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Spotlight on STUDIO BLACK!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Studio BlackPhoto credit: Dan Callis

Find stories from Black Nova Scotia. Add a seven-member, all-Black ensemble cast, each of whom will play several roles – sometimes in the same episode. Add three Black Nova Scotian directors. Mix it all up in the Black Box of CBC’s Studio 1. What do you get? STUDIO BLACK!

Scheduled for its second season television debut later this year, mini-series STUDIO BLACK! shares stories collected from rural and urban Black Communities in 1920’s Nova Scotia.  We caught up with producer Terry Greenlaw and writer William MacGillivray to learn more about the production.

Q. Tell us about the STUDIO BLACK! team.
A. Our production team is an exciting mix of CBC personnel and freelance Nova Scotian artists and technicians including many African Nova Scotians.  At the forefront is our ensemble of seven Black performers and three Black directors. This season, we have amped up the training component of our structure and have invited four aspiring filmmakers to ‘shadow’ our directors as they prepare, shoot and edit their episodes.  

This season’s cast members are:  Kate MacDonald, Nathan D Simmons, Cavell Holland-Borden, Adrian Bromfield, Stephen MD Lawrence, Micha Cromwell and Brent Williams.  Directors are Cory Bowles and Juanita Peters from season one and Koumbie, a member of last year’s ensemble who is making her STUDIO BLACK! directorial debut this year.

Q.  Why was Nova Scotia the right place for this production?
A. Picture Plant is one of the oldest production companies in Atlantic Canada and has been committed to staying and working in this region since 1981. The company was a pioneer in the early days of our industry and continues to be forward thinking in the kinds of stories it tells and the way it engages with the industry at large. 

Despite last year’s change to the provincial funding model, Nova Scotia’s highly trained and experienced production teams remain a vital resource for projects from abroad and for those that are based here at home.  STUDIO BLACK! is an excellent example of Nova Scotian stories being told by Nova Scotians.

It is a testament to the quality of our team’s work that STUDIO BLACK!Season One, was nominated in the category of Best Movie or Mini-Series at the Canadian Screen Awards Gala held in Toronto this year and the series was named The Best Nova Scotian Television Series of 2015 at the recent Nova Scotia Screen Awards Gala.

Photo credit: Dan Callis

Q. How were these stories chosen?  
A. It was the stories that inspired the series. Picture Plant’s Terry Greenlaw and William MacGillivray attended a presentation by Canada’s Poet Laureate, Dr. George Elliott Clarke, who mentioned stories from rural Black Nova Scotian communities that were collected in the 1920s.  Sensing something interesting and unusual, they sought out the collection and then adapted some of the stories as several half-hour episodes for television.  The CBC responded very favourably to the scripts and quickly supported the idea of creating a mini-series. 

Q.  Why do you think it’s important to tell these stories through film?

A. It is important that the cultures that helped make Canada what it is today are represented within mainstream media. The Black Communities of Nova Scotia are the oldest in Canada. The culture they hold dear runs deep and remains vital, yet it continues to be underrepresented on the screens of our nation. 

As noted above, we wanted African Nova Scotians to be involved in the telling of their own stories both in front of and behind the camera.  So, while the notion of diversity did not drive the creation of this series, it has, quite naturally, become the result.

Photo credit: Dan Callis

Q. On a personal note, what’s your favourite thing about this project? 
A. As producers dealing with ever present financial imperatives, issues of funding, cash flow etc., it is so rewarding to be able to enjoy one’s time on the set, working with people who are so talented and so committed.  Having the opportunity to see these stories come alive on the screen and hearing all the positive feedback they have received has been very, very gratifying.   

A final word from producer Terry Greenlaw and writer William MacGillivray:
Those who have seen STUDIO BLACK! are quick to point out how unusual the shows are.  We agree. They are unusual. They are also clever, visually arresting, wonderfully directed and acted and are particularly local. We believe in the importance of local stories finding their way onto the screens of the nation and beyond. STUDIO BLACK! aspires to do just that and so far has succeeded.

Season 1 of STUDIO BLACK! is available at www.cbc.ca/studioblack.The upcoming season will be broadcast on the CBC later this year. Stay tuned to the show’s Facebook page for updates.

STUDIO BLACK! is qualified to receive funding through the Nova Scotia Film & Television Production Incentive Fund. Learn more about filming in Nova Scotia and accessing the Nova Scotia Film & Television Production Incentive Fund.

Use our Film Fund Estimator tool to estimate funding available for your Nova Scotia production.