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Co-productions take Canadian Cinema further: a new co-production treaty between Ireland and Canada is helping both countries tell stories that reach bigger audience.

On February 4, three weeks before this year's Oscars, Canada and Ireland signed a new coproduction treaty, updated from the previous one from 1989. The timing couldn't have been better. Irish and Canadian co-producers were behind of two of the Best Picture nominees.

Brooklyn, also produced in partnership with the U.K., was based on the novel by Irish writer Colm Toibin, while Room was adapted by Irish-Canadian Emma O'Donaghue from her novel. Not only were they smart women-centered literary films, they were the lowest-budgeted films in the eight-picture race and were made through co-production treaties.

Such films have been a cornerstone of Canadian film policy for decades, an attempt to find markets and financing for Canadian film outside of the American system.

"Coproduction is in our DNA," says Carolle Brabant, Telefilm Canada's executive director.

With 54 international production treaties for film and television, Canada is rivalled only by France. Each year, collaborations between Canadian and foreign producers, financially backed by both governments, result in 20 or more theatrical films. These international co-productions are distinct from Canadian-American co-ventures, which may benefit from tax credits and Cancon broadcast license fees, but not direct public funding.

In the last four or five years, Telefilm has been working to update and simplify the old audio-visual treaties, some of which, says Brabant, were fifty pages long and barely mentioned television. The new treaties are brief umbrella agreements, with the details left to the addendums.

Though negotiations for the revised Irish treaty started well before the critical successes of Brooklyn and Room "the success of those films are certainly important for the new films that are coming. This year is already beginning to look very good."

Of the five Irish features in TIFF's lineup this year, two are co-productions set in Canada. Maudie, starring Sally Hopkins and Ethan Hawke in a biopic about Nova Scotia folk artist, Maude Lewis, and Unless, adapted from the 2002 novel by the late Carole Shields, starring Catherine Keener as a writer whose college-aged daughter (Hannah Gross) drops out of university to live on the streets, where she has apparently become mute.

Another collaboration, though not ready for TIFF, is the animated pic The Breadwinner, which Canadian author Deborah Ellis has adapted for the screen from her best-selling novel about an Afghan girl who must disguise herself as a boy to earn money to feed her family. The Canada-Ireland-Luxembourg production will be made in Ireland, with Angelina Jolie as an exec producer.

The key to successful co-productions, says Brabant, is that the producers find the right collaborative marriage, and that the films are story-driven.

"You don't do co-productions for the sake of doing co-productions," says Brabant, "You do it because you have a story to tell that's of interest to both countries and markets."

Historically, Ireland is Canada's fifth favorite co-production partner, behind the United Kingdom, France, Germany and

Australia, but with the current film roster, and the television program, Vikings, the relationship is on the ascendant.

"Our relationship with Canada creatively has been very strong in recent years," says Irish Film Board's chief executive, James Hickey. "It's very much welcome from our point of view."

"Because we're a small market ourselves, we have to go out and engage with the world, to work with countries like Canada [in terms of] funding and [reaching] audiences."

Though Ireland has only a handful of coproduction treaties with other countries, it belongs to Eurimages, which maintains a film fund supporting co-productions for the 37 member states of the European Council. Brabant says that Eurimages reflects Canada's approach to international collaboration, and Canada hopes for confirmation of its application for acceptance into the organization in early 2017.

Since the United Kingdom has opted out of the fund in 1996, that would leave Canada and Ireland as the two English-speaking nations in the group, which could only strengthen the Canadian and Irish bond.

Canada at TIFF by the Numbers

18% of films submitted to TIFF 2016 are Canadian

38 of films playing at TIFF are Canadian features

29 of Canadian features at TIFF are making their World Premiere

38 of TIFF selections are Canadian shorts (including co-productions)
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Title Annotation:SIGNING TREATIES
Author:Lacey, Liam
Publication:Variety
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 6, 2016
Words:692
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