CMF Consultation - Complications Ensue
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Thursday, October 29, 2009


I'm pretty much a jeans guy, but yesterday I got duded up in a blazer and overcoat to go to the Canada Media Fund consultation session, along with about forty other writers, producers and documentary hyphenates. Valerie Creighton has been winging her way across Canada to ask industry stakeholders what the CMF should do and be.

The CMF is an arranged marriage between the Canadian Television Fund and the equivalent new media fund. The idea is to fund Canadian audio-visual content. But how? Everyone wants more pie.

WGC members Anne-Marie Perrotta, Gerry Lewis, Doug Taylor, Dan Williams and Lienne Sawatsky, Laurie Finstad, Rodney Gibbons and I were there to bring up creators' concerns. We want Canadian taxpayer money to go to Canadians telling Canadian stories. We want any "return on investment" formula to consider "creating culture" as the major return on investment: when Canadians see Canadian stories, it binds us together as a nation, and when foreigners see Canadian stories, they get a sense of us as a people. The point of the CMF isn't to get money back, it's to create popular culture.

I didn't say, but I should have, that the "return on investment" from documentaries is that people learn stuff, and the ROI from children's programming is kids learn stuff. Jesse saw a picture of the Eiffel Tower the other day and busted out "The Eiffel Tower is in France!" She must have picked that up from children's programming. She also seems to know what a glockenspiel is. I had to look it up.

The CMF is going to be split into "convergent" and "experimental" streams. "Convergent" means that when you bring in a TV show, they want you to tell them how there's going to be synergy with other audiovisual media, e.g. a videogame or a web application. That sounds clever and forward thinking, but as I said at the panel, would FLASHPOINT really be more popular or better if it had an Alternate Reality Game? Would it really make sense to have a FLASHPOINT videogame, where you try not to shoot people?

The experimental stream is sort of "everything except TV," and naturally video game producers are trying to up the percentage of the Experimental stream to 25% of the CMF; current spending would put it about 15%. Of course we were there to say that if the CMF is funding a digital or internet production, it should satisfy the same Cancon creator requirements as a TV production.

As Martin Brouard points out, "experimental" might not be the right word, since videogames are not exactly "experimental." I propose re-dubbing the stream "Emerging." Then you could have "Converging" and "Emerging" streams.

There was some arguing back and forth whether "Lifestyle/Reality" should be a supported genre. My take on that is that Lifestyle/Reality seems to do just fine without help, whereas documentaries and drama are not going to get made without CMF funding.

I do differ with the official WGC position on "setting" being part of the essential requirements for Cancon. If a Canadian director and writer want to shoot a movie with Canadian actors that happens to be set in, say, Ouagadougou, I think it should be eligible. What's important is that it's a story being told by Canadians. I can see the arguments on the other side, though, so feel free to opine in the comments.

I have to say I appreciate the outreach involved in this session, and the 17 other sessions taking place across the country. In the States, the government does no such thing. If you want to talk to the policy makers, you have to hire lobbyists, or contribute major bucks to their campaigns. We got a free lunch and an open ear.

Labels:

8 Comments:

Ah but Alex, you miss the essential Canadian whiff of it.

The important stuff has been decided. All those things they said, 'we don't have an answer for?' yup.

The fact that "it's all one fund now" means that it's way easier to expand whatever part the government of the day or their allies on the new board (who no longer have any fealty, interest, or connection to "cultural" mandates; they're handpicked by the Cable industries -- just try making that cultural argument to them) want expanded, and shrink the rest.

So videogames might eventually get their 25 percent, since they have a clear path to "return on investment." The networks can stand up and show that Canadian TV shows never make money, and when WGC and CFTPA show the Nordcity report that contradicts it, they can just ignore it.

Valerie and her team clearly did heavy work; but let's face it. It's not a consultation. It's a fop, a dumbshow that's all about saying, 'we heard you' before the rammed-through political will goes and does what it wants.

Welcome to 8/10; Goodbye CBC envelope, and TV -- the thing that needs capital and funding because you can maybe start a game company out of your basement, but not a tv studio --well, TV is just a bad investment, unless it's the kind of thing that Jim Shaw thinks he can make money putting on his VOD channel beside the porn.

Jim Henshaw was right. The whole thing's a fucking joke.

It's no less dirty than the way decisions are made in the US, but at least there nobody has any illusions that they're following the money.

Here it's who's "in"; same as it ever was. Welcome to the Family Compact, 21st century style.

