Exclusive Interview with Derek Diorio

Exclusive Interview with Derek Diorio
Jim Calarco

Jim Calarco exclusive interview with Derek Diorio, an international award-winning writer, producer and director for Report North Bay. (Part 1 of 2)

Derek Diorio writer, director and producer has won many international awards

Derek Diorio has written, produced and directed hundreds of hours of dramatic, animated, documentary and live-action television programming and feature films starring the likes of Ernest Borgnine, Eli Wallach, Graham Greene, Michael Moriarty and Terri Garr.

From 2012 to 2018 he co-created and co-wrote with Smith Contrindia for 4 seasons of the critically acclaimed drama series Hard Rock Medical. His work as a writer has earned him many international awards, including a Cable Ace Award in the U.S., a Banff Television Festival Award and three Gemini nominations in Canada. He moved his family and production company to North Bay in 2018 and is an active Producer promoting Northern crews and talent.

This is part 1 of 2 of this interview.

Jim Calarco: Derek, you are a writer, director and producer that has won many international awards, why did you decide to shoot your series in Northern Ontario?

 Derek Diorio:  I’ve been involved in Northern productions since 2007 when I started directing a Franco-Ontarian TV comedy series called Météo+, for a producer named Robert Charbonneau. These shows were destined for TFO which is the French counterpart to TVO. After a few seasons on these Franco productions, I thought “why are we not doing shows in English for TVO”, since it has a much bigger footprint than TFO. The funds were available through the NOHFC – and I talked TVO into doing their first ever drama series which was Hard Rock Medical, developed with my writing partner Smith Corindia.

When we started shooting Hard Rock Medical most of the core cast was from southern Ontario, with the exception of Sudbury’s very talented Stephane Paquette. Hard Rock Medical was a procedural, which meant new characters with new medical afflictions every week. Hard Rock Medical was a relatively low budget drama and really couldn’t sustain bringing in actors from the south to speak three lines. It didn’t take long to realize that there is a lot of talent in the North and on the pragmatic side costs could be substantially lower.

If I bring a Northern actor to the show I don’t have to pay for hotel, per diem and transportation costs – it’s what I call the “self-drive” model. It just made more sense to hire local talent and crew. And many of the northern actors went from being day players to series regulars which is huge. Now, I may have been reducing costs, but I was also improving my shows. I’ve never believed that area code is a determinant of talent. For too long producers believed (and some probably still do) that actors from the 705-area code were inferior to those actors from the South. If you look at the shows and films, I’ve produced up here with Northern actors they hold their own with anything shot in this country.


Jim Calaro: Do you feel that Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC) helps film production?

 Derek Diorio: I do. Let’s be real here – without the NOHFC we wouldn’t be having this conversation. For close to 20 years the NOHFC has been providing funds to production companies with the specific intent of bringing production to the North and building the industry here. The NOHFC fund benefits local businesses and provides incentives to hire local cast and crew which in turn helps build the industry. The trick is to get producers from away, who have secured NOHFC funding to properly buy into the Northern Talent pool at every level and bring fewer resources from away. The better our production crews, actors and post-production crews get, the easier it is to provide those services and make the argument for hiring Northern. The NOHFC on its own can’t make that happen – it’s up to the local talent pool to advocate for itself and Northern Producers and line-producers to push a little harder for local content. I see a lot of progress in that area.  Is it perfect? No, but we do have something good going on here and we need to collectively get together, assess our gains and strengths and figure out how we get a bigger piece of the pie.

Jim Calarco


 Jim Calarco, a member of ACTRA has most recently appeared in A Masked Saint, Orah, The Captive and the TV series Hard Rock Medical. Formerly a Drama consultant with the Near North Board of Education he retired in 2000 and began working exclusively in film and TV. In 2008 he established North Star Talent with producer Brigitte Kingsley in order to represent Northern Ontario Actors. In the same year he started Real to Reel BG Agency. In 2010 he started Cast North, a film and television casting and audition agency. He is winner of the Quonta Best Actor Award and a Best Actor in a Short Film Award (Belgium) and in 2008 he was inducted into the Northern Entertainers Hall of Recognition. His two most recent shot films that he wrote and directed have won 23 awards internationally. He continues to work as both an Actor/Director and Northern Film Consultant.

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