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Canadian producers create free AIDS PSAs

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Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA)
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Production (Video, Audio & Post)
BANFF - Members of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association from across Canada have joined forces with writers, directors, actors, the National Film Board, labs, suppliers and technicians to volunteer their services free of charge for the shooting of five public service announcements (PSAs) for The Stephen Lewis Foundation.

Principal photography for the PSAs began on May 7th. At least three of the PSAs will premiere at the Banff Television Festival on June 16th during the CFTPA's annual luncheon.

"This has been such an enriching experience for us as creators. The support from each and every sector of our industry has been extraordinary. To use our collective talents to get the message out about the people who are suffering from the ravages of AIDs in Africa has been humbling," said Laszlo Barna, chair of the CFTPA.

Canadian Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General's special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa spoke to the board of the CFTPA in September 2003 about the fundraising he does through The Stephen Lewis Foundation.

"Stephen articulated something we had never understood before, that the death spiral that has been predicted and anticipated for a decade is already here," said CFTPA board member and producer Mary Young Leckie of Tapestry Pictures. "Millions of children are already orphaned, and that number will soon climb to tens of millions. The burden of care has fallen to the elderly and the children themselves. It is a staggering concept and one we felt we had to get across to North Americans."

Following Stephen Lewis' visit to the CFTPA board meeting, board representatives from across the country formed a committee and decided to create a series of PSAs for the cause. An array of creative volunteers from Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and St. John's jumped at the possibility of doing something for the foundation.

In Vancouver board members Christine Haebler of Crescent Entertainment and Lisa Richardson of Reunion Pictures brought together ReThink Advertising Group, director Keith Behrman and Les Erskine as DOP for their two spots Doll and Diagnosis. "We were definitely moved by Stephen's accounts of the devastation that AIDs is causing in Africa, everyone we spoke with couldn't imagine not getting involved," said Haebler.

In Toronto, Mary Young Leckie and Heather Haldane of Tapestry Pictures brought together a team that included Leckie's husband Keith Ross Leckie as writer/director, Rene Ohashi as DOP, Tim Bider as production designer and composer Christopher Dedrick for their spot The Disappearing.

In Montreal CFTPA board member Kevin Tierney of Park Ex Pictures approached the NFB's film commissioner Jacques Bensimon and Tom Perlmutter, head of English programming, about contributing, and once again the NFB's response underscored the importance of the foundation: "Every animator I spoke to about this was ready to drop whatever they were working on and get involved," said David Verrall, head of English Animation at the NFB. Under the supervision of producer Michael Fukashima a 30 second animation spot is now underway.

Atlantic Canada's contribution to the PSA line up has been led by board member Mary Sexton of St. John's, and features the work of Genie-winning director Thom Fitzgerald who is using footage he shot in South Africa while filming his next feature Three Needles.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation directly funds projects which provide community level care to women who are dying from AIDs, so their last days are free from pain, humiliation and indignity; it assists orphans and other AIDS-affected children - from the payment of school fees to the provision of food; and it supports the associations of people living with HIV/AIDS, so those who have openly declared their status can educate themselves and share information with the broader community on prevention, treatment and care.

The CFTPA is a non-profit, trade association representing almost 400 companies in the Canadian production industry. The association promotes the general interests of Canadian producers by lobbying government on policy matters, negotiating labour agreements, and offering mentorship programs and copyright initiatives.
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