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If you didn’t already know that Canadian film is booming in 2014, just look to Cannes for proof: David Cronenberg’s Maps To The Stars, Atom Egoyan’s The Captive and Xavier Dolan’s Mommy all landed Competition slots for the Palme d’Or. Screen interviews veterans Cronenberg and Egoyan in this issue, and they each talk about Canada’s unique support system — led by organisations such as Telefilm — that has been so important in helping their careers grow internationally, as well as supporting newer talents. Dolan, for instance, makes his fourth trip to Cannes (his first in Competition) at the ripe old age of 25. And the next wave also includes Denis Villeneuve — who recently had the one-two punch of Prisoners and Enemy — and Stéphane Lafleur, who has Tu Dors Nicole in Directors’ Fortnight. Canada’s industry is booming not only exporting
2 Spread the word Canada’s growing film industry is expanding its international reach. The major players discuss funding, the changing distribution landscape and new co-production opportunities
4 The talk of the Croisette Marché du Cannes sees a swathe of Canadian films presented under Telefilm’s Perspective Canada banner
6 At the top of their game Canada’s hottest directing, writing and producing talents tell Screen about their upcoming projects
9 Finding hope Atom Egoyan on the liberating experience of making The Captive
10 Off the map David Cronenberg discusses Maps To The Stars, his satire about ‘ambition and desperation and identity’
12 the standard bearer
Screen International is part of Media Business Insight Ltd (MBI), also publisher of Broadcast and shots
these talents around the globe, but also encouraging Hollywood productions to come north, thanks to wellestablished incentives and a strong crew base. The new Pinewood Toronto Studios makes sure its inward investments reward the local independents as well, pacting with the Ontario Media Development Corporation to offer an emerging film-makers initiative. That kind of nurturing attitude has helped Egoyan and Cronenberg become Cannes regulars. What’s encouraging is that they are still flourishing as another generation follows their lead — see many of them profiled on pages 6-8. And thanks to ever-expanding global opportunities, not to mention the addition of more co-production treaties, Canadian film-makers are engaged in the world like never before. Wendy Mitchell, editor
Close consultation and innovative measures of success helped Telefilm’s Carolle Brabant give production companies the flexibility they needed — and it’s time the industry bragged about it
May 2014 Canada Special 1 n
Overview Canada 2014
Spread the word Canada’s growing film industry is expanding its international reach. John Hazelton talks to the major players about funding, the changing distribution landscape and new co-production opportunities
f the Canadian film industry needs a new poster boy, Denis Villeneuve could be the man for the job. Talk to Canadian experts these days and they often cite Quebec-born writer-director Villeneuve — who last year made both Hollywood studio hit Prisoners and award-winning Canadian indie film Enemy — as an example of how their industry is now producing world-class talent as well as films that can work at home and, increasingly, internationally. “We’ve seen a kind of internationalisation of Canadian talent this year,” says Martin Katz, chair of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television (ACCT) and a producer with credits including David Cronenberg’s Cannes Competition entry Maps To The Stars. Villeneuve, says Katz, is “a brilliant film-maker who has exploded out of the gate through the Canadian system and produced not one but two remarkably affecting and successful films in the same year”. The current health of the Canadian business may have something to do with the industry’s mix of domestic and international influences and blend of public and private funding. Federal cultural agencies Telefilm Canada and the National Film Board (NFB) play an important role in maintaining that health. Telefilm fosters and promotes the nation’s audiovisual industry and executive director Carolle Brabant notes that film-makers such as Villeneuve, JeanMarc Vallée (director of the Oscar-winning Dallas Buyers Club), Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg “are from the system that we’ve created and supported”. Canadian films screen in most of the important festivals around the world, says Brabant, “and our international sales are increasing year after year. Where there is still a challenge is on the Canadian front, in making people more
n 2 Canada Special May 2014
aware of the success of the films.” (For more on how Telefilm is meeting the promotional challenge, see page 12.) As a producer of documentaries — including a couple by Villeneuve — anim a te d s h o r t s a n d i n te ra c t iv e productions, NFB is not directly involved in the feature film industry. “We’re part of the Canadian landscape but we’re not a training school,” says assistant commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur. Yet a policy of “taking risks that the private sector cannot take has given the NFB a stronger place” in the landscape, Joli-Coeur adds. The Canadian industry’s private sector appears robust, partly, some suggest, because the country’s banks and financial institutions were not as badly affected by the 2008 global financial crisis as banks in other important filmmaking regions. Thanks to a raft of well-established federal and provincial incentives and a wealth of below-the-line talent, the level of incoming productions has remained high, with 232 foreign productions shooting in Canada in 2012, according to Telefilm Canada figures.
