Highland Gardens

It’s one of the great migratory phenomena. Hordes of aspiring performers from Canada and around the world descend upon Hollywood with one single dream: to make it big.

But for every success story, there are thousands of others who struggle to keep their dreams afloat. Bell Media announced today that production has begun on the new original drama HIGHLAND GARDENS (working title).

Produced by Emmy®-nominated Epitome Pictures and executive produced, written, and directed by Martin Gero (HBO’s BORED TO DEATH, Young People F*cking), the one-hour, six-part scripted series begins shooting in Toronto today before continuing in Hollywood this Fall.

Set in and around an apartment-style hotel that draws aspiring performers from Canada, the U.S. and all over the world, HIGHLAND GARDENS is a no-holds-barred, character-driven relationship drama that follows the exploits of six young hopefuls in search of celluloid and stardom in Hollywood.

Full of heart-rending moments, salacious temptations and hilarious escapades, HIGHLAND GARDEN’s coming-of-age dwellers grapple with life’s defining moments as they deal with the unreality of the show-biz industry.

Whether they stay a week, a month, or 40 years, the denizens of HIGHLAND GARDENS provide something to each other that’s in short supply elsewhere in Hollywood: support. The ensemble drama stars:

Joe Dinicol (MURDOCH MYSTERIES, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) as “nice-guy” Nick, a struggling stand-up comedian from Edmonton who is always the best friend and never the boyfriend;

Andra Fuller (THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER, ENTOURAGE) as Kaldrick, the extremely successful Hip-Hop artist hailing from the streets of Oakland, California;

Jonathan Patrick Moore (NEIGHBOURS, ALL SAINTS) as Connor, a break-out Australian with drop-dead good looks and a dark past;

Chelan Simmons (SMALLVILLE, SUPERNATURAL, KYLE XY) as Alicia, a sensitive, aspiring dancer from Regina who will do whatever it takes to make ends meet;

Jewel Staite (FLASH FORWARD, STARGATE ATLANTIS) as the street-smart Haligonian Raquel, who’s frightened of becoming yesterday’s news;  

Cassie Steele (DEGRASSI, RELIC HUNTER) as Abby, the naïve Toronto actor who is ready to fight to get to the top;

and Benjamin Charles Watson (TODD AND THE BOOK OF PURE EVIL, THE LISTENER) as Tariq, the confident and talented African-Canadian hip-hop artist with a secret on the down low.

“It’s so exciting to be starting production on a brand new series with our friends at Bell Media,” said Executive Producer and CEO of Epitome Pictures Inc., Linda Schuyler. “I’ve always enjoyed telling stories about the adolescent experience. Now, I am looking forward to exploring a more adult point of view.”

“After an exhaustive six-month, three-country search with thousands of auditions, I’m very proud of the ensemble cast we’ve put together,” said Executive Producer and show-runner Martin Gero. “I feel incredibly lucky that Bell Media has given us an opportunity to make a character-based series and we hope to shed some light on a side of the entertainment industry that is rarely seen.”

“Bell Media is thrilled to partner with Epitome Pictures once again on another exciting series,” said Corrie Coe, Senior Vice-President, Independent Production, Bell Media. “HIGHLAND GARDENS has strong characters and storylines that will allow audiences to follow the hopes and dreams of young Canadians trying to make it big in L.A.”

CTV announced today that it has ordered two, new one-hour original drama pilots for the network. Additionally, MuchMusic and CTV also announced today that they have ordered a new one-hour original drama series.

From the acclaimed Gemini award-winning producer Ilana Frank (THE ELEVENTH HOUR, Of Murder and Memory, ROOKIE BLUE) comes the pilot SAVING HOPE, a sexy, fast-paced drama set in a Toronto hospital that follows the lives of its doctors and staff and the complicated and courageous decisions that are made in the struggle to save lives.

The second pilot, from the celebrated Gemini award-winning producing team Suzette Couture and Pierre Sarrazin from Sarrazin Couture Entertainment (The Man Who Lost Himself) is a new legal procedural.

