Wynne documentary on ice after director quits amid...
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May 21, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Wynne documentary on ice after director quits amid journalistic concerns

TVOntario has scrapped plans to air a hard-hitting documentary on Premier Kathleen Wynne after the film’s director quit, citing journalistic concerns

OurWindsor.Ca

TVOntario has scrapped plans to air a hard-hitting documentary on Premier Kathleen Wynne after the film’s director quit over journalistic concerns, the Star has learned.

The broadcaster, which is owned by the provincial government, had planned to show Premier: The Unscripted Kathleen Wynne on June 6, but pulled the plug after director Roxana Spicer’s resignation.

Sources said Spicer stepped down from the project after a tense May 1 meeting with senior Wynne advisers at Queen’s Park where 14 minutes of footage was to be screened, but only eight minutes was actually viewed.

That was part of an agreement between the film’s production company and the premier’s office to ensure no commercially sensitive cabinet discussions were depicted or anyone’s personal privacy violated.

But insiders said the premier’s aides wanted to see the entire film before anyone interviewed in it — including Wynne — would agree to sign the requisite errors and omissions insurance release forms.

While they strongly denied trying to exert any editorial control, without their signatures the movie might never see the light of day.

“We worked closely with the producer, Peter Raymont, to determine the parameters of the film — which was supposed to be behind the scenes look at preparation of the budget,” said Zita Astravas, Wynne’s director of media relations.

“Over the course of filming, we had concerns that the project was deviating from those original parameters in a number of areas. We shared those concerns with Peter Raymont, our sole contact for this project — not TVO,” said Astravas.

“There was always a clear understanding we would have no editorial control but would be allowed to review portions of the film with government lawyers for issues like breaches of cabinet confidentiality or privacy legislation,” she said.

“That review was supposed to happen next week and we were set to sign the final agreement and release forms. We’re really hoping that can still happen as we would like to see the film go to air.”

The fly-on-the-wall documentary includes scenes in cabinet meetings and other high-level briefings over a four-month period beginning in January.

Sources say Wynne’s aides were alarmed by an apparent focus on the Liberals’ Sudbury byelection bribery scandal and were unhappy that dissident former Grit candidate Andrew Olivier was interviewed.

Spicer, who has been making films for 35 years, could not comment on any of that.

“All I’m going to say about that at this time . . . is I couldn’t deliver a documentary that was consistent with TVO’s standards of editorial integrity and independence,” she said Thursday.

“Beyond that, I’m bound by a confidentiality agreement with White Pine Pictures and I have to respect that.”

Michael Hannan, the editor of the film and a 25-year industry veteran, also resigned from the project after completing a 59-minute cut.

“It was just a question of integrity in terms of the story being told,” said Hannan, adding he could not comment further because “it’s a difficult situation.”

Raymont — the White Pine Pictures president who convinced Wynne to participate in the film by citing his seminal 1978 documentary on former premier Bill Davis, The Art of the Possible — could say little.

“I hope it will get sorted out. It’s a terrific movie and I’d like all Ontarians to see it,” he said late Thursday, declining to comment further because “we’re in the midst of talking about it.”

TVO, which is demanding a refund of its $114,075 advance from Raymont’s production company, provided a written statement that will be formally issued Friday.

“This documentary does not have a director attached to it and that is a fundamental problem for TVO in terms of meeting our editorial standards. In fact, several of White Pine Pictures’ obligations were not met and therefore, regrettably, we have no choice but to terminate the agreement,” the broadcaster said.

Part of White Pine’s agreement with TVO, which commissions eight to 10 documentaries a year, required that errors and omissions insurance release forms be signed by those filmed.

Industry observers say it is standard operating procedure on films to wait until they are completed to have such routine paperwork done because documentarians can’t be sure whose signatures will be required until everything is edited.

In the case of Premier: The Unscripted Kathleen Wynne, it appears there was a difference from what Raymont promised the Liberals — a modern take on his deferential Davis documentary — and what Spicer delivered, a warts-and-all portrait of a politician dealing with a scandal.

That controversy was the Sudbury byelection currently being probed by the Ontario Provincial Police.

Pat Sorbara, Wynne’s deputy chief of staff, and Gerry Lougheed, a Sudbury Liberal organizer, are being investigated amid allegations Olivier, a former candidate, was offered a job in exchange for stepping aside so federal NDP MP Glenn Thibeault could defect to run for the Grits.

Sorbara, who, like Olivier, was interviewed for the film, has denied any wrongdoing as has Lougheed. Thibeault, who won the Feb. 5 byelection for the Liberals, is not under investigation.

Olivier, a quadriplegic who taped his conversations with Sorbara and Lougheed last December for note-taking purposes, ran as an independent in the byelection, finishing third.

Wynne has championed “open government” and promised increased transparency since taking over from predecessor Dalton McGuinty two years ago.

Sources privy to the film say that, ironically, it is a largely favourable portrait of the premier and there is nothing new on the Sudbury imbroglio that hasn’t been previously reported.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Robert Benzie, the Star’s Queen’s Park bureau chief, was among the journalists interviewed by Roxana Spicer and her crew. Benzie met with Spicer once at Queen’s Park and once in the Star newsroom, but he has not seen any footage from the film. He signed an errors and omissions insurance release form after the first of two interviews.

Toronto Star

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(3) Comment

By St Christopher | MAY 26, 2015 01:05 PM
In my HUMBLE opinion, Wynne didn't like it and had the project shut down.
By Rick | MAY 25, 2015 10:45 AM
Why is this news buried here? Interesting how real news that paints our Liberal government in a negative light gets buried but a story on 'scrapman' gets front page billing. *sigh
By Barry | MAY 22, 2015 03:59 PM
Put this joke UNDER the ICE, and all breath for 5 mins.
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