The F Word
Local opportunities In some cases, the incoming production from Hollywood and elsewhere has created opportunities for Canadian producers as well. Pinewood Toronto Studios, the facility that linked up with the UK-based Pinewood Studios Group in 2009, “was set up as a studio that would attract the bigger budget films,” says Eoin Egan, Pinewood’s VP of international sales. “But in order to engage with the town and the city, it’s very important to have a thriving independent sector and we work with low-budget films as well.” To that end, Pinewood Toronto joined forces last year with Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) to launch an emerging film-makers initiative that offers discounted sound-stage
‘What we’re starting to see more of is the export of our finished goods in the film world’ Martin Katz, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television
access and office space to films backed by OMDC’s film fund. The ripple effect caused by incoming projects has helped drive the production of bigger Canadian films with bigger stars. These films — such as upcoming wide-release comedy The F Word — have a better chance of connecting with audiences on a worldwide basis. “Historically, we have been very good at exporting our talent and what we’re starting to see more of this year is the export of our finished goods in the film world,” says ACCT chair Katz. “Filmmakers have had a number of films that have been successful at a national level and now it looks like they’re likely to be successful internationally as well.”
Distribution trends Canada’s distribution sector serves a strong French-language market and an English-language market in which distributors of local films have had to work hard to compete with the US studios. That situation may be changing, though, because of the rapid growth of local giant Entertainment One (eOne)
Allied with New York’s Black Bear Pictures, whose dramatic thriller The Imitation Game Elevation will release later this year, the new distributor aims, says May, to be “a viable place for Canadian producers to go where there are quality Canadian films that have critical acclaim but also commercial appeal”.
‘We’re offering a lot of the same elements that a studio would — albeit on a more modest scale — to Canadian film-makers’ Mark Slone, eOne Films Canada
and that growth’s effect on the rest of the marketplace. The acquisition of Canadian rival Alliance Films at the start of 2013 turned eOne into an international acquisition, production and distribution powerhouse with a reach extending to the US, the UK, Europe, Australia and beyond. More recently, eOne’s expansion has continued with the formation of boutique sales arm Seville International and the launch of a $100m film acquisition fund with which to secure worldwide rights to what the company describes as “premium commercial films”. The acquisition fund, says Mark Slone, senior VP of acquisitions at eOne Films Canada, will “allow us to give filmmakers opportunities to make the movie they want to make at the budget they want to make it at. We’re offering a lot of the same elements that a studio would — albeit on a more modest scale — to Canadian film-makers who ordinarily would have had to operate within a much tighter budget constraint and a much tighter universe of available audience.”
The absorption of Alliance has, says Slone, “produced quite a formidable distribution operation that’s able to help Canadian films get much wider distribution than they had pre-merger. We’re going to be able to help [Canadian filmmakers] stabilise their financial positions in a way that will get the films made and disseminated, not just in Canada but internationally as well.” By taking a major buyer out of the field, the merger also “created a vacuum in the distribution landscape”, Slone argues. “It’s a more competitive landscape than it was.” To fill the space, existing distributors such as Mongrel Media and VVS Films have expanded their operations and at least one new player has entered the field. “There was definitely an opportunity,” says Laurie May, co-president of Elevation Pictures, which launched last September and recently released its first film, Oculus. “The sellers seemed hungry to have another buyer and there’s a lot of good product out there. It just seemed like a good time to enter the space.”
‘The sellers seemed hungry to have another buyer and there’s a lot of good product out there’ Laurie May, Elevation Pictures
When Canada connects to the rest of the world film industry, it often does so under the official co-production treaties that the country has with 53 other nations. Over the past decade the treaties have facilitated more than 720 projects — Enemy and The F Word among them — with an aggregate budget of close to $4.5bn (c$5bn). And if the Canadian industry is to keep growing, the treaty system may well grow with it. The system is important for financial and other reasons, according to Brabant at Telefilm, which administers treaties on behalf of Canadian Heritage. “When we’re talking about larger projects with bigger budgets, it’s hard to finance those strictly with Canadian money,” Brabant explains. “It’s also important for creating new audiences for our films.” The most recent treaty was signed earlier this year with India, and it has already sparked interest among Canadian film-makers and production companies. “We have a huge population here from the Indian subcontinent,” notes eOne’s Mark Slone, “so it opens up a whole world of possibilities.” These days, reports Brabant, “there are more and more countries wanting to work with Canada”, and the country, according to Canadian Heritage, is currently in treaty-related discussions with Australia, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Switzerland. Part of Telefilm Canada’s mandate is to help Canadian producers reach out to other markets for co-production opportunities and most recently the agency has identified Latin America as a potentially fertile ground. “We feel there’s a certain commonality of interest between Canada and Latin America,” says Brabant. “So we’ve started exploring some markets and events so Spanish-speaking producers can be regularly in contact with Canadian producers, with the objective of increasing the s number of co-productions.” n
May 2014 Canada Special 3 n
Hot titles Cannes market
Joy Of Man’s Desiring
I Put A Hit On You
Lawrence & Holloman
The talk of the Croisette Marché du Cannes sees a swathe of Canadian films presented under Telefilm’s Perspective Canada banner. Previews by John Hazelton 1987
I Put A Hit On You
Kung Fu Elliot
Dir Richardo Trogi
Dir Atom Egoyan
Dir Jaret Belliveau
A French-language comedy about a fun-seeking 17 year old who decides to make some fast money by tapping into his Italian roots and taking a shortcut to the world of organised crime. This is Trogi’s fourth feature, after Québec-Montréal, Horloge Biologique and 1981, which won prizes in Canada and abroad.
