Monday, March 01, 2010

Hey, Let’s Blame Those Sorry Ass Canadian Actors!


While the rest of us were busy watching the Winter Olympics, Telefilm Canada finally figured out why we don’t go to see Canadian movies.

Apparently, it’s because of all those crappy, no-talent Canadian actors.

Not the ones who star in “Battlestar Gallactica” or “24” or “Lost” or “Juno” or “Super Bad” or pretty much anything else produced in America that Canadians watch on TV, pay for at the box office or rent as DVDs by the millions.

No, we’re talking about those other Canadian actors. And as soon as we can get rid of those slackers, people will be flocking to the local Cineplex to participate as we tell our own Canadian stories to ourselves.

Who knew it was just that simple?

At least it is if you’re as simple minded as Michel Roy, the current head of Telefilm. 

Monsieur Roy, the latest in a long line of Buffoons who’ve been in charge of plotting the straight-to-the-iceberg course of the Canadian film industry, came up with the following idea --- though probably not all by himself --- and fired off a quick press release urging the government to ease restrictions on allowing foreign stars to appear in publicly-funded movies.

That’s right, your tax dollars may soon be spent hiring American talent in Hollywood since Michel believes including more US movie stars for our films will bolster Canadian movies at the box office.

God, it just makes so much sense, doesn’t it?

Think of how audiences would have flocked to “Rub ‘n Tug” if only Tom Cruise had replaced Don McKellar in that seedy massage parlour!

Imagine the line-ups if Tom Hanks had been in “Passchendaele”. Hell, that battlefield sex scene and stations of the cross climax wouldn’t have seemed anywhere near as ludicrous with Tom in the role!

And what about “Where The Truth Lies”? It could have been transformed from major financial disaster to boffo hit if it had only starred Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth!

Oh, wait --- it did

Gee, two big foreign stars like them and that movie still went in the toilet!?!

Doesn’t that kinda disprove M. Roy’s moment of brilliance right out of the gate?

Perhaps something else kept people from buying tickets to all those movies. Something like lame scripts, poor direction and bizarre development decisions by incompetent Telefilm bureaucrats, who wouldn’t know an entertaining film if they sat through one.

Roy insists, "We just can't go on this way!" deploring the Billion dollars Telefilm has poured into the domestic industry in the last decade without increasing audience numbers; somehow blissfully unaware that the bulk of that money went to producers and artists who had already repeatedly failed to attract an audience and yet had no trouble hitting up Telefilm for tens of millions more for their next failure.

Hey, maybe this is a ploy to finally stop Atom Egoyan from hiring his own wife to be in all his movies or prevent Paul Gross from featuring himself in everything his company produces --- but, I doubt it.

No, I’ve detailed how that whole sorry process works before. You can find it here. But it’s now obvious that in order for the Losers gravy train to keep rolling somebody has to take the fall and Michel Roy has decided that it should be our actors.

Nobody knows who they are anyway, so who’s going to notice! Right?

But in making his proposal, Telefilm’s top executive reveals his woeful ignorance of how the film business actually operates.

For starters, the current tax rules require that the lead actor or the second lead be Canadian.

But there isn’t a producer or entertainment lawyer in the country who can’t draft a contract which pretends that an American star is earning less than his Canadian counterpart when he’s in fact pocketing much more through side deals and payment categories buried in other parts of the budget.

We could do it anytime we wanted.

Would we need to worry that Telefilm might uncover such irregularities?


I once hired some forensic accountants to look over a production I found troubling. Their first question after examining the records --- “Where’s the government in all this?” They simply couldn’t believe that all the irregularities they uncovered had been missed by the people supplying the public funding and supposedly assuring it was spent responsibly.

I’m telling you, these Telefilm folks are about as out of their depth as they can get.

And none of us will ever learn what Telefilm knows or doesn’t know about why their endless list of money losing projects really lost money.

Because as a Crown Corporation they don’t have to answer to us or even respond to Freedom of Information requests.

And although at least one well-known producer has acknowledged in court and under oath that he kept one set of books for Telefilm showing profits and another for investors showing losses, no one at Telefilm has ever stepped forward to explain how that might work.

But back to those US actors who are going to save us…

If Michel Roy actually knew the business he’s in, he’d know that there are only a handful of American stars who can provide Hollywood studios with even the slimmest level of comfort that they can recoup their movie investments. None are guaranteed box-office magnets. Nobody is anymore. Those days are long gone.

And none of those “comfort level” stars have salary quotes anywhere near what Telefilm can afford to pay in the first place. So it won’t be Brad Pitt or Julia Roberts assaying the role of a manic depressive Forestry worker contemplating suicide in snowbound Timmins. It’ll be the guy who hasn’t worked since “That 70s Show” was cancelled.

We went through all of this once before in the real 1970’s when half of our movies starred Lee Majors and Alex Karras and still didn’t make a dime. Heck, even the ones that starred Richard Harris, James Coburn and Charles Bronson didn’t make money.

And that’s because they were really bad movies – selected for funding and coddled through development by Telefilm executives just as dumb as this one.

What’s more, there are dozens of well known Canadian actors who have achieved success in Hollywood. Has Roy ever wondered why none of them are clambering to be in any of the films his agency finances?

The answer to that is patently clear. Either their agents know the material Telefilm is backing isn’t good enough or those actors worked with Telefilm’s “favorites” when they lived here and have no intention of ever doing so again.

