Margaret Mardirossian: Alberta filmmakerA graduate of McGill University, Margaret Mardirossian founded Anaïd Productions in Edmonton, Alberta in 1993. Honoured four times as one of the world’s most influential independent production companies on Realscreen Magazine’s Global 100, Anaïd Productions produces award- winning, internationally recognized, top-rated factual and dramatic television series. Margaret has produced over 200 hours of television including five seasons of the Gemini award-winning series X-Weighted (Slice) and four seasons of both Gemini award-winning series Mentors (Family Channel) and Taking It Off (Life Network).
Currently, Mardirossian is Executive Producer of The Quon Dynasty, a new series for Rogers Broadcasting, premiering in 2011. Margaret is also Executive Producer for the second cycle of the 26 week national weight loss challenge X-WEIGHTED.COM, a companion website for the television series. Most recently, Margaret was Executive Producer for season 5 of X-Weighted: Families, which premiered in October 2010 on Slice.

Mardirossian’s additional credits include Executive Producer for two seasons of The Rig (OLN) as well as Anaïd’s third season of Family Restaurant: The Quons (Food Network Canada), which garnered the 2009 Banff Rockie Grand Prize for Best Entertainment Program as well as the Rockie award for Best Lifestyle/Information Program.

She has volunteered her time on numerous industry related organizations and has been a guest speaker at a number of industry and business related panels. In 2000, Margaret was a recipient of the Global Television’s “Woman of Vision” award.

Montreal-raised Mardirossian enjoyed producing, stage-managing and directing live-theatre shows in Edmonton, but “wanted something tangible at the end of the day.” Money, that is. So she took the Canadian Securities course, not to become a stockbroker but to pick up business smarts she hadn’t acquired from a McGill University English-and-drama degree. “It helped me see what investors are looking for when they’re putting money into your project,” said Mardirossian, who “begged, borrowed and pleaded” for $60,000 to make the 1992 documentary movie Ronnie Burkett: A Line of Balance about the Lethbridge-born puppeteer.

Without pulling strings herself, she also got married. That was to broker Bradley Gifford, whom she approached as a possible mentor after leafing through phone-directory advertisements. “So, I got my husband through the Yellow Pages,” Mardirossian cracked this week while setting up a 3,500-square-foot North Vancouver office for the now-12-employee Anaid Productions firm she launched “on no capital” to make the Burkett movie.

“Anaid is the goddess of nurturing and growth in Armenian mythology,” said third-generation Canadian Mardirossian, who was herself nurtured by “the creative explosion” of late-1990s Alberta. When her debut documentary won a Canadian Council for the Arts “Most Innovative” award, she produced The Tourist TV series for three 13-episode years. Simultaneously, she signed Oscar-nominated Elliott Gould to star in the first of 52 $500,000 episodes of Mentors, in which a 13-year-old boy conjured up historical characters to solve modern-world problems.

With reality, reality, reality becoming TV’s new watchwords, Mardirossian made — and won a Gemini for — 49 half-hour episodes of Taking It Off. That “docu-soap” cost $100,000 to $150,000 per episode as it followed several individuals involved in weight-loss programs. Anaid, meanwhile, had to add financial muscle with the Canadian Television Fund providing up to 35 per cent of shooting budgets. But the show spurred Anaid’s most successful series yet, the 2005 X-Weighted, for which broadcasters wanted the story of each participant — some lose 100 pounds — told fully in one-hour episodes costing $300,000 each.

X-Weighted won a Gemini and led to a series she’s now shooting about “fitter, healthier families.” Meanwhile, Anaid’s The Rig series, about Alberta oil-sands wildcatters, is in its fifth season, and the “docu-sitcom” Family Restaurant series has morphed from 16 episodes about an Edmonton Greek restaurant to a Chinese eatery run by the Quon family.

As for Mardirossian’s new West Coast office, “The B.C. government has invested money in the creative community and established an infrastructure that contains a wealth of creative resources. [Former Alberta premier] Ralph Klein basically shut down the arts community, and it’s very difficult to get that engine roaring again.”

Until the arts community engine roars again in Alberta,  Mardirossian’s running the Anaid office out of Vancouver and Helen Schmidt is holding the fort and running Anaid’s business affairs from the Edmonton office.