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Incendo

Programming Profile

Romance is in the air for Incendo

07-05-2021

Over the past two decades, Canada’s Incendo has made the unlikely jump from producing thrillers to romcoms. Execs from the company discuss their playlist for C21’s Content LA On Demand and how they created romance on screen despite coronavirus restrictions.

 

Canadian producer and distributor Incendo is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Since its launch two decades ago, the Montreal-based company has specialised in producing and distributing high-quality television programming created and developed for the global market.

 

“Television movies have been the backbone of the company,” explains Gavin Reardon, head of international sales and coproductions at Incendo, which became part of Quebecor Media’s TVA Group following a C$19.5m (US$15m) buy-out in 2019. “For a long time, we produced female-led thrillers that, domestically, had a great audience and were successful. But over the past 20 years, interest in thrillers started to wane and we took this as an opportunity to expand our product line.”

 

Part of the strategy to diversify the firm’s content offerings includes a growing slate of romantic comedy movies. Indeed, the seven films on the company’s Content LA On Demand playlist are all romcoms and, furthermore, were all produced amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Reardon
Gavin Reardon, Incendo

“In the past, we’ve typically done five movies a year and we wrap them between March and November. Last year, there was a standstill until June because of Covid-19. In the end, we actually shot seven movies in the space of four months, which is nearly 50% more than we would typically shoot. This year we are already in prep for our seventh film,” says Ian Whitehead, Incendo’s head of production and development.

 

The pandemic is forcing Incendo to approach filmmaking more creatively and it has led to positive developments, such as fast-tracking an idea to shoot overseas, says Whitehead. “In the past, most of our shows have been shot locally in Canada, but this year we went ahead with plans to shoot in New Zealand as it had extremely low numbers of coronavirus cases. In a way, the pandemic worked in our favour as we grew faster and maybe spread our wings a little wider,” he adds.

 

It’s not only the filming locations that have been overhauled because of the pandemic. The company now employs a Darth Vader-esque silicone facemask on shoots in Canada, where social distancing regulations are in place, to recreate the classic romcom kiss safely and convincingly, Whitehead explains. Other innovations include hiring real-life couples to play the co-lead roles or to stand in as a photo double, in order to keep physical contact within pre-existing social bubbles.

 

Whitehead
Ian Whitehead, Incendo

One such film is One of a Kind Love, which stars Jocelyn Hudon and her fiancé Jake Manley as the romantic leads. Directed by Philippe Lupien, the film follows a woman (Hudon) whose dreams of being a jeweller have been put on the backburner due to her demanding job at a country club. When a vacant shop becomes available her fortunes look set to change, and along the way she begins a flirtation with another interested renter, played by Manley.

 

“What is different about this film is that the cast is slightly younger, giving it a different feel, which is really refreshing. There’s a real trend towards young-adult romance films now, and this film is in that realm,” explains Reardon. Whitehead adds that Hudon plays a character whose passion is making unique jewellery pieces from things she has found, like repurposed pieces of metal. “She finds beauty in things that have been discarded and this young idealism runs throughout the movie.”

 

Next up is Cupids on Beacon Street, which was directed by Pat Kiely and written by Claire Ross Dunn. Starring Britt Irvin and Jeremy Guilbaut, it tells the story of a publisher of romance novels (Irvin), who is asked to housesit for a couple of writers. The vacant house, however, has also been promised to self-help coach (Guilbaut) and despite some cynicism and reluctance about love, they become an unexpected couple.

 

One of a Kind Love
One of a Kind Love

Irvin’s character “is so jaded and does not buy into love at all, despite editing romance novels,” Whitehead explains, while Guilbaut’s self-help coach “has just got out of a relationship and doesn’t want to go there. But they’re charming together and it’s beautiful to watch their love unfold.”

 

He adds: “It also has more of a modern take on romance compared with the rest of the playlist, which has something to do with the setting, which is in Montreal, and the overall vibe of film. It has an indie feel.”

 

The next playlist title, Together Forever Tea, on the other hand, has a fairytale quality, according to Whitehead. “It doesn’t feel like the real world, it feels slightly suspended. There is something magic about it,” he says.

