Canadians Stand Out in Movie Making Marketplace

Screening thirty-one new films every two hours in and around sunny Santa Monica, CA, the American Film Market is an important, bustling marketplace for buyers and sellers worldwide, from blockbusters to art films. It’s also exceedingly posh, with suave, good-looking people dressed in black, sitting beside the Pacific Ocean, speaking exotic languages, sipping coffee and dinning on homemade empanadas, fresh from the grill.

There are also panel discussions, with fluffy scones, on how to pitch an idea, the legalities of copyrights and the importance and etiquette of having or being a writer on set.

This last amusing discussion, chaired by Howard Rodman, screenwriter and co-chair of the Writer’s Guild, was particularly enlightening, warning writers that if they are lucky enough to find themselves on set, to avoid the temptation to coach the actors even if they get the lines wrong and to watch out below for the unexpected electricity cable, tripping over which could bring down the entire set.

In light of the recent, ongoing, writer’s strike, the panel put on a brave face, firing ahead as if all were normal within the realm of the lofty, fanciful world of film making.

Back down to Earth, my mission, to explore the Canadian side of our northern border, opened doors to Alberta, Quebec, and, following the French language, to Louisiana and Cannes.

I was impressed with the Canadian reps I met, from their sophisticated demeanor to their obvious pride in what their country, and landscape, had to offer filmmakers.

Debbie Harkson, Marketing Specialist with Alberta Film, reminded me that Brokeback Mountain had been filmed in Alberta’s 600 sq. miles of scenery.

Recently, films shot in Alberta picked up 36 Emmy’s, including Broken Trail, best mini, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, best made for TV movie, and The Ron Clarke Story, shot in Calgary. I learned of Lionsgate’s recent two year production pilot program with the city of Edmonton in which the city itself has an equity stake.

The show, Fear Itself, a new horror anthology series, begins production in December. Both sides hope this is just a beginning to many future projects.

From the Quebec City Film and TV Commission, I learned that Canada not only offers tax incentives to prospective directors but also provides film-friendly training for small towns, teaching them how best to service a crew.

I noticed that all of the reps from Quebec also spoke French and provided literature in French.

The only French speaking state in the US is Louisiana, my home state. But the Louisiana stand did not promote the French language, instead Louisiana offered a new, air-conditioned (sealed off from mosquitoes), state of the art sound studio in Alexandria, in addition to tax incentives.

Nearby I spoke with Jerome Paillard, Executive Director of the Marche du Film, Cannes. I asked him about the difference between French films in France and French films in Canada.

He told me that Canadians, being surrounded by native English speakers, value their own language more than filmmakers in France, feeling the language’s strengths more acutely and its vulnerability.

“And what about women directors,” I couldn’t resist asking, having heard word that women make more films in France than in any other part of the world.

M. Paillard began by pointing out that in France women are more appreciated than in other countries but one side glance at my expression changed his tune. “Perhaps France makes more films, of all kinds,” he concluded, “even in English.”

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