STAY WITH ME follows an at-home mother turned lawyer, who uses her wit and maternal intuition to find justice for her clients while navigating the shark infested waters of the law and trying to raise two daughters. The pilots begin production in Spring, 2011.

For MuchMusic and CTV and from the internationally acclaimed and Gemini Award-winning Epitome Pictures producing team of Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn (DEGRASSI) comes the six-episode one-hour drama HIGHLAND GARDENS (working title). Executive Produced and written by Martin Gero (Bored to Death, Young People F*cking), HIGHLAND GARDENS follows the ins and outs of an apartment-style motel in LA which draws aspiring Canadian hopefuls looking for a place to rest their heads while they chase their Hollywood dreams. Production is scheduled to begin in Summer 2011.

“The production orders reinforces CTV’s priority in delivering critically acclaimed original programming with compelling storytelling to a wide Canadian audience,” said Susanne Boyce, President, Creative, Content and Channels, CTV Inc. “We look forward to working with the talented writers and producers behind these exciting new projects.”

Today’s news follows CTV’s June announcement that it had picked up its entire slate of original Canadian scripted series for additional seasons, including FLASHPOINT, THE LISTENER, THE BRIDGE, HICCUPS, and DAN FOR MAYOR, among others.

SAVING HOPE centers on young, idealistic neonatal doctor Alyse Joy and her rival and one-time lover, flashy cancer surgeon Joel Gottlieb, as they take on the fundamental questions that define medicine today. Who gets to live, who gets to die, and why? The story goes into uncharted territory when the charismatic, inspiring and golden-tongued Chief of Surgery, Harris Coles, becomes a patient. Comatose, locked-in and unable to communicate that he’s aware of everything around him, Coles is the voice and the eyes that guide viewers through the world of SAVING HOPE.

The drama, which is inspired by Ian Brown’s The Globe and Mail “Mount Hope” series based on stories from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, is written and created by Morwyn Brebner (ROOKIE BLUE) and Malcolm MacRury (DEADWOOD, CRASH & BURN) and executive produced by Ilana Frank of Thump Inc. (THE ELEVENTH HOUR, Of Murder and Memory, ROOKIE BLUE) and Lesley Harrison in association with CTV.

In STAY WITH ME, when unexpectedly ejected from her mommy cocoon by her husband’s infidelities, thirty-something Rowan Wilson picks herself up, dusts off her law degree and gets hired as a junior lawyer at the Toronto firm of Whitman, Goldman and Fiske. Rowan, the classic underdog, is sabotaged by the much younger other juniors, ignored by the senior partners and undermined by her formidable nemesis and former mistress to her husband, the lethally sexy, borderline-sociopathic lawyer, Ann. Will the sharks in the tank tear Rowan into bite-sized morsels? Or will they discover that when it comes to the law, Rowan’s perception and intuition can be a weapon more powerful than anything in their own arsenal?

STAY WITH ME is written by Suzette Couture (The Last Templar, Haven) and executive produced by Pierre Sarrazin and Suzette Couture from Sarrazin Couture Entertainment (The Terrorist Next Door, The Man Who Lost Himself) in association with CTV.

Small fish. Big pond. Huge dreams. The sexy new drama HIGHLAND GARDENS focuses on six young Canadians as they try their luck in LA, pursuing celluloid and stardom, along with a few thousand other uber-motivated hopefuls. Moving into an apartment-style motel for displaced dreamers, each dubbed “most likely to succeed”, they all face the challenges and opportunities of a lifetime. Can they achieve their heart’s desire without selling their souls? The six-episode first season of HIGHLAND GARDENS will be showrun and executive produced by Martin Gero (Young People F*cking, BORED TO DEATH) and executive produced by Linda Schuyler and Stephen Stohn from Epitome Pictures (DEGRASSI) in association with MuchMusic. The series is funded by the CHUM Benefits Trendsetters and Risktakers fund.