Commercial Drive gets ready for its close-up

Indie production company creating web series set on iconic East Vancouver street

It's been two years since Hiccups, the last TV series both filmed and set in Vancouver, breathed its final breath and four years since it was game over for Douglas Coupland's gamer sitcom jPod. The creators of an upcoming new web series centered around five struggling 30-somethings sharing a house on Commercial Drive are hoping to have better luck with their new show.

The ace up their sleeves could be that episodes of The Drive will be free of network pressure for immediate high ratings to justify the money being spent. Instead, the low-budget show created by East Van Entertainment will be independently financed and hosted online, where the so-called "webisodes" can potentially cast a wider audience net via video-sharing sites like YouTube and social media.

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Nick Hunnings said one of the reasons he and co-producers Lindsay Drummond and Graem Beddoes first began the project is because they were tired of waiting and hoping to be cast in whatever American TV show or movie-of-the-week might be filming here on any given month and where they have little to no creative control.

"There is this realization that we are not going to be sitting at home waiting for phone calls for the rest of our lives," said Hunnings, whose recent television credits include playing a vampire on Supernatural and Lionel Luthor's assistant on Smallville. "Everybody has access to a computer nowadays. A middle-man has been cut out in terms of sharing your work with people and there is this inherent empowerment that comes along with realizing you have the capacity to create your own work and have a readily available audience."

He said the plan is to feature various and sundry Commercial Drive creative types playing themselves within the fictional milieu of the show.

"A huge part of what we are doing here is creating a platform to really celebrate the talented people in the community. We just wanted to collaborate and create something that was sort of an honest storytelling of our lives and harness a lot of untapped talent from a lot of people who may not get a lot of exposure."

The group has already completed a trailer for the show partially shot at local hotspots such as Turk's cafe, Audiopile record store and Falconetti's East Side Grill. It also includes music from one local artist who isn't exactly lacking in exposure these days, two-time Juno winner and former Drive dweller Dan Mangan, whose wife Kirsten Slenning is also one of the cast members.

"I like the idea of being involved in kind of a community project or an artistic project that has to do with the place I know and love so much," said Mangan in an promotional video that is part of an online Indiegogo fundraising campaign for the series. "There are lots of homeless people on the Drive, there are lots of artistic people on the Drive but there are also lots of young families and business professionals. There are other parts of Vancouver that are a little more self-conscious about their image, whereas Commercial Drive seems to kind of fall ass backwards into what it is."

East Van Entertainment is currently more than halfway towards their goal of raising $7,500 to film a full-length pilot episode.

"The season will be shot regardless of our funding situation but we'd like to position ourselves as best we can in order maintain the production value and honor our talented team who have all donated their time to this project," said Hunnings.

A variety of incentives are offered to potential donors or sponsors, including walk-on roles on the series or an invitation to a private screening of the first episode.

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