Oscar-nominated veteran Egoyan co-wrote and directed this thriller in which Ryan Reynolds plays the father of an abducted child who eight years later discovers a series of disturbing clues that convince him his daughter is still alive. In Competition.
Dirs Dane Clark, Linsey Stewart A comedy from first-time feature directors Clark and Stewart about a spurned lover whose drunken attempt to get her boyfriend assassinated forces the couple to confront the downfall of their relationship before the hitman takes away any chance of reconciliation.
This surreal documentary captures two years in the lives of passionate amateur film-maker Elliot ‘White Lightning’ Scott, his supportive partner Linda and their outrageous cast as they try to make low-budget karate epic Blood Fight. Winner of the 2014 Slamdance Grand Jury Prize for best documentary.
Sales Double Dutch Media firstname.lastname@example.org Screening May 17, 11:30am, Palais J
Sales Cargo Film & Releasing email@example.com Screening May 17, 9:30am, Palais J
Joy Of Man’s Desiring
Lawrence & Holloman
Dir Denis Coté
Dir Matthew Kowalchuk
Actor-writer Macdonald (Rookie Blue) makes his feature directing debut with this thriller about a young couple who go camping in the wilderness but find themselves lost in bear country, testing their already fragile relationship.
Documentary Joy Of Man’s Desiring (Que Ta Joie Demeure) from acclaimed director Coté (Vic + Flo Saw A Bear) explores the energies and rituals of various workplaces and questions the value of time spent multiplying and repeating the same motions.
A dark comedy about cynical clerk Holloman and happy-go-lucky salesman Lawrence. Lawrence tries to teach Holloman how to live happily until his own good luck starts to turn. Winner of the Grand Jury Award for best Canadian feature at last year’s Edmonton film festival.
Sales Event Film Distribution firstname.lastname@example.org Screening May 20, 11:30am, Arcades 3
Sales Films Boutique email@example.com Screening May 16, 11:30am, Arcades 3
Sales Lawrence & Holloman Productions/Ameland Films firstname.lastname@example.org Screening May 19, 3:30pm, Palais H
Sales Attraction Distribution email@example.com Screening May 16, 9:30am, Arcades 3
Sales eOne Films International firstname.lastname@example.org Screening May 17, 5:30pm, Riviera 4
Backcountry Dir Adam Macdonald
4 Canada Special May 2014
Kung Fu Elliot
from regular Cannes prize-winner Dolan (Laurence Anyways) is set in a fictional Canada where a new law allows distressed parents to abandon troubled children to the hospital system. The story turns around a feisty widow, her wild yet charming son and a mysterious neighbour. In Competition. Sales Seville International email@example.com Screening May 19, 5:30pm, Riviera 4
Patch Town Dir Craig Goodwill
You’re Sleeping Nicole
Maps To The Stars Dir David Cronenberg The renowned film-maker directs this darkly satiric Hollywood-set drama from a script by novelistscreenwriter Bruce Wagner about the Weiss family, an archetypal entertainment industry dynasty. Robert Pattinson, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska and John Cusack star. In Competition. Sales eOne Films International firstname.lastname@example.org Screening May 20, 9:30am, Arcades 3
Miraculum Dir Daniel Grou (aka Podz) Ensemble drama from director Grou (L’Affaire Dumont), with intermingling characters including a nurse who is a fervent Jehovah’s Witness, the miraculous survivor of a plane crash, a conservative couple who drown their disappointments in booze and gambling, and a man who does his utmost to make amends for an irredeemable action. Sales Item 7 International email@example.com Screening May 18, 3:30pm, Arcades 3
Mommy Dir Xavier Dolan The latest French-language drama
Marking Goodwill’s feature debut and inspired by his prize-winning short, this sci-fi fantasy is about a toy, deserted and betrayed by its adoptive mother, who returns to the factory where cabbage babies are born but becomes the target of an evil childcatcher. Sales Reel Suspects info@ reelsuspects.com Screening May 19, 3:30pm, Riviera 4
Relative Happiness Dir Deanne Foley Based on a novel by Canadian author Lesley Crewe, this comedy stars Australia’s Melissa Bergland (Winners & Losers) as a bed-and-breakfast owner who realises that real relationships and romance are not like the Jane Austen-esque romantic notions she has been harbouring. Sales Wreckhouse Productions, Lady Hammond Entertainment firstname.lastname@example.org Screening May 20, 5:30pm, Arcades 3
Rock Paper Scissors Dir Yan Lanouette Turgeon French-language drama Rock Paper Scissors (Roche Papier Ciseaux) sees the fates of three men — a former mob boss, a penniless Italian immigrant and a doctor who has
been stripped of his medical licence — collide unexpectedly on the night of a lunar eclipse. Sales Filmoption International email@example.com Screening May 16, 5:30pm, Arcades 3
Three Night Stand Dir Pat Kiely This directorial debut feature by Canadian actor Kiely is a comedy about a married couple whose romantic weekend in a ski lodge is turned upside down when the husband’s ex-girlfriend, a woman with whom he is secretly obsessed, turns out to work there. Sales Myriad Pictures info@ myriadpictures.com Screening May 18, 5:30pm, Arcades 3
Violent Dir Andrew Huculiak Huculiak’s debut feature is a drama about a young woman and her final memories of the five people who loved her most, recalled while experiencing a catastrophic event.
