About The Production
"Edgemont" went from genesis to principal photography in just under two years. In November of 1997 Ian Weir spent two weeks roughing out the basic parameters of the show - what it was, who was going to be in it, how it was going to feel, etc. The result was a 12-page pitch-bible, which he took to Michael Chechik at Water St. Pictures early in January of 1998. Weir and Chechik pitched the idea to CBC and VTV, got development offers from both networks, and opted to go with CBC. Weir started developing story ideas and discussing them with David Goorevitch, the CBC executive assigned to the project.
The original development deal, signed in April of 1998, called for three scripts plus a mini-bible. Weir recalls that the plan for making the series fly, script-wise, was simple: call on a few friends - among whom happen to be some of the best dramatists in the country - and talk them into working on the show. The first two calls were to Dennis Foon and Joan MacLeod. Foon is a Gemini Award-winning screenwriter, an international award-winning children's playwright and one of the sharpest creative minds in the business. The decision to go to Joan MacLeod, a Governor General's Award-winning playwright, was based on the fact that "Edgemont", being a soap in terms of structure, would be a kind of hybrid between screen and stage. The result was that the network loved the first three scripts and ordered three more. Susin Nielsen, yet another Gemini Award-winning writer and one of the best story editors in the business, came on-board as did Laurie Finstad ("Cold Squad"), and the second batch of scripts were delivered in January of 1999. Then it was just a case of fingernail biting until the show was officially picked-up on Feb. 15th, '99. Writers Stacey Kaser ("Nothing Too Good For A Cowboy", "North Of 60"), Sara Snow ("Scoop & Doozie", "You, Me, and the Kids") and Sara Graefe subsequently joined the writing team.
In development, "Edgemont" was under the banner of Dramatic Series. Once picked up, the show was shifted to Children's Programming, under the direction of Adrian Mills. From the very start, Mills was a staunch and insightful supporter, who stressed from the outset that he wanted a teen drama, rather than a children's series, which precisely suited the direction creator Weir had envisioned for the show.
"From the get-go, I had insisted that Edgemont was a show that should - and would - reach beyond the youth demographic and claim a larger audience," says Weir. "If you create interesting and dimensional characters, and give them compelling story lines, then it doesn't matter what age they are - they'll connect with the viewer. The point, for me, is not simply that the characters on Edgemont are teenagers. The point is that they're intriguing people at one of the major cross-roads in life - the fulcrum between adolescence and adulthood."
The next big decision had to do with the fundamental look of the show. Given the tightness of the budget, Weir and Chechik entertained the idea of opting for a three-camera set-up - three-walled sets, in other words, shooting the show the way a conventional soap opera or sit-com is shot. The advantage is obvious - going this route, you can shoot extremely quickly, and time is money. The disadvantage is just as obvious: a somewhat static, washed-out look to the show. Ultimately Weir and Chechik decided to go the other way, and shoot "Edgemont" film-style, with single camera and four-walled sets, in order to create a look rich and interesting enough to satisfy a savvy young audience. The gamble, of course, was that they were going to have to shoot at break-neck speed - 12 and 13 pages a day, whereas the norm for a single-camera shoot is seven to eight. To pull it off, they were going to need dynamite directors, and a dynamite crew - people who could cope with the fact that every shooting day would constitute an act of heroism - and to their immense good fortune, that's what they ended up with.
Weir's philosophy on directors was identical to his philosophy on writers - reach for the top! From the start, there were four names atop Weir's wish-list - Jane Thompson and Gary Harvey, who are among the best and most experienced directors in the country and Anthony Atkins, who is one of the most intriguing young up-and-comers on the West Coast. It took two intense sessions - one over dinner, and one at breakfast - for Weir to convince Thompson that what they intended to do was possible. She finally said yes. Anthony came on board next.
And just a few weeks before shooting began, Gary Harvey - who had hitherto been booked solid - suddenly came available. With an all-star directing roster in place, the all-star crew began to come together - people like lighting wizard Amir Mohammed, and camera operator Doug Sjoquist, to name just two.
Another fortuitous piece of the puzzle was Chechik's deal with Forefront Releasing to distribute the show. Forefront produced the long running and highly acclaimed teen drama Madison, which they had been successful in selling to more than 100 countries. They were excited by the "Edgemont" scripts, and were convinced they could score a similar success selling this show.
The great adventure of casting the show began in June '99, with principal photography to commence October 18th, '99. Weir and Chechik looked at 650 young actors, about 90 per cent of them from Vancouver. The casting process included a daylong Open Call, at which the doors were thrown open to anybody and everybody who wanted to audition ... almost 250 young people. By mid-August, most of the roles were cast - from the B.C. talent pool, which fulfilled another mandate for Chechik and Weir. "It was important from the outset," Chechik notes, "that Edgemont would be a show that could nurture a new generation of young B.C. actors, as Madison and Northwood had done in the past." But as September loomed Chechik and Weir still hadn't found our three leads - Mark, Jennifer and Laurel, who form a romantic triangle that lies at the very heart of the first season.
"We saw Dominic Zamprogna on a tape sent to us from a casting director in Toronto - and he leaped off the screen as the perfect Mark," Weir recalls. "Then we saw a tape of Sarah Lind, sent to us by her agent. She was just finishing a stint as a lead on a series filming in Alberta, and - as good luck would have it - she and her family were in the process of moving to B.C.'s Sunshine Coast. Here was our Jennifer," Weir enthuses. That left Laurel. The character is a 16-year-old who moves from Toronto to the Vancouver suburb in which Edgemont is set. She's sophisticated, beautiful and keenly intelligent. She's fundamentally different than anyone the other core characters have ever dealt with, and the impact of her arrival sets up a ripple-effect through the rest of the characters.
"We looked at several dozen candidates, including a number from Toronto and Montreal," Chechik recounts. "A number of them were highly experienced and highly talented, but we couldn't find the definitive Laurel." By the time late September rolled around, Chechik and Weir were wondering if it might be just about time to start panicking.
That's when Casting Director Carol Tarlington began phoning around to Lower Mainland high schools, asking drama teachers to send her their top girls. That's how Tarlington found Kristin Kreuk - a 16-year-old, straight-A, Grade 12 student with no professional acting experience whatever. What Kreuk did have, however, was a terrific natural ability, and a quality that shone through. Sure enough, she performed splendidly on Season I of "Edgemont" -- and subsequently was cast in the title role of the ABC/Hallmark TV Movie "Snow White".
Production, as anticipated was demanding, but everyone rose to the challenge, making the production process an exhilarating and satisfying one for all involved. The dedication and hard work of cast a crew were laudable. Edgemont was shot entirely in-studio at the CBC in Vancouver.