Telefilm Canada is poised to change the rules of the distribution game in 2012 with its new “success index”, it was announced at its third Annual Public Meeting, webcast live from Winnipeg, Manitoba on Wednesday.

“Last year I said we would dare to change,” said TFC Chair Michel Roy before introducing “new performance measures”: a new index that has commercial (60%), cultural (30%) and industrial (10%) components.

Domestic box office is “only a fraction of the success,” Roy said.

Pointing to Canada’s overall moving pictures industry, now at C$6.8 billion annually (GDP), as another measure of success, Roy said that is “more than fishing, hunting and forestry combined.”

All that means box office is dictator no more. International sales will also count when measuring a Canadian film’s success, as will ancillary markets (such as DVD, VOD TV and new online platforms), cultural accolades (such as prestigious awards and festivals), as well as foreign and private investment. For Canada, that’s radical.

Roy noted that Canadian films are “still largely funded by the public purse,” but that he was encouraged because “foreign participation doubled last year”. The new index would reward private and foreign investment and count eyeballs on multiple platforms.

That’s good news for English-language Canadian films which typically account for a dismal 1% of the national box office—a number which TFC has taken a beating for over the years. Quebec films usually take a respectable 2% of the national gross—a proverbial bee in the federal bonnet—especially when that market, predominantly French-speaking, is only one quarter the size of “ROC” (rest of Canada).

Total domestic market share for Canadian films was 3.1% in 2010. Within the independent film market (non-Hollywood majors), Canadian films fare much better with a 20% share of the domestic market, according to TFC.

Just how the new success index will work in terms of triggering distribution coin (required for production funding) will be decided through much “industry consultation” in 2012, according to TFC Executive Director Carolle Brabant, who has the final say on how TFC’s annual budget of $100 million is invested.

“We’re going to be starting consultations on distribution very soon,” Brabant said, keenly aware that “this is a business.”

Unions, guilds and associations have applauded the new ‘success index’ initiative but those contacted declined comment as it is apparently too early to tell what the net effect might be.

Upcoming TFC Success Index

Commercial (60% of the total index)

  • Box-office receipts in Canada
  • Gross domestic and international sales

Cultural (30%)

  • Number of selections and prizes at certain international festivals and events
  • Selected awards won at certain national competitive events and festivals

Industrial (10%)

  • Ratio of private versus public funding in productions supported by Telefilm