UPDATE:Â If the intent is to attract “top talent” that will make all these new “American” Canadian shows more viable, the CRTC should probably know that even some of the most successful Canadians in L.A., like the showrunner/creator of Bones, isn’t impressed.
Canadian Television is about to become slightly less full of Canadians, thanks to a major CRTC decision released quietly yesterday.
The CRTC is allowing the independent production funds (including the Shaw Rocket Fund, Rogers Fund, Cogeco Program Development Fund, Telefilm Canada, and the Harold Greenberg Fund) to reduce their â€œpoint systemâ€ for what determines Canadian-ness of a project from 8 to 6. The general effect of this will be to allow for the hiring of non-Canadians in key creation and starring roles (ie: Americans will be able to create and star in â€œCanadianâ€ TV series).
This, in fact, by the CRTCâ€™s own admission, was one of the points of the decision:
â€œThe current criterion requiring eight out of 10 Canadian content certification points to qualify for CIPF funding is restrictive and excludes many productions that could otherwise be of high quality and qualify as Canadian. Moreover, a reduced requirement could help smaller and perhaps more innovative projects to qualify for funding. A reduced requirement of at least six points could also facilitate the hiring by production companies of non-Canadian actors or creators, who may increase a project’s attractiveness and visibility in international markets.â€
Reaction from the Canadian creative community was swift, and critical.
Whatâ€™s particularly unusual about this decision is that something with far-reaching implications was done as a â€œpaper hearing,â€ ie: the CRTC did not hold any public consultations.
The last time something like this was proposed, the Writers Guild of Canada brought a group of screenwriters to Hull to appear before the commission. They made a convincing case as to why this â€œflexibilityâ€ wouldnâ€™t lead to better quality Canadian programming. It seems that current chairman J.P. Blais was determined to not repeat this exercise.
Of concern to fans of actual Canadian TV shows, of course, is the fact that once again in no way was the audience consulted. The CRTC didnâ€™t bother to seek out or try to understand the feelings of fans who celebrate unique Canadian points-of-view and creative directions on display in Canadian-created shows such as Orphan Black, Flashpoint, X Company, Letterkenny, Wynonna Earp, Lost Girl, Rookie Blue, Saving Hope, Motive, or many more.
As Peter Mitchell, executive producer and showrunner of Murdoch Mysteries explained on Facebook, even the premise of the CRTCâ€™s decision is faulty:
The problem with the CRTCâ€™s decision is that it really doesnâ€™t advance any new idea. Many Canadian producers have been doing their level best to copy â€œAmerican-styleâ€ shows for years, watering down the Canadian creative role as much as possible. They never seem to do as well as the original work such as Orphan Black or Murdoch Mysteries. Thatâ€™s why youâ€™re not seeing Season 4 of the forgettable XIII, and why Houdini & Doyle, which debuted to so much fanfare, died a quiet death.
The idea that Canadian producers will be able to attract top American talent is dubious at best. Because if youâ€™re American, and youâ€™re working in the American industry where thereâ€™s more money, and more prestige, why would you take a massive pay cut to work in Canada? Instead of top American talent, youâ€™re likelier to get the people who canâ€™t get hired anymore, who might have had credits in the 1980s or 1990s. And now the CRTC has blessed the idea that these marginal players are more valuable than the top homegrown talent who are responsible for the industryâ€™s top successes.
There are other ways to approach the idea of creating hits, rather than this failed road. But the CRTC seems to be enamored with the fantasy that â€œflexibilityâ€ fixes all, rather than actually supporting talent.
And the best part? A government that ran at least partially on a platform of promoting culture is signalling to the next generation of storytellers not to botherâ€”that itâ€™s time to leave:
So thereâ€™s nothing good here if youâ€™re a Canadian writer or actor hoping to star in or create a Canadian show. Or if youâ€™re someone who likes the unique point of view you see from Canadian TV shows. But the producerâ€™s association loves it. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll be getting something great from that writer who did one episode of Simon & Simon any day now.
Great news, isnâ€™t it?
19 thoughts on “Reaction to CRTC’s Policy framework for Certified Independent Production Funds”
Bad news indeed.
Should the Levys, Reitmans and Balcer be given shows in Canada since they clearly have spent their lives and careers in the USA? Never mind that some of them have no experience producing or writing…leaving local talent unemployed and without opportunity.
