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Hannah Montana writers find freedom in Canada

"American broadcasters want a hook," says Life with Boys creator Michael Poryes, which led him to Canada to collaborate with YTV and Corus. "It gave us the freedom to try something different and to write something that relies more on dialogue and characters."
June 16, 2011

There’s nothing like the heightened focus and quiet hush that falls over a studio when the director calls “Action!” Through a wall of cameras, portable monitors and crew members on the Toronto, Canada-based set of Life with Boys, I strain to catch a glimpse of two small, hyper-styled young actresses as they enter a brightly lit kitchen set.

The 22 x half-hour series being produced by Nelvana and Corus Entertainment for Corus kidnet YTV is about a 13-year-old girl named Tess who, besides dealing with the typical stress of teen life, lives in a household with her overprotective dad and three brothers.

As the actors who play Tess and pal Allie deliver lines, series creator Michael Poryes, exec producer Steven Peterman and head writer Douglas Lieblein watch the monitors and then confer with the director between takes to get the comic timing just right.

Having worked together for several years on Disney mega-hit Hannah Montana, Poryes, Peterman and Lieblein not only have a polished collaborative process, but they also let the schtick fly, frequently levelling dry one-liners and ironic barbs at one another during our lunchbreak meeting in the writers’ room.

A key aspect of Life with Boys, says Poryes, was his departure from developing a show based on a hook. Tess doesn’t have any supernatural abilities and she isn’t a famous rock star—she’s just a regular girl who happens to live in a home populated by boys. Accordingly, the episodes explore how boys and girls see things differently and inevitably get their wires crossed, naturally leading to a lot of laughs.

“American broadcasters want a hook,” says Poryes, which led the trio to Canada to collaborate with YTV and Corus. “It gave us the freedom to try something different and to write something that relies more on dialogue and characters,” he adds.

Nelvana Enterprises is distributing the series in Canada, Latin America, Africa, Asia (excluding Japan) and France. Classic Media and Helion Pictures will cover distribution across all media in all other territories worldwide.

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