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Hot Docs Jots

New Canadian Platforms 2016: VICELAND


In the coming weeks VICE is set to launch VICELAND, a 24-hour Canadian channel and $100-million joint venture between Rogers and VICE Media. VICE is also currently in the process of launching a state-of-the-art multimedia production studio in Toronto. We spoke to Michael Kronish, Senior Vice President of Production at Vice Media Canada, about VICELAND Canada and the new television productions coming out of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

Hot Docs: VICE Canada just unveiled a new multi-media production facility in Toronto. Can you talk a little bit about that space?

Michael Kronish: We’ve just moved into a new 30,000 sq ft. space in Liberty Village. For the first time in a while we’ve really ramped up our staffing, from under 40 to almost 200 people in Toronto alone, and everyone is under one roof. There is an editorial staff: journalists, people working on Munchies and Vice.com, news, sports. They work in long-form and short-form journalism. Our television department is broken down into a development team, production, and a post-production department—everything from graphic design to art direction, colour correction, sound mixing, Foley—everything is done in-house. Then we have a brand new division, it’s an ad agency called Virtue. We have clients that we work with to produce content and strategy. We’re also equipped with a studio. The whole building is actually wired to allow us to shoot at any spot in the building. We are gearing up to be broadcast ready, so we will have a master control. We also have a theatre for screening, and a bar.

HD: Are you still in the process of building your team?

MK: We’re always recruiting talent. It’s an ongoing pursuit as we’re less than a year into this new phase of what VICE is in Canada. I think VICE offers a really great opportunity to people, there are not a lot of places that are doing the types of production that we’re doing. To be able to make documentaries and travel the world, it’s a really attractive place to work. We’re looking for people who understand what our brand is—speaking to millennials primarily, cutting out the bullshit, and working primarily in a non-scripted universe.

HD: Are you working with emerging filmmakers?

MK: It’s a combination. The experience comes from all over the place. There’s just as much value in someone who’s been working in online video production as there is someone with 20 years of experience working in reality TV. We like to keep an even mix of new school and old school.

HD: What level of project development do you want to see from content creators?

MK: We have a pretty great team of people who work in development at VICE. We also work directly with our colleagues in New York and LA and around the world to evaluate projects. It can be as simple as a tape that someone has made, up to scripts, treatments and video. It could be a character-based tape, it can be a simple idea, there’s no real right answer. I think the simplest way for people to approach us with an idea is to connect with development before they spend a lot of time working on something. Our team is very accessible.

HD: Are you also producing out of Montreal and Vancouver?

MK: We are, we have a show we produced out of Vancouver that has not yet been announced, and we have a couple of things coming out of the Montreal office. We do a show called Daily VICE that we do in association with FIDO and Rogers, and we do a French version of that based in Montreal.

HD: You’re doing the opposite of what most broadcasters are doing right now, going from non-linear, short-form content to a TV model. What are the challenges you’re facing in regards to storytelling for TV broadcast?

MK: The challenge for us is always to be faithful to our brand. Some people require different skill sets for the types of projects that we’re doing, but at the end of the day what matters is that we are faithful to our brand, to make sure what we’re doing is authentic. There will be ways to view content if you don’t own a TV. VICE is a digital company primarily that is going to be making linear television content, but we don’t lose sight of the fact we are speaking to an audience that consumes content digitally. This is just another way in which we get content to people.

HD: Will there be a more closely curated creative direction for TV? Spike Jonze will be acting as a creative director for VICELAND in the US, will it be the same in Canada?

MK: It will be exactly the same content. The content being made in Canada will be made for the US VICELAND audience and vice-versa. There is no editorial difference between what’s coming out of Canada and what’s coming out of New York and L.A., just different hubs of production.

HD: Can you talk a bit about projects you’re excited about? Some of the original series you’re most looking forward to?

MK: We have announced a bunch of shows. We’re doing a show called Dead Set on Life with Matty Matheson. That’s an interesting show for us because Matty is a chef from Toronto that we’ve been doing videos with for Munchies for several years. It’s a good example of what VICE has been doing across the board, looking at some of the people and ideas online, and now that we’re doing a television series we took Matty’s personality and concepts we’ve had for online and sort of raised it up for television. He’s really kind of the quintessential VICE talent. We’re also doing an amazing show called Abandoned with some producers in Vancouver. It’s a show that stars Rick McCrank who’s a legendary skateboarder. He goes around the world and experiences abandoned spaces, and speaks to people who are from the areas where these spaces exist.

HD: What else is on the horizon for VICE?

We are thinking about year two right now. We don’t know what the break out hits will be; sometimes you’re very surprised by where the public will go. So we are developing a slate of content for year two, but it is very early days. By the time Hot Docs rolls around in April we’ll have some very interesting things going on.

This is the first of a Hot Docs Jots series that profiles new Canadian content platforms in 2016. Stay tuned for more from this series in the coming months.

Interview conducted by Madelaine Russo, Industry Programs Coordinator

Photo credit: VICE Media

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