Sudden Death: The Incredible Saga of the 1986 Swift Current Broncos has moved closer to the big screen.
Shayne Putzlocher, the founder of Trilight Entertainment, a Calgary- and Regina-based production company, said Thursday that “we have been approved for our development financing for the Sudden Death first-draft script.”
That financing has come through Telefilm Canada and the Alberta Media Fund.
Rob King, a veteran writer/director, started working on the first draft of a script on Thursday.
The book tells the story of the 1986-87 Swift Current Broncos, a Western Hockey League team that had four players killed in a bus crash on Dec. 30, 1986. In the spring of 1989, the Broncos won the Memorial Cup. Sudden Death was written by Leesa Culp, who witnessed the accident from the cab of a big rig; former Broncos defenceman Bob Wilkie, who was on the bus and the Memorial Cup team; and Gregg Drinnan, who has written about the WHL and its teams for more than 40 years.
The book was published by Dundurn Press in the fall of 2012 and is available in book stores or through the link on the top right of Taking Note’s home page.
Trilight Entertainment purchased an option on the book shortly after it was published.
Putzlocher, who has been on board from the beginning as the project’s producer, has brought in Rob Merilees as co-producer. Merilees is the founder of Foundation Features, a Vancouver-based production company. Of late, Merilees has been producing Motive, a CTV series that just wrapped its second season. Merilees also has been involved in movies like Capote, Just Friends and The Snow Walker.
Putzlocher approached Merilees, whom he describes as “one of my mentors and a really good friend,” and asked if he would co-produce. Putzlocher felt he needed the help “because of the scope of what this is going to be.”
Putzlocher and Merilees got to work and, as Putzlocher said, “between him and myself we were able to raise all the money we needed for this round of development.
“We got financial participation from Telefilm Canada and the Alberta Media Fund.”
The two producers simply sold Telefilm Canada and the Alberta Media Fund on the hockey team’s story.
“We put a package together and it was just the story of the Swift Current Broncos . . . the story of what the book is,” Putzlocher explained. “People know what the story is . . . it wasn’t trying to sell them anything else other than what the story was.
“It’s not just about people in the west or around the WHL who want to see this film made. Telefilm Canada and the Alberta Media Fund see that this story wants to be told. They realize that this is a great story that deserves to be told.
“I would like to give a huge thank you to Telefilm Canada and the Alberta government, and Minister Klimchuk, for supporting this film.”
Heather Klimchuk is Alberta’s minister of culture and community spirit. She was part of an announcement earlier this month involving a $22.8-million studio and sound stage that is to be built in Alberta before the summer of 2015.
With development financing in place, it’s full speed ahead for Sudden Death.
“The first stage of development,” Putzlocher said, “was to get the option on the book and come up with the concept and treatment of what this story is going to be like.
“The second stage is taking that treatment and actually writing a script.”
That's where King comes in. According to Putzlocher, King is a “big junior hockey fan.”
At one point, not long after the Broncos won the 1989 Memorial Cup, a different production company, including King, was in the early stages of developing the Broncos’ story into a movie. However, that project was derailed with the revelations involving Graham James, the Broncos’ general manager and head coach, who eventually was convicted of sexually abusing players.
“I’ve known Rob King since I started in the industry,” said Putzlocher, who has been in the industry for more than 15 years. “He’s a great guy and a great writer. He’s been a great advocate of the industry in Saskatchewan; he’s been around a very long time.”
Putzlocher isn’t prepared to provide any script or production deadlines. As he said, “It takes quite a while . . . it’s taken a year since we developed it. There have been some delays along the way . . .
“But at the end of the day we’re right where we want to be. We are moving forward.”
He paused and continued . . .
“I can’t give you a timeline of when the first draft will be done . . . or when we’ll go on to the second draft or when we want to shoot this. In a perfect world, I know the 30-year anniversary of the accident is coming up.
“But, at the same time, we have to be realistic.”
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