So tomorrow Kiefer Sutherland, his US career having faded, comes to Canada and gets shows/money thrown at him at the expense of lesser known local creatives? And then Hart Hansen…
What constitutes Canadian and what is fair? Is this question too Harperian in nature?
Canadian tax dollars should be spent on creatives residing locally… too few shows get made and far too often the same Canadian writers/producers get those shows. The executives are largely to blame for this turn of events.
How do you develop talent then given the new regulations and the collusion of executives to deprive local creatives of opportunities and enhance their own reputation by funding American-Canadian US-based talent?
Just one tv eh reader comment ? Pathetic.
48 years ago the creation of the Broadcasting Act in 1968 confirmed CBC’s position as a national broadcaster; strengthened restrictions on foreign ownership; required that Canadian programming be created by Canadian talent; and created the Canadian Radio-television Commission (CRTC), a new regulatory agency that became the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) in 1976.
It was a licence to “print Canadian Content”.
What happened ?
Ever since 1968 Canadian tax dollars and Canadian consumer dollars have mostly produced TV shows, movies, and fiction books of American stories, done in Canada pretending to be the U.S. Even Canadian stories usually are flooded with American cultural references.
I’ve been saying for decades to anyone who’d listen that the CRTC, CBC, and other alleged Canadian broadcasters, were right from the start infiltrated and taken over by Americans and are dedicated to eradicating all CanCon and foster total Americanization of Canada.
This new ‘quiet’ CRTC edict and the results since 1968 prove it for anyone with eyes to see and brains enough to comprehend.
Too few even feign listening, none comprehend.
So we have today what we deserve – americanization.
With all due respect, what’s obviously Canadian about ‘Orphan Black’? You have to look to see the driving licences and the banknotes… while the Ontario name is taped over on the car number plates!
Likewise, shows like Lost Girl and Sanctuary tried to hide much of their Canadian-ness. Specifically not mentioning where the show was located and incorporating characters from American institutions like the FBI into the show.
X Company isn’t even FILMED in Canada. It’s filmed in Hungary.
At the risk of suggesting that you’re being a little pedantic by defining things so narrowly?
-The subject matter and the way it’s handled, even the early body horror (the guy with the tail? remember him) evokes a sensibility that’s very Cronenburg.
-The progressive portrayal of one of the lesbian central relationships, which has been no big deal on Canadian TV for a while now.
-The very act of straddling British & American cultural influences that’s baked into the show’s DNA.
If you’re looking for license plates and that’s where your analysis stops, then you might not find much, I guess. But the show was developed at the Canadian Film Centre, and if you care to deep dive a little bit into what people appreciate about the show and why it’s different, your question is easily answerable. But it is very much about tone, approach and attitude. If you need a visual signpost (other, than I guess, some of John Fawcett’s directing, which is distinctive on its own and harkens back to earlier interesting works like Ginger Snaps) then maybe you’re not gonna see it.
Point is, many others do.
We can celebrate the success of Orphan Black â€“ while also acknowledging its problematic position as a flag bearer for Canadian culture. It doesnâ€™t have to be one or the other. We can applaud it while still pointing out thereâ€™s progress to be made.
Iâ€™ve heard the argument that style and themes trump setting before, but isnâ€™t that the slippery slope that leads to this CRTC idea? If it doesnâ€™t have to acknowledge itâ€™s Canadian > then it doesnâ€™t have to star Canadians > then it doesnâ€™t have to be written by Canadians. Besides â€“ who gets to say what is or isnâ€™t a Canadian tone, approach or attitude?
Just as an aside: to me the issue is less about whether a program admits itâ€™s Canadian and more about whether itâ€™s NOT admitting itâ€™s Canadian. So I have no trouble embracing Killjoys as â€œCanadianâ€ because even though it has nothing to do with Canada (being set in deep space) so far they havenâ€™t done much to deny its Canadianness — well, except one scene where an actor said sKedule rather than sHedule :-). What rankles is shows that deliberately avoid Canadianisms or work in distracting Americanisms â€“ even when ostensibly set in Canada (like when the Toronto-set sitcom Four in the Morning has characters talk about â€œIvy League universities.â€) And yes, I realize thatâ€™s why I make enemies on both sides of the aisle in these discussions â€“ but, as I say, to me itâ€™s never been about forcing in Canadian â€œsignpostsâ€ but about filmmakers avoiding them when they crop up.