SHORTS ATTENTION The third edition of Teleﬁlm Canada’s Not Short On Talent initiative will present ﬁve programmes at Cannes, at the market and at the Short Film Corner. Highlights include:
Josef & Aimee Ben Shirinian (Ontario) A mix of live action, miniature sets and CG animation is used to tell the story of two children hiding from the Nazis in occupied France. Produced by David Miller (Richie Mehta’s Siddharth).
The Underground Michelle Latimer (Ontario) An Iranian refugee experiences North American life by imagining himself as a cockroach. Aboriginal ﬁlm-maker Latimer’s shorts have played at Sundance and Berlin.
Imelda Martin Villeneuve (Quebec)
Sales Amazing Factory Productions firstname.lastname@example.org Screening May 18, 9:30am, Arcades 3
This short comedy is a loving tribute to the grandmother of ﬁlmmaker Villeneuve (Mars Et Avril), brother of director Denis Villeneuve.
You’re Sleeping Nicole
A Grand Canal
Dir Stéphane Lafleur The third feature from award-winning Québécois editor and director Laﬂeur (Continental, Un Film Sans Fusil), drama You’re Sleeping Nicole (Tu Dors Nicole) is about a young woman who is enjoying the first weeks of her year off when the summer takes an unexpected turn for her and her best friend. Sales Seville International nkampelmacher@ filmseville.com Screening May 19, 9:30pm, Riviera 4 (Left) Three Night Stand
Johnny Ma (British Columbia) Shot in China, this short, now being developed as a feature by ﬁlmmaker Ma, is the story of a boat captain trying to collect a debt to save his ﬂeet, as remembered by his 10-year-old son.
Controversies Ryan McKenna (Manitoba) A black-and-white documentary that mixes archival audio from the Action Line talk show — a Canadian cultural phenomena in the 1980s — with footage of people listening to the eccentric callers. Not Short On Talent screenings, Palais F, May 18-20 (11:30am) and May 20-21 (1:30pm)
May 2014 Canada Special 5
In profIle hot talent
at the top of their game Canada’s hottest directing, writing and producing talents talk to John Hazelton about their next projects
PhiliPPe FalaRdeau The success of his Oscar-nominated, multiple Genie-winning 2012 drama Monsieur Lazhar opened a world of opportunity for Philippe Falardeau. But the Quebec-based writerdirector was careful about how he explored that world. “People kept saying to me, ‘Doors must be wide open to you now,’” Falardeau recalls. “And I kept saying, ‘Yes, some doors are open but you have to look at the building — am I interested in going into that building?’” Eventually it was Margaret Nagle’s screenplay The Good Lie that enticed Falardeau into directing his first film not based on his own script, his first English-language film and his first US film. The story of a Sudanese refugee taken in by a straight-talking US woman — played by Reese Witherspoon — “made perfect sense on a personal level”, says Falardeau, who
in the mid-1990s was a documentary cameraman covering the African civil war that produced the so-called Lost Boys of Sudan. “It brought back some very strong memories, some good and some bad.” Making the project — produced by Black Label Media for Alcon Entertainment, which will distribute in North America through its Warner Bros deal — exposed Falardeau to the US way of filmmaking, where directors rarely get final cut. “Knowing that,” he says, “you’ve got to put a little water in your wine before starting. I understood that it was not my personal project.” Falardeau is now back in Quebec preparing to shoot French-language political comedy Guibord Is Going To War (Guibord s’en-va-en-guerre). But he is open to the idea of making more English-language films in the US. “I’d be stupid not to look at the possibility of doing both,” he says. “I’m still reading scripts and I’d like to make another film in the US. I enjoyed the process and I know what to expect now so I think I’ll come even more prepared next time.” (Left) Monsieur Lazhar
FeliZe FRaPPieR Producer Félize Frappier has had an unusual career path. Her earliest credits were as an electrician on two films produced by her father, renowned Canadian film-maker Roger Frappier. “I started as an electrician, because when I was younger I wanted to be a director of photography,” explains the still youthful Frappier, who, like her father, is based at Montreal’s Max Films. While making short films at university, she says, “I discovered I was a fish in the water as a producer. The thing I liked doing best was organising everything. From that point on it was clear that I wanted to produce.” A stint in international sales honed her taste for story- and director-driven projects and her first credit as a producer came on writer-director Guy Edoin’s 2011 drama Wetlands (Marécages). Now Frappier comes to Cannes to seek out, under the Cinéfondation’s L’Atelier programme, co-production partners and a sales company for Edoin’s Ville-Marie, a story about four individuals — a French actress, her son, an ambulance technician and a kind-hearted nurse — whose lives collide at Montreal’s Ville-Marie hospital. The relationship with Edoin is one “I really hope I can continue,” says Frappier. “He’s a remarkable director and scriptwriter. He’s able to create strong characters and he has his own personal way of shooting.” Frappier also has other projects in the works. With writer-director Myriam Verrault she is starting to assemble the financing for Kuessipan (working title), an adaptation of the coming-of-age novel set on an Innu First Nation reserve. And with writer-director Mathieu Denis, she is in post on Corbo, set in Quebec during the social upheavals of the 1960s. At Cannes, Frappier will also be mentoring young Quebecois producers attending the festival for the first time through a programme organised by the Canadian province’s Société De Développement Des Entreprises Culturelles.