 

Cupids on Beacon Street
Cupids on Beacon Street

Shot in New Zealand, which doubles for Connecticut, the film follows a woman who returns to a small town to run a tea shop she inherited following the death of her aunt. While getting to grips with the business, she meets and falls in love with a guy who was a friend of her aunt’s. “It reminds me of a fable because the pair of them are trying to come up with this dream tea that her aunt had entered in a competition,” Whitehead explains. “One of the secret ingredients is petals from a rose that doesn’t seem to grow anymore. But they find the rose, make the tea and there’s something beautiful about that; it’s like a love potion.”

 

Also shot in New Zealand was A Love Yarn, written by Becca Johanson and directed by Peter Burger. “One trend that seems to lead success are films made in foreign locations,” says Reardon. “It’s likely because they are escapist and allow people to travel to other parts of the world without leaving their sofas.”

 

Co-starring alongside the beautiful scenery of New Zealand is Anna Hutchison, who plays a yarn shop owner who gets her world flipped upside down after learning her top supplier of yarn is stopping production. “It’s a fun story about a woman who is trying to control her yarn pipeline, so she tries to acquire a farm to be able to make her own yarn and then ends up falling in love,” Reardon says.

 

Together Forever Tea
Together Forever Tea

The final three films on the line-up revolve around food. “There is something sensual about food as it evokes all the senses,” says Whitehead. “Working together on a recipe is also a communal activity, so it reaffirms values of love, commitment and nurture.”

 

Reardon adds: “Food is universal, and that means that if you’re setting a show in a world that perhaps some viewers can’t immediately relate to, they will connect with the food and the art of cooking.”

 

The first of these films is As Gouda as It Gets, which is about a woman, played by Kim Shaw, who works in an artisan cheese shop. “Kim is wonderful in the role as a cheesemonger who develops and creates her own cheese as part of a prestigious cheese competition. During the competition, she meets an influential cheese blogger and they get off to a bad start. But by the end of the film they have fallen in love with each other,” explains Reardon.

 

A Love Yarn
A Love Yarn

Seasoned With Love, meanwhile, follows a celebrity chef who is en route to audition for her own show in front of TV executives when her car breaks down in a small and quirky town. In exchange for fixing her car, she agrees to help with cooking for an upcoming festival and ends up falling in love with a local resident as well as the town. “This film is really about community and supporting one another,” says Reardon. “She ends up in this town and comes to the conclusion that she doesn’t need this big job at all. That’s because in this small town she can cook for the community, rather just some audience on a television show, and that human connection was what drew her to cooking in the first place.”

 

Finally, You May Kiss the Bridesmaid sees a food influencer’s life put on hold when she returns to her home town to help with her sister’s wedding – just as she is offered the opportunity of a lifetime. “Unfortunately, things are not going well with the wedding and she has to work it all out. As she helps take care of her sister, she reconnects with an ex-boyfriend who had stayed in the town. The ideas of community, family and connection run throughout the film,” says Reardon.

 
In the future, Incendo wants to produce more destination films, according to Whitehead. “So far, we’ve been to Australia, New Zealand and we’ve done a coproduction with South Africa that was shot near and in Johannesburg. I would like to go back there, as well as places like Ireland or Bali. The only thing holding us back is instability amid the pandemic,” he says.



More programming profiles

  • 16-11-2020

    Canadian producer and distributor Incendo has adopted a flexible strategy that has allowed it continue to deliver the blue-sky, escapist films sought by buyers, and is showcasing its latest via its Content London playlist this week.

     

    In unprecedented times, it’s important to remain nimble and responsive to any new challenges both the television business and external factors — Covid-19 among them — might pose. That’s why Canadian producer and distributor Incendo is continuing to follow the ad-hoc strategy it has used to successfully navigate the industry over the past few months.

     

    “Any planning or strategy went out the window on March 17, 2020,” admits Gavin Reardon, Incendo’s head of international sales and coproductions. “We’re in an unprecedented time and are working to be flexible, creative and to take advantage of all opportunities to license our content when they present themselves. As a producer of TV movies as well as drama series, our production team has been amazing and has produced five films during the pandemic. This feel-good, family-friendly content has been what many broadcasters around the world are looking for in these uncertain times.”
    READ MORE