Whistler while you work: ShowCanada travels west for 2014 conference


The trials and joys of running a regional conference like ShowCanada, which affords movie theatre personnel the opportunity to network with one another as well as liaise directly with distributors and other industry workers, are often one and the same, says executive director Nuria Bronfman. “One of the good things and one of the challenges of organizing [ShowCanada] every year is it’s very different. It’s not formulaic.”

This year’s event will take place May 28-30 in Whistler, British Columbia, which Bronfman calls “one of the most beautiful places on Earth.” Last year, St. John’s, Newfoundland, hosted the hundreds of ShowCanada attendees. The location of the conference changes each year, because, as Bronfman explains, “We try to go to as many places in Canada as we can. There are several reasons for that. First of all, we want to make sure the independent exhibitors who are in the different regions are able to attend a show that’s close to them. We try to do east, west, middle [of the country] if we can.” She continues, “The other reason is that our delegates love to discover different parts of Canada.”

Organizers map out their locations roughly five years in advance. Thus, next year’s conference will take place in Quebec City, the 2017 event will be held in Banff, and participants of the 2018 show will find themselves in Prince Edward Island, Halifax or Victoria.

But what of 2016? Delegates will have to wait, although not for long, to find out. “2016 is a bit of a departure for us, but I’m going to announce it at ShowCanada” this year, Bronfman teases.

In addition to the changeable nature of their host resorts, ShowCanada organizers contend with the needs of the various studios and “what they want to do” for their programming. This year, collaborations were particularly fruitful. Bronfman enthuses, “I’m very proud to say we have participation from all the studios this year, which is amazing. We’re going to have either feature films or product reels from not only all the studios but from all our major distributors in Canada as well.”

Guests of the conference will want to be fully alert when attending these seminars and demonstrations, which will show them “what kind of products are coming down the pipe, how they can get their community and their audiences excited about attending films.” To get participants’ blood pumping, ShowCanada offers a morning exercise class sponsored by the organization Pioneering Women, a group that supports women in Canada’s Motion Picture Industry. But, of course, this year’s round of classes will look slightly different from the inaugural batch held last year.

“Last year, the trainer was a little bit rough on the delegates,” Bronfman laughs. “So this year, to encourage as many people to come as we can, we’re actually going to do yoga in the morning. It’s a nice, gentle way to start the day.”

Program modifications of this sort are often informed by answers to the survey organizers send their delegates “literally the day after we get back” from ShowCanada each year. Attendee feedback “drives our programming, definitely. And it helps us to tweak the logistics, the food offerings,” and other variables “that come with conference planning.”
Yet for all the ways in which each new ShowCanada differs from its predecessor, there are some things that remain the same. “We always have the State of the Industry [address]” at the beginning of the conference, says Bronfman. “We start off with a few comments from our sister organization, NATO. And [NATO president] John Fithian is very kind to come up and address our delegates. We love to hear him talk. We rank his presentation as one of the top [presentations] of the convention.”

Following remarks from Fithian, conference emphasis shifts to local matters with the “State of the Industry from the Canadian Perspective.” This speech addresses “what’s been happening in Canada, what films did we overperform on and what films did we underperform on. What issues are we, as an industry, facing in the upcoming year.” There are certain concerns, such as “menu labeling, accessibility [and] taxes,” Bronfman feels it’s important to discuss, because they are necessary issues “for exhibition and distribution, however small or big you are, to know and be au courant on.”

Continuing with this notion of timeliness, “we’re also going to delve a little deeper into what’s happening in Quebec, at the Quebec box office.” Although the latter has “traditionally been very successful…over the last year it has become less so.”

A final highlight addresses the similarly current dilemmas posed by digital marketing. “With so much noise out there in terms of digital marketing and with so much of our target market online all the time, how do we speak directly to our customer? How do you translate that into bums in seats?”

Bronfman’s question addresses that which ShowCanada and its many educational offerings seek to answer. The trade show, too, has an educational component, peopled with vendors who “can speak to the next generation of technology they want to bring into the marketplace”—along with local artisans offering souvenirs to take home. But once delegates have gleaned all they can from the conference, Bronfman hopes they take advantage of everything Whistler has to offer.

“If you can come early or stay late, that would be amazing,” says Bronfman. “We’re really excited to showcase that part of Canada, not only to the Canadians that have been there but to our American friends and partners [who make up roughly 20 percent of conference attendees]. We try to do this in locations that people will be really happy and excited to travel to."