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Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Writers Guild of Canada has joined ACTRA against the CRTC's recommendations for the Canadian Television Fund, and in a Tuesday release accused the regulator of selling out Canadian talent in order to "placate Shaw and Videotron."

The WGC objects to the suggestion in the report, released late last week, that the minimum CAVCO requirement for primetime content backed by CTF should be lowered to 8 out of 10 points, from 10 out of 10. The change would make it possible for CTF-funded productions to be made without a Canadian director, writer or lead actor and drew a similar rebuke from ACTRA on Tuesday
CRTC Selling Out, Say Writers in today's Playback
(For those of you in the States, to access the hefty CAVCO subsidy for "Cancon" -- Canadian content -- movies and TV, you need a certain number of points. You get points for each Canadian getting a creative credit -- writer, director, editor, composer, star, etc.)

I'm of two minds about this one.

On the one hand, as a guy who's worked in production companies, trying to set up movies, I can see how the 10 out of 10 points constraint makes it extremely difficult to make shows that will sell overseas. There are very few Canadian actors who are bankable stars. As DMc remarks, there are very few Canadian directors who are bankable.

And, frankly, a lot of Canadian screenwriters aren't writing marketable material. Or at least, they didn't as recently as 1999. As a development exec, I used to call up Canadian agents and ask for their best scripts. I would get a pile of aimless dramadies about lovable losers; I never got anything with a good hook.

On the other hand, how do we develop bankable actors, writers and directors if we give the top jobs away to Americans? An 8 out of 10 requirement means someone's going to be left out in the cold. And then producers will be able to say, truthfully, "we can't cast a Canadian star, there aren't any." Already my actor friends in Montreal complain they can never get a role with more than 5 lines on the many American pictures that shoot there. So I don't think I'm being purely selfish when I agree with the points the WGC makes in their press release (it's a PDF), Vote of No Confidence for Canadian Talent.

There ought to be some middle ground. You could have two levels of support: 100% for shows with 10 out of 10 points, say 60% for 8 out of 10. That would encourage 10 out of 10 productions. But it wouldn't shut out producers that need one American star, or star director, in order to finance their picture, or who have a great US script they want to shoot in Canada.

PS: In the same issue,
Revenues for private, conventional casters were flat at $2.2 billion in 2006, unchanged from the year before, while profits fell 62.5% to just over $90 million, the first time in 15 years that that particular segment has made less than $100 million, according to a study released on Wednesday.
Hmmm. Then why did CTV just pay hunks of money to buy CHUM, and why did Rogers just buy the CityTV channels? It's not possible the networks are crying poor again, is it?

PPS: There is a useful list of famous or at least semi-known Canadian actors at Northern Stars; thanks Steve. However while I would say Rachel McAdams is an enormous talent, is she really bankable? That is, does she open a movie? Has she ever opened a movie? I'm inclined to say no.

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7 Comments:

I think this is a no-brainer. If you want to get money from the Canadian government (which funds TV and films to promote Canadian culture), you should have to use Canadian talent.

If you want a "bankable" star, then get the money from a bank, eh?

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 3:34 PM  

There aren't many bankable Canadian stars? It always seemed to me that Canadian, Scottish, and Australian stars were coming to L.A. and taking all the roles -- that American audiences actually just aren't that fond of Americans.

I noticed this site has a pretty extensive list:

http://www.northernstars.ca/actorsmno/mcadams_rachel.html

(and will link to Rachel McAdams on general principle).

By Blogger Steve Peterson, at 5:23 PM  

As a writer I wouldn't mind an American star in a script I wrote, or an American director. It will open up a market for my material.

For actors it can have the same effect.

I aprove, but then again, I am naive.

By Blogger Jutratest, at 12:50 AM  

And how are we going to develop writers who can write hook-y scripts unless we create a situation in which those qualities are A) asked for and B) rewarded? In a culture where Telefilm funding is still seen as the top of the game, and the way to get funded by Telefilm is (supposedly) to do the exact opposite of what provably works in American movies and TV, are you SURPRISED that that was the sort of stuff you were getting sent?

By Blogger gfiles, at 10:06 AM  

But Jutratest, how would you feel about a movie with an American script and a Canadian director/star? It's easy to approve when you're not the one being squeezed out!

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:25 AM  

Giles, you're making a lot of sense. If I'm writing for an American director/star, I'm writing a more internationally marketable movie. If I'm writing for Canadian stars and a Canadian director, I know I need to do something else to appeal to them, and something that can be done on a Canadian budget. (The star brings the budget.)

On the other hand I'm pretty sure that if there were no protection for Canadian content, the Canadian creative pool would dry up and blow away -- in a southwesterly direction.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 10:31 AM  

I am gambling that the successes of my "un-squeezed out" work will counter the squeezed out moments.

By Blogger Jutratest, at 12:15 PM  

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