CENTRE OF THE (INDUSTRY) UNIVERSE BY MARK DILLON
From its earliest days a CFC strength has been its ability to get big names involved with its mission. Upper images: (clockwise from left) CFC mentor Ivan Reitman, CFC Comedy Program chairman Eugene Levy and CFC mentor Daniel Goldberg; CFC founder Norman Jewison; CFC Actors Conservatory founding chairman Kiefer Sutherland Lower images: (clockwise from left): CFC Cineplex Entertainment and Short Dramatic Film Programs chairman Paul Haggis and CFC Actors Conservatory chief programs officer Kathryn Emslie; CFC CEO Slawko Klymkiw.
The brainchild of Norman Jewison has remained not only relevant but central to the Canadian screen entertainment industry despite enormous media landscape changes since 1988. Playback takes a look at its quarter century of evolution.
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CFC@25 Slawko Klymkiw believes the Canadian Film Centre is nearly as big as it needs to be. “The last thing you want to do,” says Klymkiw, the CEO of the centre that always seems to be evolving, “is grow beyond your means and then forget why you’re there.” The year the centre celebrates its 25th anniversary is a good time to ponder why the storied institution is there. The non-governmental organization describes its mandate as providing the training, partnerships, promotion and investment to launch “Canada’s most creative ideas and voices” across the media spectrum. In those four key areas it has been remarkably successful (see sidebars on the following pages). But back on Feb. 28, 1988, when it opened its doors in a leafy acreage of north Toronto, its focus was squarely on cinema. It was then known as the “Canadian Centre for Advanced Film Studies,” befitting founder Norman Jewison, the Toronto native who directed Hollywood classics including In the Heat of the Night and Fiddler on the Roof. “It was a place that was needed,” Jewison told Playback in 2004. “We were the only country that didn’t have a film institute. There were courses at universities – Ryerson and York and stuff like that – but I’m talking about an AFI or the British Film Institute.” A sweetheart long-term property deal came from tycoon E. P. Taylor, whereby the CFC pays annual rent of $2 for eight of 22 acres at the scenic Windfields Estates but must cover its grounds and buildings upkeep. With further support from then-North York mayor Mel Lastman and private and public funding, Jewison realized his dream. “It’s probably one of the best things I can leave behind,” said the filmmaker, now 85. Another legacy would be the centre having turned out many successful filmmakers and, through its CFC Features program, enabling some to get their first movies made when they otherwise might not have. The filmography includes Clement Virgo’s Rude (1995), Holly Dale’s Blood & Donuts (1995), Paul Fox’s The Dark Hours (2005), Charles Officer’s Nurse.Fighter.Boy (2008) and Vincenzo Natali’s futuristic thriller Cube (1997), which, on a $365,000 budget, achieved what few Canadian movies ever do: boffo international box office, with a gross of $490,000 in the U.S. and more than 800,000 admissions sold in France alone.
But the media landscape has evolved considerably in a quarter century, especially with the birth of the internet. In particular, the bottom fell out of the indie theatrical film market, but luckily filmmakers have been able to migrate to cable television, where most quality sub-blockbuster work is now being produced. The centre has deftly changed with the times, and now the film programs coexist with the TV production and marketing streams, the Actors Conservatory, the Slaight Music Residency and the CFC Media Lab, which in 1997 opened its doors to digital artists, content developers and practitioners. The CFC now has more than 1,500 alumni, and according to Klymkiw, 92% of them are working in media.
Molly Maxwell, a CFC Features film that stars Lola Tash, is to be released by Entertainment One in April.
