October 25, 2006

ThinkFilms Sold: The Canadian Film Distributor Pyrrhic Disaster for Tax-Payers

(Toronto) Canada’s ThinkFilms Distribution, the boutique film distribution company created and owned by Robert Lantos, was purchased by Los Angeles-based producer David Bergstein who will assemble it as part of a conglomerate. It was purchased, some speculate, with a price between $15-million and $25-million, according to The Globe and Mail today.

Mr. Lantos is subject to a regular pounding on The Canadian Film Insider (along with Atom Egoyan, Don McKellar, and various other individuals), but that is simply a matter of economics. Nobody has thrown away more Canadian tax-dollars on films that Canadians hate and don’t got to see and don’t accept as part of their culture (as is the Telefilm mandate for funding films). He has repaid virtually none of the perhaps $100 million in Canadian funding for his features over the years (this reporter is afrad to even look), and has emerged as Canada’s biggest cultural funding agency leach by an enormous margin. It is impossible to say how many good films that Canadians would enjoy and actually go to see were not made because Lantos scooped his sometimes 50% of English Canadian feature film financing and produced the astronomically bad 1% domestic box office, and often sub-1% record that Telefilm Canada is fingered with. One man is truly responsible for much of that, based on financing figures and economics easily drawn up from the Telefilm investment records by anybody who cares to dig. Yes, accountability is easy when we’re talking about half the money. We can look directly at Robert Lantos for accountability.

Now, let’s move into some speculation. Robert Lantos created Think Films Distribution a few years back. He did it for purely business reasons. He saw that Telefilm had moved in a new direction. It was drifting in mandate and the people running it started to expect that before they handed out the money for a feature to be produced, it would have to have a distributor attached. And they were going to pay out a few million in promotion budgets to those distributors as part of the concept. As no distributor in their right mind would bother with most of Lantos’s disasters, and with the likely concept hatched in his mind that: “Gee, if I am a distributor, then I will see a percentage of those couple of million that Telefilm is suddenly handing out for promotion of films, right off the top, just like I do with my Producer’s Fee right off the top of a film’s budget”, Mr Lantos formed ThinkFilm.

Sure, the last few years have been compete nightmares from a business standpoint if the millions he has sacked from Telefilm for marketing for his failed productions are taken out of the picture. They artificially propped up a failed distribution company that would have gone out of business in any free market economy situation. But Lantos, just last year, pulled in some $6-million plus from Telefilm to finance the failed marketing/distribution of turkeys like WHERE THE TRUTH LIES and BEING JULIA, neither of which succeeded in returning even half their initial investments. Complete bombs, in other words. Suicide for any legitimate free-market distributor, in plain terms.

But, Mr. Lantos did a smart thing. He drew attention to ThinkFilms by signing up a bunch of “controversial” films that drew headlines this year. He downplayed his Canadian failures and the money from Canadian tax-payers which propped up his failed distribution arm which was created to ensure funding for his features. He emphasised the concept that somehow ThinkFilms was edgy American Indy. A happening company. No doubt when he showed the books to Bergstein, he didn’t have to explain the fact that the company got its stay alive funding from Telefilm and the Canadian Taxpayers.

So the questions to come are: Now that ThinkFilm is in American hands, will Telefilm continue to drop millions its way to promote Lantos’s losers? Did Lantos sign an agreement with Bergstein that he must distribute another 100% certain Lantos loser with the upcoming FUGITIVE PIECES (filmed mostly in the Greek Islands, with millions in Canadian tax-payer money)? Most scary of all, will Telefilm start to advance Canadian tax-payer millions in marketing money to ThinkFilms now that its in an American’s hands?

And the big question, on which we can only speculate: Did Robert Lantos sell ThinkFilm because he saw the writing on the wall from Telefilm who is suddenly going to do the right thing and cut him off from funding based on his hopelessly disastrous track record that has cost Canadians so many millions and kept English Canadian film a complete laughing stock with the Canadian Public?

The Canadian Film Insider speculates that the answer is “yes”.

