Do we need CanCon for movies?


Factoring out repertory theatres, of the 40 or so first run films playing in the Lower Mainland this week, only two are Canadian.

It’s not for lack of talent, but the Canuck film industry—for anybody living outside of Quebec, at any rate—is clearly just as anemic as it ever was. Will there ever be a solution to this dreary state of affairs?

Don Davies hopes to address this question with a town hall at the Trout Lake Community Centre, on Thursday (January 23).  The Vancouver Kingsway MP was urged to hold the meeting by one of his constituents, actor-writer-director Tom Scholte, the much-admired local film vet whose most recent starring role helped to garner an inaugural Best B.C. Film award at VIFF 2013 for The Dick Knost Show.

They’ll be joined by former Festival Cinemas honcho Leonard Schein, Vancouver-Fairview MLA George Heyman, and film critic David Spaner—who took on this subject in powerful detail in his 2012 book, Shoot It!

“Canadians may be ambivalent largely about Canadian film, but they do seem to care a lot about fairness, especially in issues of trade,” Scholte told the Straight. What most cinemagoers don’t realize, he added, is that the lineup of predominantly American titles hogging all the space at your local multiplex reflects decades of bullying tactics by the Hollywood studios.

There are various ways to mitigate against this. In countries that adopt a quota system for the exhibition of indigenous product, like South Korea, the result, consistently, is a healthier domestic film industry.

“I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has said, ‘Why has there never been a CanCon regulation for Canadian film?’ It looms as a question over the whole industry for years and years and years,” Scholte said. He also conceded that, when it was instituted for the music industry in 1971, “people resisted CanCon.”

“But this is also the country where people resisted medicare with everything they had in them. It’s a Canadian pattern to be militant against government intervention and then, 40 years later, to go, ‘This is the pride of our nation.’ That’s true of medicare and in some ways I think it’s true of our music scene, too.”

Can it also be true for cinema? Canadian Dreams/Canadian Screens: Federal Alternatives to Support Canadian Film takes place at the Trout Lake Community Centre, on Thursday (January 23), at 7:00 PM

Comments (5) Add New Comment
‘Why has there never been a CanCon regulation for Canadian film?’

That was NEVER a question...if you THINK it was/is then you should bring that matter up with YOUR unions and the film studios.

CanCon is something worth fighting for in concept, but surprisingly, in 2014, gatekeepers in THAT industry never want to bite the hand that feeds them and appear to be more than happy with the status quo.

Here's some advice Dogma_14 CanCon:

1) keep your hands away from tax dollars
2) you are NOT a filmmaker, but a 'content creator'. Fuck you if you can't understand the difference.
3) So you're got school debt and YOU and YOUR friends can't get as many hits as some 10 yr and her cat?
4) Don't make your PowerPoint presentation BETTER than your film.
5) Don't USE the word CanCon; nobody is looking at passports when they want CONTENT and that just means TAXES or somewhere between Karen Black and a bus full of dead children.
6) Don't piss off Americans coz they have a much bigger country, they operate an Empire and consider their CULTURAL exports as important as ARMS, TOBACCO and crappy food
7) Stop whinning if you got work on some TV's CONTENT
8) "That’s true of medicare and in some ways I think it’s true of our music scene, too.” Stop Taking Acid!
9) Canadian Made movie is simply a dinner bell for 'non-CONTENT providers'
10) Don't be Afraid to Expose some CONTENT and work for free

(you just read CONTENT ;-)
Rating: 0

This could have possibly worked 10 or 15 years ago but now, with Distribution in crisis and no one is sure where it's all going, it would be a pointless exercise. Also, Vancouver crews are now so used to union wages and perks that the idea of supporting a local industry is nothing more than lip service. Back when there was the SAVE BC film movement was banging it's drum, I could help but wonder if half of those people invested in building a sustainable indigenous industry, one not reliant on US projects, they perhaps the industry would be more balanced. Perhaps the 2 biggest problems are the US entertainment industry dominates and in reality, Canadians gave it over to them. Secondly, Western Canadian films are dreadful. They look like they were made by film students. No one is interested in shitty films no matter how hard you try to force people to watch them.
Rating: -5
Alan Layton
I think Canadian films try to hard to not look like American films. In general I believe Canadians are too reserved to be good subjects for films. If they would quit making films about Canadians, or Canadian culture, they would be more successful.
Rating: -5
A. MacInnis
Re: Herr Mack's comment that Canadian cinema is as "anemic as it ever was," I hate to say it, but in Vancouver, at least, the situation seems to me to be more "worse than ever." I mean, ten or fifteen years ago people were excited about Bruce Sweeney, Lynne Stopkewich, Mina Shum, Nathaniel Geary, Carl Bessai, and such - in part because you could actually find their movies on the shelf at places like Rogers. (Hell, I even stumbled across Kissed at video stores in Japan, in sections labeled "Canadian": I felt considerable pride at that!). I just don't think that's the case now. Most of the above have gone on to work in TV or are making increasingly microbudgeted projects, while in the cinemas - repertory notwithstanding, as you say - there's a smaller and smaller selection of increasingly bombastic and brainless spectacles. There *are* a few promising voices in terms of locally made cult and exploitation cinema, which seems to have replaced arthouse/ European cinema as the mode du jour - Panos Cosmatos, the Soska twins - but they've abandoned the idea of people like Sweeney of making proudly local cinema, are making movies that could be set either anywhere at all or in Seattle... I like their films, but local/ national pride in our cinema seems to be at an all-time low.

Speaking of which, Mr. Layton and Mr. Stein - I don't find Western Canadian film looks "dreadful" at all, if what you're interested in is independent/ arthouse cinema (if your standard of comparison is Ultra AVX 3-D megaspectacles, sure, but there are *other kinds of cinema out there.*) And I would personally like to see Canadians making MORE films about Canadians and Canadian culture, thank you very much. (Were you being ironic, by any chance?).
Rating: -7
In theory I would support CanCon for moving pictures but I just don't know that it would work like it has in radio.

For me, and I think well everybody, I turn on the radio not to hear a specific song but because the format is likely, in my mind, to give me an acceptable chance of hearing something that I like.

If that something is Canadian, or Lithuanian, or Martian, but it is in the format that I prefer (i.e. klezmer covers of Goan Psytrance) then it doesn't stop me toes from tapping.

Whereas movies are different. You go to the cinema to see a specific product - not a style of movie, but a particular movie, and then you lay out a fair amount of money for it.

Generally speaking, that means American movies with American budgets. I just looked at the top 100 grossing movies from Australia, a country where the moviemaking is reckoned to be quite good, and it's the same blockbuster American product over there too.

So I don't think the CanCon formula, in the sense of trying to keep the local goods in circulation. You could force theatres to show Canadian movies, I guess, but you can't force people to buy tickets.

Having said all that, there is probably a good business, national identity, and moral case that can be made for supporting homegrown filmmakers with government intervention. We do that through our university system but it could also mean things like co-funding production and exhibition. The model would be more like FACTOR than CanCon.

And of course the Canadian filmmakers have to make good stuff. The very phrase "Canadian cinema" makes me tense up because it makes me think of turgid, humourless shit - but then I remember how much I loved Starbuck and everything by Don McKellar - it can be done!
Rating: -6
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