Kim Todd, Part 1: Early Career in Manitoba and Saskatchewan
Interviewed by Fil Fraser at Banff World Media Festival on June, 2011
I'm Kim Todd; I've been a producer of film and television for many years.
Fraser. I was sitting with some people at lunch today who see you as an icon.
Todd. If you hang around long enough, you're bound to become an icon. When I started in the film and television industry in Toronto, we were pioneers. I signed the first union agreement for Atlantis films, which was one of the up-and-coming companies that grew to be quite large very quickly. In the early 1990s, while working for Atlantis, I worked in New Zealand which also had a new and exciting industry.
Then I came to Winnipeg to shoot The Diviners based on the novel by Margaret Laurence. There was a well-established, cultural industry in Winnipeg: the Winnipeg film group, with Guy Maddin, came out of that. Winnipeg is a cultural centre it didn’t have a well-developed commercial industry to complement that. When Credo Entertainment from Winnipeg offered me a partnership, I was very attracted, partly because I’d just become a single mother of a four-year-old and needed to figure out how to be a mother and a producer at the same time.
As a partner, I thought that I could choose my projects and not take projects that sent me to South Africa for two years: not especially romantic if you're the mother of a four-year-old. I was also attracted by the pioneering aspect of Winnipeg; the crews were young and enthusiastic. The props guy would work on your show during the day and at a local gallery at night. Your electrics guys would go in and shoot short films. There was an enthusiasm for making film and television that I remembered happening in Toronto; but, by the time I moved to Winnipeg, Toronto had become more about the business than about pioneering. So, it was a rejuvenating thing for me to go there.
F. Winnipeg is one of the great Canadian secrets; it has a long history of supporting culture.
T. Yes. I really went there looking for some change in my life; I had no other connection to Winnipeg. That partnership with Credo Entertainment allowed me to develop children's shows that my daughter, as she grew up, participated in. I did The Adventures of Shirley Holmes for YTV there, which did very well. My daughter would read the scripts, make comments, and feel like she was involved in my working life; it helped me personally to have the kind of partnership that allowed me to do just as much work, but leave at five and pick her up from her daycare, take her home, put her to bed, and then do some more work. Winnipeg helped me to re-arrange my life.
F. Talk about the film community in Winnipeg at the time and how you became part of it.
T. When I joined Credo Entertainment, Michael Scott also joined; he is a legend in Canadian film certainly in Winnipeg and the West. He had been running the National Film Board office in Winnipeg; Derek Mazur was the CEO of Credo at the time. He was the business head; Michael and I were the producers. One of the first projects we did was call the “Prairie Sixpack,” which was six movies that CKND, Izzy Asper's small network at the time, had bought into. They were meant to be developmental for Prairie crews. We wanted to find two scripts from each province and produce them as TV movies. As it happened, we couldn't find six scripts that we loved; but we did one in each province, so it became the “Prairie Threepack” in the end.
Then I went to Regina working with a Regina writer and crew of Manitobans, and a pretty green crew. I remember Regina grip turning to my first AD, saying, “You guys are just here to steal our jobs and our women.” It was at that point that I realized there were some barriers we needed to break down on the Prairies and in Canada. Now, Saskatchewan has a well-developed industry as well. I was proud to be there at the beginning.
The movie we made was called Paris or Somewhere. It starred Callum Rennie and Molly Parker, who were also new to the industry. It was directed by Brad Turner, who is now the show runner on Hawaii five o. It was his first long-form movie. So everyone involved was either new to the industry or moving up. It was a lot of fun. I loved it. My daughter was out there in the Qu'Appelle Valley being bitten by the local dog, as I remember it.... it's always been exciting to help nurture creative talents. It was the first script for the writer of Paris or Somewhere; we worked together for two years on it. We had an interesting relationship. On the first day of shooting, his wife took a picture of the two of us and he was so excited that he stepped on my toe. That sort of speaks to our relationship: a lot of nurturing and a little pain. He was nominated for a Gemini for that script. I found that very rewarding.
F. Where does the passion come from?
T. Telling stories since I was in grade 3. My grade 3 teacher was also my aunt; she taught us how to write compositions. Every week, we had to write a composition and I looked forward to it; that year in my life was a difficult one. I was 8 years old; John Kennedy was shot in November; my younger brother was born at Christmas; the Beatles showed up on the Ed Sullivan show at Christmas; my father, who was a fabulous but troubled man, ended up in jail in January; and it all fell apart. Writing stories was where I went to escape temporarily. I could write compositions and be somewhere else on my own terms and come back feeling refreshed and renewed.