25 YEARS OF SHARING Numerous industry luminaries, including some big Hollywood names, have shared their knowledge and experience as CFC trainers, mentors or master class teachers over the years. Here’s a sample of who’s made their way to Windfields Estates: Ron Howard, Max Von Sydow, Nia Vardalos, John Hamburg, Judd Apatow, Leslie Mann, Kim Catrall, Paul Haggis, Kiefer Sutherland, Tom Fontana, Hugh Dillon, Gale Anne Hurd, Maria Jacquemetton, Andre Jacquemetton, Roger Corman, Sandra Oh, Tim Long, Joel Cohen, Philip Rosenthal, Peter Casey, Michael Douglas, Martin Scorsese, Robin Green, Mitchell Burgess, Spike Lee, Pam Grier, Lee Daniels, James Cameron, Clint Eastwood, John Singleton, Anne Fletcher, Jim Sheridan, Pen Densham, Mike White, (continued on page 42)
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CFC@25 Creative teams formed at the centre have launched 105 production companies, including Shaftesbury and Smiley Guy Studios. “The whole notion of community within the centre creates these economic and production relationships when graduates leave the place,” says Klymkiw, who came over in 2005 from the CBC, where he was executive director of network programming. The graduates do seem to be productive. According to a recent Nordicity study commissioned by the CFC and the Ontario government, graduates since 2006 worked an average of 3.2 times more production minutes than before their CFC training and were paid 2.5 times more for their work three years after attending. Nordicity calculates that between the boost in incomes CFC graduates earn, plus the revenues their productions create, Ontario saw $98 million more in incremental household income between 2006 and 2012 and $115 million more in GDP for the province than if the CFC didn’t exist. For Klymkiw, ROI is important. “The notion of just boys and girls in the centre doing wonderful work – ‘Isn’t it great the kind of talent that comes out of there?’ – doesn’t really help me with funders,” he adds.
Vincenzo Natali’s 1997 futuristic thriller Cube, a box office hit, might not have been made were it not for the CFC Features program.
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CONGRATULATIONS TO THE CANADIAN FILM CENTRE ON YOUR 25TH ANNIVERSARY From your friends at Deluxe
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“The whole notion of community within the centre creates these economic and production relationships when graduates leave the place,” says Klymkiw. And not only does he have to make his case to the province, which is a major financial supporter, but even more so to private funders, which put up about 65% of the CFC’s annual $13 million operating budget – an amount that is more than twice what it was when Klymkiw arrived. Sponsored programs include the Cineplex Entertainment Film Program, the Actors Conservatory presented by Shaw Media and Bell Media’s Prime Time TV Program and Showrunner BootCamp. “When Bell Media decided they wanted to be part of the TV program, they realized the writers they met and the stuff we developed inevitably could show up on their screens,” Klymkiw notes. Indeed, Bell Media will soon see executive producer Graeme Manson’s Orphan Black, a sci-fi series workshopped through the prime time TV program, airing on its Space channel.
UPPING THE ANTE Today, the CFC’s focus, says Kathryn Emslie, chief programs officer, film, TV, actors and music, is “looking at the design of our programs and whether or not they’re still relevant, and how we can really up the ante in those programs.” She adds that the centre will be increasingly involved in helping alumni navigate the market longer after graduation. One current program with this goal is the CFC North South Marketplace, which helps centre attendees foster U.S. relationships. It promotes Canadian talent and projects while also keeping Canucks aware of American market trends. Initiatives include getting filmmakers from underrepresented communities in the industry into workshops and panels at the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Telefilm Canada Feature Comedy Exchange, which provides producers of feature comedy projects with creative, marketing and financing guidance from Hollywood experts such as
CFC BY THE NUMBERS • CFC has 1,500 alumni. • They have formed 105 production companies. • The CFC has directly produced 295 original projects including: 21 feature films 154 short films 4 TV and web-based pilot episodes 1 interactive feature film 120 interactive digital media prototypes. • As well, CFC has played the role of informal midwife in the development and packaging of over 55 TV projects and 11 features in the last five years through the centres many programs and north-south initiatives. • More than 250 CFC alumni have worked in the U.S. at least at some point in their careers.
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“BRILLIANT.”- doug & serge
Congratulations on 25 outstanding years, from your friends at doug & serge.
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Two shots from Blackbird: a completed scene (left) as well as lead actor Connor Jessup with director Jason Buxton. Buxton has secured the Canadian Screen Awards’ Jutra Award for the film, his first feature.
ex-pats Ivan Reitman and producer Daniel Goldberg (The Hangover). Securing high-profile industry names from Canada and abroad to participate in CFC ventures is a big part of Emslie’s job – one she says is getting easier. “Having Paul Haggis as our film programs chair and Kiefer Sutherland as chair of the actors conservatory, along with Norman as our founder and David Cronenberg and Eugene Levy on our board, really helps establish our legitimacy in the international world. There’s growing awareness of who we are,” she says.
