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Monday, September 6, 2010

Canada's Filmmaking Culture

My last Blog outlines the backstory of Tom Lamb's history I wrote for North Roots Magazine. I graduated from Vancouver Film School in 2000 with a feature script titled "North Boy." It has never been produced. Funding and development in Canada has remained a real roadblock. Without big brave executive producers attached and money to sustain, projects like mine just don't get off the ground. And yet, I keep an interest in Canada's film industry from a distance. After being active for many years, I've remained a non-member of Canada's producers organizations. I still dream of improvements. Occasionally, I make contact.

I wrote to Jim Shaw a few years back when he was engaged with the CRTC on the poor quality of what he sees coming across his cable company screens. I told him I agreed and supported him. Maybe, I was alone in that support since I spend no time discussing these views with other producers like I used to. Shaw fought a good fight and I respect the man for that. He wrote back to me. That was pleasing since I noticed he copied the prime minister of Canada, heritage minister and the heads of all the cable companies on our dialogue. Perhaps now that he's a real broadcaster and not just a cable guy, he'll find a way to put his money where his mouth is. So far he seems to be doing just that.

I wrote the new head of Telefilm Canada after she visited us here in July 2010. It's my hope that some positive changes take place in the industry and we see better films made. Here is the letter I wrote.

Attention: Carolle Brabant
Executive Director

Subject: On Screen Manitoba with Carolle Brabant

Thank you for coming to Winnipeg to speak to producers and film associated business representatives on July 6, 2010. I welcome your offer to consult further.

In the late 1980's, I helped organize and encourage independent producers when few films were made outside Toronto and Montreal. We partnered province to province to bring attention to our goals. We wanted access and opportunity. We formed producer associations with help from the Department of Communications prior to their name change to Heritage Canada. We brought together talks between broadcasters, Telefilm Canada and regional producers. CBC partnered with us and programs were developed and made. Regrettably, private broadcasters never fully participated. Over the years since, a great deal of expansion has taken place. You know the numbers and many of the successful films are record of the progress made.

In the early 1990s, I embarked on a co-production with CBC to develop The Tom Lamb Story. The film has yet to be made. It may someday be made but it will take support and new investment. I lost Executive Producer Don Haig when he died suddenly. That put me in turnaround along with other complications. CFCF Montreal had helped me develop the script further. I look forward to someday tell the Lamb family's screen story.

Meanwhile, I've had numerous lessons and I further developed my career. I graduated from the (VFS) Vancouver Film School screenwriting program. I had a successful run at Banff Centre for the Arts where I worked as production manager. Later, I moved on to Ottawa where I helped start the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.

In 2006, I wrote a book titled "Greening of a North Boy." The book is well read and continues to sell. I've written feature story for North Roots Magazine gaining a massive readership throughout northern Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nunavut. In 2010, I helped co-write and edit a book titled "My Seventh Heaven" a memoir of northern Manitoba's musicians over the decades since the fifties.

I found young digital equipped filmmakers today simply ignore funding bodies like Telefilm. They make their films and tell their stories no matter what. It was also my experience, fellow screenwriters at VFS scoffed at Canadian and embraced American and other country's films.

Part of the problem is we've under funded production. Making film in Canada has not been made attractive enough. Help to manage and maintain producer overhead remains a roadblock. Project to project advancement has suffered. How do we take risk without a trusted net to protect us from inefficiencies and inequities? It takes so long to develop and produce films here. banks and investors don't benefit from such a system. We need to speed things up and improve the way financing is done. I have some thoughts about that. The American studios do many things right and their know how can't be ignored. They learned a long time ago to never starve development and in turn, production. It's not worth it. No one makes money. Hits are important since it funds smaller films with artistic merit and helps expand industry further. I think we need to re-focus on this as a goal and I make this as a recommendation to consider.

It's my hope you share my views and where you do not, I would love to hear your views. For now, I'm glad you opened a dialogue across Canada seeking improvements. I'm happy to contribute where I can. I'm not affiliated and am open to consult. Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to speaking with you again in the near future.

Yours Truly,

Norman M. Richards
Writer, Producer

Post notes: I dream we develop screenplay better. All else will follow.

That's my Blog today!

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