Tax cuts anger film community

Columns

Over the last couple of months, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have wreaked havoc in the Canadian film community, as the Canadian Film Centre, the National Screen Institute and the Institut National de L’image et Son have seen their operating budgets cut by 20% and rumors surrounding the ongoing viability of the New Media Fund and Canadian Television Fund continue to circulate.

The three schools have formally asked the Heritage Minister to reverse her decision, which came as a surprise since the department appeared to approve their work in a recent evaluation.

The industry was also surprised by speculation that the New Media Fund, which provides support for the creation and distribution of interactive digital media, was also on the chopping block at a time when this part of the industry is coming into its own with a wide variety of Canadians producers and artists working in this sector.

The press secretary commented that the fund was a “sunset program” created for a specific purpose at a specific period of time and will be reevaluated to see if it has met its mandate or not.

The Tory government confirmed plans to stop annual contributions of CA$300,000 to the A-V Preservation Trust, which ensures that copies of Canadian films and television shows are saved for historical purposes; CA$1.5 million to the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund; CA$2.5 million to the National Training Schools Program; CA$9 million to Trade Routes, which take Canadian cultural product around the world; and CA$4.7 million to PromArt, which promotes Canadian cultural product at home and around the world.

New Line Returns to Alliance
When Warner Bros. decided to take its mini-major New Line in-house, it looked like the longstanding contract between Alliance Films and New Line would come to an end. However, in an about-face, Warner has decided against releasing its product in Canada through its Canadian office and will keep its pipeline to Alliance at least until the end of 2009.

Multi-deal contracts were also announced between Alliance and U.S. companies Relativity Media, Grosvenor Park and Freestyle Releasing. Alliance did lose its output deal with Miramax not long after it was taken over by Goldman Sachs and received a CA$100 million cash injection from the Societe generale de finacement du Quebec, which shifted Alliance’s headquarters to Montreal.

These new deals will increase the number of films that Alliance releases annually, adding to deals already in place with Focus Features, The Weinstein Company, Overture Films and Remstar. This year, Alliance will be releasing around 69 movies in Canada and another two dozen in the U.K. and Spain.

Sherry Shakes Up Maple
Maple Pictures installed veteran releasing executive Jim Sherry as its new co-director to help land new output deals with Hollywood suppliers. Sherry was working as a consultant for the Toronto-based distributor for the last few months and he will officially replace Brad Pelman as co-president, working alongside Laurie May.

May and Pelman formed Maple in 2005 by acquiring Lionsgate’s former Canadian distribution arm. As part of the new agreement, Pelman becomes chief operating officer of Maple Pictures and head of the new distribution label Maple Films.

U.S. distributors typically acquire the North American rights to movies and then sublicense them in Canada via output deals with local partners. Beyond its Lionsgate slate, Maple has found recent success at the box office with pickups including The Forbidden Kingdom and Arclight’s The Bank Job.

Toronto Fest Honors Filmmakers
The ten-day Toronto International Film Festival‘s showcased 312 films from 64 countries. This year’s award winners are:

Cadillac People’s Choice Award: Slumdog Millionaire, directed by Danny Boyle
Award for Best Canadian Short Film: Block B by Chris Chong Chan Fui
City Award for the Best Canadian First Feature: Before Tomorrow by Marie-Helene Cousineau and Madelaine Piujuq
City of Toronto/CITY-TV Award for Best Canadian Feature Film: Lost Song by Rodrigue Jean
Diesel Discovery Award: Hunger by Steve McQueen
FIPRESCI Prize: Disgrace by Steve Jacobs

E-mail your Canadian news items to Adina Lebo at mptac.ca@ca.inter.net.