In addition to having such shining lights in overseer roles, programs benefit from the direct participation of veteran creatives. For example, Shelley Eriksen, who graduated from the writers’ lab in 1996, has enjoyed a busy career, working most recently on the Showcase sci-fi series Continuum. She was invited back to teach writers in the prime time TV program in 2003 and did so again last year. The program replicates industry conditions as much as possible, with teachers functioning as showrunners. “Your students are your story room,” Eriksen explains. “I come in with a series for which I’ve written a pilot and treat
them like the writers who are going to write the season with me. Hopefully they’re learning how to write a one-hour like a pro and how to treat other people with respect and to help other people cook their ideas and how to work in a room. As a student, you would never have an experience like that aside from being in an actual story room.” CFC teachers have a strong sense of giving back to young talent, even if they aren’t themselves centre alumni. “When I was starting out, the Canadian industry was so difficult to crack. Nobody wanted to talk. It was so hard to get information,” says writer/director and film mentor Ruba Nadda (Cairo Time, Inescapable). “So I promised myself that if I was ever in a position to help, I would, ” says Nadda, who did not attend the centre as a student. Aspiring producers, meanwhile, gain market insights from visiting industry players. Marc Almon, who attended the film
(continued from page 39) David Frankel, David Cronenberg, Eugene Levy, William Goldman, Colm Feore, Susan Coyne, Diane Keaton, John Malkovich, Whoopi Goldberg, Dan Akroyd, Liza Minelli, Patrick Swayze, David Fury, Rene Balcer, Meredith Stiehm, Jon Kinnally, Tracy Poust, Darren Starr, David Shore, Dawn Prestwich, Stephen Frears, John Patrick Shanley, Joel Schumacher, Peter Hedges, Guillermo del Toro, Daniel Goldberg, Jimmy Miller, Etan Cohen, Kirsten Smith, Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman, Donald Petrie, Peter Saraf, Adam Brooks, Ron Yerxa, John Landis, Christine Vachon, Ted Hope, Anne Carey, Caroline Caplan, Michael Moore, Atom Egoyan, Peter Bogdanovich, Guy Ritchie, Deepa Mehta, Thelma Schoonmaker, Patricia Rozema, Edward Norton, Hart Hanson, Charles Wessler, Lindy Davies, John Sayles, Michael Dowse, Ron Sanders, Ruba Nadda, Don Carmody, Jacob Tierney, Joe Medjuck, Chantal Kreviazuk, Michael McGowan, Jim Cuddy, Christophe Beck, Mychael Dana, Lynda Obst, Arsinee Khanjian, Christina Piovesan, Patricia Clarkson, Bruce McDonald, Jean Marc Vallee, (continued on page 44)
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program in 2008, says that helped guide him on his first feature, the teen drama Blackbird, written and directed by fellow Nova Scotian Jason Buxton and completed in 2012. “Based on my experiences talking to distributors and experts while at the CFC, I was able to protect Blackbird much better, because too many producers focus on just trying to get something made and they’ll sign away rights they shouldn’t,” he says. Blackbird was part of Almon’s CFC application submission, and he honed the project there, aided by story editor Maureen Dorey, producer advisor Greg Klymkiw and Almon’s producer peers. “They read it and found it difficult to connect with the main character; it had not been developed enough. So that became my mantra as we tried to get the project off the ground: how can we make our protagonist somebody people can relate to?” Through the CFC, he was able to pitch the project to Super Channel, which eventually bought a broadcast license. The film received two Canadian Screen Awards nominations, in addition to Buxton receiving the Jutra Award for praiseworthy work on this, his first feature film.
