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Maria Lianos-Carbone

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How Does the Canadian Film Industry Measure Up?

Posted: 09/15/2012 7:27 am

With the Toronto International Film Festival taking over the city, I can't help but think about the state of the Canadian film industry.

Film Director Patricia Rozema recently wrote a fabulous post about what the Canadian Film industry needs.

It's wonderful to see amazing Canadian films at TIFF this year such as Anita Doron's The Lesser Blessed which represents our native community, and the wildly awkward My Awkward Sexual Adventure directed by Sean Garrity.

It's not that we don't have the talent; the Genie awards this year celebrated many amazing Canadian actors, directors, producers and writers. TIFF always represents great Canadian content, including Short Cuts Canada, the best short films from emerging and established Canadian filmmakers.

We are getting there. Just as the Canadian music industry is hugely successful and talented, our film industry is very close behind. But there needs to be more. And more money to keep talent working and staying here.

After Viggo Mortensen won the Best Supporting Actor Genie Award for David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, he was asked what is the secret to success in the film business:

"Consistency -- and really there is a truth in that, to have a long enough career that you can show what you can do. Unfortunately there are a lot of filmmakers that show a lot of promise and then they disappear. If there is anything that I would leave a legacy for other Canadians is that you have to slug it out, every year is a struggle."

A struggle especially when Canada needs more private-equity investment, which seems to be almost non-existent.

"As a Canadian actor, I feel there a lot of people that go to the U.S. that want to make a living but they also want other opportunities and the fame. 'Making it' in Canada is when you are working consistently," says Toronto actor Nick Smyth.

"Canada is such a breeding ground for hardcore talent and a lot of that amazing talent floats down into the U.S.," adds Smyth, who moved to Toronto from Halifax for his acting career.

"Most Canadian films have never been seen because it's all about the money and advertising and marketing dollars for these films."

Alternatively, we need more feature-film funding. There are numerous funding opportunities in Canada including Telefilm Canada and The Harold Greenberg Fund. But how can filmmakers fulfill their budget needs when one problem in making films is getting enough funding?

"I don't know that you're going to," admits George Stroumboulopoulos, host of George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight on CBC.

"But we get funding. The real way is tax credits for Canadian films. There's not a lot of funding in the U.S. In the States, if you want to get a film made, you have to make it. Here in Canada, there's a whole team, there's a family. You're on your own there."

Canada offers generous and bankable tax incentives -- from two levels of government (provincial and federal) -- which both offer incentive programs for film and television production expenses.

But what about U.S. productions which film in Canada? Total Recall starring Colin Farrell and Jessica Biel was filmed at Pinewood Toronto Studios last summer, the latest film in a line of high profile productions coming from Warner Bros, NBC, Twentieth Century Fox and Dreamworks.

"It's ok to have to have the two (tax credits and U.S. productions in Canada); it creates tons of jobs," says Stroumboulopoulos. "You get a lot of experts come in and help in the community and training different people. I think it's great. Partner with others, that's the key."

As far as the amount of Canadian talent we have, it's there. We have it -- we just need to get out there a support it. We need to watch our own films and our own television productions.

"I feel like it's getting better a little bit with Jay Baruchel -- he's such a proud Canadian and he says he never left Canada," says Smyth. "Every chance that he gets to bring work here, he does. I look up to him for that."

If you're an independent filmmaker in Canada, all you need is one big break, says Stroumboulopoulos.
"If you're Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith, that's why you're those guys, because if you do hit, you hit that moment and the audience buys it, you're set."

 

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