Players Film Company

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Thirteen years in, Players Film Company is claiming its best year yet, but president Philip Mellows is bent on duplicating the company's commercials success in the feature realm. While Players has been turning out spots for those holiest of Canadian advertisers, beer companies Molson and Labatt, and roadhousing U.S. campaigns, 49th Parallel, the feature company Mellows founded with Steve Hoban and Noah Segal, has wrapped its first film - Vincenzo Natali's Nothing, an existential tale aiming for a 2003 Cannes Film Festival premier. As other feature products bubble, Players' core commercials business continues to produce visual and comedic work, frequently working with top U.S. directors.

"We've been a relevant part of the careers of some of the best directors working in America today," says Mellows, mentioning Gary McKendry (who recently signed with Circle for Canadian representation) and Douglas Avery of Hollywood's Villains. "We're not responsible for Douglas' success but we put a few key spots on his reel, like Labatt's 'Competition.' " Avery recently completed another four-spot beer campaign, for Labatt's agency Grip. "Wedding" is somehow sexy while milking trailer-trash chic; a would-be couple ditch one another at a Vegas-style altar after making lusty eyes at the other impulsive brides and grooms in the dingy chapel. Avery soon returned to Toronto and Players to roadhouse a Coors Light campaign for FCB/Chicago and Villains.

"We do a combination of domestic and roadhouse work," says Mellows. "This is valuable because the directors work in our environment with our people and get a sense of what we can offer. And sometimes we get them out for a screening or lunch with a local creative team. We're a company that concentrates on highly personalized relationships with both our Canadian directors and directors south of the border. Our philosophy is keep it small. We work with U.S. directors in a way that allows us to use our knowledge and have an edge, as opposed to the 15-company approach, shotgunning out as many reels as you can to get the gig."

This same hands-on approach led Mellows and partners to launch 49th Parallel. Along with Nothing, the company has shot a sequel to John Fawcett's indie werewolf flick Ginger Snaps, directed by Brett Sullivan, and is developing two projects with Canadian indie film mainstay Bruce McDonald. "I've been managing talent and running productions for 15 years," says Mellows. "If I can build talent, why not build talent that benefits the company, and at the same time can give our directors opportunities beyond commercials."

Tally this up with the company's spot subsidiary Pure Films and interactive strand Playmedia, and it would seem that Players is playing for keeps.

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