Dreams don’t just come true in Hollywood, but in the Canadian film industry, too.
“I’m actually and truthfully having the time of my life,” said an excited Anita Adams, executive director of the First Weekend Club, in a call to the Straight. The FWC, an organization dedicated to promoting Canadian cinema, will finally be launching Canada Screens, a video-on-demand platform devoted to Canadian films, on Thursday (April 16).
Back in 2010, the FWC began brainstorming about its response to cuts in funding and shrinking sponsorship.
“We started looking at ways to continue to work towards our mandate to build audiences for Canadian film and potentially generate a revenue stream to support our activities,” Adams said.
Having settled on the VOD idea, the club began fundraising in 2011. It tried to build its own platform (and made some mistakes along the way), then Adams had a chance meeting at Cannes in 2013 with the National Film Board of Canada’s former director general of accessibility and digital enterprises, Deborah Drisdell. After Adams talked about her challenges in building a VOD platform, Drisdell invited the FWC to become a content partner on the NFB’s site.
“It was like a dream come true,” Adams said.
When entertainment corporation eOne, which has the largest Canadian film catalogue, also granted Canada Screens access to all of its Canadian content, it was the icing on the cake.
The site will launch with 50 titles available for $3.99 to $5.99, ranging from Maps to the Stars and Goon to Starbuck and Black Robe. B.C. films will include The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Stone of Destiny, Emile, and 3 Days in Havana. Adams and her partners are working on getting 200 more films uploaded. French-language films will have English subtitles, while another content partner, Excentris, will offer French-language films without subtitles on both the NFB’s and its own site.
For those looking for recommendations of what to watch, viewers will be able to consult the hand-picked choices of Canadian celebrity curators. Curators include Tatiana Maslany, Sarah Polley, Jason Priestley, Paul Gross, Atom Egoyan, Guy Maddin, Don McKellar, Zoie Palmer, Robert Lantos, Michael Dowse, and Sarah Gadon.
There'll also be additional features, such as online Q&As, social media tie-ins, interviews with talent, and behind-the-scenes footage.