6 Canada Special May 2014
Daniel Radcliffe, Zoe Kazan and director Michael Dowse on the set of The F Word
When Elan Mastai won the adapted screenplay prize at March’s Canadian Screen Awards, it was the payoff not just for years of work on the script that won him the award, romantic comedy The F Word, but also for a decade’s worth of work on less-celebrated projects. Former festival programmer Mastai says that when he started trying to write professionally, “I made a deal with myself — for five years I was going to take any opportunity that came my way and take on projects that would allow me to work on what I felt were my weaknesses as a writer.” The deal resulted in credits on a string of small genre films and enough writing improvement that an early draft of The F Word — about two platonic friends who might be the loves of each other’s lives — landed on Hollywood’s 2008 Black List of the best unproduced screenplays. As the project went through various Canadian and Hollywood financing scenarios, Mastai worked on the script every couple of years, “and it kept taking big steps forward”. Things finally clicked when Michael Dowse came on board as director and eOne Films as backer and distributor and The F Word, with Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan starring, is now set for release in Canada and the US (where it will be re-titled What If) in August. Among Mastai’s scripts in development are So Into You, for director Alan Ball and Paramount; The Greatest Gift, for Will Smith, Jackie Chan and Sony; and Too Close To Call, a half-hour US comedy that will be the screenwriter’s first foray into television. Film-making sensibilities might be different in Canada and the US, Mastai says, but “if you have the right project and the right collaborators you can put together pretty amazing movies here. I feel it’s the right idea both creatively and from a career perspective to keep a foot in both for as long as I can.”
Shannon MaSteRS What pleased Shannon Masters most about her recent Canadian Screen Award for best original screenplay was “the fact that I won an award for a screenwriter, it wasn’t a specific aboriginal award”. While her winning — and first produced — script for Empire Of Dirt centres on three generations of First Nation women, Masters has ambitions that go beyond only telling more stories about Canada’s indigenous peoples. Empire Of Dirt was sparked by Masters’ admiration for Jennifer Podemski, the actor-producer for whose production company Masters once worked. Podemski also produced and acted in the film. When they took the project to Tribeca’s All Access programme, the filmmakers found that the idea of indigenous stories received, in Masters’ words, “a very lukewarm reception”. As a result, she says, “After Tribeca we put our heads together and thought we don’t want to make a film that’s just indigenous or just for indigenous people; we want to make a film about women who happen to be indigenous.” The acclaim that Empire Of Dirt has earned — it received four other Canadian Screen Award nominations and last year won Toronto International Film Festival’s best Canadian feature film special jury citation — should help Masters further her writing ambitions. In features, she has dramatic comedy Jenny Two Bears in the works as well as comedic family tale Bannock And Bratwurst. But her focus, she says, is turning to television. She has just finished writing the pilot of Fragmented, a serialised hour-long drama series, which “is not culturally specific, it’s more of a genre piece, kind of into sci-fi, which is really outside my square and quite terrifying”.
Empire Of Dirt
» May 2014 Canada Special 7
In profile hot talent
I’ll Follow You Down
Richie Mehta Though he was born and trained in Canada, writerdirector Richie Mehta made his first two features — festival prize-winner Amal and last year’s Siddharth — in India, his family’s country of origin. After film school, Mehta explains, “the India stuff kind of sideswiped me, in terms of themes and ideas that I was thinking about as I was transitioning from my twenties to my thirties.” It was only after completing those two projects that Mehta (no relation to fellow Canadian director Deepa Mehta) found time to return to his first ever script and adopt a more American approach to film-making with I’ll Follow You Down, a US-set, sci-fi infused story about the disappearance of a scientist and the strange discovery made years later by his son and wife (played by Haley Joel Osment and Gillian Anderson).
