Hey Film and Television Friends, Are You Affected By The New CTF Rulings?
Here’s a great form letter I got today that does a very good job of detailing exactly why the CTF announcement should have everyone working in film and television extremely nervous. I’m trying to find the original author for attribution, although since it’s a “pass it on”, I’m sure they won’t mind my re-post. I left the content as-is, but did some re-formatting. Full post is after the jump, along with my $0.02 at the end.
Hey Film and Television Friends, Are You Affected By The New CTF Rulings?
Betcha the Answer’s YES.
The Harper Government’s recent CTF ruling (now known as the CMF) will allow broadcasters to access the 135 million dollar fund traditionally reserved for independent production in Canada. An analogy: it’s like giving all the money from the record companies to the radio stations and saying, “here, now you can make your own musicâ€¦ and pocket the savings”.
This change will most likely not be overruled because the Harper government has also reduced the 21-member board to just 7 people, 5 of which are broadcasters (as one guild’s press release says… “It’s like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse…”)
The only lifeline for independent production is this language straight from the press release: “….broadcaster in-house production will be allowed. This will be phased in gradually and over time to find the right mix…”. Perhaps “the right mix” is in our favour, but with the board voting 5 to 2, most likely it’s not..
If you’re in the film and television industry (and if you got this email, most likely you are), the question is…
am I Affected by the New CTF Ruling?
If you are a PRODUCTION HOUSE, POST-PRODUCTION HOUSE or a PRODUCER of DOCUMENTARY, DRAMA or COMEDY:
95% of you lost your jobs on Monday.
If you think that broadcasters aren’t going to fire up production and post wings asap, you’re wrong. Broadcasters, like any business, are all about the Benjamins. These broadcasters, most of which are in trouble right now, will now be allowed to suck up a production budget’s overhead, producer fees and all related-party transaction fees. This amounts to millions upon millions of extra dollars.. ie. much (much!) cheaper than independent production. Furthermore, episodes will be cheaper because they will all be amortized in-house as back-to- back series go into production cycles.
Essentially: yesterday a STUDIO SYSTEM for TELEVISION was created in Canada.
If you are an above-the-line creative (SHOW CREATORS, WRITERS, DIRECTORS):
70% of you lost your jobs Monday.
You will now have to compete for jobs at these broadcasters/studios who already have an abundance of union employees on salary. Shows will be amortized (grouped and shot together) and therefore less creative people will be needed.
But if you do have a documentary or a show idea that you’re lucky enough to get picked up, you will be forced to give up all rights outright for little to no money, you will have no creative control, you will have a boss, and you will work set hours for most-likely scale pay. You will be an employee. These will now be the top-of-the- industry jobs.
To get these jobs (now considered plum), you will have to move / commute to Toronto,Montreal or Vancouver where 95% of production will take place.
If you are a technician (PRODUCTION or POST PRODUCTION, this includes EVERY DEPARTMENT: editors, costume designers, camera friends, every department):
70% of you lost your jobs Monday.
Again, you will have to compete for jobs at broadcasters/studios that already have an abundance of union employees on salary. Shows will be amortized (grouped and shot together) and therefore less technicians will be needed..
And again, you will have to move / commute to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver where 95% of production will take place.
If you are in the TALENT BUSINESS (actors, casting agencies, talent agencies and management):
50% of you lost your jobs Monday.
‘Broadcaster/Studios’ means that production will be concentrated: there might be only as many casting directors as there are broadcasters, and again, you will have to move / commute to Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver where 95% of production will take place.
But that’s assuming that the Canadian industry continues to make dramatic television: given the recent U.S. trend to curb drama production (case in point, Jay Leno’s bizarre variety show premiering at 10pm), and the unstoppable trend of Canadian broadcasters to purchase U.S. shows, it seems like Canadian dramatic production will continue to decline.
BUT WAIT, WHAT ABOUT TAX CREDITS?
Surely broadcasters canâ€™t access tax credits. That will make them come to independent production for financing…. won’t it?
The juryâ€™s still out on this. A quick call to 2 tax credit specialists reveal that broadcasters will â€œMOST LIKELY BE ABLE TOâ€ access tax credits, though this is still not 100%.
If you read the Nova Scotian tax credit rules it sure sounds like b- casters can apply in this region:
â€œThe Tax Credit is available to qualifying productions and co- productions produced and/or shot in Nova Scotia. Production companies applying for the Tax Credit must have a permanent establishment in Nova Scotia (a fixed place of business, a production office, a branch etc.) and must be incorporated under the laws of Nova Scotia, another provinceof Canada, or Canada.â€
BUT WAIT, THIS DOESNâ€™T APPLY TO ME, I MAKE FEATURES / COMMERCIALS / INDUSTRIALS
Arguably, the Canadian Television Industry (and therefore the CTF) props up our entire industry as a whole: broadcasters trigger features, broadcasters sell ads… etc. Not to mention that the television industry is a training ground for everyone. Not to mention that many developing writer/director envelopes stem from the broadcaster world. Not to mention that at least 50% of all indy production in any region is television.
But the worst thing is that the Harper Government COULD make this happen very quickly and very quietly in the first place. And heâ€™s long had his sights on the Canadian Feature Film Fund. If we let him do this to the CTF, could the CFFF really be that far behind?