October 21, 2006

Globe and Mail Misses The Crucial Point of Telefilm's Report

(Toronto) Today the Globe and Mail has commented on Telefilm’s latest report and offered two brief paragraphs without analysis. For readers of Canadian Film Insider, the basic inescapable conclusions of the document regarding English Canadian film were pretty clear in the article published two days ago: Telefilm's Annual Report: This Much is True... .
But, to quote the Globe and Mail, which is paraphrasing Telefilm:

According to Telefilm, the market share of Canadian English-language films was a paltry 1.1 per cent in 2005-2006, down from the previous year's 1.6 per cent. Their French-language counterparts, by contrast, reached almost a 27 per cent market share, an increase of more than five per cent from 2004-2005. Telefilm blames the imbalance on what it claims are weak relationships and a lack of co-operation among English-language producers, distributors and exhibitors.

Well, now, hold on. Hold it right there. If we’re going to play the blame game, let’s lay the blame where it belongs: right on the doorstep of the people who got the lion’s share of English Canadian Telefilm funding in 2005, and an examination of what they created with the money. Why don’t we call a spade a spade, and recognize that if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck? So let’s look at the ducks, shall we? The ducks who had millions of dollars thrown to them; a virtual carte blanche from Telefilm, They were: Robert Lantos and Atom Egoyan. Added together this pair dropped, respectively, $17-million dollars for Lanto’s BEING JULIA and $14.5-million dollars for WHERE THE TRUTH LIES. With marketing money from Telefilm included. Which can be verified at the Telefilm site under their Investment Report section. The final budgets for these films were higher, because Telefilm funding attracts more money. Being Julia cost $18-million to produce (plus $3.3 million in promotion money from Telefilm and who can say how much elsewhere?) and Truth cost $25-million to produce (plus $4-million in promotion money from Telefilm). Julia grossed $14-million worldwide, which translates to a $7-million return on at least a $21-million dollar investment, while Truth grossed $2.8-million on at least a $29-million dollar investment. All facts from boxofficemojo.com.

Telefilm could not have been paid back a penny from their (our) $31.4-million dollar investment in the work of Robert Lantos and Atom Egoyan. The two key individuals, with a hopeless track record, who were handed half of English Canada’s feature film investment for 2005.

So Canadians were left holding the bag. In fact, Being Julia wasn’t even filmed in Canada as a sort of “make work project”! So did Egoyan and Lantos make money? Of course they did. Lantos and Egoyan made a handsome sum as they scooped lucrative Producer’s Fees. Normally this is 10% of the film’s budget. You can bet most of that $2.5-million from Truth went directly into Lantos and Egoyan's pockets, while Lantos, as the only full producer on Julia, got at least half of the $1.4-million from that film. It’s a great living being failed Canadian filmmakers, isn’t it?
In any other system, they would have been cut off long before that happened. Eliminated from the equation, with the recognition that there is no audience for what they are doing. Certainly Canadians have little interest in their work, and they are therefore contributing nothing to Telefilm’s mandate of creating Canadian Culture. Canadians don’t recognize it as their culture, plain and simple.

October 20, 2006

TIDELAND: English Director, American Writer, Telefilm Canada Loses $7.6-million

(Toronto) TIDELAND, the latest misfire from English director Terry Gilliam and based on American author Mitch Cullin’s novel of the same name set in Texas, has recently been released from Capri films and is being savaged by the film critics. But that aside, the worst thing about the film is that it is being trotted out as a shameful Telefilm-funded film by the critics.

I put on the brakes there and backed up, as should anybody reading this. Wait a minute. Telefilm exists to fund Canadian stories and culture, right? That’s their mandate. Telefilm exists to assist Canadian filmmakers to tell Canadian stories, Canadian writers, Canadian directors. What in hell is going on here? Why did Telefilm fund Tideland?

I looked up the film on Telefilm’s website and was astonished to find, in their investment report, that they had spent some (or rather WE had spent ) something like -- what the hell? -- $7,681,913 on this film? Please, somebody check my figures here from the Investment Reports section of Telefilm’s website and typing in the title Tideland in the production title space at the bottom.


