Rule change for filmmakers raises issues about support for cultural industries

Some filmmakers are worried that Telefilm Canada's decision to only provide support to companies that have had at least one commercially successful film in the last five years will make it impossible for newcomers to enter the industry.

The new policy took effect on April 1, 2012 and limits eligibility for funding to, “production companies that have produced and theatrically released at least one Canadian fiction feature film (minimum 75 minutes) in the last five years.” This is in addition to the “success index” where considerable weight is given to box office receipts.

There are fears that, if all the funding is going to established filmmakers, it will make it difficult to develop new Canadian talent.

What the debate also makes clear is that Telefilm Canada's ability to support Canadian content is declining. In 2003 Telefilm Canada provided $213.8 million to support Canadian film, television and new media. In 2011, only $100.3 million was provided.

The cultural sector is a major source of employment in many communities. Like every country except the United States, movie making in Canada requires public funding.

A modern industrial strategy would provide a chance to look at the impact support for the cultural sector has on the economy as a whole. With a modern industrial strategy things like the long-term impact of funding policies would be considered.

Discussion of what a modern industrial strategy would look like for the cultural sector would provide a chance to look at non-financial barriers facing Canadian filmmakers and what can be done to remove them. This includes issues with film distribution that mean that for many Canadians it's easier to get sunburn in January than find a Canadian movie in a local theatre.