The executive director of Montreal-based Telefilm Canada talks to Jeremy Kay.

Carolle Brabant is the executive director of Montreal-based Telefilm Canada.

She tells Jeremy Kay about the body’s role in supporting Canadian cinema, the Success Index and emerging talent.

What does Telefilm Canada do?

Our mandate is to develop and promote the Canadian audiovisual industry in Canada and abroad. We are present in all the value chain. We participate financially in development, production and distribution. We receive projects and decide whether or not we will participate financially. We are very much present internationally at Cannes and Berlin, etc to promote Canadian talent around the world. We are based in Montreal with offices in Toronto, Halifax and Vancouver.

How do you differ from the National Film Board Of Canada?

The NFB is also a crown corporations but it’s in production. Telefilm doesn’t produce but we support private production. We invest in development and production and supports Canadian distributors’ P&A spend.

Which funds do you oversee?

Telefilm administers two funds totalling $450m CAD per year: Telefilm’s own Canada Feature Film Fund of $100m and the Canada Media Fund’s $350m annual allocation. The Canada Media Fund is a private body set up five or six years ago to support film and digital media.

How does a project qualify for Canada Feature Film Fund money?

For Telefilm’s own fund, movies must be Canadian and can include co-productions. We finance about 60-70 out of about 90-100 Canadian movies that go into production each year.

What proportion of the budget do you cover?

On average our participation represents between 25%-30% of the total budget of the film. [The remainder comes from tax incentives, private equity, co-productions and pre-sales.]

The success index – what is it?

One of the things we’re proud of is that because Canada is a very competitive environment, our films are often compared to the very important US productions, so we felt it was necessary to come up with a measure of success that would better suit the type of low budget independent films we are making.

These are very important films but there was a need to measure outside the scope of box office the success of these films, so about three years ago we introduced a success index that takes into account not just box office, but video and international box office and the success of these films at festivals.

It gives us a better tool for promoting this success and to compare, when it comes to decision-making, the track record of the companies and individuals. On average we are seeing about 75 films a year, three of which are seen on the big screen, which means 72 are seen on video or on TV. By measuring success in a broader manner it speaks better to the success of our films. The index was well received by some of our international partners because we share some challenges with out independent films and it’s hard for those films to get space in cinemas.

Talk a bit about Canada’s talent base

What has been great in Canada in the last five years is that a bunch of new filmmakers have risen. When you think all kinds of genre – there’s Jason Eisener was part of V/H/S/2; Chloe Robichaud was in competition in Cannes and there’s Michael McGowan. Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée they have been successful not just in Canada but internationally.

Some of these are at the top of their career or rising, so this is exciting. Three years in a row our films have been nominated in the foreign language Oscar category, we have had films in Berlin in recent years and in Cannes. So having a country that’s more focused on independent films, these are indicators of our success. It speaks to our talent and our capacity to deliver success on smaller budgets.

What challenges lie ahead for Telefilm?

One of the things we really want to do in the coming moths is make our content more visible and available because. New platforms are at the same time an opportunity and a challenge. Our filmmakers are very romantic about the screen and tend to be preoccupied with that, but there’s an opportunity to expand access to our films on their platforms and what we will like to see from our producers are innovative ways to reach audiences, so we’re embarking on a more intensive campaign of Canadian talent internationally. We would like to better promote Canadian talent around the world and in Canada and have our producers start thinking outside the box in terms of where our films can be seen.

Where will you grow your presence?

Our idea is to expand our activity in South America. Most of our international activity has been focused on Europe or the US. It was a “first” to be officially present in Colombia [at June’s BAM film market in Bogota.]