Friday, 11 April 2008

Woe Canada: Cry Me A Tax Credit...

Pity the poor Canadian film industry.

It doesn't know the meaning of the word "censorship" anymore.

This week the actress Sarah Polley, who was nominated for an Oscar for adapting the screenplay to Away From Her this past year, but was actually seen by paying customers in the movie remake of Dawn of the Dead, went to the Canadian Senate to decry Bill C-10.

Bill C-10 is a government motion that withholds federal tax credits from film/TV productions that the Canadian government finds "contrary to public policy."

Now Canada's "stars" and filmmakers are screaming "Censorship!!" because they can't get tax credits for their three hour epic musical about incest and necrophilia featuring a choir of singing anuses.*

Now, it has fallen upon me to explain the way of the world.

I guess the best explanation comes from Tom Stoppard, who in a recent reminiscence of 1968 told the story of a group of radical students who were screaming "censorship" because a newspaper declined to run their manifesto on its front page. Stoppard made a very telling distinction:

"That's not censorship, that's editing."

Censorship is when the government forces people by law to not say or publish certain things.

Editing is when an entity or organisation simply refuses to put its money and effort into something it does not want. The Canadian public does this every day when they refuse to pay money to see Canadian movies.

Of course that's the way an logical organisation, be it private, or government, acts.

And we're talking about the Canadian film industry here, where logic is in even shorter supply than in Hollywood.

I guess the best analogy for the behaviour of Canada's stars is that of a spoiled 4 year old who stamps their feet and holds their breath in anger, because Daddy won't buy them new crayons. Sure, all the 4 year old does with the crayons is scrawl the word "poopy" on the wall, flush some down the toilet, and throw the rest at neighbourhood pets, but damn it, they want more crayons and they must get more crayons or Daddy is worse than Hitler!

Accusations of censorship always worked in the past. In the past Canadian governments were centred around the province of Ontario, and Canada's largest city: Toronto, which also housed the Canadian Film/TV industry. Those governments folded faster than The Flash on laundry day whenever Canada's cinema brats threatened to play the "censorship" card. Because being called a censor would get you stricken off the guest list of Toronto's nicer parties and film festivals where the occasional real star from Hollywood might show up.

But like all things, they changed.

Canada's current government is not centred around Toronto, it doesn't care what the Toronto media elite think of them, because since they are the Conservative Party, nothing they do will ever be accepted by them, so they aren't going to cave in.

And it's all the Canadian film industry's fault.

I've written before how Canadian Film/TV has repeatedly squandered opportunities, and has become a narrow-minded, inbred clique that's become so dependent on state handouts they honestly think that state funding is their natural birthright, simply for being part of the "in-crowd." As a local Member of Parliament declared shortly before being ousted: "I am entitled to my entitlements."

Well, the real world doesn't work that way.

You can't force people to read, listen to, or watch, what they don't want.

And you certainly can't demand that they pay for it, and threaten to call them names if they don't.

That's just childish.

*I am not exaggerating, just combining certain Canadian films.


  1. I think you're right and you're wrong here.

    To cry "censorship" is an error on Polley's (or anyone else's) part because that's not the case (as the great quote you provided from Stoppard illustrates), but to cry foul is fair and warranted, and to be honest, it's really a case of semantics.

    When the government says that we'll do X for person A but not for person B based upon subjectivity, they're asking for trouble. This only leads to bad things. Government, like justice, should try to be blind whenever possible. Now, I understand that there are always lines to be crossed and slopes to slip down, and maybe this is just blown out of proportion to begin with, but as we've seen in the past, it's easy for these things to get corrupted and retarded quickly.

  2. While government and subjective views can create a slippery slope, the Canadian film industry put itself on that slope when it pissed away many opportunities to become more self-supporting. Instead they took what they thought was the "easy path" of government dependence.

    The forgot the first rule of any industry: Government involvement ruins everything.

    Because governments are designed to meddle, and pretty inefficiently at that. So it's best to keep the government as far away as possible.

    I should mention that the French Canadian film industry in Quebec is nowhere near as state-dependent as film in the rest of Canada.

    Quebec produces a healthy mix of populist and daring art-house fare that does something English Canadian films gave up dreaming about back in the 1980s: attract audiences.

    Quebec's industry is a model of efficiency in production, marketing, and distribution, and has an openness to new ideas and talent that leaves English Canada's film industry in the dust.

  3. I guess the one thing I will add is that there are more people who are in the Canadian film industry who are sick and tired of the system than Polley would like to believe.

    Polley thinks she is the new rebellious vanguard, when in reality she is clinging to old, tired 60's counter culture beliefs that are no longer valid.