Q. I'm a beginning screenwriter here in Paris, France. I'm getting my first scripts sold and have chosen to write mainly for animation - for now at least. The thing is I spent five of the richest years of my life living in Montreal. What are the odds of an immigrant screenwriter finding work in Montreal?
Quebec has a rich cultural life, a thriving, close-knit creative community, and many government programs to support the arts. For a "nation" of 6 million francophones, it is about as strong a cultural situation as you could ask for.
In many ways, I envy the francophone community, because they really have a community going. There are regular premieres of French language films at Place des Arts (think Lincoln Center), and everybody goes. Quebecers go and see their own pictures, unlike, say, Canadians. Quebec has real movie stars. Patrick Huard could walk into any franco bar in Quebec and take his choice of girls home.
The French in Quebec are incredibly warm and open people if you speak their language reasonably well. And I suspect that much as they have a chip on their shoulder about Parisians (who have a habit of insisting on speaking English to Quebec tourists), they will probably feel flattered that you chose Montreal over France. I think people are still tickled I immigrated from the US for the same reason.
The money is not much. French screenwriters get paid maybe half what English ones do, because they're writing for a smaller market. But Montreal is not an expensive place to live as world-class, cosmopolitan cities go.
So that's all good.
However, you will need to actually immigrate. A work permit will not do. All the government support requires that the screenwriter be a citizen or permanent resident. That means no one can hire you until you are a permanent resident.
On the positive side, unlike the US, Canada has an immigration policy that is warm and friendly for well-educated people in good health with professional experience. We have got a lot of empty room here! Needless to say, Quebec is super-anxious to get more francophones in. So you probably will not have much trouble getting accepted. It will just take time. I'm guessing 12-18 months to get your landing permit.
However, the moment you land, you are eligible to work, and I believe you can apply for your health card as soon as you get your Certificat de Séléction du Québec, i.e. before you land.) Once you are a permanent resident you're required to spend 6 months a year here, though I don't know how carefully they track this. So you could spend time in both Paris and Montreal and work both places, doubling your opportunities.
So if you love the place, might be worth a shot. And, bienvenu!
Labels: breaking in
You need a year's worth of work experience in a particular field to get into Quebec through normal channels (and I'm not sure if writing is one of those fields). However:
If you become a student in Quebec then you can apply for permanent residency when you're a year away from graduation. If you already have a bac, your transferable credits would probably leave you only two years from a degree, so in one year you could apply. While a student you can work off-campus in Quebec (in a related field to your major), and you could do internships with film companies, during that time. I also suspect there are some good networking opportunities for francophones in film-related programs at UdeM and UQAM.
The fastest way would be if you have or get a year's worth of work experience, but that only works if writing careers are now on the approved list. Bonne chance!
There's a three-month waiting period for health insurance after you get your permanent residence. You have to buy private insurance for the three months.
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