Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Top Ten Things to make Canadian FILM better

(These only apply to English Canadian film.  Quebec doesn't need my help.)

1.  Telefilm Canada needs to encourage films that will result in a body of work that will reflect this country on screen.  Since our films don't make money, let's at least make films we can be proud of as a nation.

Financing the upcoming feature Blindness, for instance, which is based on a novel by a brilliant Portuguese writer and was directed by a brilliant Brazilian director is a worthy project and put some Canadians to work, but is kind of like the auto pact.  We make it, or at least pay for it, but someone else will get the credit.  At least Telefilm Canada must focus on doing films that are recognizably Canadian.  Is that so difficult?

(I can't take credit for this idea, but I don't know if the person who came up with it wants to take credit for it publicly, so I'll just acknowledge my debt to them here.)

2.  More money to writers.  Duh!

Put the screenwriter in charge of development.  (Which also means that writers must take responsibility for development.)  Treat cinema less as an industry and more like art.  Producers should not be the gatekeepers to development dollars.  We're not going to be able to compete with Hollywood on their terms, so let's make movies on our terms.  Treat screenwriters like the gods among men/women that we are.

3.  Have the balls to tax Hollywood for making money in Canadian cinemas and put that money towards homegrown cinema.  Jack Valenti is dead.  They COULD do it, if they had the cojones.

4.  Spend money to construct/buy/lease designated cinemas in our communities to show Canadian films.  So what if they don't make money?  Do we shut down all our galleries that show Canadian paintings because more people go to the Musee d'Orsay in Paris?  If you build it, they will come.

5.  To the Academy:  expand the definition of Canadian films for the Genies.  Both My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Juno, for instance, should have been in the Genies.  Juno was all but written by a Canadian and MBFGW was both written by a Canadian and shot here.  We need to raise the profile of what Canadian cinema means to Canadians who don't care about the arcane rules of financing.  The Brits don't have this problem, so why are we so insecure?

6.  Allow exhibitors that show Canadian films tax deductions against revenue for doing so.  (They only exhibit movies for the money, so let's give them some incentive to show ours.)

7.  In addition to Telefilm promoting the Writers First screenplays developed with Telefilm Canada money, publish a list of vetted Canadian spec screenplays, (interestingly enough, I have a couple that I've posted on a US website since there's nothing here,) for Canadian producers.  (Not that they want to make movies, but if some of the rest of the ideas on my list took place, who knows?)

8.  Bring back the 100% tax credit!  (With thanks to Doug Williams for this idea.)  Yes, the bad old 100% tax write off for money invested in certified Canadian films resulted in a lot of dentists dropping a wad of dough on mediocre movies in the 80's.  (Though, frankly, in retrospect some of those films are not so bad.)  But the idea still makes sense.  Just make the rules about who qualifies for the investment--like having a track record, for instance--more stringent.  But more money in the system can only result in more movies.  More is better.  That's how you get a Rembrandt--lots of Dutch painters required.

9.  Encourage experienced TV writers to write screenplays by offering "cinema" grants. Much like the MacArthur Foundation's "genius" grants, give someone like Chris Haddock real money to write a screenplay that goes to the top of the pile for production--by virtue of the writer's track record.

10.  Finance my spec scripts.  Canadian film will become instantly better.

(Okay, I'm sort of kidding about #10, but not a lot.  In fact, those specs are posted on in case anyone's interested...)


jimhenshaw said...

Hey Sugith,

Great to have you in the blog world, especially with ideas like these. I'm adding you to my Links. I hope it sends you some well deserved traffic.


Sugith Varughese said...

Thanks Jim. I'm new to the blogging thing, but I hear the it's all the rage with the kids.

Don't expect daily posts, though! Gotta save something for my own writing.

Amanda Rose said...

Hi Sugith,

Excellent ideas.I agree we need some big changes to the way we run the film and tv industry in Canada.It would be fabulous if even one of the ideas you presented took sway. In the way of films we desperately neeed btter distribution. I hope that Canadian artists can help to impove the way that Canadian cinema is run.

Urmas said...

Dear Sugith

Nicely done

How about number 11 would be better
or just more flexible international co production deals

Just a thought

Urmas Rosin

Sugith Varughese said...

In theory, who'd be against more flexibility?

But producers use the code word "flexibility" to usually mean get rid of any need to have a resident Canadian writer. So, the other departments get to work, but the story department is in L.A.