With that said, Nationalism can go too far. Courtâ€™s criticism of X Company seems odd given itâ€™s set during WW II â€“ where the conflict was overseas (and I believe itâ€™s an international co-production involving European partners). Suggesting a story with Canadian characters drawing (loosely) upon Canadian history isnâ€™t Canadian if the action spreads outside Canadian borders is just as bad as others saying a story canâ€™t be set in Canada because it would be TOO Canadian.
And Stevie â€“ just stop. Please. Bigotry ainâ€™t cool, and we donâ€™t need to blame American pod-people and sleeper agents for our cultural woes â€“ weâ€™ve done this to ourselves.
The problem DK is that it all becomes like that. Once you have the nitpickers on the pogrom over money and license plates, there really is no slicing the ridiculousness of someone drubbing a Canada-Hungary copro set in WW2 for shooting where WW2 actually, um, you know, was a thing.
One of the POSITIVE changes to the CRTC regs a while back actually made more KILLJOYS possible — because they used to demand exactly what you’re suggesting, “identifiable Canadian locations and themes.” Not anymore, which is good, because BUREAUCRATS deciding the Canadianness of something is an utter Kafkaesque disaster. Canadian stories are stories told by Canadians with the experience of Canadians, period. That’s the only possible metric. Because if the story takes place in South Africa but it’s a Canadian’s journey there, that’s a Canadian story, as much if it happens on the outer ring of the Denobian system, or in France in 1942. The pedants and the parochials will drub a FLASHPOINT for not being so obvious about waving the flag, yet to most, the fact that you have a cop show about cops who don’t try to shoot first, that every Torontonian can I.D. as Toronto by the freaking street signs and the establishing shots, is, in fact, the point. Anything else is nitpicking. It’s about the storytelling, not totems. And if someone says “Ivy League” schools because they’re from a generation and that shorthand works for them, getting exercised and up in your dudgeon about it is immaterial. It’s not like a Canadian cop is reading someone their MIRANDA rights. There is a distinction beyond which it’s counterproductive and silly. And, by the way, NOT EVEN REMOTELY THE SAME THING as “the slippery slope that leads to the CRTC idea.” That’s just plug dumb.
Iâ€™m not sure why you think the slippery slope analogy is inapplicable. Surely thatâ€™s at the heart of this CRTC controversy. A writer like you will say the writer is important. The director will say the director. Who gets to ride the bus and who gets throw under it? Personally, Iâ€™d prefer we define â€œCanadianâ€ by something objective like setting or character than something subjective like tone or theme. To me thatâ€™s Kafkaesque: a bureaucrat deciding if something â€œfeelsâ€ Canadian.
When I hear characters refer to Fahrenheit, Cliff Notes, lootenants, or, yes, Ivy Leagues that strikes me as bad STORYTELLING. Itâ€™s no more nitpicking than it would be to suggest a mistake if the characters paid for their lunch in Euros. These things are either a result of lazy writers ignorant of Canada or are deliberate attempts to Americanize the dialogue. And if the writers can nitpick over the dialogue by Americanizing it then others can nitpick and say â€œI see what youâ€™re doing, dude.â€
But I want to focus on one thing you invoke (and others have before you): these unnamed nefarious bureaucrats forcing Canadian references. You claim Killjoys is only possible now because these sinister forces have been neutered. But Killjoys is an unusual Canadian sci-fi show precisely because it isnâ€™t trying too hard to seem American — although they did just refer to â€œpintsâ€ — bastards :). Which is unlike the long history of shows like Sanctuary, StarGate, Andromeda, TekWar, Codename: Eternity and so many others. So let me ask you in all seriousness: can you name a Canadian production that was forced to include an egregious Canadian element that was detrimental to the finished work? I mean in a 1992 version of The Lost World Ned Malone was rewritten to be Canadian (Eric McCormack) but I donâ€™t see how that hurt the film (which I recall as being cheesy but fun). â€˜Cause Iâ€™ve watched thousands of hours of Canadian productions and, honestly, too many forced Canadian references doesnâ€™t seem like the issue. Yet it gets cited like an all-purpose Boogey Man to scare us into thinking Canadian references are coming to eat our babies.
