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Sunday, September 18, 2016

If you want Canadian government support for your movie, you need Canadians in key positions. There are ten possible points, for director, producer, writer, editor, composer, key cast, etc. The current government is planning to reduce the requirement so you don't need Canadian writers.

I have some experience that may be relevant.

In the 90s, I worked for a few indie production companies in LA that were trying to make movies in Canada. Specifically, they were trying to make Quebec co-productions so they could access Canadian and Quebecois government subsidies that amounted to about 25% of a film's budget.

A wholly Canadian production needed 10 out of 10 points. That wasn't very attractive to an LA production company because there were very few bankable stars willing to appear in a co-production. (Donald Sutherland came up a lot.) There were also not a lot of Canadian film directors acceptable to foreign distributors.

However, a co-production could allocate some of those roles to the co-production company. So a UK-Canada co-production could have, say, a British director if it had a script by a Canadian. It could have a British co-star. Moreover, each co-production company got to have one American cast member, so the top two cast members would be bankable Americans.

The point wasn't to make movies about British or Canadian culture. The point was to make low-budget direct-to-video movies for the international sales market; in other words, American thrillers and action movies and family films and so forth. The characters were all supposed to be Americans, and the stories set in the US.

I worked on, for example, an Israeli-Canadian co-pro; a French-Israeli-Canadian co-pro; a Dutch-Canadian co-pro; a French-Canadian-Israeli co-pro shot financed through a Welsh TV station and shot in Poland.

The Canadian government is now considering changing the Broadcast Act as regards 10-out-of-10 native Canadian productions that access Federal subsidies. They are considering reducing the required points to 6 out of 10.

So, let me tell you what will happen: American producers will swoop in and start making American movies with Canadian government money. These movies will be shot in Canada. They will have Canadian composers and Canadian editors. The name-below-the-title cast will be Canadian. But they will be American movies. The mailboxes will be blue, not red. The lawyers will wear suits, not robes. The stories will be generic thrillers and action movies and cabin-in-the-woods horror movies.

These American movies will snaffle up all the Federal funds for movies, so very few actually Canadian stories get told. No more Les Invasions Barbares; no more Atarnajuat: The Fast Runner; no more Incendies; no more Away from Her; no more Bon Cop / Bad Cop. Just Porky's and Resident Evil from now on.

Canada already has support for service productions -- films that shoot up here to take advantage of the weakened state of the Canadian dollarette. This would be taxpayers funding American stories.

Apparently the government is also considering loosening up the CMF rules, so American-written TV shows can satisfy Canadian content requirements for broadcasters.

Now, there are some good proposed changes. For example, under current rules, a Canadian produced show can't touch cultural subsidies without a Canadian broadcaster. This requirement may be scotched, and good riddance. I've had TV show pitches that had interest from, say, the BBC, but couldn't get a Canadian broadcaster, and therefore didn't get made.

But the 6-out-of-10 proposal would mean the elimination of Canadian culture on film and television. Canadian film and TV would become strictly service for American producers looking to save a few bucks. That's not why we have the Broadcast Act.

I know this isn't coming from the top. Lisa and I were honoured to have Justin Trudeau over to lunch years ago, when he was running for his first seat in Parliament. He was gung-ho about the need for Canada to support its own culture. More than that: when I argued that Canadian movies were good for tourism, he made the point that films that show the dark side of Canada were important too. A nation needs its voice.

I spent a decade working for American companies trying to get around Canadian cultural content rules to make American movies with Canadian taxpayer money. They hired Americans and Dutch guys and British guys who had "permanent residence" in Canada but actually lived in LA. One of the movies had an American writer, so they found an Israeli in Tel Aviv with the same name and gave him the credit. Producers will perform shenanigans if they possibly.

Reduce the points, and you open the floodgates. Don't be surprised when all the culture flows out.


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By Blogger Herry Johnson, at 1:43 AM  

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