The Canadian Film & Television Industry and why it sucks to be me sometimes

Little Mosque on The Prairie is starting tonight and I’m totally stoked. I saw Zarqa Nawaz’s short BBQ Muslims years ago and laughed my ass off, so I’m looking forward to a good non-white comedy series. If you haven’t seen BBQ Muslims you’re missing out, it’s an awesome short. You can find it at the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre (CFMDC). And she lives just two and a half hours away from me in sunny Regina. I hear CBC picked it up, which is good because they’ve had a terrible streak of picking up dumb programs, discounting smart programs, and cancelling programming just when it’s hitting it’s stride in audience numbers. CBC was originally approached with Corner Gas and turned it down, because who would want to watch a comedy about a small Saskatchewan town? Ha ha. Not only that, but a friend of mine told me about trying to get a producer she worked for to pick it up, but he didn’t think it would fly. Not only THAT, but some Saskatchewan Film Commissioner advised people to stay away from it because it was doomed to failure. Whoever did give it backing and produced it must be happy as a pig in poop.

Which basically sums up the problem with the film industry. People make really conservative choices and except for some notable producers and having someone intelligent back you up, some really great stuff gets shoved aside for some dreck like Men With Brooms. Canada has some amazing directors and screenwriters, which is why it’s sad to see a lot of them walk around with amazing screenplays and no one willing to stick their neck out to fund it. Even Atanarjuat, which won the Camera D’Or at Cannes, was denied funding from Telefilm for a long time because it wasn’t in either of the official languages. Who would want to watch a movie all in an Inuit language? They don’t take chances. A friend told me Telefilm wouldn’t fund his feature until he got Michael Enwright to say he was a genius.

I was trying to figure out why the film and television industry was so white washed, so written from the point of view of privelege, until I screened at an Industry festival. I mean uber Industry, like some guy running through the bar loudly yelling “I’m waiting for a call from Spielberg” kind of Industry. My friend was there and we were just flabbergasted, so many straight white people with so much money and so little to say. I felt soooo out of place, raggedy poor halfbreed butch, it was weird. But I did understand why t.v. and film is so often about upper class able bodied straight white people.

The other sad thing about Canadian film is that as a culture we just don’t support it properly. We have crap venues and our theatres have no obligation to meet any kind of Cancon regulations. We’re marginalized in our own country! If theatres had to show at least fifteen to twenty percent Canadian films, our culture and film industry would be a lot stronger. But since theatres are privately owned, you can’t impose governmental rules on them. And it’s not that hard to meet Cancon regulations. Even when I worked at the co-op radio station there were so many Canadian artists that playing the allotted percentage was not at all difficult. Something definently has to change there.

I’m mailing off my application to the Canadian Film Centre for the Feature Film Project today. It’s an interesting program but I’m not sure if I’ll get in. Who knows? Basically they put you through three months of development, including piecing together an appropriate budget and doing readings and rewrites of the script. Then if you’ve satisfied them and they think it’s a good project and ready to go, they financially support the production and post with $250 000 to $500 000. In terms of feature film, it’s not a lot of money, but it also gives you some interesting restrictions that make it easier to learn how to direct a full length feature. No Busby Berkely numbers here. But directing more intimate scenes teaches you more than having a bunch of CGI dinosaurs storm through a boreal forest. If I don’t get in I’ll be on the hunt for a producer and funding, sooo, we’ll see. It will get made somehow. The cool thing about the application is that it allows for people to self identify as both male and female.

Oh yes, and I did find my support material for it, although I had to substitute Anhedonia for Through the Looking Glass. Which actually makes sense considering Anhedonia is more of a drama, albeit experimental, and I’m applying to do a drama. Maybe two samples that are comedies would confuse the jury. What I did realize, again, is that I have a crap system for tapes of my work. Everything is on Beta or ye old timey 3/4,” which means I have to go to a professional dubbing place and get new dubs for everything possible, even work I’m not so into anymore. And I have to get my shit together and make my DVD compilation of my work, because I want to start selling the complete collection to universities so I can make much more money. And it would be a steal of a deal, because I would only charge 800 – 1000 bucks for it (institutional sales are usually 250 – 300 bucks for one short). I don’t know if anyone has that much allotted for acquistions to pay for only one artist, but who knows? At least I would have some DVD’s to take with me to artist talks or retrospectives. And goddammit, I am super in need of having a large supply of support material, especially since I want to try and get to the point of being a full time filmmaker. Meeting a deadline and then realizing you don’t have tapes sucks.

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