This is completely ridiculous. One can only guess this is a result of Telefilm's Envelope system, but aren't there any restrictions at all on that requiring it be spent on a Canadian film? It’s a disastrous situation when one can imagine that likely the funding for perhaps three or more features created by, written by, and directed by English Canadians, could have been made instead of this? Keeping in mind that $2-million from Telefilm usually triggers equal amounts or more from other sources. Speaking of which, it will be horrifying to see how much money came out of Provincial Ontario and Saskatchewan’s money towards financing.

I have yet to see it, and doubt I will bother as I find Gilliam’s love affair with the fish-eye lens extremely annoying and believe he’s the most over-rated director in the history of cinema. Though the Monty sketch comedy style stuff is certainly funny. But the only joke is on us here.

People need to be held accountable for this. It is reprehensible enough to have Canadian producers like Robert Lantos hanging out on yachts in the Greek islands filming his latest non-Canadian Telefilm-funded disaster like he did this summer, but this is beyond even that, incredibly enough.

The real potential tragedy here is that people with the power to do something will interpret this wrong. They may just see it as gruesome “horror movie” with no redeeming features and that Telefilm shouldn’t be funding genre films. That’s where this film has the potential to become a double edge sword. OF COURSE Telefilm should be funding genre films. Canadians love genre films. The big successes in English Canadian film’s history that English Canadian audiences embraced were genre films. But now we’ve got an English director who is on a terrible string of disasters, making another pointless film, based on an American’s novel, and this could be more damaging for English Canadian film than just the misguided initial investment. It is bizarre.

October 19, 2006

Telefilm's Annual Report: This Much is True...

(Toronto) Wait! Don’t go away! I’m going to make this short, simple, and point out the obvious that you need to know in few paragraphs. YOU paid $400 million for this, don’t you want to know what’s wrong with at least the feature film side of it and why you, the English Canadian public, hate Canadian movies so much? Read on. It’ll only take a couple of minutes to get up to speed on the way things are and how they can be fixed.
Telefilm has released their annual report which reflects on 2005. It is a nice looking package and well designed, with a pleasing “new media” flare. Even the delivery of it is clever, in that one can tailor a specific package for a PDF file that you can download which covers the areas of interest to you. It is available at the Telefilm website or at this address: http://www.telefilm.gc.ca/annual%5Freport/
Needless to say, if you’ve read anything on the Canadian Film Insider, you are well aware that only stare-it-in-the-eyes truth is relayed here. Based on the truth that Canadians are paying for Telefilm, and they need to know where all those $400 million dollars plus is going. Otherwise, it remains some kind of “Black Ops” out of an American conspiracy theorist’s fantasies, doesn’t it? After all, the principles are perversely the same in a way: a government funded industry, of which the public knows very little about, costs them a great deal of money while various shadowy figures earn millions of dollars creating projects nobody sees. Difference is, in Canadian Film, the shadowy figures have publicists, a largely cow-towing print and TV media, and the funding is transparent. Their protection comes not from NSA and CIA and FBI, but from the more powerful force of public apathy.
Okay, let’s cut to the chase. Three things are obvious in this report, and this is pretty much all you need to know about it as far as English Canadian film goes:
1) In a pie chart, we see that Telefilm spent only 1.5% of its film investment on genre films like Horror/Suspense. In the chart on the top 20 Canadian funded movies at the box office here in Canada, we see that nearly 60% of the English Canadian created movie box office came from genre films categorized as Horror/Suspense. So now, putting 1 + 1 together we see that it makes 2. And then if we add most of the top grossing English Canadian films, and most loved Canadian films of all time into this, which are Horror/Suspense Genre films including those from, say, Cronenberg, Canada’s greatest stay-in-Canada director, then 1 + 1 equals 3, doesn’t it? Now, what percentage of the pie chart will be invested in genre films in the coming years by Telefilm? We shall see if a simple lesson is learned here or not in future reports, I suppose.
2) Although it is not obvious in this report without further research, the fact is that the biggest piggy at the trough of Canada’s “Black Ops” is Robert Lantos. He produced the two biggest turkeys in the report with Where the Truth Lies and Being Julia. Together they pulled in $986 thousand at the Canadian Box Office. Together they cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10 million dollars in production and marketing expenses out of Public Canada‘s coffers. Their actual total budgets much higher with a total of about $18 million for Being Julia, and $25 million for Where the Truth Lies. Each film failed to even begin to recoup half their budgets in world box office and DVD. Complete disasters. Lantos has been sucking Canadians dry for decades with this kind of nonsense, taking big, fat producer’s fees right off the top of the films’ budget. Good God, will this report finally put an end to backing that son of a bitch with our money?
3) Telefilm sure is pushing the New Media thing in this report and elsewhere. Let us hope that they recognize that most video games have little to do with anything resembling culture at all and are all about visceral thrills for 14 year olds. Almost all are rehashes of sequels of copies of remakes in a genre of one sort or another, and the enjoyment that comes from them comes from learning to play them until the player gets bored, and then they retain no cultural value whatsoever, because they had none to begin with. Very few “Canadian Stories” will come out of backing this avenue that will go anywhere. If Telefilm is smart, they will recognize that New Media from a cultural standpoint is best exploited as a way to promote Feature Films and Broadcast Network TV series and specials. That way, you actually do get Canadian Stories at the core of it all, and can hook a wide audience in interesting, and often cost-effective ways. And, just like savvy entertainment industries from Japan to Hong Kong to India to Hollywood, you can then market video game and New Media tie-ins to your product to soak up the money.
Those are the three points and interpretations to take home from this Telefilm report for those in the know.

