A Conversation on Durham County with the Women of Back Alley Films

Yesterday, Muse Entertainment and Back Alley Films announced that all three seasons of the critically acclaimed series Durham County will be released for iTunes download on August 1st. The timing couldn’t be more perfect, because I recently interviewed the wonderful ladies of Back Alley Films, Janis Lundman and Adrienne Mitchell, on DC and their upcoming mini-series Bomb Girls. In the first of a two-parter, we focus on Durham County, its successes, the universal appeal of the series, and news on the much anticipated film that will wrap the series.

What is it about the series that makes viewers identify with the setting, although they may never even have heard of Durham County?

Adrienne: I think that part of it is, even though they haven’t seen the place, a lot of Canadians have grown up in the suburbs, they’ve seen those houses, those hydro towers, those next door neighbours – although let’s hope we don’t have one like Ray Prager. I think there is a familiarity there in terms of the location and the mindset of the suburbs where everything is supposed to be fine and good and nothing’s ever supposed to go wrong.

Recently you traveled to the Monte Carlo Television Festival with DC. How does a series like this go from its inception to being recognized by the international TV industry?

Adrienne: You start off with a couple of gals – Laurie Finstad, who’s a wonderful, talented writer, and Janis and I sort of talking about what we wanted to do next, talking about our experiences in the suburbs, having strange experiences, and that formed the kernel of the basis upon which we built the show. Having that all of a sudden spiral into something that has that kind of reach, you don’t know that’s going to happen at the outset, because you’re doing something specific to your own personal vision. It’s always great and exciting that it actually does reach out to other people, not just making something that two people watch in your hometown, but that other people can relate to, and appreciate the complexity of the characters and the conflicts. It’s a high, it’s great.

You’ve been recognized at home as well as abroad. What is it like to receive these accolades, especially from your peers?

Adrienne: With Durham County, what’s interesting, it’s pay television and we were working with a broadcaster that was very supportive of the artistic vision. [We] didn’t have as many restraints around having to meet the needs of advertisers, so we had a kind of freedom, the kind of freedom that’s not easy to have if you’re working in another context. Fort that to all work and to come up with this cohesive vision for the show and get the kind of recognition from our peers who we deeply respect, and peers in Canada and the US and Europe, it’s quite incredible. It wasn’t expected.

Janis: There’s something to be said when you have producers that you’ve known for a long time – and Adrienne and I have been in this business for over 20 years – come up and over and over again say how much they love the show, how well made it is, the direction and the vision and say, “I think you’ve raised the bar in Canadian television.” And these are our peers. When Durham came out for the first season, we entered it into the awards for the CMPA, which is the producers’ association, and won for best dramatic series. For me, that was one of the highs of the series in terms of any kind of accolade because it is your peers and they are recognizing what you’ve done. And it’s not just us, it’s such al team effort. We have an incredibly talented DOP Eric Cayla, and editor Teresa De Luca, and the actors, Hugh Dillon, Helene Joy. We all got on board with the same kind of vision. It was very collaborative, a wonderful synergy, and it was thanks to the whole team that we’re able to get to the place we are with this show.

Do you have anything new to report on the Durham County film?

Janis: Our writer, Laurie, submitted her draft, and we had a very good creative feedback session with the pay networks. We’ll have to see.

We’re less than a week away from the Durham County iTunes release, and hopefully there will be news soon on the film. In the second part of this feature, we’ll shift the spotlight from DC to next winter’s Global TV mini-series, Bomb Girls, so stay tuned for more!

Photo Courtesy of Back Alley Films

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