By Blogger DMc, at 11:20 AM  

Not a FLASHPOINT video game, but certainly materials generated for a social studies classroom discussion on negotiation, identifying and solving problems, social ills or personal conditions that led to the violence....

I was once brought in to consult on the marketing and promotion of a movie dealing with child predators. After viewing the movie - which was packed with info about child predators - I told the producer and the director it was never going to get a theatrical release, it was never going to get a mass market DVD release in it's present form...

But if they created a manual to go with the movie, made some cuts (eliminating a scene where indeed we see an ADULT actor playing a CHILD'S bare breast) and repackaged the item for the educational market they could make their money back from their investment.

I'm not saying that every CAN TV show should be repackaged as afterschool specials but there are many options to explore in this "convergent" era, especially to back up your point that "kids learn stuff."

I mean - fer instance - what if that old show CATWALK (Wow - I'm dredging up the past here, aren't I?) had been made today and all of the songs on it were available as downloads and kids could mash them up online and make music on their own?

Kids don't just learn stuff - they get involved in stuff - and yes, they create stuff. And if any country wants to have a distinctive voice in tomorrow's world culture then this stuff needs to be discussed on every side of every border.

The media business of the future is not about the broadcasting - it's about the interaction.

By Blogger Cunningham, at 11:23 AM  

You may be right, but I choose to be optimistic. I don't see why anyone would go to all this trouble to consult, if they're going to ignore the consultation. It will just piss people off more than bulldozing the whole thing in the first place would.

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 11:24 AM  

This is where I feel I'm always translating to Canuck for you and people like Cunningham, who's like "guys, this shouldn't be so hard!"

Alex, this country has a vibrant - and MUCH more active tradition of "Royal Commsisons" on this or that thing. They put out big bound reports and they criss cross the country (sort of like "White Papers" in the USA)

...and they always make recommendations, and the report goes on the shelf and the recommendations are ignored and nobody does anything and nobody says anything because to actually stand up and do something and not take it like a fucking chump would not be Canadian.

So the "consultation" isn't the indicator for action, it is INSTEAD of action. It allows Canadians to feel they were "heard" and having been "heard" the government more often than not gets to do what it wants.

There are sectors where this is not so... inquests, and health related commissions and stuff can result in real change. But in broadcasting, in twenty odd years of following this game and this process, I can't recall anything ever really changing.

By bitching originally at the two-fund idea we got them to back off to the CMF idea. We got them to shelve the idea of the "cultural" stream and the "commercial" stream -- but now it's in one fund and those ideas haven't gone away, they've just learned to hide them in the packaging.

If you'd like to take over being optimistic, please, go ahead. But you have to learn that in Canada, they know that 9 times out of 10 if they just hold meetings in an airless room, the effort to take care of that will take all the fight out of people.

By Blogger DMc, at 12:18 PM  

Reiterated elsewhere - probably DMc's blog - the consultations are a sop to the "interested" parties about whom nobody cares. They used to do this in Rome all the time. Address the people but already know what they were going to do. For me, this has been going on since 1999. Nobody wants us - we're the cost of doing business. So, litle by little, cut by cut, we go away. Death by attrition. So look for a reduction CanCon requirements to be tabled next year.

By Blogger deborah Nathan, at 12:37 PM  

Alex,

You just have to look at the Turcot Exchange-Ville Marie debacle for proof of 'consultations' being for naught.

What are the Australians doing, that's what I wanna know.

By Blogger Racicot, at 12:50 PM  

"This is where I feel I'm always translating to Canuck for you and people like Cunningham, who's like "guys, this shouldn't be so hard!"

I do appreciate your acting as interpreter, D.

;D

By Blogger Cunningham, at 1:29 PM  

I know what a "glockenspiel" is, but only because I watch Sesame Street with my son.

My son just turned two last September but he's been able to read the Alphabet since last June, if not earlier ... mainly because he has mainstay children's programming that he watches and loves ...

And actually, since he's half Japanese, we have TV Japan on our cable, he has specific Japanese children's shows he watches which we balance with American shows like Barney (his favorite is Thomas the Tank Engine, which really isn't American, it seems British) ... and Elmo on Sesame Street.

It's not all TV, all the time, of course ... it's all regulated ... but the TV shows he does watch seem to have really made what I would call an educated difference ... important, I think, for a child of two different cultures.

By Blogger Joshua James, at 8:28 PM  

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