BANFF, Alberta -- CAA has snagged five Hollywood-based Canadian screenwriters for its comedy department.
The agency will represent the quintet’s new Los Angeles-based company, Maple Gravy, as it focuses on making comedy in all formats for North American broadcasters and the world market.
Maple Gravy is led by five Canadian TV scribes with Hollywood credits and addresses: Robert Cohen (The Ben Stiller Show, The Big Bang Theory), recurring The Simpsons writers Joel Cohen and Tim Long, Chuck Tatham (How I Met Your Mother, Arrested Development) and Dan Signer, creator of Disney Channel’s A.N.T. Farm.
“They know how to make hit shows,” said David Miller, a partner at Toronto-based A71 Productions, who will jointly rep the Hollywood ex-pats internationally along with CAA’s Rob Kenneally and Renee Kurtz.
The five partners will either executive produce or showrun Canadian-originated projects, or have their own comedy projects dipped in maple syrup to tap free government money on offer to local comedy fare shot in Canada.
The Maple Gravy partners have already been at work on Canadian projects, ahead of solidifying their collaboration.
Joel Cohen developed the Crash Canyon primetime animated series for Canadian producer Breakthrough Entertainment and wrote the script along with Long, Tatham and producer-executive story editor Greg Lawrence.
U.S. indie cable network MAV TV acquired Crash Canyon for the U.S. market, and MTV picked up the international broadcast rights.
CAA’s Kenneally and Miller are this week at the Banff World Media Festival, taking meetings with Canadian broadcasters looking to possibly exploit Maple Gravy’s command of the Hollywood sitcom.
The company launch coincides with Canadian screenwriters with Hollywood experience increasingly returning home to make sitcoms as they work both sides of the border.
Examples include recent Canadian chucklers like City’s Seed, created by Joseph Raso, who developed the Disney pilot for Zombies & Cheerleaders, and fellow Los Angeles-based TV writer Tim McAuliffe (Up All Night, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon), who is stick-handling the first season of the ensemble comedy Satisfaction for CTV and has another project, The Khouris, ordered to pilot by rival CBC.
City is also getting set to debut Package Deal, a multicamera comedy from Los Angeles-based Canadian creator Andrew Orenstein, whose Hollywood credits include Malcolm in the Middle and 3rd Rock From the Sun.
The strategy for Canadian broadcasters, eyeing international financing to complement their own investment in homegrown shows, is backing Hollywood-based Canadian talent that can make slick comedies that stand up well against popular American sitcoms on their primetime schedules.
The new industry model is underpinned by Canadian producers opening up Los Angeles development offices and keeping lists of Canadian scribes with Hollywood credits to engage.
In addition, the new-look Canuck sitcoms are using a host of Hollywood stars from Canada like Pamela Anderson, Eugene Levy and Jessica Pare to boost their chances for foreign sales.
Maple Gravy is the brainchild of Robert Cohen, who, being Canadian, is already polite about possible success with the new venture. “If we fail, we will apologize profusely, which Canadians find very exciting,” he said.