November 16, 2006

AT TELEFILM, SAY HELLO TO THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS (and say goodbye to any hope for English Canadian Film)

(Toronto) There has been a lot of talk at Telefilm these days about the plan to increase English Canadian films at the Canadian box office. This approach started with the previous Telefilm Executive Director, and resulted in a bunch of misfires that were knock-offs of bad American films. For example FOOLPROOF or GOING THE DISTANCE. Complete crap.

Now they’ve had a New Boss for a couple of years at Telefilm in the form of Wayne Clarkson. The first year and a half under him were hopeless disasters for English Canadian film. For example WHERE THE TRUTH LIES or CHILDSTAR.

However, over the past year, a lot of things have developed that brought some hope. And really, all those awful English Canadian films were probably well in the pipeline before Wayne Clarkson arrived, and their approval was by committee. In the past year, many cross-country tours have occurred, lots of focus group meetings, reports, ideas and input gathering. And Wayne Clarkson even did away with the committee system, putting himself in charge as the Film Czar of Canada, with complete decision-making power over what English films would go ahead with production and what would not. Like an old time movie mogul. The whole thing was highly publicized in uproarious articles in all the major papers and even a cover feature Macleans article.

In an earlier article, my attention having been drawn to these unprecedented events, I kept watch on what he would do like a lot of people. All those millions for English Canadian film, and now one guy decides! Well, now fully 11 months into 2006, we have our first English Canadian feature film production decision of this calendar year. I clicked on the Telefilm news release: Read the release >>
and had a look to see what was going to be produced this year, the year when things seemed to get rolling at least a little with Trailer Park Boys and, though only half in English, Bon Cop, Bad Cop, seeming to shine some hope for Canada. Now what did Wayne Clarkson choose to follow them up?

Somebody hit me with a hammer. Every single one of them a dreary, hopeless Canadian tragi-comedy or a tedious auteur driven snooze-fest. It’s just all so depressingly out of touch with the new stated goals of Telefilm, “to grow English Canadian film popularity“, it’s stunning.

Here’s his picks for English Canadian production money. Virtually nobody is going to go see these films. You could fit them on a list from 1996 instead of 2006. Nothing has changed:

Regional production projects
Atlantic region
Pushing Up Daisies (Producers: Standing 8 Productions - Chaz Thorne, Bill Niven, John Watson, Pen Densham; Writer/Director: Chaz Thorne) is the story of Oliver Zinck and how his life changes when he inherits a Nova Scotian funeral home from his estranged father. Completely in debt, Oliver discovers that by creating corpses in his own way and then providing funeral services, he can make some fast cash. Pushing Up Daisies is a dark comedic exploration of the depths of greed, ambition and desire.
Ontario & Nunavut region
Amal (Producer: Rickshaw Films Ltd. - Executive Producers: Robin Cass, Peter Starr, Producers: David Miller, Steven Bray; Writer: Shaun Mehta and Ritchie Mehta; Director: Ritchie Mehta ) is a based on the short film by Shaun Mehta of the same name and tells the story of an auto rickshaw driver, who attempts to do the right thing following a tragic incident with a young beggar girl.
Breakfast With Scot (Producer: Miracle Pictures Inc. - Paul Brown; Writer: Sean Reycraft; Director: Laurie Lynd) is a contemporary comedy about a 'straight' gay couple whose lives are turned upside down when they become the reluctant, temporary guardians of Scot, a recently orphaned and flamboyant 11-year-old boy.
Young People F*!@king (Producers: Copperheart Entertainment - Steve Hoban; Tracey Boulton; Writer: Martin Gero & Aaron Abrams; Director: Martin Gero) is a wickedly funny sex comedy about five twenty-something couples who, over the course of one night in Toronto, try to have some seemingly straightforward sex but run into problems along the way.
Western region
Normal (Producer: Normal Film Company Inc. - Andrew Boutilier; Writers: Travis McDonald, Carl Bessai; Director: Carl Bessai) An accident in the past causes ripples of tragedy in the lives of the people connected to it, in particular the victim's bereaved mother, his best friend, and the middle aged man responsible for the crash. Normal explores the fragility and humanity of people who are searching for redemption.
Walk All Over Me (Producer: Chaos A Film Company - Carolyn McMaster; Writers: Robert Cuffley, Jason Long; Director: Robert Cuffly) is a darkly comedic thriller laced with love, latex and empowerment. Alberta, a twenty-something cashier, moves to Vancouver into the home of her former babysitter (dominatrix-for-hire Celene) and rescues a handsome "john" accused of stealing a fortune from his crooked boss/ex-best friend.

National production projects
Québec region
Emotional Arithmetic (Producers: Production Arithmetic Québec inc. - Suzanne Girard, Arithmetic Ontario Productions inc. - Anna Stratton; Writers: Jefferson Lewis, Paolo Barzman; Director: Paolo Barzman) Melanie Winters returns home from the mental institution to play hostess to two childhood friends who bring with them memories of their internment in concentration camps as teenagers.
Ontario & Nunavut region
All Hat (Producer: New Real Films Inc. - Jennifer Jonas; Writer: Brad Smith; Director: Leonard Farlinger ) is based on Brad Smith's novel of the same name and tells the story of Ray Dokes, a charming ex-ballplayer, who returns home from jail to discover the rural landscape of his childhood transformed. Ray must find a way to stop Sonny, Ray's nemesis and the spoiled heir to a thoroughbred dynasty, from his grand plan to turn the farmland into a subdivision. One false move and Ray will land back in jail, but he comes up with a plan to stop Sonny and right some wrongs.
Western region
Stone Angel (Producers: Liz Jarvis, Kari Skoglund; Writer/Director: Kari Skoglund) is based on the much-loved and critically acclaimed Margaret Lawrence novel of the same name. Hagar Shipley is aged and ailing - but would rather die than go into a nursing home. The witty, irascible and fiercely proud Hagar, faced with the prospect of a nursing home, sets out on a preposterous journey in search of the safe haven of an abandoned ocean side house she remembers from happier times.
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