S Wayne Clarkson has beenappointed executive director of Telefilm Canada, the nation's leading source ofpublic subsidy for the film and television industry.
The announcement, madeThursday by Heritage Minister Liza Frulla, is seen as good news for the beleagueredEnglish-language film production sector. Hotly tipped for the top post, hereplaces Richard Stursberg, who left the agency in July mid-way through afive-year mandate marked by acrimony over efforts to increase the box office ofindigenous English-language films.
In sharp contrast to hispredecessor, Clarkson, 58, is the consummate culture-crat and cinephile, havingdevoted his working life to film-related administration, most memorably in thelate 1970s and early 1980s as the executive director of the fledgling TorontoInternational Film Festival (then known as the Festival of Festivals) - anorganization to which he remains intimately connected through close friendshipwith TIFF CEO Piers Handling.
In 1985, Clarkson was thefounding director of the Ontario Film Development Corporation, a leading sourceof subsidy dollars for Toronto filmmakers such Atom Egoyan and Patricia Rozemathen at the beginning of their careers. Clarkson moved on before the OFDC (nowknown as the OMDC) was gutted by a change in provincial government. Since 1991he has served as executive director of the Canadian Film Centre, aToronto-based educational institute devoted to training in film, TV and newmedia and administering the Toronto Worldwide Short Film Festival.
While the CFC is considereda worthy institution it is something of a bubble compared to the hurly burly ofan agency with an annual budget of C$200 ($168m) - half of which is directedto feature filmmaking - and so many active if not vociferous stakeholders. Asone industry insider put it, "He's in for a big shock to the system."
Indeed, the decision toappoint a person with such close connections with Toronto marks a significantshift for Montreal-based Telefilm. The agency walks a tightrope between the nation'slanguage divide, and the executive director cannot be seen to be favouring onegroup over another. Unlike Stursberg, or indeed any of his predecessors,Clarkson is not fluently bilingual. Still, his appointment has the blessing oftop Quebec filmmakers, including producers Roger Frappier of Max Films andDenise Robert of Cinemaginaire.
Speaking from Paris,Frappier told ScreenDaily that fluency in French was not an issue, "He's therebecause he understands cinema no matter what the language. I am very pleasedthat a man who has devoted his life to cinema will be the head of Telefilm."