a camera from Toronto, whereas in the past, he might have rented one here for a discount because there were plenty in the province for other projects.

Despite the leg work required to get a project off the ground, MacLennan says presenting an idea in development allows people to respond and give feedback, something that can shape the story. 

"Good or bad, the audience is right there and ready," he said. "In the end, you need to be ready for that because that's where the enjoyment is going to come from."


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