NYFA Screenwriting alumni and New Brunswick, Canada native Jon Mann was recently accepted along with producing partner Rob Ramsay into the National Screen Institute (NSI) 2017 Totally Television program. Mann’s selected pilot project, “Wolfville,” is set in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and follows the saga of two old friends who end up on opposing sides of the law.
The NSI Totally Television program is an incubator that trains Canadian filmmaking teams to develop TV pilots into full series, and has been a driving force behind the success of such series as “What Would Sal Do?” (CraveTV), “Less Than Kind” (HBO Canada and Citytv), ‘“da Kink in My Hair” (Global and Showcase) and “Todd & the Book of Pure Evil” (Space, The Comedy Network). Mann was the only filmmaker accepted east of Toronto, Canada.
We had a chance to catch up with the busy screenwriter and hear his take on Totally Television, his time at NYFA, and “Wolfville.”
NYFA: First, can you tell us a little bit about your journey and what brought you to the New York Film Academy?
JM: I always had an honest passion for film and television, but it wasn’t until midway through my undergraduate degree at Acadia University that I realized how big of an impact movies, TV, books — and storytelling in general — had on my life.
When I was humbly offered a spot to study screenwriting through NYFA it was a no-brainer. NYFA gave me the opportunity to master a subject I did not realize I had been studying my entire life.
NYFA: Do you have any favorite NYFA moments from your time as a student?
JM: Of all the things that I experienced during my time with NYFA, the moment that sticks out the most was a teaching moment I had with a member of the screenwriting faculty (who shall remain nameless!) after he reviewed a draft of the feature I was writing for my thesis. It had somehow found its way to him and he gave my advisor a message to pass onto me. It wasn’t positive, and he was completely right. He really put my writing in its place — which without knowing it, I needed to hear at the time. I’ve been a better writer ever since because of him.
NYFA: What inspired your screenplay for “Wolfville”?
JM: My writing/production partner Rob Ramsay and I met as students at Acadia — located in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. We weren’t writing together during our time at Acadia, but it was always an important town and community for us.
I grew up in a small east-coast Canadian town, as did Rob, and we always loved the idea of a small, picturesque, Canadian town dealing with issues that pushed the comfort zone of the community as a whole. We wanted to take the idea of disturbing the comfortable and comforting the disturbed, within the streets of a small town; which a lot of great TV shows have done an incredible job of lately. So those conversations turned into, well, why not in Atlantic Canada?
NYFA: Can you tell us a bit about the process of finding your way into National Screen Institute 2017 Totally Television, program? (And congrats!)
JM: Thanks! Rob and I shot a short film a few summers ago (“Rearview”) which made its way into NSI’s Short Film Festival, and that was a huge accomplishment for us. About a year later we got an email with a call out for writer & producer teams with pilots written to be part of their Totally Television program.
Rob and I have been writing together for years and have a tall stack of pilots, so after some conversations back and forth we decided to go with “Wolfville.” Then, honestly, we were completely humbled to be put on the short list for the program, and now to find out we have been selected and to be working with NSI as part of Totally Television is incredible.
NYFA: Was there anything that surprised you about the Totally Television selection process?
JM: I think everyone knows the professionalism and expertise of the National Screen Institute and this process was no different. From day one they’ve been nothing but helpful and supportive.
NYFA: What do you most look forward to in bringing “Wolfville” to life with the National Screen Institute?
JM: I think what I’m most looking forward to is showing the masses a corner of the world — and the characters that live there — that they have never seen before. I am a very proud maritimer and I am excited to show people why.
NYFA: What advice would you offer fellow NYFA students who aspire to bring a series script to development?
JM: I’m still trying to figure it all out, but if you have an idea, write it. Things become exponentially easier once you have something to show people.
NYFA: Are you working on any other upcoming projects you’d like to share?
JM: Constantly! I have two features that are ready for production, and I’m finishing a script for a short that Rob and I are shooting in November.
The New York Film Academy would like to thank Jon Mann for taking the time to share some of his story with our community.