Andre Rouleau Since he started Caramel Films five years ago, André Rouleau has produced around 20 features, among them French Canadian box-office hit Starbuck, its US remake Delivery Man and Englishlanguage romantic comedy The F Word, a multiple nominee at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards. The Montreal-based producer puts his impressive track record down to hard work and good fortune. “I started Caramel actively when I left Remstar,” says Rouleau, the former vice-president of production at Remstar Production. “And since then we’ve been really aggressive and very active and, I would say, lucky. We have a lucky situation in Montreal because we’re right in the middle between Europe and Los Angeles, where the really big business is.” Clearly not one to rest on his laurels, Rouleau is working on a slate of new projects, some of which are likely to be the subjects of Cannes announcements. Rouleau says “one of the biggest stars in Starbuck
8 Canada Special May 2014
Now, with the film complete and set for release in Canada and the US in June, Mehta is looking to combine his divergent film-making experiences as he prepares to shoot two original scripts in Delhi. One, based on the Delhi bus rape incident of 2012, will have an entirely Indian cast. The other will have a mixed cast and offer, says Mehta, “a bit more of a David Lean-esque look at India and a thematic continuation of what I started in Siddharth.” Both projects should be made easier to stage by the co-production treaty signed early this year by Canada and India. The treaty, says Mehta “opens everything up” for Canadian film-makers wanting to work in India and for Indian film-makers considering projects in Canada, where there is a large South Asian community. “It’s actually life changing,” Mehta enthuses. “I’ve been waiting for this for years and it allows me a certain type of freedom in terms of casting, crew, allocation of resources. I don’t have to sneak around anymore.”
France” has signed on for an adaptation of The Holy Land (Les Terres Saintes), the humorous French novel by Amanda Sthers about a Jewish family that decides to raise pigs in Israel. A US star, meanwhile, is working with Rouleau on Marita, the true story of Fidel Castro’s mistress, which will be shot in the US. Set to be introduced at the festival is Wait Till Helen Comes, a screen version of the Mary Downing Hahn children’s ghost story. And currently in production is Ballerina, an animated feature that Caramel is co-producing with France’s Quad (Intouchables). “This is only the beginning,” says Rouleau of his company’s first animated project, “because I believe there’s a huge market out there for well done animated films.” If there is any reduction in Rouleau’s workload it will come, he says, as a result of selectivity rather than diminished drive. “Now that I’m getting old I want to concentrate on films that mean something,” says the prolific Québécois. “When we started we needed to make a living but now that we’re a little bit more successful we’ve decided to focus on projects that really mean something and can s be released worldwide.” n
atoM eGoYan InterVIeW
it was from the fertile grounds of the Canadian industry that he first emerged onto the international stage with 1994’s multiple Genie winner Exotica. A few years later he received two Oscar nominations and won the Cannes special jury prize for the subtly tragic The Sweet Hereafter and since then his award-winning features have included Felicia’s Journey, Ararat, Adoration and Chloe, which in 2010 became his biggest commercial success to date.
Finding hope Atom Egoyan tells John Hazelton about the liberating experience of making The Captive, which has its world premiere in Cannes Competition
hough best known as a director and writer of feature films, Atom Egoyan has more than one string to his bow. Or, as he puts it himself, “I do a lot of other things which occupy my creative space.” Over recent years those things have included making TV films, documentaries and music programmes, directing theatre and opera productions and creating video installations, like the piece Egoyan produced for last year’s Benjamin Britten centenary celebrations staged by UK arts body Aldeburgh
Music. So it took a particular alignment of the stars — the kind in the sky rather than on screen — to bring Egoyan back to feature film making for The Captive,, the sixth film of his career selected for the Cannes Competition line-up. Born in Egypt to Armenian parents, Egoyan and family moved to Canada at an early age and
The first draft of The Captive was written a number of years ago but Egoyan found himself wrestling with the story of an abducted girl and the years-long efforts of her father (played in the film by Ryan Reynolds), a team of detectives and the girl herself to unravel the mystery of her disappearance and free her from captivity. “The draft I had was just so bleak,” Egoyan recalls of his early work on the project. “I needed to find some way of telling the story that could communicate some degree of hope.” Egoyan found what he needed by collaborating on the script with David Fraser, an old university friend who has written and produced several TV movies and acted as a story consultant on Ararat. Fraser, says Egoyan, “was able to introduce another tone”. In addition to making a breakthrough on the script, Egoyan got a jolt of inspiration from working with actors Mireille Enos and Kevin Durand on Devil’s Knot, his 2013 crime drama about the real-life murders of three young children. “These are actors I wasn’t aware of,” says Egoyan of Enos and Durand, who together with Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson and Alexia Fast round out the cast of The Captive. “Suddenly seeing them at play — and I use that expression very carefully, because they were at play in Devil’s Knot — just got me excited.” Egoyan’s plan to produce as well as co-write and direct The Captive at first seemed like a reason for hesitation, given the additional work involved. But he realised that producing and directing, as he had done on most of his films before The Sweet Hereafter, Hereafter would give him more freedom. “You forget how liberating that is,” he says. “It’s a lot of responsibility but once you’re into the project you feel that you have complete control »
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On the set of Chloe, with Amanda Seyfried
and you don’t have to spend time explaining yourself while you’re in production.” The end result of the process is a film that, says its multi-hyphenate guiding light, “is not by any means a straight-ahead thriller and it’s not linear in a conventional way. But if you were to categorise it, it would fall into that genre.” Swedish crime novel fan Fraser, Egoyan says, “has often told me my scripts edge on being thrillers if I took them that other step. So with this one I said, ‘Why don’t we take this other step that you’ve been talking about for the past 30 years.’”
