Thursday, 15 November 2012

Hollywood Babble On & On #967: How Canadian!

What is the purpose of cinema?

You could say the answer is expression, be it artistic, narrative, or emotional, and while that's all well and good, cinema doesn't really serve any purpose if nobody sees it.

Someone at Telefilm Canada seems to think that way so the film financing branch of the Canadian government thought it would be nice to acknowledge Canadian films that Canadians have actually paid to see.

Well this has raised the hackles of Ontario's film-making community and they have announced plans to protest this acknowledgement, because how dare Canadian films that are seen by Canadians get any sort of attention.

And that's why English Canadian cinema is pretty much dead in the water.

Back in the 1990s there was a TV comedy sketch about Canadian movies where the filmmaker declares with pride that not one person would pay to see his film. That says so much about the way Anglo-Canadian movies are made.

In Canada English-language movies are, for the most part, not made for the general ticket buying audience. They're mostly made for funding agency bureaucrats, film festival organizers, Toronto based film critics, and awards committees. A handful of filmmakers do try to reach wider audiences, and those are the ones Telefilm's trying to recognize, but even they are usually rebuffed because the Canadian audience gave up on Canadian movies decades ago.
The protestors are saying that they're fighting against the commercialization of Canadian cinema to keep it open to new talent.

Now I know they're full of shit.

The Canadian entertainment industry is exponentially more closed off and inbred than Hollywood.  A classic example I like to bring up is something I encountered in film school. This group announced a new program to find NEW talent by bringing NEW writers with NEW ideas into the Canadian film industry.

This got me interested, so I got more information, it was then I discovered their definition of NEW.  To be considered a NEW writer in Canada you had to have had at least 1 feature film produced and released in theaters.

At the time there wasn't 1 writer in Canada under the age of 40 who qualified as "new." This alleged search for new talent was really just an excuse to give money to people already deeply embedded in the industry. 

Getting into the Canadian film industry is like getting into a medieval guild. Someone who is already deep in it has to bring you in, and even then you have to wait for someone to die or move to Hollywood to advance your own career.

Canadian television isn't as badly inbred as feature films, because most television productions are more audience dependent and have to keep a steady stream of novelty for their viability. So the days of seeing episodes of three different TV shows, broadcast over three national networks being written by the same man seem to be over for now.

It's at times like these, when English Canadian filmmakers declare their readiness to fight to be unseen, I wish they were more like Quebec's film industry. Quebec films are not only critically acclaimed and regularly net Oscar nominations, they actually get seen by the wider Francophone audience, and often outperform Hollywood imports. This is because there is a bond of trust between the filmmakers and the audience where the filmmaker pledges to entertain as well as challenge. A bond that is completely lacking in English Canadian cinema.

So instead of whining about the government being mean by rewarding people who get their movies seen, maybe they need to look at what Quebec is doing and wonder why they can't do it themselves.


Ever wonder what it would have been like if the greatest works of humanity's literary canon had to deal with the meddling that goes into today's movies?

Find out in my Kindle e-book Studio Notes For Literary Classics available from Amazon USA for $2.99 or  British readers can get it from Amazon UK for £1.93 


  1. Glad to see your back on your feet.

  2. A few years back, when I was the second-string film reviewer for Metro, our lead reviewer (now sitting in the late John Harkness' chair at NOW magazine) made a point of leaving the Canadian films for me, while he took the big Hollywood and foreign stuff (that he knew people would read about, because they actually intended to see it.)

    As a result, I sat through much of the last excrescent gasp of the English-Canadian film industry's output. A truly dire experience. Two words: Daniel McIvor.

  3. Kit- Thanks, I'm still recovering & only firing on half my cylinders.

    Rick- You have my sympathy.