Producer Anthony Leo remembers cutting his teeth co-founding Newmarket’s Resurgence Theatre Company in 1999.
The former Newmarket resident spent 12 years with the company, which produced the York Shakespeare Festival.
“What was great about that experience was getting to work with some of the best theatre artists in Canada who really, as a young actor/producer at the time, really inspired me,” he said. “I learned from some of the best in the industry. It definitely taught me resilience and how to hustle … Now it’s a little bit easier, I’d like to think."
Leo went on to co-run Toronto-based Aircraft Productions since 2005, which was bought by Canadian giant Corus Entertainment Feb. 1. Aircraft has soared high during the last 16 years as a scripted, family-focused production company most known for the 2017 Oscar-nominated animated film The Breadwinner.
“As the company grew, as the projects we’ve been working on kind of gained momentum and gained more recognition, it was really cool to get a call from Corus,” Leo said. “We’ve been always very production-focused, but what this partnership allows us to do is really kind of tap into a deep brain trust of not just other productions, but also distribution, and animation studios, and merchandising.”
Corus executive vice-president of contents and corporate strategy Colin Bohm said he is glad to be working with Leo and Aircraft co-president Andrew Rosen.
“Bringing Aircraft Pictures’ demonstrated creative capabilities and entrepreneurial talents into the Corus orbit will help to accelerate our strategy of expanding our global content business,” Bohm said. “We are thrilled to be in business with two of the most respected producers in the industry.”
Leo said the deal will give them a chance to “level up,” but retain independence and still decide what they want to make. He said it also allows Aircraft to hire new employees to handle different parts of the business and reduce the burden on Rosen and him.
“We consider ourselves creative producers. We’re not just people that look at the budget and the numbers. We’re also very much involved in the creative developments and working with the writers and directors and casting, every aspect of production.”
The company has helmed a variety of family-oriented programming, from live-action shows such as Holly Hobbie to the upcoming animated show Summer Memories. Leo also teased about an upcoming production for a major streaming service that he could not elaborate on.
He said they hope the Corus deal will allow them to do even more.
“We hope it’s going to mean that I’ll be spending a lot more time on the creative,” he said. “Hopefully turning that into more product, more shows."
Young said his time spent in Newmarket helped him become resourceful and resilient. He said he still keeps in touch with folks here in town, though he now lives elsewhere and splits his time working in Toronto and Los Angeles.
“I have a lot of good friends there still,” he said. “I make it out there, usually in the summertime more than the winter. Love the farmers' market and the Riverwalk Commons and everything there. I can remember when that first opened and how it has grown, and the town has put so much into that. It’s really awesome to see.”
He said they have found success with a hands-on and selective approach in what they make. Regardless of what project they work on, he said they hope to encourage positive values and make a difference.
“Our hope is that in a small way when people watch our shows and our films of late, they will have the ability to make the world a better place,” he said. “When you really care about the product, and you care about the people making the product, it really shows.”