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Telefilm Canada: what Canadians love to hate most.

"Can we talk about Telefilm Canada?" was the innocent question. "No. Every time I'm quoted about Telefilm Canada, I get in trouble," said a distributor from Montreal. He then continued facetiously: "I promised myself to be embargoed for at least the next six months."

But then there are always a few people willing to talk, even without attribution, like the Vancouver producer at the Banff TV Festival who said: "I wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole." Or, from a Toronto distributor: "No one likes to deal with them." Said another producer/distributor at the Montreal Film Festival: "Telefilm Canada is the last place I would want to go."

Could this story be a big expose? "No, we know we have some problems," said a candid Telefilm Canada's Michel Montagne.

For 1990-91, Telefilm Canada, a federal government agency, has budgeted C$174.2 million for financing Canada's film and TV industry. Of these funds, C$145.1 million came from the federal government and C$23.2 million from returns on investments and loans. Some C$5.9 million were unused revenues from the previous year.

But, as indicated by a distributor in Toronto: "[Telefilm Canada] should be kept lean. Most of its financing should go toward production and not overhead."

Indeed, bureaucracy at Telefilm Canada seems to be everyone's nightmare. According to Stuart Grant, president of International Tele-Film, a 30-year-old distribution company in Toronto. Telefilm Canada "has very restrictive guidelines. But, it's easier to get money if the programs are in French. I don't want anything to do with them," he said, pointing out that instead, "I find that the Ontario Film Development Corporation is always very helpful, and more flexible."

"Yes, guidelines have changed throughout the years," said Paragon's Isme Bennie, but, overall, she finds Telefilm Canada "very helpful to exporters," especially its advertising matching fund program."

Fortunately, for some Canadians, Telefilm Canada is not the only game in town to get program financing. Considerable funds are also available through the National Film Board, TV Ontario, Access Alberta and The Knowledge Network, in addition to the aforementioned OFDC. Nevertheless, Telefilm Canada seems to be getting all the ire.

Telefilm Canada's biggest critic could be City-TV's Moses Znaimer. "They act like a studio," commented Znaimer, who also charged that most of its funds go to CTV ("$20 to $30 million a year") and to the CBC ("at least $50 million a year").

According to Znaimer, Telefilm Canada's executive director, Pierre DesRoches, a former CBCer, was appointed to his post to "secretly finance the CBC."

Ironstar's Derek McGillivray concurred that Telefilm Canada now "wants creative control," but also praised it for having "launched an industry," and given a "significant contribution."

Agreed Isme Bennie: "Today, in Canada, it is very hard to put program financing in place without Telefilm Canada."

But, then it is also generally retorted: "The problem is that, in the past, Telefilm Canada financed too many producers, even the incompetent ones. Now that we feel the financial squeeze, there is not enough money for all, including projects with merit."

It has been reported that, so far this year, Telefilm Canada has examined 4,347 new projects.

According to official reports, so far, 62 per cent of Telefilm's funding went to English-language productions, while 38 per cent went to French-language projects.

Telefilm Canada can provide Canadian producers with some "development" funds, but most of its financing is allocated to loans for the production of programs that have been pre-sold to broadcasters or international distributors.

Last year, the agency invested 79 per cent of its funds in 326 productions filmed in Montreal and Toronto, and 21 per cent in 111 projects elsewhere in the country.

However, the recession has affected Telefilm Canada's investment recoupment. Plus, in constant dollars, the total value of Telefilm's funds is going down, further inflaming the "monster" that Telefilm has created.
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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:company profile
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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