Bill Brioux On The Lot?

American broadcasters have searched high and low for the next great singer, the next top model, and even the next great boxing champion.  Now, they’re looking for the next big filmmaker.  Mark Burnett, the executive producer of Survivor & The Amazing Race, and Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg are the Hollywood bigwigs putting their considerable muscle behind On The Lot.  You may have seen a promo for the show on CTV.  (You know, the one with that guy on the cellphone walking through a set?  They’ve already aired it many times.  You can’t miss it.)
 
Combining elements of Survivor, American Idol and Project Greenlight, the premise, according to thelot.com, the show’s official website, is this:  16 finalists, all budding Hitchcocks from around the world (who’ve yet to be officially selected, by the way), will each create short movies from a different genre each week.  Like Idol, their work will be scrutinized by a small group of judges (movie exec, critic, rotating selection of mostly directors) as well as the home audience.  Ultimately, the weekly votes from the public will determine who goes on and who goes home.  The winner receives a development deal with Dreamworks Studios.  Yeah, there’s no promise of an actual directing gig unlike HBO’s Greenlight where viewers witnessed an unknown moviemaker attempting to make his first independent movie after beating out 10,000 other hopefuls.
 
The deadline to enter this competition was February 16th so if you still wanted to participate, unfortunately, you’ve missed your chance. However, if you check out the official website you can see all the accepted entries from contestants who are currently in the running.  All you need is the latest version of Adobe Flash Player (#9 is the latest one but the movies will play on #8) and a decent Internet connection (thelot.com recommends broadband “with at least 500” or more “Kbps for the best viewing experience”).  If you also have Windows 2000 or higher (the site recommends the new Vista or the slightly older XP), load times should be quick and playback should be smooth.
 
But if you’re like me and possess an older, slower computer with a dial-up connection, grab a snack and make some coffee.  You’ll be waiting a while.  Instead of putting up with the starts and stops of a slow-loading entry, wait until the whole thing loads.  Then, you can watch a film as many times as you like without annoying interruptions for “buffering”.
 
The vast majority of contestants are unknown to the public-at-large with one very notable exception.
 
A few hours ago, I received an unusual message from a familiar Canadian.  I was directed to check out a short film this person had playing on thelot.com.  Curious, I had to see it.
 
Who sent the message?  Would you believe Bill Brioux?
 
It’s true.  The former Toronto Sun TV Critic is one of the many who’ve entered shorts in this competition.  Despite landing another job with The Canadian Press (he’s thankfully back on the TV beat submitting weekly columns), he’s got a lot of idle time.  Just for fun, he submitted a silent film he made in his early 20s with his University Of Toronto pals way back in 1980. 
 
It’s called Puck Soup (a goof on the old Marx Brothers’ film, Duck Soup) and it’s basically two hockey players – one a Toronto Make BeLeaf, the other a Chicago Black Hawk – competing for what looks like a bowling trophy.  Bill was the director, co-writer and cameraman.  (He also has a small role playing a Make BeLeaf goalie.  Like Raycroft, he stinks at the shoot-out.  However, he does manage a quick, hilarious Groucho Marx impression during the opening titles.  I’m happy to report that alarming moustache isn’t real.)  There are four areas of competition:  shooting, fighting, scoring and goal scoring.  The entire movie was filmed in the Central Arena in Etobicoke, Ontario.  (To screen Bill’s entry, click here.)
 
There’s no dialogue, just some sound effects and a musical accompaniment that Bill added after digitizing the original footage he shot on an old Bolex 16mm camera.  (For the new sound, he used software made by Pinnacle Systems.) 
 
The film runs a little over 4 minutes and is preceded by a new intro Bill taped in the basement of his Toronto home.  (His teenage daughter, Katie, shot the 43-second opening.  This was a last-minute rule change, by the way.  Originally, intros were not necessary.)  Pay close attention to the book he’s holding at the start.  It’s Mark Burnett’s “Jump In! Even If You Don’t Know How To Swim” which he promptly throws away.  Why did Bill do that?  “I goofed on Burnett’s book in the intro just because I had a copy and thought it would make somebody laugh.”  (I wondered if that bit helped get his film accepted.)
 
Just before he throws to the movie, he walks over to a giant Three Stooges prop.  Where did that come from?
 
“The Three Stooges prop used to stand behind my desk at work at The Sun.  It was one of the few things I brought [home] with me.  It was given to a former Sun editor and I grabbed it at an in-house auction.”
 
So far, Puck Soup has been screened about 130 times and every posted comment has been surprisingly positive.  (“[P]eople seem to like hockey and comedy and the silent comedy antics are at least different from the usual art house submissions.”)  So, why did Bill, a respected TV writer who, believe it or not, once beat Oscar-nominee Atom Egoyan at the 1982 CBC Telefest competition with another comedy called Varsity Blues, jump into this?
 
“I submitted the film thinking I could at least write about how films were submitted from Canada when the time came to report on On The Lot (which launches on CTV and Fox in May).”  (Once the program begins airing, there will be two episodes airing every week.  A competition show and an elimination show, not unlike the latter stages of Idol.)
 
Bill hopes his film will survive at least to the next round.  He noted that “the more traffic and the more hits and positive reviews I can generate…the better my chances are of sneaking into another round.  It is all in fun and I do have too much time on my hands right now, so, what the hell.”
 
According to the FAQ of thelot.com, Bill and all the other filmmakers will find out at the end of this month, just a matter of days (not counting possible delays) whether or not they’ve made it to the next phase of the contest.  To make up your own mind about Puck Soup, click here.  To make a comment about Bill’s film, you need to be a member of The Lot’s “Community”.  No worries.  Joining is free.
 
If you want to read Bill’s recent work for The Canadian Press, check out the following links:
 
 
 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 24, 2007
2:10 a.m.
 
UPDATE:  The Toronto Sun Family Blog has more on Bill.  Click here to read the entertaining story.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, February 24, 2007
12:30 p.m.
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Published in: on February 24, 2007 at 2:16 am  Leave a Comment  

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