October 16, 2006

Strange Brew Looms Over The Trailer Park Boys

(Toronto) What happened to The Trailer Park Boys? All that hype put out in the press releases from about its miraculous $1.5 million opening weekend. The big story about it being the biggest opening weekend for Canadian film. Porky’s was beaten, they claimed. Now, looking at the box office for this weekend, it’s completely dropped off the map. Examining the stats, it had a pretty good release number for theatres with over 200 here in Canada. It had a lot of publicity, a lot of coverage, a lot of backing. Few Canadian films have ever enjoyed the kind of decent release that Trailer Park Boys: The Movie did. Not that many deserved it, to be honest.
At the moment, only speculation is possible. Naturally it’s disappointing, as it does stand symbolically as a film against the films that Canadians hate so much from Atom Egoyan and Don McKellar and crew. At least it did mop the floor box office-wise with garbage like Where The Truth Lies or the McKellar fiasco Childstar. But then, anything would with a proper release and some publicity like TPB got. And on the critical front, it certainly seemed to score a lot higher than McKellar and Egoyan’s regular piles.
Critics liked it. Or were the critics just being kind? I mean, they were probably just like me, wanting to like it. Wanting to champion a Canadian film which is actually entertaining and interesting. The people who went to go see it, they wanted to like it I bet. I’m sure a few did. However, it couldn’t have been many as initial theatre goers obviously were not recommending it to others.
And here lies a problem. Critics believing they’re standing up for “what’s right” and all the hype and backing in the world, cannot change fundamental truths. Hyping and inflating box office numbers is pointless. And the TV show is a minor success with viewing numbers only a fraction of what is portrayed by Showcase, if we‘re going to be honest. Re-running a show a half dozen times and trying to claim you’re getting all new viewers each run is a ridiculous lie. The audience was small, if loyal, and they obviously went to the theatres but did little to encourage others.
But where the truth really lies with Trailer Park Boys: The Movie is the point which I made a little while ago with the article Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, a Slim Hope on October 6th. The show doesn’t have the beans to be a feature, and the situation is old and recycled from American pop culture. The stories aren’t strong enough. The most likeable characters in the world can’t change those two things (and Trailer Park Boys does have likeable characters).

