December 18, 2006

How Telefilm is Missing the Contemporary Multiplatform Mark

(Toronto) While at first left wondering what place Telefilm had in involving itself in the video game arena with the recently announced video game competition it does, on reflection, make some sense on principle.

Yes, video games are typically devoid of any cultural significance except on the most superficial level -- especially in this era when none are really cutting edge phenomenon. It wasn’t always the case. There are no Space Invaders or Donkey Kongs or Pacman games coming out in this era. And this is something to ponder. Those ancient games were unlike anything else in their time period and became icons. It was due to their originality and unique niche they created for themselves. Today, virtually all the computer games are highly derivative knock-offs of rip-offs based on sequels to feature films which were an imitation of something else. We did have Sim Earth and a few others in the relatively recent past, and a handful of others. But the overwhelming majority are not innovative in the least. And are at their weakest at the storytelling level -- which is why they always make such horrible feature film adaptations.

So, considering these things, it’s clear that Telefilm should concentrate on its supposed mandate and focus on winners for such a competition based on originality and especially original storytelling. By that meaning a story culturally significant to Canadians, without being overtly pretentious and unconvincing. A tall order.

But here’s the better, obvious plan. And I see no mention of it from Telefilm in their literature. Perhaps its there, but I don’t see it. Telefilm should be concentrating its efforts on multiplatform media releases. The video game version would be part of an overall package, which includes the feature film release and print and internet content. This is where entertainment is now.

However it would never fly with Telefilm, this intelligent contemporary approach to Canadian culture. It will remain hopelessly grounded, based on what we see them pursuing currently. The feature film projects being green lit for English Canadian film are more of the same director driven, and familiar “established” loser production company driven, projects that have bombed so hopelessly for a decade and a half or more. The new lists for films to be financed by Telefilm for 2007 release could easily be switched with a list from 1997. Instead of picking projects based on “the project”, focus remains on rewarding the usual suspects who the Canadian public have rejected so many times in the past, and following the misguided star of 1960’s auteur cinema as the model for current socialist cinema in Canada. Ignoring the fact that those guys back then were able to make film after film because there actually was an audience for what they were doing back then, and their films made a profit -- which is not the case today. Hell, there's even a new generation of groomed "auteur" directors being rewarded for writing their own audience-less material for the tiny "off-shore" film festival crowd. It's sad.

So Telefilm is not misguided in pursuing the video game angle. Nor are they misguided in pursuing the funding of some internet “new media”. Where they are missing the mark, is that they retain the same faulty thinking which has crippled English Canadian Telefilm since its inception when it comes to viable cultural product -- ie. product the culture of the country embraces as its own. Who can say when that will change?
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