Tuesday, March 06, 2007

In Three's...

First the parental unit (still hospitalized and tests still ongoing but definitely improving), then the youngest daughter (home from hospital on Friday and on meds but kids bounce back fast), then this weekend, me tripping and falling while carrying bags of groceries and cracking a rib. Ouch. Still ouch actually. Three ouches actually. Here's hoping that streak of bad luck is over.

On the Canadian TV front, DMc's weekend post. Great stuff. Then tonight, Henshaw weighs in with a sobering overview of the industry and how it got to where it is today. Some highlights:

In the 1970's, I was part of a revolution that took place in Canadian theatre. The critical mass born of the elite's founding of Stratford and a handful of regional copycats to serve up classical European and popular American culture, suddenly sparked in an unexpected way in Toronto. Theatres began producing a virtually unheard of product called "the Canadian play" these being plays written by actual living Canadian authors, usually embodying stories and characters that if not uniquely Canadian, espoused decidedly Canadian points of view. We had begun telling our own dramatic stories to ourselves. Newspapers didn't pay much attention. Neither did radio or television. Yet, within a couple of years, Canadian plays, although produced in the city's smallest theatres were not only outdrawing the competition but gaining an international reputation and creating interest and excitement in the general population.

So, the government stepped in to "help".

In the guise of fostering the arts, government subsidies and their new rules for private support gradually nipped any possible theatrical blossoming in the bud. Money for production was soon earmarked instead for "infrastructure" and suddenly a season arrived where virtually all the theatres were closed, federally funded to renovate or upgrade. Then came such concepts as matching subsidies to privately raised capital, funding based on marketing initiatives or diversity, funding workshops rather than actual productions, seasons which funded only new playwrights, only emerging playwrights, or only playwrights who wrote musicals for puppets with dyslexia. You get the picture. Instead of supporting the work just because it was creating work or attracting an audience, the emphasis was turned toward fulfilling social and regional agendas, in the process establishing a bureaucracy that did little but stymie further growth.

The nuttiness got so out of control that there was actually a dance company in Quebec that had not employed dancers or mounted a production for years but still remained heavily subsidized for fulfilling its mandate of bringing "an awareness of dance" to its local community. Meanwhile, a new "management class" moved in. Most of them didn't know the first thing about theatre but they could write (or assess) grant applications and knew the right people in Ottawa, at Foundations or among corporations deemed "arts friendly". I once dubbed them the "unemployable inbred children of the wealthy", but now the theatres couldn't survive without their connections or approvals and they soon took charge.

Anybody noticing any parallels to the current film business or the rules governing the CTF?

Um...yep. Jim then goes on to look at our TV/Film situation:

We all know where the ensuing years have gotten us. Financial systems based on pre-determined envelopes and mad scrambles to meet deadlines that fit the fiscal schedules of bureaucracies and not production realities. Corporate entities that don't live up to their contractual obligations or have openly broken the law have been protected from examination by the internal rules of the very government agencies that fund and are supposed to scrutinize them.

There have been moves to "industrialize" the industry, creating crews (the current "hewers of wood and carriers of water") who work for primarily offshore entities that mostly import their creatives. And, in the way the elites have always treated their hewers and carriers, those crews now have to travel longer distances and work under poorer conditions in order to practice their professions.

Then there are regional incentives. I wouldn't deny anyone the opportunity of working in their home town, or suggest that local governments shouldn't attract film dollars to their community, but if you lived in country say 10 times larger and to the South of us, there would really be only 2 or 3 locations where the industry is real, understood and has solid support systems that keep it vibrant and viable.

How do we fight this? How do we create (or maybe just bring back) an industry that earns profits, makes business sense and produces material that audiences embrace?

How indeed...but let's not call it 'fighting', let's call it working toward creating or recreating or bringing back something that makes sense.

Good things can come in three's also...

DMc's trying...Jim's trying... who's number 3?

1 comment:

Kelly J. Compeau said...

Sorry to hear about the fractured rib cage, Dix. 2007 hasn't really been all that good to you and the family so far, eh? I hope things get better -- soon!