You can’t stretch a half hour show like that to feature length and hold an audience without learning from those who have done more with less. Like, say, the prototypical uber-Canadian comedy Strange Brew which ended up with over $8.5 million in box office way back in 1983 and many times that in video. With a budget no larger than Trailer Park Boys (estimated at $4 million to TPB’s $5 million), it was an actual success. Why? Because they had everything TPB lacks. They had a story (adapted from Hamlet, no less), they were original in concept (nothing else like it at the time), and they actually had a successful TV show with a substantial “hard number” audience base to get the ball rolling.

But this doesn't mean I don't want to see more Trailer Park Boys. Let me rephrase that, I don't want to see more Trailer Park Boys movies, but like most all Canadians, I want to see more films like TPB as they are moves in the right direction. ie: no Egoyan, McKellar, or McDonald in sight.

October 12, 2006

Don McKellar To Star In Blindness

(Toronto) Rhombus Media recently revealed it plans to shoot Blindness, a US$25-million co-pro, next year in Toronto and Sao Paulo, Brazil. The screenplay comes from the book by reclusive Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago, and will be helmed by director Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener). The company will make Blindness with Potboiler Productions of the U.K., Bee Line Pictures of Japan and Brazil's O2 Filmes.

This makes for a very heady brew of a co-pro, as it will be a Canadian-UK-Japan-Brazil co-ordinated effort. Surprisingly, the film is set to star the writer of the adaptation, Don McKellar. The film comes on the heels of McKellar’s disastrous turn as writer/director/star of the feature Childstar. As had been the case with all previous films staring Canada's ubiquitous fragile actor, Childstar was a $7-million financial and critical misfire and sunk from sight nearly immediately upon release, grossing $50,000 in Canadian theatres, and finding no release in other countries. Previous films starring Don McKellar include Rub and Tug, Art of Woo, The Event, and When Night Is Falling. Television guest spots include RoboCop: The Series.

October 11, 2006

Bon Cop, Bad Cop: Let's Be Honest, It's A Bomb

(Toronto) The headlines are blowing the horn of this Quebec feature which has now "surpassed Porky's" and is a "huge hit" and whatnot.

It's all bull.

The film has, to date, made a very handsome-looking $11.5 million Canadian. Of course, 90% of that is in Quebec.

Now, that sounds like a Canadian movie success, right? Well, it is not really. And here's why:Bon Cop, Bad Cop cost $8 million to make. It has cost over $2 million to advertise. It has cost probably at least $1 million for prints and other incidentals that come with releasing a feature, and probably $2 million is a closer guess in that department.

So, the fact is, Bon Cop, Bad Cop cost at least $12 million all together.

Now let's add that to the fact that the standard rule of thumb is that distributors only see 50% of box office take in return -- it's a very complicated formula, usually heavily weighted towards more take in the initial week and less in following weeks, but because it's so variable, the standard for calculation estimates is 50%. The other 50% goes to the theatre owners (exhibitors).

And, by the way, there will be no release of this film anywhere else on the planet, so it will not have anything like a chance at being the super-mega-100-million-dollar plus bonanza of Porky's and its sequels.

Anyways, what we have is about $6 million in the hands of the distributor for Bon Cop, Bad Cop. Now, things get complicated here, and it is really hard to say how much of that they keep, and how much the production company keeps, but, in any realistic model or possible scenario, the distributor will never get less that 50% of their "distributor's gross".

So the producers of Bon Cop, Bad Cop are left with a take of maybe $3 million on a film (so far) which had a budget of $8 million. They are in the hole $5 million for Bon Cop, Bad Cop right now.

But wait, if you're still with me, they aren't really in the hole, you and I the Canadian Tax Payers are in the hole, because it's mostly our money. So we have dished out at least $5 million for this piece of Canadian Culture called Bon Cop, Bad Cop. Probably several million beyond that, because we also flipped the bill for most of the marketing and promotion of it. A conservative esitmate would probably be a total of $7 million.

So Good Cop, Bad Cop has cost Canadians $7 million dollars so far. Which puts it about in league with Men With Brooms, probably. Another "secret bomb" hype job.