the art of business Egoyan says he still takes immense satisfaction from film-making. “It’s such a privilege to be working with these craftspeople and these extraordinary actors and being able to do what I love best, which is to harness performance,” he enthuses. “I love the alchemy that happens between a camera and a performance and then finding the right way to fit that into a story.” He recognises, however, that making films at a certain level is a business as well as an art. Film-makers, argues Egoyan, “will always use what means they have to tell the stories they need to tell. It’s just very important to, of course, know what the story is, but then to make this crucial decision as to how you want to tell it. If it’s something that’s going to need millions of dollars, then concessions will be made. It’s naive to wander into a multimillion dollar project and not think that certain people, certain ideas have to be taken seriously.” That reality, Egoyan suggests, is what makes Canada’s systems that back filmmaking — under which, for example, The Captive had financial support from Telefilm Canada through the Canada Feature Film Fund — important. “I’ve never taken those systems for granted,” Egoyan asserts. “They remain very important not only for filmmakers at the beginning of their careers but also for more established film-makers who are wishing to experiment and use other types of language.” Both Egoyan and David Cronenberg, says the former, “couldn’t have had the careers we’ve had without those systems. We’re indebted to these systems. We’re also indebted to protecting and preserving those systems so they are in s place for this next generation.” n
InterVIeW DaVID CronenBerG
off the map David Cronenberg talks to John Hazelton about Cannes competitor Maps To The Stars, his satire about ‘ambition and desperation and identity’
ven David Cronenberg has a hard time describing Maps To The Stars, his Cannes Competition entry, written by Bruce Wagner, about a rich Hollywood family and the celebrityobsessed world it inhabits. “I have to wait to see how audiences react to it to really know what it is,” says Cronenberg of the film, which has Julianne Moore playing a secondgeneration actress, Robert Pattinson an ambitious limo driver and John Cusack a bestselling self-help author. “Bruce is known as a satirist of Hollywood and Los Angeles, but he’s more than that. It’s satire but it’s also very realistic and emotional and intellectual. And it’s also very funny, in a dark way.” What Maps is not, says Cronenberg, is a film about film-making. “The story didn’t have to be about Hollywood really, it could’ve taken place in the automotive industry. It’s really about ambition and desperation and identity.” Maps is also, its director adds, “very accessible. The way into this film is much easier than it was with something like Cosmopolis [Cronenberg’s Cannes 2012 Palme d’Or contender].” Perhaps it is appropriate that Maps To The Stars is difficult to categorise, because Toronto-born Cronenberg, Canada’s most internationally acclaimed film-maker, has never been easy to pin down himself. Having made his name in the 1970s with Canadian horror outings such as Rabid and The Brood, he moved on in the 1980s to intelligent, but bigger and often US-backed genre films including Videodrome, The Dead Zone and the remake of The Fly. Fly Since then, a fascinating series of psychologically shaded dramas and thrillers has included Cannes special jury prize winner Crash, Berlin Silver
Bear winner eXistenZ, Spider, A History Of Violence and A Dangerous Method. Cronenberg met US writer Wagner in the early 1990s, soon after the publication of the latter’s satirical novel about Hollywood, Force Majeure, and he executive produced I’m Losing You, Wagner’s 1998 debut as a feature writerdirector. Other attempts by the two to work together came to nothing, though, and it has taken the best part of a decade to get Wagner’s original screenplay for Maps onto the screen. Part of the problem was finding a co-production structure that would allow the Canadianbacked project to have an American screenwriter and do some shooting — albeit only five days’ worth — in the US.
Iconic los angeles Though Cronenberg films have often used Canadian locations to double for US and European settings, in this case shooting in the actual settings was a necessity, Cronenberg insists. The Los Angeles-set action in Maps, he says, takes in “all the iconic high spots — Hollywood Boulevard, the Hollywood sign, Chateau Marmont, Rodeo Drive. I felt we absolutely had to have those places. I knew the film wouldn’t work unless we could convincingly portray Los Angeles.” In the end, the project was structured as a Canada-Germany co-production, with the German version of the co-production treaty allowing an American screenwriter and permitting what, surprisingly, was Cronenberg’s first ever US shoot. With Maps To The Stars completed, Cronenberg is now looking forward to the September publication (by Scribner in the US) of his first novel, Consumed, about two journalists whose entanglement in a French philosopher’s death leads them into a global conspiracy. Several producers have suggested the novel would make a good film, Cronenberg reports, “and that has thrown me a bit, because I definitely
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wasn’t writing it to be a movie. So I don’t know if I really want to adapt it.” In fact, Cronenberg says he is in no hurry to find a new film project. “I don’t feel that I have to make a film just to make a film,” he says. “And I don’t need to do it for the money. So I can afford to wait or generate it myself. I’m pathetically open and available.”
