Monday, December 15, 2008

Everyone's A (Proven) Winner, Baby?

Frak it's gotten cold out here in the cold it almost makes one want to curl up with a cup of Hot Chocolate and not think too hard about the Canadian TV/movie industry.


Yesterday it was this interesting essay HERE at Mediafest's TV Board that got me thinking about "audiences"...and a couple of days ago it was THIS POST that had me thinking about the stigma in this country of being labelled a "Canadian" production.

Today I was thinking about how we measure success.

Lately, on a number of fronts, I've been involved with the analysis and assessment of a lot of Canadian TV and movie projects seeking development money. And I kept hearing a particular 'phrase of praise' heaped upon applying producers or filmmakers in order to evaluate the merit of their project.

"They're a proven winner."

Me (as always, being the curious one), asked "Why?"


"Yeah...why is this particular filmmaker or producer a proven winner?"

I wasn't challenging or disputing...I was genuinely interested.

Well, it was explained to me...their last film got accepted at TIFF or the Whistler Film Festival; or the CTF or Telefilm supported their last series or movie; or they got nominated for a Gemini or Genie; or even, their last film got a great review in the Globe or the Star or NOW Magazine!!

This is what we use to determine proven winners in film/TV in Canada? WTF?

I proceeded to be difficult and kept asking questions: "But how many actual viewers (aka eyeballs) did their last TV series or television movie get? Or what was the actual box office take for the last feature film of said producer/filmmaker?"

Colleagues looked at me like I was nuts. Much whispering and headshaking. Well, I was told... we can't really use things like that to measure success here in Canada. We have to judge our successes 'differently'.

There's that freakin' word again.

But I guess it kinda makes sense...since almost EVERYONE (media, journalists, Joe 'Average Viewer' Public) treats Canadian TV and movies as 'different', and nobody really expects any of our shows/movies to actually 'hit' only follows that the system that finances them has to have a different set of criteria for whether to fund or back them.

I know its kinda always been that way, but all of a sudden it struck me as pretty messed up. And further discussion with my colleagues uncovered a real desire to have more substantial criteria in place in order to determine our 'proven winners', but these days, that would mean excluding almost everyone. And that's no good.

Which isn't to say there isn't great stuff out just might not be particularily popular or accessible. Or if it happened to be popular and accessible, it wasn't necessarily that good. Sigh.

Of course, we do have exceptions to the rule. Recently, Brett Butt got the greenlight for a new series...that made sense. And some of the key creatives behind Corner Gas and Little Mosque and This Hour Has 22 Minutes also got the greenlight on a pilot...that also made sense. And I'm not trying to downplay the 'success' of shows like Flashpoint, but I'm trying to focus just on programs that are all around homegrown and not riding the thoroughbred that is the US/Hollywood machine right out of the gate. And I really don't want our only 'legitimate' success stories to be just U.S. network co-productions...

And I'm not stupid or naive...I know how things work up here. Many smarter than I have written about the problems and ways to make it all better. I know how hard it is to get any sort of decent marketing or promotional campaign in Canada; or any good 'primetime' slot for your homegrown TV series or TV movie; or a wide release or even screens in movie theatres for your indigenous feature. And I know these are all huge factors necessary to a decent shot at a hit or even an "audience", but still...c'mon. Should filling out a form properly for a funding agency, or getting accepted to a film festival, or receiving a positive review or an award nomination really be our most commonly used measures of 'success'?

I dunno....the bar needs to be higher.

"That's the truth. And that's no lie."

But who should be responsible for raising that bar....and why.

Stay warm.


Ken said...

You mentioned the new improved measure of success right in the post, Will. It's obvious that the only credible measure of success here in Canada right now...the only possible way to gauge whether or not what you're doing is worthwhile or a pointless wank...the holy bloody grail of worthiness - is if you get a US Network sale.


'scuse me.

wcdixon said...


Yeah Ken...I know.

I just was secretly hoping someone would surprise us all with a trump card.

Scott said...

Will, tracked back here from your post on my blog. Enjoyed bumping around your site. Taken the liberty of adding it to my blogroll. Here's to your continued success writing in Canada.