Christina Jennings founded Shaftesbury Films in 1987 as a feature film company, producing such acclaimed titles as Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity and Camilla, starring Jessica Tandy and Bridget Fonda. Since then, Jennings has evolved Shaftesbury into a diversified, global business with offices in Toronto and Los Angeles, spanning the production of scripted drama, kids and digital content sold in 120 countries worldwide. She is the Chairman and CEO of Shaftesbury and Executive Producer of Murdoch Mysteries.
" One of the ways that Shaftesbury has built its reputation is by adapting novels . . ," Jennings (no relation to Christina Jennings) writes about the series in the Introduction to Investigating Murdoch Mysteries: Official Series Companion Book (2015)
In 2010, Christina Jennings was named Producer of the Decade by Playback, Canada’s film, television and digital entertainment industry journal of record. The recognition was made as part of Playback’s special Decade in Review print issue, which looks back at the major accomplishments in the Canadian film and television industry over the past 10 years.
Jennings established Shaftesbury in 1987 and has since built the company into a position of unique leadership and strength as one of Canada’s largest creators, producers and distributors of original content for television and multiple platforms. With diversified operations including drama, kids, factual entertainment, digital media and sales and distribution, Shaftesbury produces and distributes a wide-ranging, globally relevant slate of programming that is available in Canada and more than 120 countries worldwide.
Over the past decade, Jennings’ diversified business model, investment in a broad development slate and innovative co-production and distribution partnerships with leading Canadian, American and international broadcast partners, has resulted in continuous growth for Shaftesbury. Since 2000, the company has expanded from eight to 45 full-time employees, tripled its production volume and created 40,000 jobs in the Canadian film and television industry across 55 productions, including 26 made-for-television films, 16 television series and seven mini-series.
In the following excerpt from Playback’s Producer of the Decade story, Patricia Bailey writes:
Fearless and inspiring. A big brain with the heart to match. A risk-taker who lives for a good story. That’s how those who work with Christina Jennings describe the woman who, over the past decade, has emerged as one of this country’s most innovative and successful producers. Since 1987, Jennings has brought thousands of hours of award-winning television programs and feature films to audiences in Canada and around the world.
Despite the global recession and an increasingly fragmented and competitive media landscape, Jennings and her team have nearly tripled Shaftesbury’s production and development output from $29 million in 2005 to over $80 million in 2009.
In 2000 Shaftesbury was a small enterprise with eight full-time employees; today the Toronto-based company employs 45 people and is one of Canada’s largest creators and distributors of drama and kid’s content for television. In fact, Shaftesbury’s sales and distribution division now accounts for 25% of the company’s revenue.
Most who work with Jennings believe she is a rare bird: a bright light in a tough and frequently discouraging business whose unique style combines business acumen with a keen artistic sensibility and immense generosity of spirit. And of course she possesses a must-have character trait for any truly powerful producer: relentless determination.
"She’s so enthusiastic she can talk you into doing just about anything, says Canadian actress Wendy Crewson, who has starred in a number of Jennings’ productions including ReGenesis. Whatever she’s got going on she’s behind 100 percent. She has been a production engine in this city. She’s kept so many of us working. She knows what will sell."
The Female Eye Maverick signifies innovation, creativity, and perseverance in the Film and Television Industry and is in recognition of a woman who has blazed a unique, and enduring trail in the film and television industry: "This year (2016) we are pleased to present the annual Female Eye Maverick Award & BEST IN THE BIZ TRIBUTE to the one of the most successful, innovative and progressive women in our industry, Christina Jennings, who is recognized around the globe."
Frankie Drake Mysteries
A CBC original series, Frankie Drake Mysteries is developed and produced by Shaftesbury in association with CBC and UKTV, with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, the Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit, the Cogeco Program Development Fund, and the Bell Fund. Content Media is the global distributor of the series.
“From Gatsby-esque garden parties to rough-and-tumble speakeasies, there’s a global appeal to the 1920s that we’re excited to bring to life in Frankie Drake Mysteries. This was a time in Toronto of booming construction, considerable population growth, and a major shift in the role of women from the home and farm into the workplace,” said Christina Jennings, Chairman & CEO, Shaftesbury / Executive Producer, Frankie Drake Mysteries. “Frankie has come back from the war to work as a private detective with her partner Trudy and a network of associates, from Mary who works in the police station as a Morality Officer, to Flo who works in the morgue. We are going to see women fighting crime and fighting the system – a lot of action and a lot of fun.”