Thursday, July 26, 2007

One Last CRTC/CTF Notice Reminder...

So tomorrow's the deadline ("thank god..." mutter non-Canadian readers) to get your letters of opposition into the CRTC regarding the proposed task force changes to the CTF.

First, a DGC update for anyone who cares: the guild was kind enough to respond to me, and the gist was that they are strenuously objecting to the task force recommendations, but felt in this case a formal written submission to the CRTC from the National Office on behalf of all of the members would be a more powerful plan of action to pursue at this time (as opposed to a mass letter writing campaign).

So there you go.

Anyhow, still wondering what you might say should you write up a letter? See below two great examples, one from a pro (Karen Walton), and one from an up and comer (Brandon Laraby). First up, Karen.

RE: Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-70 – Call for comments on the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) Task Force Report.

Dear Mr. Morin:

This is my written intervention regarding the CRTC’s call for comments on the CTF Task Force Report recommendations. I object to many of its recommendations, and urge you to reconsider acting on all of them until you have offered Canadians a public proceeding to air dissenting opinions on that particular document freely and openly.

I am a Canadian film and television writer who works in the Canadian, American and English film and television industries. I live in Canada -- in Ontario specifically, and Quebec occasionally. My television credits include the Gemini Award-winning television movie, The Many Trials of One Jane Doe, and Heart – The Marilyn Bell Story, and many acclaimed Canadian-made series such as What It’s Like Being Alone, The Eleventh Hour, Straight Up, Queer As Folk (line produced, written and often directed by acclaimed Canadians, in Canada) & Drop the Beat. My Canadian theatrical feature film, Ginger Snaps – and its subsequent prequel and sequel films – air regularly on Canadian television networks like Movie Television and CityTV – and benefited greatly from their Canadian broadcast licenses.

I object to the CTF Task Force Report’s recommendation that the public/private partnership that is currently the Canadian Television Fund be split: even the notion that ‘100% Canadian’ cannot also be a ‘hit’ is absurd and denigrates the industry as a whole, and our programmes’ world market buyers. It is a sad day when a federal regulatory body would endorse such a concept, even in jest.

As a Canadian industry professional, and an avid Canadian television viewer, I also object to the report’s subsequent recommendation to compromise the quotient/formula of Canadian talent that defines a programme as entitled to a benefit from the public/private partnership of the CTF, in any administrative construct. Our television’s commercial success depends not on repeating, revising, emulating or submitting entirely to another country’s cultural agenda, tastes and values, but in our celebration – possible only with 100% Canadian talent – of our own intrinsic and fundamental differences from (and competitive alternatives to) the predictable, formulaic pabulum currently produced elsewhere.

The very idea that the CTF Task Force would somehow gather let alone attempt to assert that the effective relation and depiction of “Canadian experiences” can ever be respectably or responsibly wrought by foreign talent with our public money is as misguided as it is bizarre. Even as an ill-conceived exercise in potentially re-patriating former Canadian talent, I can see no good or common sense in it. As a writer who writes in many markets, I can tell you with certainty that artists who do leave this country go not to be absorbed by other cultures’ ways and means, but because of the chronic devaluation of the quality and calibre of their talent and contributions to the beleaguered industry and its governing bodies, here at home. Especially as many Canadian writers’ talents are truly highly valued in the very forums the report’s obviously ‘private corporate interests’ agenda appears to aspire to mimic.

And here we are again, defending our talent to our own. Again.

Some days I wonder whether there are any of us left to fight off the self-serving private interests who believe an American actor or director or writer will solve their endemic creative management issues. I can already assure you here that those companies cannot afford quality foreign talent on the prices they are willing to pay, here. More importantly, ‘hits’ are cultivated by responsible entertainment professionals in collaboration with willing broadcasters. Hits are not bought, and they do not travel exclusively with non-Canadian passports.

Imagine seeking US pre-sales of Little Mosque on the Prairie, Da Vinici’s Inquest, The Trailer Park Boys, Degrassi, or Da Kink In My Hair with mainstream American networks. These shows are only possible, can only exist because of the unique experiences their authors forged as a result of their uniquely Canadian perspectives – in a uniquely Canadian system that recognizes their value over their subscriptions to any given moray of the day. Other nations have no trouble seeing our talent and our experiences as vital to a dynamic and diverse world programming experience. In fact, we – Canadian writers, performers, directors – are actively sought by foreign markets precisely because we are NOT liable to cookie-cut for what is already widely available in the mass market. Only in Canada do we constantly question our own talent’s bankability, and so its validity.

