Wayne Clarkson,the newly appointed executive director of Telefilm Canada, has called forincreased provincial funding for development and production of domesticfilmmaking instead of relying so heavily on US-financed production to supportthe nation's production infrastructure.
Addressing theannual meeting of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association(CFTPA) in Ottawa, Clarkson said it has been "fascinating and frustrating" towatch the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia increase their taxcredits to attract US production "spotlighting US creative talent and ideas".He compared the reliance on US production to "constructing on quicksand" -adding, "when the US dollar sinks further and the Canadian dollar hits 92 cents[US], how high can tax credits go'"
Said Clarkson,"Imagine what could happen if the same provinces competed as vigorously toincrease funding for development and investment in local talent andproductions."
Pointing to the model of SODEC, the cultural arts supportagency in Quebec, he suggested that Quebec cultural and linguistic advantagewere not the only reason that Quebec TV programmes and movies enjoy asignificantly larger per capita audience than product produced inEnglish-Canada. "It's more than that," he said. "It's the product of along-term plan and a solid commitment to stable financial support, to buildingaudiences and to encouraging talent."
"And not throughsome association with Hollywood agencies providing solutions," he added - a digat his predecessor, Richard Stursberg, who outraged many in the industry last yearby signing a packaging deal with Hollywood agency CAA to shape Canadian filmprojects. Clarkson said, "I believe our limited financial resources are betterspent elsewhere."
Harkening backto his days as head of the Ontario Film Development Corporation (now OMDC) inthe mid-1980s, Clarkson spoke of the need to invest in emerging talent, citingnames of then-neophytes Atom Egoyan and Patricia Rozema. He juxtaposed thatperiod with the recent closure of British Columbia Film's feature film fund -making no mention that the current OMDC essentially administers tax credits,having ceased subsidizing development and production in the early 1990s.
Clarkson saidthat while the proposed new funds need not be in the form of direct subsidy, hebelieved "in the case of script development and production financing foremerging talent, direct subsidy is the most efficient and successful way ofdelivering these programs." He committed Telefilm to working closely withprovinces to move forward on the proposals. "We have to find an alternative,innovative means of assisting Canadian productions and mid-sized companies."
Citing theexample of Peter Raymont's Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning documentary ShakeHands With The Devil: The Journey Of Romeo Dallaire, Clarkson also said there should bespecific funding in support of feature-length documentaries.