A Legend in the Making

A Legend in the Making

Article by Sarah Williams
Photos courtesy of 10th Ave Productions

While Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal battle it out for the title of Hollywood North, an ambitious production company in Quebec City aspires to emulate the little-known, San Francisco suburb of Emeryville. 

Emeryville, California is home to the headquarters of one of the big guns in computer-animation, which 10th Ave Productions founder, Nancy Savard, sees as the example to follow, “A lot of people are saying we want to be the next Disney, I wouldn’t say we want to be the next Disney, we want to be the next Pixar… Our product takes time to do, we prefer to not do too much, and take the time to do it well.”   Savard is alluding to the fact that she received the script for 10th Avenue’s  first feature length, 3D film, The Legend of Sarila, in March of 2001, and yet it is only slated for release in theatres for  next spring.  That’s more than a decade of blood, sweat and tears that were put into making this dream a reality. 


Savard referrers back to the beginnings of Pixar to help paint a picture of just how challenging a job the last twelve years have been, “just to give you a comparison, when John Lasseter started Pixar in 1985, if memory serves correctly, at that time he knew that George Lucas was going to give him his computer graphics studio, so when he started he had all the pipeline, all the technology given to him by George Lucas”.   She continues with a hint of irony, “And then, there is a little somebody called Steve Jobs, who put 52 million into Pixar to do the start up.  And after that they had a distribution deal with Disney for their first five animation movies.  So for a start-up, I think that they were really in a good position”, she says with a wry chuckle.  Savard then makes a direct comparison between her experience here in Quebec, and that of Pixar, with its big money investors, “the first movie to come out of Pixar, was Toy Story, and it was ten years later.  So, they managed, with all that stuff, and all those friends, to do a movie in ten years.  With 10th Avenue, for our first feature film, we received the script in 2001 and we’re going to be finished in about two weeks, so in 2012 – and I don’t have that many friends”.  Savard laughs after her last comment, but then continues, with obvious pride in her voice, “I think we have done a great job with the money that we have here in Quebec”.

Another reason 10th Ave has earned its bragging rights: The Legend of Sarila is the first 100 percent Canadian 3D animation movie, with a rather significant component of the film’s collaborators hailing from in province.  From the script written by Pierre Tremblay and Roger Harvey, to the animation by Montreal’s Modus FX, to the co-producers, Carpe Diem Film & TV, Quebec talent is well represented in the making of Sarila.

While doggedly working on getting Sarila to movie screens, 10th Ave, Savard and her team have also managed to produce a fairly respectable body of work, most notably a collection of Christmas stories which includes short films such as: The Tradition of the Yule Log, The Christmas Stocking Tale, and The Legend of the Christmas Tree.  As Nancy Savard puts it, “This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Legend of the Christmas tree, and it’s still playing on Télé Québec…it’s kind of a classic. I think that when it makes ten years that you are on air, you have become a tradition”.  

Having your films qualified as classics definitely gives a director’s reputation a bit of a boost; so does being associated with an Oscar-winner. One of the voices for the forthcoming Legend of Sarila is the highly respected and award-winning actor, Christopher Plummer.  While making a wish list for the English version of Sarila, Savard says she immediately thought of Mr. Plummer for Croolik, the character of an aging shaman, yet she was surprised, and honoured, when he actually accepted the part, “we took a chance, we sent him the script, and we said what do you think? And he said ‘Yes, I want to do it’!”

Other notable names on the Sarila roster are: Geneviève Bujold (Dead Ringers, Earthquake), who’s character, Saya, is the wise woman behind the quest to find Sarila, the apparent salvation for her tribe, which has run out of food, and  Natar Ungalaaq (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner) plays the character of Ukpik, one of the tribe members.

The tween and “twi-hard” crowd, are more apt to recognize the actors that voice the three young heroes of the film: Rachelle Lefevre (The Twilight Saga) plays Apik, a young girl who is promised in marriage to the son of the chief of her tribe; Tim Rozon (Wild Roses) is the voice behind Poutulik, the chief’s son; and Dustin Mulligan (90210) voices Markussi, an orphaned boy who accompanies the other two children on an adventure to find the elsuive Sarila.  


The next full length animation feature (in 2D), The Rooster of St-Victor, will follow relatively closely on the heels of Sarila, it is due for release in April of 2014. Two other films are also in the works:  a detective adventure series with the titles Mission Katmandu and Mission Radar.   However, this on slot of projects doesn’t mean that 10th Avenue is aggrandizing its usual modus operandi; Nancy Savard gets the last word regarding 10th Ave’s vision for the future, “we don’t want to be bigger, we want to be taller.”

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About the author:


Sarah Williams is a mother of three young children, and a freelance writer.

Sarah had her first experience living in Quebec while earning her bachelor’s degree in Communications at Concordia University (MTL) in the late nineties.

Hailing from Cobourg, Ontario, Sarah moved to Quebec City in January of the year 2000. For her, this city is the perfect balance of the small town feel of her hometown in Ontario and the vibrant francophone culture of Montreal.

Professionally, Sarah has worked a fair bit in the media as a copywriter and researcher; for Global Television, and for a T.V. cooking show (what’s cooking).

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