Attracting new partners to Canadian cinema—stimulating private financing

Developing, producing, promoting, distributing and exporting a feature film is a long, costly, high-risk operation, much like a R&D project. The average budget of a feature is about $3.4 million and Canadian films have to make their way in a world increasingly rich in high-quality works.

In this context, our industry, comprised primarily of SMEs, is looking for multiple, stable financial resources, which enable businesses to take a long view and see big, while preserving the diversity that drives its success, from first features by emerging talent to major international coproductions.

Public investments serve to leverage private financing (broadcasters, distributors, exporters, Canadian and foreign investors). Private investors are important because they concretely reflect market and public interest in Canadian content.

This interest is growing, as seen on the ground on a daily basis. Between 2011 and 2016, the leverage effect of each dollar invested by Telefilm rose from $1.04 to $1.52 in production and from $2.24 to $3.26 in promotion, increases of more than 40%. In addition, new research and strategic partnerships have emerged as industry stakeholders have become more aware that the best way to succeed is to work together. This led to the creation of Canada First, a promotional platform directly targeted to audiences through social media.

It is said that Canadians have coproduction in their DNA. This form of creative and financial partnership is still essential to winning over new audiences, both in theatres and on other screens. Between January 1, 2005, and December 31, 2014, the total volume of Canadian coproduction (film and television governed by treaty agreements amounted to $4.8 billion, of which $2.2 billion for feature films alone. Recently, the treaty with Ireland, renewed in2015, gave us Brooklyn (along with the UK) and Room, both of which were nominated for the 2016 Best Picture Oscar. And Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only The End of the World, a coproduction with France, won the Grand Prix at Cannes.

The Talent Fund, a private donation fund created in 2012, is supported by companies like Bell Media and Corus Entertainment, and individuals keen to encourage homegrown talent. This fund supports the production of micro-budget first features by promising filmmakers, as well as international promotion. To date, the Fund has raised $15 million against its goal of $25 million. Its impact is tangible: emerging directors like Kyle Thomas (The Valley Below) and Sonia Bonspille Boileau (Le Dep) are now among the names that draw attention.

Today, audiences themselves are considered full-fledged partners of Canadian cinema, through crowd funding in some cases but also by accompanying films through the entire production and release process via online communities of interest. Corner Gas: The Movie benefited from a multiplatform launch, as well as strong online engagement, which enabled it to reach more than 7 million Canadians in theatres, on television and online. Micro-budget films such as The Editor, Cast No Shadow and Un film de chasse de filles have been successful because their teams successfully identified and engaged fans from the outset, identified the right channels to reach them, spoke their language, took advantage of controversy as needed and got influential bloggers on their side.