Passionate fan pitching movie to Canadian Football League brass

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The film is called Kick, and at this point it lives only in the imagination of Canadian writer and producer Chris Bickford.

He said he wants to make a movie that celebrates the Canadian Football League and features the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Not the current team, mind you, rather a fictional, rag-tag band of Tabbies who can’t win for losing, in part because their quarterback is old and hobbled by bad knees, their kicker is an anxiety-ridden shank machine and the rest of the roster is made up of players nobody else wants. Throw in a pit bull, a band of 12-year-old boys from the wrong side of the tracks and, yes, the cliché quotient is high.

The city of Hamilton will have a starring role, though perhaps not the Chamber of Commerce ideal. The film’s synopsis suggests “if you want mini golf, roller derby, bowling alleys and pot-luck dinners, Hamilton is the place to be.”

But the Tabbies make it all the way to the Grey Cup game in their hometown, and if that doesn’t make you want to sing ‘Oskee Wee Wee’, then you’re just not a CFL fan.

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Bickford certainly is, and he believes the league can market its way out of the financial doldrums if only leadership would take a chance, or at the very least a meeting. So far he hasn’t heard from commissioner Randy Ambrosie or Ticats owner Bob Young, and indeed both are involved in preparing for a 14-game season and in discussions with the XFL ownership group. However, the CFL is aware of the movie pitch and issued a reply to a Postmedia request for comment.

“We’re always willing to hear from people who are passionate about football and the CFL, to have a conversation and hear their ideas,” a league spokesperson said in an email. “Of course, our immediate focus is getting back on the field in 2021. That’s where we’re really concentrating our efforts and resources right now. We’re also looking down the road, at how we can ensure our clubs’ long-term financial future, coming out of this very challenging time for so many businesses. Any new project would have to be assessed on the strength of its business case and demonstrable and deliverable financial returns.”

Bickford said a movie would help the CFL’s efforts at rejuvenation.

“A major film showcasing the CFL would enhance and enable these efforts and would create a tsunami of positive press as we cast the film, as we bring in high-profile partners, as we move into production and as the film is brought to festivals, theaters and major digital platforms.”

He also said the business case is strong, that he and Russ De Jong of Oakville-based North Film Co. are willing to finance a four-week shoot and six-week edit — at a cost that could reach $4 million — but require another $900,000 US. If the CFL antes up, Bickford said the investment would entitle the league to 50 per cent of the profits.

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If those profits also exist only in Bickford’s imagination, that would be an unfortunate partnership for the CFL, given their rather dire financial straits. But small films can make big coin if they’re done right. Juno, a $6.5 million US production shot in and around Vancouver and released in 2007, has grossed more than $230 million US worldwide.

What ought to make Kick interesting to the CFL leadership is the fact that somebody with an apparent ability to pull it off actually wants to make a feature film about the league. North Film Co.’s list of TV, commercial, feature film and music video credits is extensive.

“During my tenure there were never any projects like this, nor did a Canadian producer ever approach us with this kind of idea,” said former commissioner Tom Wright, who sat in the big chair from 2002 to 2007. “I seem to recall being approached for more of a documentary style of film, though none ever made it into production.”

It was a similar story for his successor Mark Cohon, who served until 2015.

“I can’t think of any producers who approached the CFL during my tenure. We did create the series of documentaries for the (100th Grey Cup celebration). Those were financed by Bell and the federal government.”

A successful feature film would offer marketing and revenue potential at a time when the CFL needs a boost, if only to survive a pandemic that has already cost them one season, shortened another and occupies all their time.

“We understand the CFL is busy, but we’re offering a shiny new car with the key in the ignition,” said Bickford. “They just have to turn the key. … This isn’t a vague idea that could take years to come to fruition. We’re ready to get to work.”

dbarnes@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/sportsdanbarnes

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