EXPANDING BEYOND ONTARIO While it’s been common for applicants such as Almon to hail from across the country, less common over the years has been for the CFC to venture beyond Ontario’s provincial boundaries. But that is something that CFC Features, which was launched in 1992 and functions as executive producer and financier on projects, is doing, thereby helping the centre meet its national-identity goals. In November it wrapped on Rhymes for Young Ghouls in Montreal and Cruel & Unusual in Vancouver, the program’s first out-of-province productions. Merlin Dervisevic, writer/director of the fantasy thriller Cruel & Unusual, attended the CFC’s film, short film and TV pilot programs. After graduation, a couple of his projects got far in the development stage but did not come to fruition, so he looked to the centre for help. “I wrote this script specifically for CFC Features, because I really wanted to get a film made with them,” he says. “I knew there were parameters I had to deal with – and budget was one of them – but I see that as a challenge to making an interesting film.” The CFC Features selection committee includes representatives of Entertainment
CFC TV HISTORY The number of TV series created or worked on by CFC alumni runs into the hundreds. Here’s a sample of some better known ones: Copper, Mad Men, Orphan Black, Lost, Bomb Girls, Murdoch Mysteries, Call Me Fitz, The Vampire Diaries, House, Lost Girl, Beverly Hills 90210, Warehouse 13, Skins, The Wire, Mad Love, The Listener, Republic of Doyle, Spartacus, Less Than Kind, Castle, Dexter, Law & Order, Living in My Car, Degrassi, Flashpoint, Being Erica, Cracked and Rookie Blue.
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The National Film Board of Canada salutes the Canadian Film Centre
Business growth starts with a conversation. When growing your business, the most useful financial advice is industry specialized advice. RBC® is proud to be an active member in the Media & Entertainment sector. Congratulations to the Canadian Film Centre on their 25th 5th anniversary.
To start a conversation today, visit rbcroyalbank.com/media and contact one of our local team members.
Congratulations on 25 years of excellence and leadership
Late Fragment produced by the National Film Board of Canada and the Canadian Film Centre
® / ™ Trademarks of Royal Bank of Canada. RBC and Royal Bank are registered trademarks of Royal Bank of Canada. VPS80274 30060 (02/2010)
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“What I got out of it was the sense of myself as a self-employed businessperson and of acting as an actual career,” says Paxton-Beesley.
One, which automatically becomes the films’ domestic and international distributor, and The Movie Network and Movie Central, which become the domestic broadcasters. “For so long we had the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation. We had to shoot in Ontario,” explains Justine Whyte, director of CFC Features. But for several years the OMDC has been supporting only films budgeted at $1 million and up, which excludes most CFC projects. Support continues to come from unions, guilds and industry suppliers. Indeed, Rhymes and Cruel followed the Ontario-shot Molly Maxwell and Old Stock, bringing the initiative’s total output to 21 titles. Budgets now are usually
$600,000 – although Ghouls was allotted $1.5 million, the most yet. Whyte adds that she would like to back more projects outside Ontario. Of course, of greatest importance is the script and ability of the creative team to get a film produced – no matter which province they call home. But the advantage of shooting in a filmmaker’s hometown is the relationships they can tap there to help get a project made on a low-budget.
WANTED: ONE ACTORS PAVILION Of course, of primary importance to any project’s success is the talent who dramatizes it, and the CFC is making its offering in this
area more robust too. In 2013 the CFC is looking to construct a pavilion on its Windfields’ grounds which would be the home, and final campus building, for the Actors Conservatory. Launched in 2009, the conservatory is an immersive sixmonth program that takes performers with a foundation of training – often from theatre schools – and guides them in the craft and business of film and TV acting. “What I got out of it was the sense of myself as a selfemployed businessperson and of acting as an actual career,” says Alex Paxton-Beesley, who attended the conservatory in 2010-11 and now has a recurring role on Cineflix Studios’ Copper and recently wrapped the romantic comedy Dirty Singles, produced by CFC alumna Melanie Windle. With its bricks-and-mortar needs nearly achieved in its 25th year, Klymkiw, ever mindful of the need to keep the CFC relevant, is turning his attention to the virtual world. “We are now re-looking at our entire digital assets. We have a YouTube channel and we are going to evaluate our website to make sure that it is absolutely contemporary and does everything it needs to as a fundraising, communications and content tool,” he says. “One of the things I’ve learned in this job is if you don’t stay agile about the changes around you, then you’re out of business.”
