Monday, February 11, 2008

It's All About The Rules And The Money, Juno?

Culture. Cancon. Gemini's. Genie's. Entertainment?

Swinging a little late on the pitch here, but the fact that Juno, the sharp delightful little dramedy that's all the buzz right now, wasn't eligible for Genie nominations is still nagging at me. As the Toronto Star's Peter Howell points out in this was shot in Canada, it was directed by a Canadian (Jason Reitman), and the two main leads (Ellen Page and Michael Cera) are Canadian. Yet because it was financed by Fox Searchlight out of the U.S., it didn't qualify. It wasn't Canadian enough.

More from Howell:

So why don't I just let the matter drop? The reason is that year after year, the Canadian movie industry moans about the lack of support for homegrown talent.

The Genies inspire so little passion in the frozen populace, only people directly involved care about who wins what prize. The viewing audience for the Genies' telecast is so low, our national taxpayer-funded broadcaster no longer carries it.

Then a movie comes along, directed by and starring Canadians and made in Canada, that people actually want to see. And what do we all do? We declare it can't possibly be Canuck.

Here's how weird it gets. U.S. actor Viggo Mortensen is nominated for a Genie for his strong acting in Eastern Promises, which was filmed in London. Julie Christie, a Briton, is nominated for her deeply moving performance in Away From Her. Yet Michael Cera, who actually is Canadian, isn't nominated for his sweetly innocent turn as the baby dad in Juno.

This does happen every year (last go around it was Cronenberg's A History of Violence), and I understand that the rules are in place to try to ensure homegrown indiginous projects get to be 'most' eligible...still...

It comes down to the money...and the rules. Money as in where the money came from - and rules as in the citizenship and residency of the producer(s) who manage that money to make the film. Is that the way it should work? If Juno had been actually set in the sleepy little town of White Rock, B.C., I still don't think it would've been eligible. Yet London-set Eastern Promises was. It's wacky.

Wacky like the culture/commercial entertainment debate going on at the CRTC hearings over the Canadian Television Fund....different arena, but it also comes down to rules and money (though in this case it's how much the Canadian broadcasters and cablers are earning because of 'the rules'). McGrath swings just right and hits a home run today with his monster post on the topic.

EDIT: And Henshaw wants to marry Jim Shaw...well, maybe not marry anymore, but he likes a lot of what Shaw's people had to say to the CRTC. About Canadian content.

Still I sigh. So much of what we make or try to make tv/film-wise (music seems to have worked out okay though) in this country is dictated by the well-intended objective but ultimately detrimental impact of the requirements to achieve that goal...Cancon.

It shouldn't be a dirty word, but Juno...


Jane said...

If you think music has worked out okay in Canada ask yourself why the biggest stars (and I'm making no comment the quality of their music) like Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, and Alanis Morissette, not to mention Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell have all moved away from Canada in order to develop their careers. Our greats who do stay at home - The Hip, Rheostatics etc etc - have huge problems ever making a name for themselves outside our borders.

wcdixon said...

I guess why it's worked better than the TV biz is that a lot of those groups you reference reaped benefits from Cancon rules by becoming popular enough in Canada to be 'stars' here and make a living selling in Canada. Unlike most all tv writer/creators and shows made here.

Breaking into the US in a big way wasn't absolutely necessary.