Why is that?

Professionally & culturally, any plan to cut back on the development of 10/10 Canadian-content programmes seems equally self-defeatist. If one wishes to improve upon a product, one invests in its development – and well. And in those capable of developing it in a manner that reflects its purpose: professional Canadian artists, telling our stories to our country, and to the world. It is the poverty of the development economy and a great deal of short-sighted thinking about the health of our creative communities that directly impacts the quality of the resulting productions, not the calibre and potential of its creative talent. Cutting back on development is like sending soldiers to a war with fewer guns so you can pinch a few pennies on the cost of ammunition.

I understand the Writers Guild of Canada is submitting formally a response to the CTF Task Force’s report. As a member, I support their willingness to better inform and if possible correct this latest attack on my ability and desire to physically stay or engage in the CTF Task Force’s proposed version of a ‘Canadian’ television industry. Commercial viability and quality entertainment are standards I also apply when considering on what and where I, as a Canadian business woman and acclaimed artist, elect to spend my time and resources.

The CTF task Force report’s attitudes and assertions send a clear message to me as a Canadian writer who works all over the world: my continued investment in the Canadian television industry is up for review, too. I have more thoughts. But I hope you are persuaded by at least these to consider tabling any decisions regarding the CTF Task Force Report’s recommendations, because I think they are ill-conceived, and dangerous to the future of Canadian television, if not properly debated, - and in Canada, that should mean publicly.


Karen Walton
Film & Television Writer, WGC & WGA

And coming from a different direction but no less passionate, Brandon Laraby.

RE: Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-70 – Call for comments on the Canadian Television Fund (CTF) Task Force Report.

Dear Mr. Morin:

My name is Brandon Laraby and you don’t know me. In fact, there’s a good chance that no one in the industry knows me just yet. You see, I’m what’s called an up-and-coming writer and I am only one of many young Canadians who are currently honing their craft in this country. Some say that our days are already numbered: inexperienced, na├»ve storytellers just waiting to have their own unique visions swallowed by an ‘American-ized’ system. “Conform to the formula” is what we’re told and, from what I hear, many do because it’s better to be heard in passing than to not be heard at all.

But we will be heard. And it will be done on our terms. For that is our right as Canadians, our right as young men and women who’ve grown up among the many vibrant cultures and people of this country. We are the young ones who reject what is force-fed to us from our cousins below and instead look within for inspiration, we look to our friends and families and the tales of the country that is our home.

Sir, the very concept that we cannot be competitive in a market with 100% Canadian content is a slap in the face. It is a slap in the face to every one of us who dares to dream that our vision of this great country is valid; that the stories WE want to tell deserve to be told and shared amongst all who would witness.

Splitting the CTF into a “Heritage” pool and a “Broadcast Distribution Undertakings” pool will only hinder those of us who are already fighting for recognition in this industry. Adding that the CBC will also be pulling from this smaller pool is even more disheartening as it continues to limit the venues for which we young Canadians may take to display our talent. What was once an already small, competitive market will fall upon itself like rabid dogs, fighting for whatever scraps are available. You may believe that this will make us stronger and better but what this will do is destroy any hope of true individuality. If you want Canadian-ized carbon copies of American shows, this is truly the path you must take.

But they will not be our vision. And they will not have our heart and our unique perspective – things which Americans prize above all else in our stories.Our voice is distinctive because we as a people are distinctive - and the moment you crush that delicate balance, the moment you push us away in favour of flashy titles and bumping, soulless music, you lose that. It will simply fade away and you may never get it back.

A long time ago, when I was in high school a man once asked me: “What makes a Canadian different from an American?” He was being facetious, thinking that there really was no answer. And as a young child growing up with the Fresh Prince of Bel Air instead of Hockey Night in Canada, I really had no answer to give. Like most Canadians, I don’t think many would be able to answer that question.But I can. And the answer is quite simple:


No one growing up in Wyoming will ever understand the struggles of a single mother raising her three children in a town like Napanee or Deseronto. No one living in the fast-paced world of LA will ever be able to truly grasp the harsh life but loving nature of the Newfoundlanders or the laid back, kindly style of British Columbia.

And nor should they for they are OUR stories to tell.

Please, sir, do not lock out the very voices you claim you wish to hear.


Brandon Laraby
One of Many

Very nice. Well done.

If you've made it this far down the page, go HERE where you'll find Notice 2007-70...scroll down to where it says you can submit comments, click and write up a comment (preferably opposed), follow the prompts and submit it by tomorrow Friday July 27.


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