Perhaps this is just another ill-conceived policy decision that only ends up making guys like Bill Brioux happy, because it supplies him with even more stories of Canadian actors who couldn’t buy work here yet become wildly successful in LA.

But all of that aside, the simple truth is that when the only way a Canadian government official can fulfill his mandate of creating work opportunities for Canadians is by putting more of them out of work, he needs to resign.

Or be fired.

And I’m hoping that’s what Heritage Minister James Moore will do once Monsieur Roy gets around to making his pitch.

I’m a supporter of the Conservative Party and this weekend I got a video email from Senators Mike Duffy and Nancy Greene-Raine gushing over Canada’s performance at the Winter Olympics and reminding me that as far as the Conservatives were concerned “All Canadians are Champions!”

Although I’ve never believed people actually fall for that sort of happy horseshit, I guess it works. But, I’m sorry, you don’t get to say stuff like that if you’re going to turn around and immediately eliminate our actors from the equation.

Because if the Heritage Department accedes to Telefilm’s flight of fancy, it will fully acknowledge that the Conservative party really doesn’t care about Canadian artists.  That cost them a majority in the last election and it will ensure they won’t get one the next time around.

So how about just putting Michel Roy out of work instead. He obviously doesn’t know how to do his job and I’d bet money one of the failed producers he’s been covering for all these years will find something for him to do.


Kelly J. Compeau said...

Brilliant post. Totally on the money. I've been thinking this -- and saying it to anyone who'd listen -- for years.

deborah Nathan said...

Oh Jim - you are the BEST.

The White Wolf said...

Hey Jim,

thought I'd provide a copy/paste of Heritage Minister James Moore's contact info for those concerned citizens in the crowd who think there MUST be a better man than Michel Roy for the Telefilm post:

But honestly, there should be a Union of Concerned Citizens for the Arts that has a single (uncorrupted agenda) to provide a Voice of 'WTF's?!' and 'kick him to the curbs!' when shit like this is revealed.

Personally, I much prefer arm-twisting and bloody noses, but I understand you can't do that anymore - the sentence being a thousand years in jail.

rick mcginnis said...

My first reaction - and you can call it knee-jerk if you want - is to shut down Telefilm, with a paraphrase of the famous speech, itself quoting Cromwell, that ended Neville Chamberlain's political career: "You have sat here too long for any good you are doing. Depart, I say, and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!" I've just lost faith that any arts bureaucracy can create the conditions for good films.

I'm a conservative supporter, too, but I'd be surprised if they do anything proactive; so far this government's policy, like so many others with an uncertain hold on power, is to simply follow the status quo, which in this case means letting yet another ass-covering cultural bureaucrat flail and twitch in the hope of appearing that they are, all appearances to the contrary, actually steering the ship.

Trevor B. Cunningham said...

I’m going to write this as clear as I can. I do not write it lightly, because some of my work is in front of Telefilm. This is not some half-assed bloggers idea of what works. I have a stake in the outcome. Hundreds of thousands are are on the line. And Jim knows it.

I have had various projects supported by Telefilm. I have had various projects rejected by Telefilm. That’s how the ball rolls. You win some. You lose some. I’ve been lucky. I mostly win. I’m luckier than most.

However, Roy’s comment strikes at the very heart of what’s wrong with funding agencies and our ‘better’ institution's bed-wetting. Roy’s philosophy is a four-decade-old idea, pulled out of Stursberg’s dusty draw of bones and presented as a solution (CAA Agency deal). Mr. Roy has presented a turd, polishing it, then wiping it on the wall and calling it a painting. His idea would produce nothing more than a nation of PMs and Line Producers appointed to form-fill.

You could appoint your local bartender as a producer, ask them to form a company and help them fill in the paperwork while doomed hacks who buy drinks walk through the back door to spend the Canadian taxpayer’s money. Meanwhile, not a single Canuck story (art house or genre) will have been told. Nothing.

Ultimately, Roy’s ignorant statement confirms his removal. I’m actually disappointed in myself for not pointing it out sooner. I admire that this has come to attention now, but it has been floating around since last Sept/09. Roy has been spouting this bile for months, back when Telefilm decided to have a web-cast of their affairs. He sat on a stool on stage, beside Clarkson, and barked cobwebs from his seat like a mumbling mummy asking for a ‘star-system’. It struck me as wrong and I didn’t point it out.

I have written to my MP, James Moore and Roy himself. I hope all of you do the same. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But I’m not about to sit here and say I did nothing. And I know Henshaw would feel the same. This isn’t about politics and who’s side you’re on or which party you like. This is about calling out deadbeats and removing them. Roy’s a deadbeat.

If the Olympics are any indication of Canada’s character, it is about to turn a corner. Let the games be an inspiration. Statements like Roy’s and the journalists,’ broadcasters, bearocrats, and salesmen are the problem. They are the ones with a complex that is a sickness. Not the artist, musicians, filmmakers, authors, software-makers, content-creators…or any other creator. Roy and his ilk represent the ‘negation’.

Read soberly, Telefilm’s policies (though they may have some faults) work. The people populating the agency DO NOT. Time has passed to challenge gatekeepers. They must be removed. We cannot afford corpses running the nations agencies.

Remove Roy. That’s a first step in many.

Dwight Williams said...

Well, he's gone now. Will the replacement be a better choice, though?