But it's a whole lot cheaper than another piece of garbage Atom Egoyan/Robert Lantos snore-a-rama that Canadians hate, at least. A whole hell of a lot cheaper.

Did you hear that? It's the sound of one hand clapping.

October 06, 2006

Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, a Slim Hope

I haven't seen Trailer Park Boys: The Movie yet, and I want to be able to like it, but this film will fail miserably to recoup its intitial investment, simply because it is a subject matter which has run its course a long time ago and the creators of the TV series really have only created a luke-warm rehash of what's been done a hundred times elsewhere, and much better.

Trailer Park Boys was amusing enough filler TV for the first couple of seasons and there was something kind of charming about its 'diamond in the rough' style, and it was a big improvement over the unwatchable Canadian TV network junk like 11th Hour and whatever. Best of all, it didn't cost anything to watch and it was only a half-hour. But it doesn't have the beans to make it on the big screen as Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, I don't think, in a media world awash with real life trailer park people who are million times funnier and more pathetic on a Jerry Springer and American reality TV, not to mention all the US studio attempts at this material already, and people like K-Fed and Spears and crew in tabloids 24/7.

That dose of reality spashed in the face of this attempt -- it will still be championed as a 'success' for Canadian film, simply because it is getting some sort of wide release in the country. But that doesn't mean it isn't a money-losing bomb and an artistic nothing. The multi-media corporations paying for it, mostly Telefilm Canada, will put as much spin on it as they can, and nobody will be countering them with facts with any media soap box to stand on.

I would like to see it succeed, actually. Not due to its questionable merits, but because of what it stands for. It stands against the fake poseur arteest approach of "Don McKellar" (old cross-eyes) and company who have figure-headed the Canadian Film Culture of Failure for the past decade and a half, almost all of it coming out of our pockets, while they pose and talk about how important their invisible films are to Canadians (even though the public hates them, and refuses to go see them or rent them). In that way, at least it is a refreshing different approach, with a little more honesty. So I can't hate Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, and I don't think the Canadian public will hate it -- Bubbles and the guys are likeable enough three-dimensional characters in a mediocre highly derivitative trailer park world. Just don't expect to see any big box office out of this.

October 05, 2006

Director Atom Egoyan Retreats to U of T Academia Owing Canadians $48 Million

Toronto, Canada. After a series of four filmmaking disappointments in succession resulting in a total expense of over $48 million in un-repaid Canadian feature film investment, Atom Egoyan has agreed to teach a course in media at the University of Toronto for a three year term.

Egoyan will teach an interdisciplinary undergraduate course called Transgressions: An Approach to Interdisciplinary Practice and will meet and advise undergraduate and graduate students in addition to sharing his expertise and experiences through a series of annual public lectures.

Reached for comment was an anonymous Member of Parliament requesting confidentiality who remarked: “The big question is, what is wrong with this picture? Is this who Canadian students should be learning from? A master at manipulating government funding systems while not delivering cultural product Canadians value and, in fact, view as laughable? Mr. Egoyan and Mr. (Robert) Lantos will be under investigation for their activities in a public inquiry. They should prepare their case for promoting culture with taxpayer funded feature films shooting overseas about other cultures and even films set in the United States in another era.”

Reference for the figures quoted in this article are drawn from www.boxofficemojo.com. Where the Truth Lies was made on a $25 million dollar budget and grossing $872,142 in North American box office and proceeded by Ararat with a $15 million dollar budget and a combined global gross of $2,743,336 and by Felicia’s Journey starring Bob Hoskins with a domestic total gross of $824,295, Atom Egoyan has secured a position teaching a course at the University of Toronto.

