The Great Canadian Film Industry Mystery

The Daily Show’s “You’re Welcome” segment by Resident Expert, John Hogman, is a dream soapbox for wanker-y know-it-alls like myself.  Hodgman and his sometimes moustache will join Stewart at the desk to offer his cure-all for everything from:

Violent video games—should we ban them?

  •  No! Invite the US supreme court justices in on the action so they can understand the allure—“Habeus Corpsus: a 9 person shooter”

To: Economic Crisis

  • Declare an emergency Christmas to get everyone spending

To: Saving the Catholic Church from future scandals

  • Replace altar boys with chimps and kill the sexy mood with Febreze

To: Dealing with the unsustainable debt to China

  • Hold a panda for ransom

I figure this is how a tyrannical (but imaginative!) child might rule the world, which is fun to think of.  Sometimes I get not-a-little impatient at how consulting would be so much more exhilarating with a giant magic wand-wave over unsexy, difficult problems…

In this edition of wand-waving:

The Canadian Film Industry

Can you name 3 mainstream Canadian feature films these past, say, 5 years?  Neither can I.  I’m not even sure what I mean by “Canadian feature film”.  Does Ryan Gosling being in it count?

Sadly, despite the zillion Canadian actors in Hollywood; peak film-crew-to-panhandler ratios in Vancouver and Toronto every summer; the pit of snake-y line-ups during TIFF; an award winning National Film Board, the strange official numbers of our non-industry are like this:

–          Canadian consumers spend only 1.6% of their movie dollars on Canadian product.  This is a little up from less than 1% 80 years ago!

–          For every 24 movies Hollywood puts out, we might put out 1

Most things we ever watch are American products.  They contain American stories, American directors, and not least of all, they are financed by and profit American investors.  I for one have had a precipitating feeling that Hollywood has even etched itself into my DNA like a sneaky recombinant bacterium: I scratch and sniff for Hollywood good-looks in others or I might do a Pavlovian pause at POS magazine racks to sweep a jaundiced eye over the latest make-up-less grocery runs of (L)A-listers.  I need more Canadian content in my life!  Something, un-Hollywood…please!!  Don’t we have things to say?  Stories to tell?  Surely we are a more travelled, educated, sensible and talented people?  Doesn’t this a great film industry make?

Apparently, not.

If you were an investor and wanted to put your money in the “Canadian Film Industry”, you wouldn’t be able to—because it doesn’t exist as a category of product (i.e. no history of profits to market).  But if you tried hard enough, rest assured, you’d lose your money.

Little do any of us know, most Canadian filmmakers largely get their films made through securing government grants.  Yes, that’s right, the same stream of financing for poets, soapstone sculptors and interpretive dancers.  While this is obviously needed when there is no other financing structure like investment by deep-pocketed movie producers as in the US, this veritable government hand-out actually ends up hurting as much as it helps: it gives hope to our talent that has nowhere to go i.e. just enough rope…to hang themselves.  Why?

Canadian films don’t get shown in theatres.  What good is it to get a film made and have nowhere to show it?  It is no longer true that Americans own our theatres (though it was for like, 60 years!)—now over 60% is owned by Canadian corporations—but these exhibitors, with their bums-in-seats model, aren’t about to risk an opening weekend on a little known Canadian gem that wasn’t…

…marketed properly.  Hollywood’s marketing budgets are often the size of entire Canadian productions : /  And it shows.

Canadians have a fromage factor, when thinking of movies from here.  The lower production value matters to our $500 M Hollywood budget sensibilities.  (Hollywood can’t even keep up with itself!)  To add to this vicious Canadian cycle of no money-no attention, there is also no appetite, and therefore no further chance to explore identity through recurring themes or styles—filmmakers rarely get to tell another story; genres and themes rarely get developed beyond the first and only kick at the film can.

Quebec, by all accounts, is an island of success, however.  It has a healthy 21.2% grip of its film market in the face of Hollywood.  But they are more dramatic than we are anyway.

Thus, as the Resident Expert here at NetGain, I propose my patented remedies for the Canadian film industry.  You’re welcome, btw:

Hey Girl, I’ll come fix your industry

–          Shine a Ryan Gosling signal in the nighttime sky and get his rich, successful ass (Pavlovian pause) over here to narrate a documentary; spearhead a panel on Canadian Film revival—he can visit his mom afterward!

–          Get Canadian companies and organizations to adopt-a-screen for a night.  Do AGMs and company soirees around a social thing like watching the latest by a Canadian filmmaker together.

–          Band together with other marginalized indie-category countries that want to rail against Hollywood and offer a subscription to a curated list of great movies in a digital database.  Expand the audience to everywhere in the world!  Whichever movies are watched will determine the cut for each country.

–          Forget traditional theatres and whatever-it-is holding up the process of screening Canadian films, DIY!  Project in restaurants; in community centres; in civic theatres.  It’s light, and a smooth wall—what do you need a distribution contract for?

You see, Canadian film, the battered and bruised underdog rejected by its own community, gets up and swings back in the 3rd Act!

Victory and riches to follow.

[On Friday, April 12, 2013 our Managing Director Doug Simpson mediated a panel on the future of the Canadian Film Industry, following the documentary by Scott Boyd “Made in Canada”]

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