COVER: Motive-ation for an industry
March 12, 2013 Update: Given its popularity with audiences, CTV has "promoted" Motive to its most-watched night of television. Motive will air every Thursday, starting March 14, at 10pm following Grey's Anatomy. The show has also been picked up by ABC.
The police chief strolls into his office, turns to the detective who is leaning against the door frame and, in a tone that belies the seriousness of his directive, gives her a straightforward command: “Go catch me a killer.”
The look on the detective’s face somehow manages to convey “How the hell am I supposed to do that?” and “I know I’m smart enough to find a way” all at the same time.
“Anything else with that,” she asks sardonically. “Fries?”
“A smoking gun would be nice,” the police chief replies with a smile.
C.M. Smith, sitting in a darkened room at Bridge Studios on Boundary Road, orders the cameras to stop filming. His smile indicates that he’s pleased with the scene that’s just played out on the two monitors in front of him. However, as a director with a long history of television and movie roles, he has a few ideas about how a good scene can be made even better.
He walks into the large room that’s been devised to look like an urban police station for Motive, a procedural crime drama that premieres on CTV right after the Super Bowl.
There must be 15 people in the room: the two main actors in today’s scene — Vancouver’s Kristin Lehman (The Killing), who plays Detective Angie Flynn, and Roger Cross, who plays Staff Sergeant Boyd — plus several extras, cameramen, soundmen, and myriad crew members.
Everyone is talking or doing something. The atmosphere is both relaxed and highly professional. Everyone is focused on his or her job. There is little idle chitchat. No one is shouting.
Smith returns to his booth, the cameras get into position and the minute-long scene — the two officers getting off the elevator immersed in conversation as they navigate their way through all the activity in the open office — plays out almost exactly the same way it did a few minutes earlier. This time, however, the cameras get a closer view of Lehman’s face.
There’s not a flub, blooper, or forgotten line. Everyone’s happy as they break for lunch.
Motive is not a whodunit. In the opening minutes of the hour-long drama, the audience is shown who the victim and killer will be. Think of it as a “why did they do it?” The killer’s motive is done as a slow reveal as the investigation unfolds.
It’s like is a cross between Columbo and The Closer. With her envy-inducing golden tresses, Lehman’s Det. Angie Flynn walks diffidently and carries her feminine intuition as a big stick. She drives a 1984 Oldsmobile Hurst as a proud badge of her hard-scrabble roots. She eschews technology, choosing to rely on her ability to read people’s emotions. Her partner, Detective Oscar Vega (fellow Vancouverite Louis Verreira of Stargate fame) is more jaded. He comes from a privileged background and yet has chosen to immerse himself in the dark side of human emotion and behaviour. His brow seems to be etched with the words “Really? You expect me to believe that?”
Although many TV series have been shot in Vancouver, what makes Motive special is that Vancouver isn’t being asked to stand in for the starring city. Vancouver unabashedly plays Vancouver. The police station is in Olympic Village. The mountains, ocean and forests are shown in all their majestic glory.
Motive — which was just picked up by ABC for broadcast in the United States — also highlights why more than 3,000 people showed up at last week’s town hall forum to save BC’s film and television industry. Vancouver has the talent, both on screen and off, the infrastructure and the backdrop to make it the best location for virtually any production. It’s got the ability to produce high-quality shows and the reputation for being able to pull anything off. But it’s constantly losing out to other cities, resulting in a hugely under-employed talent pool that may soon have to jump ship.
“We’re at a critical point in time,” says one of the show’s executive producers, Louise Clark, the president of Lark Productions, which created Real Housewives of Vancouver (the second season starts Feb. 5) and is currently shooting six one-hour episodes about life at Vancouver General Hospital’s emergency department for Knowledge Network.
“The talent is here,” she says during the lunch break at Bridge Studios. “There’s no question of achieving [success.] It’s having the resources to do it.”
Other governments support their film industries but BC is no longer playing nice, reducing funding for BC Film and saying that the amount of money it loses through such things as tax credits isn’t worth the income that the industry generates.
“We have to play harder, better, stronger,” Clark says, not doubting that Vancouver has the ability to own the movie and television podium. “It would be good to have the support to take us over the top, whether that’s tax credits or something to keep us competitive. We’ve demonstrated our worth to this province time and time again.”
Her fellow executive director, Rob Merilees, says Motive is a case in point. Responding to a comment on the crew’s efficiency, he says, “I think we have the best camera crews in Canada. Not only are they fast, but they’re good.”
Merilees co-created Infinity Features, was named Canadian Producer of the Year by the Canadian Film and Television Producers Association in 2008, and launched Foundation Features, which is co-producing Motive with Lark Productions. On Feb. 3, his film Space Milkshake starring Vancouver’s Amanda Tapping and Robin Dunne (Sanctuary) is on The Movie Network; his follow-up documentary to Sharkwater, Revolution, will be released in March.
“Motive is a dream of a show,” says Merilees. “This is a world class operation and we are beyond grateful.”
Motive premieres immediately following Super Bowl XLVII on Feb. 3 at 7pm PT (approx.) on CTV. It airs Sundays at 9pm ET/PT beginning Feb. 10.