Actually I can think of one example: Dave Thomas has frequently said they created the McKenzie Brothers because of pressure to make SCTV more Canadian. And yeah, I guess that ruinedâ€¦ Oh, wait â€“ the McKenzie Brothers actually became SCTV\s most popular creations.
DK, I don’t think anyone would claim that language aside, Tarkovsky’s Solaris wasn’t Russian because there were no rubles in sight or that Ex Machina wasn’t British because they didn’t have thick Cockney accents and US money was involved. For many years Canadian funding agencies completely ignored SF if your name wasn’t Cronenberg for these very reasons. But you are correct. Nobody wants bureaucrats making subjective calls on what feels Canadian. Nor do we want them counting mailboxes and license plates. The simplest and most accurate metric is if Canadians are in all the key creative positions, then it is ipso facto Canadian.
Let me throw a question back at you: would Ex Machina have been a worse movie if Domhnall Gleeson had spoken with an Irish accent or the movie was set in England? No? Therein endeth the lesson.
Before you’re done patting yourself on the back for the condescending last line, this is about public policy, not taste (your bailiwick, I get it) . Long ago, Canadians agreed that providing a regulatory framework that allows for Canadians to express themselves to each other in mass media is a good thing and that public monies (and private profits for a protected industry) should support it. With your metric, any foreign production could tap those funds with a visual effect of a flag fluttering in the background and some well-placed overdubs of street names. This isn’t about your tastes. It’s about who gets to make it in the first place and the Canadian’s public’s right to get to see and hear what their fellow citizens have to say.
(This is a response to WilZ 10:50, aug. 29 response — sorry, doesn’t seem like I could post beneath it)
I always seem to mis-read the room: my comment was meant to be humourous with a hint of exhaustion rather than condescension. I get exhausted because Iâ€™m never sure of the sincerity of those arguing with me who often lie or make up opinions they attribute to me. Case in point: when did I ever suggest â€œany foreign production could tap those fundsâ€? Iâ€™m defending the rights of Canadians to have an industry and have jobs in that industry, and always have — I just quibble over the best uses of those funds.
It ainâ€™t about me, or my tastes. I wouldnâ€™t have spent decades championing and advocating for Canadian film & TV if it was. Thatâ€™s why I keep harkening on objective vs. subjective. I am entirely capable of holding more than one thought at one time. I can enjoy and recommend an Americanized Canadian production while still grumbling and I can applaud a productionâ€™s sense of Canadiana while still saying it sucks (though my especial vituperation is reserved for things that I think suck AND hide their Canadianness).
My argument is that when a production hides its Canadianness it does so for mercenary reasons, because the makers think it will be easier to sell. And not too many people would deny this. So viewed that way: Iâ€™m arguing for creative freedom against the shackles that insist a production must hide its Canadianness. As well, my feeling is if a filmmaker isnâ€™t prepared to do something innocuous like admit the setting is Canadian, how can we expect them to tackle contentious issues?
My position is accepting the Canadian setting makes for better storytelling (imagine Dickens taking out every allusion to English life; King relocating his New England horror stories to a generic Anytown, North America). I also believe itâ€™s about â€œbrand,â€ that in order to build and strengthen a Canadian entertainment industry, both domestically and internationally, we need to ensure a Canadian presence â€“ not churn out movies and TV shows whose marketing plan is basically: â€œYou wonâ€™t know itâ€™s not American.â€ I donâ€™t see how that leads to a successful future.
I also think itâ€™s a hard case to make to the Canadian public â€“ a public the industry needs on its side since itâ€™s reliant on public funds and protectionist measures.
