Funding issues for Anglo filmmakers in Quebec
Story by Jose Espinoza
English Filmmakers from Quebec are on the rise, while the issue of funding is a matter of debate.
Movies are an integral part of our everyday lives. Here in Quebec, we are privileged to have a strong film industry that caters to both languages. For those of us who live in Quebec, the English language film scene is lost amidst the larger francophone productions that are released every year. It is no surprise that most of the funding and allocation of money is granted to Le Cinema Quebecois. To further the concern, we are in troubling economic times. The arts are being cut from the government’s budget and that leaves little resources for young filmmakers. In the last few years there have been a number of young filmmakers that have made outstanding movies in Quebec with the help from funding companies like Sodec and Telefilm. In some cases, these filmmakers have out of sheer will and sacrifice, self-financed their productions and released their movies through small distribution companies. In spite of numerous obstacles, movies like Who is KK Downey and Adam’s Wall have made headlines at festivals this year. Although English cinema is still trying to find its place in Quebec, the talent and future of young Anglo filmmakers in the province has never been better.
Matt Silver is a very busy man, he works out of Montreal as a screenwriter, director, producer and actor. For the movie, Who is KK Downey, he did double duty as an actor and a co-screenwriter. According to the filmmaker, he does acting gigs to pay the bills but he much rather be directing or writing feature film. He is a member of Kidnapper Films, a production company that has made sketch comedies and short films since 2003. Matt believes that there is a vibrant scene of young Anglo filmmakers in Quebec.
He does admit however that getting productions off the ground through Telefilm or Sodec is quite difficult. Kidnapper Films had to finance who is KK Downey themselves by raising $125,000.
Matt talks about the difference in making a movie in Montreal compared to the rest of Canada:
Matt discusses, why more and more movies being produced in Montreal while less and less people are going to see those movies:
Have Anglo filmmakers found a niche in Montreal?
Pat Kiely, a young filmmaker and member of
Kidnapper Films said: “We always thought that we wouldn’t get funding for this movie, so we decided to go a different route.” The route of self-financing a film is one of the options that filmmakers must deal with if they choose to make a movie that does not fit the Mandate of the governing bodies that allocate funds for English films in Quebec. If you do however fall within the guidelines for funding, then you might be under some constraints to make a movie that is in the image of what Sodec and Telefilm want to do.
Tamas Wormser is a young filmmaker who founded the production company, Artesian films. His films include Faces of the Hand, The Ring, Step Up! and recently Traveling Light: artists on the move. When asked about the difficulty in getting government funding to make English language films in Quebec, he responded: “come up with a film “sans dialogue.”
There is a definitive problem when it comes to funding English language films in the province. There is a disproportionate amount of money being allocated to Francophone productions. The figure is something around 20% of the funds going to English language films. That means there is a large amount of money raised for film productions every year in the province. For young filmmakers, this can be an insurmountable obstacle to achieve their dream.
On the other side of the issue, we talk to filmmakers who believe funding is not the problem.
Dana Schoel is the screenwriter behind the movie
Adam’s Wall. According to Dana, there is funding available in Quebec but you must stick with the guidelines of making socially relevant films. Dana has been awarded a number of script-writing grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, Sodec and Telefilm Canada. In fact Sodec funded the movie Adam’s Wall that was produced through Couzin films, a small Anglo production company out of Quebec. Dana believes that if you are making a movie with taxpayer money than you do need to abide by the rules of making movies that are culturally relevant to Canadians, or in this case the Quebec population.
Frederic Bohbot is the founder of Bunbury Films. This production company does entertainment films as well as corporate and music videos. Frederic is the writer, producer and director of the documentary movie Once a Nazi. According to Frederic, in Canada we have many advantages that do not exist in the US. “In Canada we have provincial and federal tax credits for the Canadian Labor that is hired during the production process… We also receive funding from Telefilm Canada, Canadian television fund, SODEC, OMDC which Americans do not have access to.” He refers to the film industry in the U.S. that receives no government funding and is completely self-financed. Frederic goes on to add that he has no trouble making films in Quebec. “There are certain limitations, but I’m aware of them and I try to find other ways to fund my films.”
Ezra Soiferman is the Director and co-founder of the Montreal Film Group. His passion is for directing but at times Ezra finds himself as a producer and even as a cameraman. He has worked on projects for the National Film Board of Canada, Global television and the CBC. Ezra Soiferman says that he can’t imagine its easy to make a film anywhere, let alone in Quebec.
Renaud Stanton Dupré is a filmmaker and founder of RenLogik, a production company out of Montreal. On the issue of funding, Renaud believes that in Quebec there is a greater place for French projects. “Since that is the case, Anglo filmmakers can apply for grants outside the province which makes it easier to receive funding, so it evens out.” Renaud disagrees on the issue that Anglo filmmakers cannot get funding unless they abide by the mandate of making cultural relevant films. He believes it is a difficult endeavour for any filmmaker, regardless of what language the film is being produced. Renaud says that to make a film in any language: “You come up with your idea, shop it around, find a producer who wants to back you, apply for a grant then cross your fingers and start praying. If that fails bribe your friends, max your credit card and make it because you have to.”
At Concordia’s film school, the next generation of filmmakers is emerging. I sat down with Ryan, who is in his last year at Concordia’s Film Production program. He is worried that there will not be enough money in grants available next year due to the economic situation and Prime Minister Harper’s plan to eliminate money from the Arts. “It’s a difficult situation to be in but at I am optimistic because of all the success young Anglo filmmakers have had in the last few years.” On the question of young talent leaving the province, Ryan responds: “that has always been a problem in Quebec. Young talent is leaving but i don’t think that is a recent problem.”
The issue of funding is difficult to resolve. The most important point from this debate is that Quebec is the best place in North America for funding young filmmakers. Recently, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper has slashed millions of dollars in Arts funding. It has been increasingly more difficult for anyone to find financing for motion pictures no matter what the language of the film may be.
The talented filmmakers that are producing films in Quebec are on the rise and that is ultimately what will make the English language film industry strive and survive in the province. Matt Silver and Dana Schoel disagree on the issue of funding however, they both agree that talented filmmakers will find a way to get their movies made. Against all odds, both Matt and Dana found a way to make their critically acclaimed films a reality.
By Jose Espinoza
Notes used from Jason Anderson’s article Fool’s Gold.