October 03, 2006

Telefilm Canada: No Funding Decisions For Ten Months

Toronto. As we enter the October of a difficult 2006 for Telefilm Canada and an embattled Wayne Clarkson, who is its director, there is an eerie silence over the Canadian film industry. It is ten months into the year, and not a single regular feature film green light decision has been made. It was a noisy ruckus during the first few months of the year when Telefilm was the cover story of Macleans Magazine in a damning April 14th article for Mr. Clarkson, which included scathing reviews of his performance by the Canadian film industry illuminati, which was picked up across the Canadian press, with even some international news services getting into the act. Following within a week of that, Clarkson announced a new “film czar” in the form of Jamaican-Canadian ex-patriot moved to Hollywood, Michael Jenkinson, who would have complete power to green light films over a million dollars. By the middle of May, the mysterious producer of the junky feature Undercover Brother, had resigned one day before taking office. And what it left was Mr. Clarkson as the man to take up the reigns and expand his powers and take over “extended responsibilities” according to Telefilm press releases. Meaning, of course, that he was truly the new Canadian Film Czar, and had no committees to decide what would be given a green light and what wouldn’t.
Shift to five months later. It’s October 3rd, 2006, and not a single new feature film over a million dollars for this year has been greenlit for the year of 2006. Now why is that? Why is there no news coverage about that? Why is the estimated free $50 million or so in English Canadian feature film funding that is sitting idle in the 10th month of the year, not being discussed by the Canadian media?
Meanwhile, French Language funding was exhausted several months ago and caused quite a ruckus in newspapers like the Montreal Gazette when more Quebec filmmakers went to the well but the well had already been duly dispensed. The filmmakers there, including Denys Arcand, went bonkers and had an audience with the Minister of Canadian Culture to plead their case. Of course, hands were tied as funding allotments are part of government budgets decided ahead of time, and funding more movies is desirable in a successful industry like French Canada, but it is not an emergency. Next year, they’ll probably get more money.
Back to Wayne Clarkson and Telefilm Canada. English division. Now, in that Macleans article and elsewhere, he met with heavy criticism from people like Robert Lantos and Paul Gross. Big names for Canadian film. Mr. Lantos has nothing to complain about as he has made millions making films that nobody watches, almost all of them box office and video release disasters, from which he has collected his producer fee right off the top from the films budget. One of his bombs which lost millions was Men With Brooms (it grossed far less than it cost to produce and market) which was written by, directed by, and starred Paul Gross. Paul Gross is a man who has forgotten that he is only a pretty good actor, and has decided that he is a writer & director of epic films which would include his stalled Canadian World War One epic Paschendale -- which Telefilm has refused to fund because, well, Paul Gross stinks on white bread as a writer. And, as Men With Brooms proved, he isn’t a very sophisticated or capable director, either. He was hoping to make his 15 million dollar epic completely with Canadian money. As anybody can realistically guess, no Canadian World War One epic would ever make back anything like 15 million dollars investment (plus the millions to promote it).
It all does raise some questions as to why we are now in the 10th month of the year without a new Telefilm Canada decision on new feature films of any significant scope having been given the green light. The only exceptions being those funded by production companies who had pre-approved Telefilm envelopes because of their previous successful commercially orientated American co-productions from last year. But no Telefilm decision is required there.
One could speculate that it is because it is necessary. Clarkson has changed the way in which decisions for major Canadian films are made. He has set himself up to be the film czar in a very old-fashioned Hollywood movie mogul sort of position. Pretty smart move if he has the head for good film investment decisions. Impossible to say right now if he does. However, he has a great deal of dead weight in the form of what can only be termed the Canadian Film Illuminati who believe that they are entitled to funding green lights no matter their actual record with the Canadian public. It doesn’t matter if the people paying for it hate their films and don’t go see them in the theatres or rent them on video, they are “established” in the vicious circle of failure that is the industry. One could speculate that Mr. Clarkson is perhaps starving them out so they move on to other things. Atom Egoyan, owing the Canadian public tens of millions of dollars from failed features over the past few years, perhaps saw the writing on the wall when he signed a teaching contract at the U of Toronto? Or maybe Clarkson is forcing some of Those Who Are Entrenched to actually have better scripts and/or better projects before they are given the green light? Or maybe he is actively campaigning other fresher and better talent to get their act together and submit things?
It’s a head-scratcher, not only in context of the time that has passed and what is happening or going to happen, but also because the Canadian press has not gotten hold of this story and realized what’s going on. Or maybe they don’t want to report it for some reason?

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