(continued from page 42) Roger Frappier, Vanessa Redgrave, Kurt Sutter, Mark McKinney, Sally Potter, Peter Greenaway, Frank Pierson, Dan Petrie Sr., Sidney Lumet, Guy Madden, David O’Russell, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Alexander, Carol Littleton, Joan Tewkesbury, Hal Hartley, Joel Schumacher, Zach Braff, Peter Stebbings, John Paizs, Greg Klymkiw, Noel S. Baker, Susan Maggi, Robert Lantos, Jeremy Thomas, Jimmy McGovern, Russell T. Davies, Anthony Minghella, Saul Zaentz, Tim Southam, Patrick Cassevetti, Doug Taylor, Matt Gorbet, Susan Gorbet, Martha Ladly, Siobhan O’Flynn, Ilona Posner, Marty Avery, David Wolfenden, Paul Woolner, Andrew Bailey, Christopher Barnard, Rupert Dilnott-Cooper, David Gale, Shawn Hardin, Roma Khanna, Corey Vidal, Corrado Coia, Saskia Vanell, Samantha Fall, Mitchell Moffit, Gregory Brown, Lillian Chan, John Poon, Tony Walsh, Thomas Detko, Ericka Evans, David Evans, Aylwin Lo, Alaska B, Ange Loft, Alex Jansen, Jason Gilmore, Matt DeBoer, Ina Fichman, Marc Beaudet, Theresa Kowall-Shipp, Dale Herigstad, Esther Lim, Carla Serrano, Brian Seth Hurst, Suzanne Stefanac, Chris Dorr, Rosi Allimonos, Christopher Sandberg, John Canning, Robert Kenedi, Nicholas Demartino, Tim Warner, Aaron Williamson, Jay Bennett, Veronica Heringer, Steph Ouakinine.
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GIVING DIGITAL VENTURES A BOOST As part of the Canadian Film Centre’s reenergized focus on enabling success beyond its doors, the CFC Media Lab is reaching out to Canadian digital production companies with accelerator program IdeaBoost. The initiative provides $15,000 in seed capital as well as guidance and resources from the likes of Shaw Media, Google and Corus Entertainment to help prodcos’ digital ventures generate and sustain revenues. The four-month program’s first installment began in November with eight projects selected from a crowd-sourcing voting process. “It’s not just about helping you develop your ideas and making ideas happen, but helping you develop the right ideas with the right market in mind and actually sell them,” says CFC chief digital officer Ana Serrano, who founded the Media Lab and oversees digital integration across all CFC programs. Among the participants are YouTube channel AsapScience (from University of Guelph biology grads Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown) – which looks to build a community for
science buffs around videos covering biology, chemistry and physics – and the Buffer Film Festival (ApprenticeA Productions), an annual festival for online videomakers led by full-time “YouTuber” Corey Vidal. “We think YouTube channel creators are the next wave of content entrepreneurs,” Serrano says. “They’re making $100,000 to $300,000 a year, and some of them are not content to just say ‘Okay, I’ll pocket this and do the same old, same old.’ They are hungry for some support and advice on how to turn their almost serendipitous businesses into sustainable ones that can grow. We are trying to craft the right type of business strategies so they can move forward with their next set of product offerings.” IdeaBoost’s board includes chair Paul Woolner, a coach of Fortune 500 companies, Round 13 Capital’s Bruce Croxon and Points International’s Christopher Barnard. When it launched, the Media Lab looked primarily at graduating strong talent in the fledgling digital world, and
its alumni have gone on to start their own companies, as with Secret Location’s founder and executive producer James Milward, Stitch Media’s creative director and partner Evan Jones and Trapeze’s co-founder and VP creative Mike Kasprow. Now, says Serrano, the CFC has moved much of its talent development initiatives to downtown Toronto’s OCAD University, and developed partnerships with major players including research centre MaRS and professional services powerhouse Ernst & Young to focus on taking digital innovation to the next level of commercialization.
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