Thursday, October 25, 2007

Telefilm funding frozen


Figures from 2006 show a drop in a share of the box office for Canadian film, especially for French-language films, yet federal funding for film remains frozen.

Actors Patrick Huard, left, and Colm Feore in a scene from comedy Bon Cop, Bad Cop. Telefilm wants to devote more of its funding to comedies.

In a year that spawned box office successes Bon Cop, Bad Cop, Trailer Park Boys and Oscar-nominated Water, Canadian films took just 4.1 per cent of the box office in this country.

Canadian-made productions earned $34.7 million in 2006, down from $44 million in 2005, and market share fell, according to funding agency Telefilm's annual report.

Bon Cop, Bad Cop, the bilingual cop buddies comedy, set a new box office record of $12.1 million, most of it in Quebec.

But French-language box office suffered a steep slide overall and English-language box office, while on the rise, amounted to just 1.7 per cent of total film tickets sold.

"It's a humbling figure, absolutely," Wayne Clarkson, executive director of Telefilm, told CBC News. "But actually that's a huge increase. It used to be just .3 per cent."

The success of films such as Bon Cop and Trailer Park Boys has encouraged Telefilm to put more of its funding toward comedies, as the return seems to be so good, he said.

"What we've noticed is that we were doing too many conventional dramas and not enough comedy," Clarkson said. "There's a wealth of comedic writers in this country."

The decision to spend more Telefilm dollars on comedy in the English market could result in five or six comedy features produced annually, he said.

Wayne Clarkson, Telefilm executive director, is 'hopeful' of receiving more money.Wayne Clarkson, Telefilm executive director, is 'hopeful' of receiving more money.

English-language films made in Canada also get overshadowed by the huge marketing budgets for Hollywood films, so Telefilm is directing money toward supporting the release of new films.

One beneficiary was feature film Shake Hands With the Devil, which received financial incentives for marketing in both the English and francophone markets.

The steep decline in French-language box office — from 26.6 per cent in 2005 to 17.1 per cent in 2006 — was a result of fewer films on offer in 2006, according to Telefilm's annual report.

This supports the position of francophone filmmakers who put pressure on the federal government for more money last year, saying filmmakers with a great track record were being turned down for funding.

Number of films made declines

Just 32 films were made in 2006, down from 36 in 2005 and 47 in 2004. Francophone films had a record box office share in 2004, a year marked by strong productions such as C.R.A.Z.Y.

Although films such as Le secret de ma mère, Maurice Richard, Les Boys IV and Une dimanche a Kigali each earned more than $1 million in 2006, the smaller number of films made resulted in smaller overall box office.

The federal government has yet to commit more money to Telefilm, though Clarkson says he's "hopeful."

However, SODEC, the Quebec film funding agency, is devoting an extra $10 million to get some additional films made.

But as Quebec talent gets more ambitious, the cost of individual films is rising.

"Quebec producers will be looking to international partnerships," Clarkson said, pointing to Denis Arcand's L'Âge des ténèbres which had international financing.

"Ultimately there will be demand for new money, if we want to sustain the growth we've seen so far."

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