Hereâ€™s the argument I hear some people want the industry to make to the public: â€œDear Canadians â€“ we had a dream. A dream where we could make American movies & TV shows but without having to go down to Hollywood where, yâ€™know, itâ€™s hard. Because weâ€™re geniuses and you should support us. Gosh, how we envy you â€“ because you are privileged to see the programs we make! Remember: ask not what we can do for Canadaâ€¦ask what Canada can do for us! Thank you and God bless.â€
Hereâ€™s the argument I think might have more traction: â€œDear Canadians â€“ Canada is a G7 Nation and regularly ranks near the top of any scale of great countries. Canada deserves a voice, a presence on your screens â€“ both domestically and internationally. Canada has accomplishments that deserve to be acknowledged â€“ and many sins and injustices that need to be tackled. And these can be done through drama and comedy, historical narratives and sci-fi allegories. Canada exists so support us in telling the world it exists â€“ in telling your stories. Thank you.â€
(Again, some flippancy is implied)
Look, I fully get the dilemma. Canadian storytellers are caught between an international audience that doesnâ€™t care about Canadian identity, and a core Canadian support (as reflected by the sort of people who visit TV-Eh?) who care about it a great deal. But the filmmakers are the ones who are putting all this effort into hiding their Canadian identity â€“ donâ€™t act as if Iâ€™m being gauche simply for pointing it out.
Hereâ€™s the thing: the industry is struggling and always has. The film industry is in terrible shape (in terms of commercial successes) and the TV industry is worried. Yet whenever someone like me offers constructive criticism the push back seems to be: â€œThis is how weâ€™ve always done things, so how dare you question it? — the status quo is working fine.â€
I understand this is your viewpoint. I’ve read your columns for years. I think it’s wrongheaded. You miss several important points. First:
“A writer like you will say the writer is important. The director will say the director. Who gets to ride the bus and who gets throw under it?”
Let’s lay aside the sophistry and live in the world of fact, here, shall we? It’s not about “who’s important.” Everyone is important. But Directors, and crew, and indeed, even actors, are all able to keep working under this rule change because they can draw from the two wells of production in Canada: Canadian series, and American or foreign series that are shot here for tax and budgetary purposes. ie: “the service industry.” There is no “service industry” for Canadian writers. (Actors have a strong secondary claim because the same rule change puts them into a place where the best they can hope for is a few lines and day player roles, rather than starring roles, but it’s still not the existential killshot that confronts the writer. If you choke off access to “Canadian” shows for “Canadian” writers, you will have no “Canadian” writers because they will leave the industry or move. Fullstop. Stop complicating something that isn’t complicated.
“When I hear characters refer to Fahrenheit, Cliff Notes, lootenants, or, yes, Ivy Leagues that strikes me as bad STORYTELLING.”
Again, yes. You’ve made that point many many times in Huffington Post. You are being pedantic.
“Personally, Iâ€™d prefer we define â€œCanadianâ€ by something objective like setting or character than something subjective like tone or theme. To me thatâ€™s Kafkaesque: a bureaucrat deciding if something â€œfeelsâ€ Canadian.”
There is nothing objective about setting, or tone, or character. Or screenwriting. Or storytelling. It is all, every lick of it, subjective. It is all about choice. Who makes that choice? Why do they make that choice? You can argue it after the fact for days, years, and decades. You can revisit and put new postmodern or post postmodern, or whichever frame you wish upon it. That is the right of interpretation and it’s fair. I think your focus on surface things is utterly pedantic, but I don’t say you don’t have a right to say it. Fill your boots b’y. Think what you want.
BUT — at the START of the process, the whole point and kit and kaboodle should be about disintermediating the gatekeeper from the decision completely. What makes it Canadian? Did a Canadian tell the story? Is it well-written? Does it have merit? Are the characters good? Then that’s it. You’re done. Make it, shoot it, release it to the world, and allow the people who prioritize storytelling to have their reaction and the DK Lattas who count money shots and flags have theirs.
By the way, the other peril of your way of thinking: what the sweet F are you talking about when it comes to “Pints?” It’s called a pint here, man. I’ve ordered enough of them to know. That’s the other thing that frosts my cornflakes about you guys. Half the time when you point out how something is an egregious compromise and totally unrealistic and ‘not said that way,’ it is, in fact, said that way. Inevitably, there’s always some joker insisting that “oh it’s not called that.” Except no. It is.
The other main flaw you have when you “analyse” the industry is that you cite all the work you’ve seen. Well guess what, DK? What you’ve seen is an absolute fraction of what has been pitched and developed through the years. You don’t have anything close to the full picture. When I speak of what gets approved, what gets put forward, it’s from a well of knowing what was out there that got made, and what was passed over and died at the script stage, too. It’s inconvenient, I know, to have someone who’s seen more of the picture than what you have seen to tell you, “you kind of don’t know what you’re talking about” But……um….you kind of don’t know what you’re talking about.
