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Authentic Storytelling

Introduction

Earlier this spring, Telefilm Canada announced that it would be creating an industry subcommittee focusing on Authentic Storytelling. The announcement was made following a recent meeting with its external Diversity and Inclusion Working Group.

Telefilm continues to work together with the industry in building more representative screen-based storytelling and is launching a survey to learn more about what members of our industry are currently doing to further authentic storytelling, as well as receive feedback on roles that Canadian institutions like Telefilm can play in establishing best practices.

We invite your valuable feedback on authentic storytelling in the Canadian film industry.

Through this exercise, we aim to:

  • share our understanding of authentic storytelling, 
  • learn more about how Canadian filmmakers are currently practicing authentic storytelling
  • invite your feedback on how existing best practices could or should be adapted and/or applied to Telefilm,
  • invite innovative new ideas around authentic storytelling that we could explore in the Canadian film industry.

Telefilm will use this feedback to inform, develop and/or implement authentic storytelling practices. Your responses to the survey may also result in Telefilm inviting you to be part of an industry subcommittee on authentic storytelling. As we determine next steps, we will be transparent about the process, the project plan, and the stakeholders involved.

We greatly appreciate your participation in this process and the valuable perspectives you bring.

Background

What is authentic storytelling?

Telefilm understands authentic storytelling as sharing lived experiences in a way that is genuine and honest, especially for those being represented. It happens when representation resonates as being true and respectful, showing the nuances and realities of those who hold these identities in day-to-day life, whether through true or fictional stories. Authentic storytelling is for everyone. It is especially important for underrepresented people and groups, whose stories are often told or shaped by and for the dominant culture or lens, which can result in harmful stereotypes, false narratives, erasure, and dehumanization.

Why is Telefilm looking to further support authentic storytelling?

As an organization that celebrates exceptional storytelling while upholding equity, diversity, and inclusion, we recognize more needs to be done to support authentic stories that resonate within the Canadian landscape. Authentic storytelling is a key foundation to making on-screen narratives more respectful, nuanced, and creatively stronger. This process facilitates the collaborative creation of long-term, meaningful changes within Canada’s film industry.

Telefilm has supported the creation of such initiatives as the Indigenous Screen Office’s Protocols and Pathways: A Media Production Guide for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Communities, Cultures, Concepts and Storiesas well as the Black Screen Office’s Being Seen: Directives for creating authentic and inclusive content, and encourages their use.

Many productions and companies in Canada and throughout the world have researched and adopted their own practices relating to authentic storytelling. Indigenous communities across Canada and in other countries like New Zealand and Australia, have been practicing narrative sovereignty, creating advocacy tools, and reclaiming the power to tell their own stories.

Inauthentic storytelling can cause erasure, exclusion and harm.

How is Telefilm looking to further support authentic storytelling?

There are best practices that the Canadian film industry can collectively apply, learn from, and build on to support authentic storytelling and Telefilm is looking to collect these best practices in the Canadian context and within projects submitted for funding.

Call for participation

Telefilm invites content creators, representatives from Canadian unions, guilds, and filmmaker associations to respond to the survey questions below.  The aim is to collect points of view, reference and lived experience.  We wish to hear from industry representatives who are:

  • People of underrepresented identities and/or poorly represented identities;
  • People focusing on authentic and inclusive storytelling in film or a related discipline;
  • People currently practicing or working towards ensuring authentic storytelling;
  • People who have yet to encounter topics of authentic storytelling.

 Your participation is greatly encouraged.

Why is my engagement important?

By participating, you will be able to provide invaluable feedback on what authentic and inclusive storytelling could look like in the context of the Canadian film industry.

Ultimately, your voice can help inform how Telefilm approaches authentic and inclusive storytelling in the future and how it can support the Canadian industry in their evolution and education.

Survey Questions

Please submit your comments through the online survey here by 12:00 pm (EST) on Monday, August 22.

  1. What does authentic storytelling mean to you as a content creator? What are some examples?
  2. What are the current gaps or challenges to ensuring authentic and inclusive storytelling in the Canadian film industry? What are some ways the Canadian film industry can further support authentic storytelling?
  3. Would you benefit from training or guidance in best practices for authentic storytelling?
  4. How can authentic storytelling increase positive representations about historically underrepresented groups and communities?
  5. How can audiences benefit from seeing authentic and inclusively told stories?
  6. Do you think that authentically-told stories can further a project’s audience reach and international potential? If so, how?
  7. What is the role and responsibility of the content creation team in authentic storytelling?
  8. What is the role and responsibility of funding institutions regarding authentic storytelling?
  9. Do you as a content creator or organization practice authentic storytelling?
    • If yes, how?
    • If you are not currently practicing it, is it something you are interested in doing in future work?
  10.  Do you have any suggestions for how Telefilm could best implement new or existing practices?

Ready to take the survey?

Telefilm is working with a third-party agency, AndHumanity, working with independent consultant Dorothy Alexandre, to collect and review feedback.

Your responses to the survey may also result in Telefilm inviting you to be part of an industry subcommittee on authentic storytelling. You may indicate if you would like to be considered as part of completing the survey. Please note that Telefilm will not be able to accommodate all requests for participation. Meetings will be held virtually.