Telefilm overhaul aims to usher in a new era for the Canadian film industry impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic
Almost two years after announcing a “pan-Canadian consultation” to modernize and optimize its funding programs, the federal agency Telefilm unveiled on Thursday its latest round of changes resulting from the initiative.
Following the relaunch of its development, theatrical screening and micro-budget programs over the summer and early fall, Telefilm’s production program and linguistic diversity policies have now been implemented. up to date.
Highlights include: productions with budgets under $ 3.5 million will no longer need to find an eligible distributor to receive support; participation in financing has been increased for productions with budgets between $ 1.5 and $ 2.5 million; the “two strike” rule, which prevented applicants from resubmitting projects previously rejected by Telefilm or otherwise abandoned, has been dropped for fiscal year 2022/2023; and projects filmed in any language – not just English, French or Indigenous languages - are now eligible for support.
Together, these updates usher in a new era for Telefilm. The organization, led by CEO and CEO Christa Dickenson since July 2018, has endured a tumultuous period of a long period of an all-encompassing pandemic from a battle between emerging filmmakers and veterans of the industry, the arrival of a long-awaited budget increase from Ottawa, the departure of Telefilm’s main executives and the temporary collapse of the entire theatrical market.
When Dickenson first announced in December 2019 his intention to modernize Telefilm’s Success Index – the performance measure that determines which films the organization supports – the landscape was, if not stable, at least somewhat predictable.
Introduced in 2011, the Success Index calculated a film’s performance based on three factors: commercial appeal (60%), cultural significance such as tours and film festival awards (30% ) and the attractiveness of private investment (10%).
But by the time Telefilm launched its “inclusive, transparent and open” consultations in September 2020, the success index had already been suspended due to the pandemic. The controversial Fast Track, an automatic fundraising program that allocated $ 20 to 25 million per year, or about 30 percent of Telefilm’s annual production budget, to producers with preferred track records, a qualification determined by the success, was also suspended. . These two initiatives have now been definitively abandoned.
Instead, a tool called the Assessment Grid will be used by advisory committees to assess projects against four weighted criteria: creative elements, background of key creative staff, project viability and cultural impact, and potential audience reach. (Telefilm notes, however, that the decision-making process will also take into account the organization’s objective of “fostering a diversity of voices.”)
The many changes resulting from the industry-wide consultation process come after a long and tense debate within the national film community about how Canadian films are made and by whom.
In the fall of 2020, two open letters were sent to Telefilm – one a “Directors Manifesto” from the Independent Filmmakers Committee of the Directors Guild of Canada, the other a call to action signed by more than 500 members and industry associations – calling for an organizational restart, including the elimination of Fast Track, which has been described as “archaic and inconsistent”.
At the same time, nearly three dozen producers, directors and exhibitors sent a letter to the then Minister of Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, calling for the immediate reinstatement of Fast Track, fearing that its suspension would lead to the closure of “the main ones. production companies of Canada ”, while also labeling Telefilm’s consultation process program a“ cynically launched ”exercise.
With the results of Telefilm’s consultation now finalized, expect the conversation to resume. (Telefilm will continue to meet with its three working groups – Diversity and Inclusion, Indigenous Peoples, Gender Parity – and recently created a panel of industry representatives that will meet four times a year to provide commentary.)
Meanwhile, Telefilm relaunched its micro-budget Talent to Watch program last month. Once billed as a groundbreaking initiative to flood the domestic market with fresh-faced filmmakers, the program has been drastically reduced in the number of productions it supports – but also increased the amount of money each project will receive.
Talent changes to watch include: increasing the maximum amount of Telefilm support to $ 250,000 per production, from $ 125,000; increase total production budgets to $ 500,000 from $ 250,000; expanding eligibility to include “other industry-related experiences”; the introduction of a new direct application stream for under-represented filmmakers; and the addition of a mandatory mentoring program.
Originally designed to support up to 50 entry-level filmmakers each fiscal year – with funds largely funded by the Talent Fund, a private giving system supported by donors and media partners solicited by Telefilm – the Lists of Talent to watch never reached the heights of this first sight.
In its inaugural 2018/19 cohort, 45 creative teams (38 feature films, seven web series) were selected. In 2019/20, 31 productions (28 films, three web series) were selected. In 2020/21, they were 16 (15 films, one web series). And in 2021/2022, the program was halted due to the pandemic.
Telefilm says the changes to the program are the result of hearings from former participants, who said making feature films under such tight budget constraints was unreasonable.
“We were hearing stories of people working for free, so we had to deal with it,” said Peggy Lainis, regional director of feature films for Telefilm, in an interview last week.
Although budget figures for 2022/23 are not yet available, Lainis said the new Talent to Watch will result in fewer films than 2020/21, but “I don’t see it being less than 10” productions.
Recent Talent to Watch titles include acclaimed dramas Learn to swim and Scarborough, both premiering at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, and he is, which opens the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival next week after its premiere at the SXSW Festival in March.
Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Register now today.