“Iâ€™m not sure why you think the slippery slope analogy is inapplicable. Surely thatâ€™s at the heart of this CRTC controversy.”
It’s not. You want to argue about the deck chairs. I’m focused on the iceberg.
People often seem to completely misunderstand where Iâ€™m coming from and why I do what I do. To whit, Denis: your opening paragraph was beautiful. It clearly and concisely puts forward your POV and contextualizes the issue. Thatâ€™s what I want! Jump ahead to the end of your response and you start ranting about how Iâ€™m a know-nothing and you have insider knowledge. Um â€“ yes. Thatâ€™s why I ask questions, why I push for explanations. Because I want to be informed. The Canadian film/TV biz is reliant upon government money and public support, so you have to reach out to the public, explain why you think itâ€™s important â€“ and, yes, be prepared to listen to feedback. This ainâ€™t Hollywood and youâ€™re not Shonda Rhimes.
(And as youâ€™re someone who makes his living writing TV shows, you probably shouldnâ€™t be quite so obvious in your contempt for people who actually make the effort to, yâ€™know, watch movies & TV â€“ just a thought).
Iâ€™ve been writing about Canadian film/TV for years and am constantly dealing with people who try to rebut my points with vague references and unsubstantiated allusions and in some cases out-right lies. So, yes, if someone says something is so, I ask for an example. If someone says something canâ€™t be done, I ask why not? Iâ€™m sorry, but â€œtrust meâ€ isnâ€™t a very compelling argument.
Iâ€™m not sure how you define objective/subjective. A setting is â€œobjectiveâ€ â€“ itâ€™s a thing, like a table, or a tree. If a movie is set in Toronto, we can objectively agree itâ€™s Toronto. Thatâ€™s all I meant. Whereas tone, theme, subtext, these are â€œsubjectiveâ€ as we each might perceive them differently. I honestly didnâ€™t see that as a contentious point.
And if Iâ€™m pedantic then are filmmakers who continue to erase Canada from their productions obsessive? Anyone can be perceived as a fanatic in the eyes of the zealot. But werenâ€™t you still billing yourself as an â€œAmerican in Canadaâ€ on your Twitter feed up to a few months ago? Maybe we just weight the importance of Canadian identity differently.
Oh, and the â€œpintâ€ reference was to blood, not booze â€“ and was meant semi-humourously (hence the smiley face).
There wouldn’t be a Canadian industry to fuck up if actors, writers and directors didn’t stay here to make one – and now we’re being punished for it.
Shame on CRTC for arm chair quarterbacking this dull headed decision.
We have many here in our area that get speaking ROLLS but the speaking gets cut at the last moment due to the overt GREED or producers trying to save cash.
So how do would be actors get into actra ect .
Canada is the only country in the world where police cars are labelled “metro”
I was thinking about this today, while I am kinda flattered that a comment of mine – made in a public forum I agree – was highlighted in this article by anonymous I do wonder about professional standards etc. No attempt was made to contact me or , as far as I can tell, verify if these were my remarks. They are, so no biggie, but they are also being used to bolster a position I may or may not agree with. Just a reminder to take everything you read with a grain of salt…
I live in Australia and most of my favourite TV shows were/are filmed in Canada, frequently with Canadian creatives – Stargate (SG1, Atlantis & Universe), Arrow, Dark Matter and The X-Files. Many are set in the US but are still very Canadian. In fact I’ve seen so much that I can often look at a film without knowing and say that’s British Columbia – the forests, streets, generally the look and feel.
Canadian creatives are every bit as talented as those in other countries. While my mother and I were initially attracted to Stargate because it was American actor Richard Dean Anderson’s new show, we loved the show itself and all of the actors to which it introduced us. In fact, Canadian Michael Shanks was my late mother’s favourite. For genre television fans like myself some of the names of creatives that I follow from project to project aren’t necessarily well known names in mainstream television. Examples – James Bamford, Ivon Bartok, Joseph Mallozzi, Brad Wright, Robert Cooper, Amanda Tapping, Michael Shanks, Kavan Smith, Paul McGillion, David Hewlett, Ryan Robbins and Patrick Gilmore etc
So I want to see more Canadian creatives names on screen.
Thanks for listening to me. Byeeeeee
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