‘We can do things nobody else can do, because of that half-North American, half-European sensibility we have’ david cronenberg
the european inﬂuence Having secured his own measure of creative freedom over a 40-year career, Cronenberg can offer a valuable perspective on the careers of younger Canadian film-makers — exemplified by Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) and JeanMarc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) — who are being courted by Hollywood. “In some ways it’s creatively a dangerous thing, that ﬂirtation with Hollywood,” Cronenberg argues. “It has destroyed quite a few European film-makers. “After you get used to making movies for $200m,” he goes on, “it’s really hard to make a movie for $13m [the budget of Maps To The Stars]. You have to have the mindset for that, and you might lose that mindset and never be able to get it back “I won’t mention names, but recently someone came to me for a project after a film-maker who’s had a huge success wanted to make it for $60m or $70m and these people were thinking more like $14m or $15m. And that director could not realign himself to accept that kind of budget. It was just unthinkable.” Rather than going mega-budget, says Cronenberg, Canadian film-makers should exploit their “wonderfully positioned situation. I feel that I’ve always been halfway between Hollywood and Europe, geographically but also artistically. Influenced by Hollywood films, as everyone has been, but also by European film-making. “And that’s a great place for us to be. It’s a very privileged position, and the more we take advantage of it the better off we are. If Jean-Marc and Denis are careful and they’re not too seduced by Hollywood and they keep the special sensibility which they both have, that’s a continuation of what I and Atom Egoyan have done and I think it’s the way for us. “I don’t think we should be making $200m Hollywood films. There are a lot of other people that can do that. But we can do some things nobody else can do, just because of that half-North American, s half-European sensibility we have.” n
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Interview Carolle Brabant
The standard bearer Close consultation and innovative measures of success helped Telefilm’s Carolle Brabant give production companies the flexibility they needed — and it’s time the industry bragged about it. By John Hazelton
aving joined the organisation as an auditor back in 1990, Carolle Brabant knows the workings of Telefilm Canada better than most. And over the past four years, as executive director of the federal cultural agency, she has been able to put that knowledge to use implementing plans designed to help Telefilm fulfil its mandate to foster and promote Canada’s audio-visual industry. While Telefilm’s core funding role has remained constant, the way the agency administers the Canada Feature Film Fund — which, among many other films, helped to finance Cannes Competition entries The Captive, Maps To The Stars and Mommy — has evolved as a result of consultation with the Canadian industry that Brabant, a chartered accountant by training, instigated soon after her appointment. “We’ve changed our programmes to make them more flexible,” Brabant explains, “to give more autonomy to production companies and to better measure the end results. In this day and age, flexibility is very important to allow for these companies to seize the many opportunities that are out there.”
Talent Fund One new Telefilm funding scheme launched under Brabant’s watch has been the Talent Fund, in which private donations are funnelled directly into supporting Canadian film production and talent. Though the amounts raised have not yet been revealed, Brabant reports that a group of eight influential Canadians has been assembled for the venture. “One of the goals,” she says, “was to get some of the high-profile business men and women in Canada engaged with the audio-visual industry. If you’re financially participating in something, you’re going to be engaged with that activity.” Telefilm has also, under Brabant, launched its Micro-budget Production Program, which targets emerging Canadian talents, supporting them in the
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The tool, says Brabant, is “giving a better picture of the success of our films. When you’re producing independent films, you need to take into consideration that the audience might not want to see the film on the big screen but they still want to see the film. The box-office measurement was not taking that into account.” The index is particularly useful, Brabant asserts, because “we want to see that production companies as well as film-makers are conscious of the audience they’re trying to attract.” And since the index was launched, she adds, the idea behind it “has caught the interest of many other countries that are facing the same challenges.”
‘We talk more about the things that are not working than about the things that are working. That’s something I wanted to change’ Carolle Brabant, Telefilm Canada
production and promotion of their first feature-length films. For 2013-14, the programme’s main component is supporting between eight and 10 projects and its Aboriginal component up to three projects, with the support coming in the form of a nonrepayable financial contribution of up to $109,000 (c$120,000) per project. Another initiative that Brabant believes will help the industry is Telefilm’s Success Index, a tool that measures a film’s success based not just on box office but on a series of weighted attributes. Commercial attributes (Canadian box office, other domestic sales and international sales) count for 60% of the total measure, cultural attributes (awards and festival selection and prizes) for 30% and industrial attributes (the ratio of private to public funding in Telefilm-supported productions) for 10%.
Better promotion of the Canadian industry is the aim of a package of initiatives — branded as ‘Eye on Canada,’ or ‘Vue sur le Canada’ in French — that Brabant, together with the heads of the Canada Media Fund (CMF) and the Canadian Media Production Association (CMPA) unveiled at last summer’s Banff World Media Festival. The project has been designed to foster pride in Canadian productions, promote filming locations and build public awareness of the contribution the audio-visual sector makes to the Canadian economy. The idea in this case is to compensate for what Brabant suggests is Canadians’ natural propensity for modesty. “We’re not very good at bragging about the good things that we’re doing,” the Telefilm leader concedes. “We say, ‘Sorry,’ often and we talk more about the things that are not working than about the things that are working. That’s something I wanted to change.” So now Brabant — who was last year reappointed as Telefilm’s executive director through to 2016 — is teaming with her CMF and CMPA counterparts and, as she puts it, “working with the industry to start bragging about how great s Canada is in the audio-visual sector”. n