Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Same As It Ever Was?

For the sake of Canadian TV, let's hope not.

After several weeks of uncertainty and unrest, yesterday Shaw Communications agreed to resume its payments to the CTF (Canadian Television Fund), and today Playback reports that after a hiccup last Friday, the ACTRA strike has been resolved...again.

So, there you go.

Of course, there's a lot of talk of inquiries and studies to take place and committees to be formed to make recommendations to revamp the industry. And the talks will be led by government officials and the CRTC and broadcaster and cable representatives, and I'm sure the unions will be in there somewhere - but where will we...the creatives and Or better yet, if we are there at the table, what do we want?

I'll say it again...what do we want?

First, go check out what the Mad Pulp Bastard at DISContent thinks about the Canuck TV situation, and then read his suggestions to make it better. A lot of his ideas are very reasonable.

And then go by The Legion of Decency and let Jim Henshaw know what you think might help. I don't know much, but if I know anything, it's that Jim will do his damnedest to get heard.

Let's not sit on our hands. It's not over, it's just beginning.


blueglow said...

At the risk of becoming known as a crank, I would like to make a few comments.

Bill's idea's are great but I'm not all that sure how far away from the current reality they are.

Broadcasters do develop shows. They then submit them to the fund on a priority basis for additional funding which is either granted or refused based on how much money is in the pot.

Creative decisions affecting the project have already been made in concert with the broadcaster's reps before any "government agency" gets involved. This is a long about way of saying the "fund" or "the government" has never had significant, meaningful impact on anything I have ever developed, produced or written.

We might get into the odd discussion about beavers and flags but they are usually solved. It has been my experience that more significant creative "tinkering" has been attempted by the companies that are trying to distribute this stuff than the Canadian broadcaster.

AS for some of the other points while I like them I don't know if they will happen. Until there is signicant money to be made in Canadian TV I don't see the private broadcasters footing the whole bill.

The question -- will Canadian TV ever make real money -- is not something I know the answer to. But as it stands now, I'd say that unless significant equity is invested by private companies (the cable dudes) and the government you will not see another big budget drama (a relative term here) be produced by a private Canadian network unless a producer can bring in significant money in the form of a distribution deal. There is just not enough money in Canadian drama to justify the investment a private network would have to make to come up with a bunch of money making shows.

Sad to say, I think that without the continuation of forced private investment (the fund) and forced public investment (taxes) Canadian drama is dead.

The other point -- the whole showrunner thing -- just raises my hackles -- maybe because I'm classified as one. We do exist here and most shows in Canada are run by one. Malcolm McRury is doing the new movie network series -- ZOS -- he's a showrunner. Haddock does Intelligence -- he's certainly a showrunner. Lucas and Barlow did Blue Murder, they're showrunners. Bill and Glen did "once a thief" and "powerplay", Semi C did "11th hour, I did, well ... let me at least pretend to be coy ..., tassie cameron did once were kings, susin and gary are doing "robson" and "alice, I think", derek schyrer did "15 love" ALL of these people are writers first and foremost.

there are, of course, shows that are put forward in early development stages that don't have a showrunner on board but usually finding one is one of the first orders of business. while I can see why people would object to this i think it cuts both ways -- if you only allow people with proven track records to develop shows you're are not allowing new writers a chance -- and I think that kind of sucks (even though it does piss me off from time to time, I'd piss me off even more if I was starting out and was being denied).

the title of your post "same as it ever was" is particularly apt. what we are going thru this year is just another derivation of the piss shiver we go thru in this country every couple of years.

things would be a lot clearer if there was a real financial reward to making and selling canadian shows to canadians and to markers worldwide. we have yet to achieve that so there is going to be constant negotiation between private and public interests as to who is going to shoulder the loss.

wcdixon said...

Blueglow...a few things (and trying to remain positive here) - first, you're right that a lot of the suggestions Bill outlined exist already in some version. People are muttering because very few 'hits' are coming out of the system (however you define a hit these days). So how do we create and maintain more hits might be one question to ask. And the answer seems to be the problem of economics. Most stuff made doesn't 'hit' (see the U.S. system) but if you make more product, the chances increase for a hit. But you need more money to make more shows. Until the Canadian networks/broadcasters/ cablers decide to (are forced to?) not just develop but produce more home-grown dramatic programming, they will produce the minimum required. Because they've seen very few 'hits' come out of this country. So how to get them to decide/want to make more shows? Without it being enforced, it would have to be seeing the possibility of being behind money-makers. But more shows need to be made to increase the possibility of some hits. So which comes's chicken and egg stuff. But I don't think the answer lies in notion there aren't any showrunners.

Showrunners are generally defined by two things - good writing and management skills...and producing money-making hits (i.e. shows that a lot of people watch). So I agree
that there are several more than capable experienced showrunners in Canada based on the first criteria. But they don't get the 'credit' or power usually deemed to showrunners because of the shows these people have run aren't generally considered 'hits'. And the reason for that is simple economics again. For a myriad of reasons (low budgets, timeslots, lack of promotion, shows aren't very 'popular' (I'm going to use the word popular instead of good since good is so subjective), mediocre foreign sales, lack of star talent, etc. etc.) most of the shows they make/made aren't money-making hits. But what of the ones that are/were? Well, the reality is we don't herald our own enough and so none are real household names and so they don't carry the weight that a showrunner supposedly should. That's what gets tits in a knot in creative circles, I think.

So not to be pointing fingers, who do we go after then? Where do we go from here? My fear is that committees will be formed and meet and propose changes and new guidelines but it will take a while and be similar to what already exists. Because it's a system that's trying to please a lot of different entities with differing agendas (not to mention the art/culture vs. entertainment/commerce convolution that occurs with government involvement), and if we're to take the muttering creatives and the muttering cablers and the muttering networks and the muttering audience/viewers at their word - it's pleasing no one.

Bill Cunningham said...

Blue - I don't and can't disagree with much of what you say here except these three things:

1. Why submit to a government fund at all if you (the broadcaster) are already paying into the fund? Take the money you are paying in and just produce the show. Otherwise it "appears" you're just subsidizing paperwork at the government's behest.

2. I would argue (politely) that the CTF's very existence has an impact on how your shows are developed whether you realize it or not.

3. "things would be a lot clearer if there was a real financial reward to making and selling canadian shows to canadians and to markers worldwide. we have yet to achieve that so there is going to be constant negotiation between private and public interests as to who is going to shoulder the loss."

DAVINCI, FALCON BEACH, COLD SQUAD, ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, BORDERTOWN, RIN TIN TIN K-9 COP,SLINGS & ARROWS, WHISTLER, FOREVER KNIGHT, PSI-FACTOR, (not to forget the shows partially financed from the US and abroad) etc...etc...etc...

When are you going to accept that you're in the world market (or at least seen in the US)? How many shows does it take to accept the fact you have had some worldwide sales of homegrown productions?

There are and have been financial rewards to making and selling these Canadian shows yet somehow, some way you want to see them (and yes, yourselves) as failures and thus they weren't capitalized upon...

I just don't get it...but that's okay. That's why I posted my ideas in the first place - to foster discussion and understanding.