Ideas to save Cda's film industry

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Apr 7 12:56:55 UTC 2005

Sarah Polley has ideas to save Cda's film industry

Sarah Polley News Staff

Wed. Apr. 6 2005 11:07 AM ET

Canadian actor Sarah Polley says there is nothing wrong with Canadian
movies. But there is definitely something wrong with the fact that most of
us never get a chance to watch them. "I think the truth is that people
don't see Canadian films. And I don't think you can gauge whether people
like films that they can neither find nor hear about," Polley told CTV's
Canada AM Wednesday.

"The sense I get is people would love to see Canadian films but they're
not accessible to them." Polley believes it unfair that the only place
that most film lovers can find independent Canadian films is in small
theatres in cities like Montreal and Toronto. Anyone who lives in the
suburbs or in rural areas has to make due with a steady of diet of
Hollywood blockbusters. She doesn't think it's fair to ask film lovers to
pack up and drive into the city just to see a two-hour film

"That's a lot of effort, and I don't know that we should have to make
people make that kind of effort. I think that they should be given equal
choice," she says. Polley is one of Canada's few actors who has achieved
fame even while concentrating most of her work within Canada. It is only
because a number of those productions such as The Road to Avonlea and The
Sweet Hereafter received international distribution, that she has become a
well-known force.

Now Ottawa is asking her what she thinks the Canadian film industry needs
in order to grow. Polley is working with the Commons Heritage Committee as
it conducts an in-depth review of how the federal government funds
Canada's feature film industry. The committee is holding public hearings
in cities across the country, assessing its own policies with the goal of
isolating those that have helped develop talented Canadian filmmakers and
build larger audiences for Canadian film at home and abroad.

Polley believes this country's film industry is creating terrific work but
the problem remains that Canadians cannot get access to these films. "It's
pretty hard for Canadians to find Canadian films in this country and to
have a viewpoint. So I think what we really have to talk about is how to
create that access, how do we force open some shelf space so people can
see their own films."

The situation in Quebec, Polley notes, is a different story. There, the
industry is vibrant, with many films such as La Grande Seduction and Les
Invasions barbares finding huge success in France. "They have a few things
going for them," Polley notes. "One: they have their own language, so
they've immediately got this kind of built-in market where people really
want to see films in their own language. I think there's a certain pride

"And I think it's taken for granted at different levels of government that
Quebec culture is incredibly important and something that needs to be
promoted. I think there are a lot of lessons we can learn from that, for
sure." One solution that Polley envisions is to increase promotion of
Canadian films, because filmgoers cannot seek out movies they've never
heard about.  She suggests that movie theatres and Canadian broadcasters
should be mandated to advertise Canadian films.

"I think it should be part of broadcasters' licensing requirements that
they show trailers for Canadian films. Otherwise, I don't know how we're
supposed to, with the deluge of American films and their $100-million
marketing budgets, how we're ever supposed to have the opportunity to
choose what we want to see." Canada is of course not the only country that
has to compete with Hollywood and yet other countries have found
solutions. Telefilm Canada notes that Swedish films account for 22 per
cent of that country's domestic box office. In Britain, the figure is 17
per cent. But in Canada, Canadian films accounted for just 4.5 per cent of
revenues at theatres in 2004.

Polley suggests Canada would do well to examins what other countries are
doing to so successfully promote their own films. "Korea, France -- they
all have very creative ways of approaching this where you don't have to
bring up the big scary word of 'quota.' I think that advertising is a
really good place to start. I think that television is a good place to
start to make sure that we have an active Canadian drama and a lot of
Canadian content on our broadcasters."

Wayne Clarkson, the new executive director of Telefilm, also likes the
idea of using television to promote Canadian film. He recently offered his
ideas to the Heritage Canada committee and suggested that instead of
trying to lure Canadians filmgoers away from Hollywood movies, we should
be encouraging filmmakers to market their films to cable movie networks,
such as the Movie Channel, or TMN. Another idea would be to get more
Canadian films on DVD, so that filmgoers outside of metropolitan areas
could seek them out at their local video store.

Polley thinks those are great ideas and is encouraged that people in the
film industry are investigating alternatives. "I think there are all kinds
of different avenues for Canadian film. I think television is extremely
important. I think that other countries have shown that when broadcasters
get involved in not only promoting their country's films but also
financing it, being an active partner, it's both good for the network and
good for the films, knowing that will benefit them later when they get the
film back to broadcast. These are things that we have to look at."

"We have to be really creative about this. And that's what's great about
this Heritage committee looking at film policy. I think that they are
entertaining really interesting ideas, from what I've read of the
transcript, so it's encouraging. I think people are starting to think a
little more broadly." The Canadian Heritage committee is to report back to
the House of Commons later this summer.

 Copyright 2004 Bell Globemedia Inc.

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list