REELSIDE: The Documentary Series We Didn’t Realize We Needed

Ever wondered what it would be like to make a 16mm film with George A. Romero?

Or what it’s like to be on a photo shoot in rural Ontario with Caitlin Cronenberg and Sarah Gadon?

While these things may have crossed your mind, you probably never wondered what it would be like to go on a hunting trip with Bruce McDonald and Don McKellar.

Regardless of whether or not you knew these were things you’d like to observe, TMN’s new documentary series Reelside takes us there. The first season consists of six very different half hour documentaries, each focussing on a different group of filmmakers. Apart from its concentration on cinema, there is little else that binds these six unique parts, each with their own director and journey.

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In addition the aforementioned episodes, the series also includes parts which focus on Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen’s ongoing collaboration, and genre-specific episodes on Science Fiction and Superheroes. Even though the filmmakers featured aren’t exclusively Canadian, the outsider mentality is a common thread. American director George A. Romero, known for cult horror classics like Night of the Living Dead, actually calls Toronto home now, whereas B.C.-born Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg work exclusively in Hollywood. It’s clear that the director of each episode has some kind of personal connection to their subject. It ranges from close friends (Sarah Gadon directed the episode on Caitlin Cronenberg) to casual acquaintances. Evan Goldberg told us about how he became involved:

“Taylor Clarke, the director of the episode is someone who I met when I had just started out. He was literally one of the first people to ever ask me if I could read his script, having just been the guy who would ask other people if they would read his script, I felt obliged to read the first few people who came to me and said ‘could you read my script?’, and he was one of them. He wrote a script about firefighting based on his own experience, he had a job starting forrest fires to stop forrest fires. When there’s a forrest fire you start one in the opposite direction, when they meet in the middle they suck the air out of each other. I thought it was interesting concept. I thought that he wrote it better than most people write things.”

Clarke was rarely in touch with Goldberg in the years between asking him to read his script and asking him to take part in Reelside, but that just goes to show how you never know the different ways connecting and helping people in the film industry will pan out. In the McKellar/ McDonald epidsode, Mckellar’s Sensitive Skin editor Matthew Hannam is given the chance to direct what turns out to be the funniest Reelside entry. Despite McKellar and McDonald never having hunted before, Hannam had the idea that the episode should follow them on a hunting trip. McKellar isn’t sold on the idea but sets out in a camper van with McDonald and the camera crew, only to constantly question Hannam’s loosely formed ideas of what the trip should be. In true Bruce style, he just sits back, smiles and enjoys the ride.

bruce mcdonald

Entertainment writer, reporter and film critic Richard Crouse acted as executive producer on the series. This title can mean any number of things, so we contacted him to clarify his role. “I helped shape stories. It’s a documentary series so you never knew exactly what you would get. My job was to look at things and have an idea about whether the story was being told, and whether everything fit together, like a big jigsaw puzzle.”

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Crouse helped with the decision to make some episodes about specific filmmakers, while others tackled the broader subject of genre. The science fiction episode features interviews with several filmmakers including Graeme Manson, a Jack-of-all-Trades who has written for shows such as Flashpoint and Being Erica, but is best known for being one of the co-creators of Orphan Black and the Sci-Fi classic Cube.  Despite being largely known as a genre writer, Manson credits the Canadian film industry with being able to branch out beyond genre writing. “None of the other things I’ve got going right now are genre. I’ve always been a genre hopper. One of the things that a career in Canadian film or TV can let you do is bounce back and forth between genres. I think it’s changing but you’re more likely to get pegged to as a certain kind of writer in the states than here.”

In our talks with Goldberg, Manson and Crouse, the subject of sequels and subsequent seasons seemed to come up often. Goldberg and Rogen are currently writing Neighbours 2, their first sequel. “I think we just cracked it.” Goldberg told us, “It’s not going to be a shitty sequel, I genuinely think it will be good.” We took the opportunity to ask about a rumoured This Is The End sequel. “It’s unlikely we’ll make  a sequel to anything else we’ve ever done. Too many years I said I was going to do a sequel to Pineapple Express and I just haven’t. I’m not  a sequel guy, except for Neighbours, which we’re going to make a hundred of.” Goldberg and Rogen are also busy with their first TV series, an adaptation of Preacher for AMC, and an adult computer animated comedy called Sausage Party which Goldberg calls ” the greatest thing we will ever make, and our most special project ever.”

Manson is in the middle of writing Season 4 of Orphan Black, and while the show is a huge hit, they’re only looking to do one or two more seasons after this. “We do have an end point in mind, I don’t want to stretch it out. It starts to get thin. Get out before it gets shitty.” When asked how he felt about the sequels to Cube with which he nor original co-writer Vincenzo Natali (also interviewed in Reelside‘s Sci-Fi episode) were involved, Manson’s five word answer was “Utter indifference. Never saw them.”

George A Romero

Crouse told us that subsequent seasons of Reelside is a possibility, but everyone is taking breather at the moment and seeing how people react to the first season, which just finished airing last week. “I think that the series is really beautiful, if you look at them all together, which you’ll be able to do once they’ve all had their first run on TMN, you’ll see as you go though VOD and see them all together just how beautifully they fit together.” says Crouse, “I like to think of them like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown, they all look a little different, they all have a slightly different point of view, but they feel like a series. That was the important thing to all of us.”

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We asked Goldberg and Manson who they would like to watch a Reelside episode on if it were picked up for a second season. Goldberg said Guillermo del Toro or Neill Blomkamp, who just so happen to have both emigrated to Canada from Mexico and South Africa respectively. Manson also kept his picks close to home, “I’d love to see one on Guy Maddin or Jean-Marc Vallée.”

One of the great things about this series is the pride it shows in Canada without being in your face about it. Nobody talks about what it means to be Canadian, the state of our industry, or what makes a movie Canadian, all tired subjects in my opinion. The Romero episode never mentions that the director now lives here and has Canadian Citizenship. The Rogen/ Goldberg episode doesn’t boast the Hollywood success of these homegrown talents and the Sci-Fi episode doesn’t mention that Orphan Black is one of the few Canadian co-produced shows that’s garnered international acclaim. The show is about films and the people who make them, who also just happen to be Canadian.

The entire series is available on TMN GO and TMN OnDemand and will be premiering on Movie Central in the fall. Check out the trailer below. 



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