Canadian-Chinese 'Toronto' to air

First joint production to broadcast in both countries

TORONTO -- Nearly a decade in the works, the first jointly-financed Canada-China TV drama is finally going to air, giving viewers in both countries a window on Chinese immigrants in Toronto.

The Mandarin-language drama "Once Upon a Time in Toronto," co-produced by China's Western Movie Group and Canadian broadcaster Rogers Media, will bow October 17 on OMNI TV stations in Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Victoria.

The drama, nearly a decade in the works, will then shift to Beijing Television in late October.

"Once Upon a Time in Toronto reflects the immigrant experience in a tale that relates to people beyond borders. This work is a landmark in multilingual/multicultural television production around the world," Rogers Media Television CEO Leslie Sole explained.

Directed by Yang Yazhou ("Pretty Big Feet"), the drama about the intertwined lives of Chinese immigrants in Toronto stars Chinese actress Ni Ping and Vancouver-based Lora Sun.

The Mandarin-language drama, to be subtitled in Chinese and English, was initially destined for state-run national broadcaster China Central TV.
But Irene Chu, president of Toronto-based Goldspin Prods. and executive producer of the series, said no airdate could be nailed down with the state-run national broadcaster.

So Chu opted for an airdate on Beijing Television, followed by simultaneous airdates on four Chinese satellite TV services, Dongfang TV, Zhejiang TV, Beijing TV and Anhui TV.

China's State Administration of Radio, Film and TV initially gave the project its blessing in 2004, but efforts to finance the drama as a Canadian-Chinese co-production failed after it emerged that China and Canada have yet to sign an official treaty covering TV series.

The two nations do have a long-standing official co-production treaty for feature films and animation. And officials with SARFT and Heritage Canada, the government's department responsible for film policy, conducted formal talks to ink a TV treaty to offer each country's TV producers lucrative tax benefits and business at either partner's end.

But those talks have yet to produce an agreement.

Despite not being an official co-production, the co-producers of "Once Upon a Time in Toronto" ensured a balance in creative and technical talent from their respective countries on the project.

"The production of Once upon a time in Toronto bridged language and culture to bring together Canadian and Chinese talents and I am confident that its broadcast in both countries will reach beyond to entertain all," Chu said.