Another very real concern is the justification of the Telefilm Regional Offices (Telefilm East, Telefilm West). The new CMF now combines both television and new media, taking the administration of new media away from Telefilm as of March 9, 2009. Suddenly Telefilm offices have half the work. Why would Wayne Clarkson keep these two high-overhead satellite offices open just for processing feature applications? Very soon feature producers may only have 2 options: Toronto and Montreal. This could kill the careers of many feature filmmakers, not just regional, as competition at these offices sky rocket.
WHEN WILL THIS ALL HAPPEN?
Not tomorrow, but definitely over the coming months.
Officially the fund shifts into gear april 2010, but I guarantee broadcasters have a spring in their step this morning. Prep is under way. And who knows about independent production companies with pre-existing development or production deals.
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR NUMBERS?
from my head.. itâ€™s an opinion, and take this all with a grain of salt. This opinion has been formed after 2 days of reading articles and talking to a dozen other industry people and organizations. It could be a worst-case scenario, or it could be best. no one knows, there is not enough information here to know and Iâ€™m the first to admit it. Howeverâ€¦ I believe that we should all consider this situation as being this bad and this bleak, becauseâ€¦ (and hereâ€™s the punchline)â€¦
â€¦the Public Wonâ€™t Care.
The death of independent production will not generate headlines like Bill C-10 because Canadian TV isnâ€™t really going anywhere, and frankly its due for a big change. Many have argued for years that a Studio System is exactly what we need. To these people: it will not be like the U.S. Studio System where there are consequences and accountability for b-caster actions.Â In the U.S., if a programmer produces a show with low numbers, that programmer gets fired. It is a Canadian Studio System: where numbers don’t count nearly as much, so programming heads will continue to make cheap, mediocre content to justify their jobs, satiate CRTC demands and allow them to program even more U.S. shows.
In my opinion, the Worst Case Scenario is that in 5 years, about 25% of us are broadcaster employees. And the rest of us are doing something else.
Hopefully I’m wrong.
SO WHAT CAN WE DO?
Start making noise.
Bill C-10 became a public concern because it was about censorship; it went to the core of freedom of speech. This issue, unfortunately, will not register nearly that dramatic for the public. This issue is about the death of the independent production industry. Harper’s government has already created the spin that they have created jobs in the broadcasting sector. Technically, they have. Therefore unless we make noise, this issue will not raise public concern.
We are a strong, vital industry of over 40,000 living all over the country and this is a threat to our livelihood.
Even if you think it’s not that bad, even if you’re optimistic, even if you think this is all bullshitâ€¦ do you really want to take that chance?
What to do.
Off the top of my headâ€¦
- Talk to your MP. I’m not organized enough to include email addresses for every region, I figure they’re a google-search away. Myself, I’ve never written a letter to my MP in my life, but I’m going to start and that is why they are there.
- Talk to the press. Know anyone working for mass media? Talk to them. If a GM plant in Ontario closes, it makes headlines. This is an industry that affects 40,000 people. This needs to be headlines.
- Join your provincial producer’s association. For example, if you’re in Nova Scotia, join the NSMPIA: The Nova Scotia Motion Picture Industry Association. Pay your dues, join, and then phone, write an email, shout your head off. Or, what the hell, don’t join, phone them anyway, write an email, shout your head off.
- Join a UNION or GUILD. Pay your dues, join, phone, write an email, and then shout your head off. Or, don’t join, phone them anyway, write an email, shout your head off.
- Talk to the CFTPA. As the producer’s association of Canada, they should have the independent production industry’s best interests at the top of their mandate.
please pass this on.
What the annonamous author nudges around (especially in the “Public won’t care” section) , but doesn’t quite come out and say is that the real problem with broadcaster-owner production is that quality of the final product is no longer the ultimate goal of production.
The real benefit of independant producers is that our ultimate (and only) end-goal is the quality of what we produce. You can argue about the relative successes and failures of the industry, but as an independant producer – if I don’t make a good show, on some quantifyable level, I can’t keep working in the field. It’s a results driven industry, and the “results” for a producer is the quality of the show. Period.
With broadcasters facing smaller, more specialized audiences and channels – their results goal is to fill programming hours (that will attract advertisers) as cheaply as possible. One way to to do this is to develop the highest quality original content, but that’s hard work, and high risk.Â It’s much easier to wait until someone else does that hard work (and takes the risk) in another country, buy a show that is already a known quantity, and then just try to fill the remainder of your schedule as cheaply as possible (also fulfilling any requirements of your broadcast license). I happen to know of at least one speciality channel that makes the entirety of it’s operating profit off of two (US) shows. Their programming goal is to fill the other 162.5 hours a week as cheaply as possible. Period.
Have you ever wondered why there’s so much poker on sports networks? It’s because the gambling websites actually pay for production in exchange for having their logos everywhere (and then pre-buy all the advertising to boot). So basically the networks have guaranteed income at no programming cost.
Without an independent producer putting their living on line to at least attempt quality as the defining characteristic – there’s a real risk that the majority of broadcast content produced in this country will decrease in value dramatically. It’s not that broadcaster-owner producers won’t do their best to make good content, or there are a legion of broadcaster technicians working in film and television who just don’t care – but when your employer comes to you and tells you your goal is to fill four hours a week with one cameraman, one sound guy, eight hours of post, and a shiny $100 bill… you do the best with what you have.Â That’s a very different process than starting from wanting to make a worldwide success so fantastic you can immediately retire (every independant producers dream)Â and calculating what resources you would need.
That’s what translates into lost jobs, reduced output, neutered export potential, and a landscape that a year from now could be radically different.