Wednesday, September 15, 2010

An Open-ed E-Mail to Piers Handling

-----Original Message-----
From:  []
Sent: Monday, September 13, 2010 10:04
To: Piers Handling

Subject: Did We Run Out Of Kool-Aid?

First, congrats on the successful launch of both the 35th Annual TIFF and the opening of your shining new jewel box theatre(s). Significant accomplishments both as well as stressful and time consuming I'm sure. Some of us over here are suspecting the added work and pressure are what caused you to slip off your meds last week.

How else do we explain what we heard from your own lips courtesy Peter Howell at the Toronto Star on the Eve of the Festival, linked here if your busy social schedule hasn't allowed you to keep up with all the press clippings. 

To condense, the salient quotes concerning us this morning are:

“We shouldn’t be making 250 feature films in this country. I don’t think it can sustain. Where are those films going? I mean, are they just home movie productions done on credit cards? For what audience?"


“I’m happy that people are making films and all that kind of stuff, but what kind of resources have been taken away from filmmakers who perhaps needed those resources, that could have used those resources? Are there significant filmmakers with things to say?”

Our concern, basically is, how did you allow you inside voice to become your outside voice -- and in front of the press?

God knows we all agree that we shouldn't have to put up with these upstarts pandering to an audience. And the handful that do get their work released accomplish little more than reducing the overall access to foreign Art films and Paul Gross which is annoying enough. 

But the sad fact is that unless we keep implying a need for this drivel, we can't continue justifying the funding of culture. And then you, I and everybody else in the service of government sponsored art is out of a job.

Are you aware of the Public Relations nightmare you might have created had any member of the Lame Stream Media connected your words with Sunday's announcement of $9 Million in new funding to the Canadian Film Centre for training?

Luckily, the open bar at the CFC BBQ distracted any of them from asking why we needed more money to train more filmmakers if we already had too many movies!

Please give some thought to the fiefdoms you are endangering by such flip remarks.

Must I point out that 30% of TIFF funding comes from government? Last year we sent you almost $7 Million. What kind of film festival would you have with a third less money? I'll tell you what kind, one where the only celebrity you can attract is Harry Dean Stanton!

Because Hollywood sure as shit isn't going to send planeloads of glitterati up here on their own dime. And without the endless parade of those vapid freaks can you conceive of how difficult it would be to convince your subscribers that it doesn't matter if they can't get tickets to a George Clooney movie because one more coming of age story set among the Tibetan diaspora of Smithers, BC is what real Cinema is all about.

And that serves a double purpose with our political masters.

Most of them come from such out of the way places that they think Olivia Newton John is still a star. And luckily, we've got a Culture Minister who doesn't know anybody who isn't a Mixed Martial Arts fighter. So dangling a Bruce Springsteen Red Carpet Photo Op in front of them combined with a packed house for Don McKellar's "Look Upon My Navel" convinces them he's an artist worth supporting too.

God knows we don't expect you to show all 250 Canadian features, Piers.

And especially not the ones somebody made with their own money and out of some kind of burning passion to entertain an audience. We've got to save most of those for Calgary and Vancouver and Montreal to justify the millions we plow into their festivals. Not to mention all the new ones we've got coming on line in every town that'll never get within a hundred miles of an NHL franchise let alone Werner Herzog.

Nobody will believe they've got a real film festival if there isn't at least one World or Canadian Premiere and even better if said premiere is directed by somebody local whose IOU they're holding.

"Look, that pushy little buggar from the Blockbuster made his movie. And we can see it if we also buy a ten pack of tickets to some short films from Baffin Island."

It's all about keeping the public dollar wheel turning, Piers. Movies with no viable audience begat festivals which begat the need for more movies with no viable audience.

Please think of our poor colleagues stuck in such film Siberias as Saskatchewan and New Brunswick. They need all those movies. Because they too need to justify the extraction of tax dollars for cultural purposes and without a good festival, they're not seeing the latest existential masterpiece from Vanuatu and are also in danger of justifying their jobs by partnering with Hollywood hustlers on co-productions where the financing falls through and leaves the crews hanging.

Must I remind you of the core directive of what we do?

Secure a comfortable living for ourselves while insuring that nothing gets made which could become successful enough to make people ask why the industry can't survive on its own. Then use our positions to denigrate any attempts at popular cinema while ensuring we have posh settings in which to view the extended version of "Berlin Alexanderplatz" while dreaming of the day Atom Egoyan gets to remake it!

BTW, our thanks for turning up the spotlight on "Score". We thought tossing a little funding into that pandering little turkey would go a long way in undermining any groundswell to make entertaining films here and you certainly gave them the "push" off the pedestal we had hoped for. No late Wednesday Canadian Perspectives slot to hide the beginners' warts for those suckers.

I felt certain we would have sapped the will of Canadian creatives not wanting to make our kind of movies by now. But perhaps that little disaster will teach them we mean business and chase them all to Santa Monica or wherever it is they go.

In closing, do know that we appreciate the agony of feigning interest in those Canadian submissions that might have challenged a Hollywood Blockbuster. Assuage those hurts with thoughts of how much we're all going to enjoy the LGBT retrospective from Singapore next year. We discussed it at last week's retreat in Montebello and I can confirm that we all agree "Pacific Rim" is a fitting title for the programme.

I must go now and let your sponsor friends at the Royal Bank know that the Finance Minister has been all over us about their commercials for TIFF. Apparently, the bank's affection for the Ed Harris narration on their Winter Olympics commercials led them to forget in which country TIFF takes place.

Note the currency.

Another thing you should have noticed. Maybe it's time for Cameron to take a little more of the load. Hmmm?  


The Motorcycle Boy said...

Montreal has a good festival: Fantasia - dedicated to genre film from all 'round this joint.

The biggest genre film festival in North America, they say.

And they're looking for some more dough. Cool hard cash to bring events such as this year's symphony accompaniment to Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis', by a Canadian conductor; and a writers workshop and one-man play (POE) presented by '80's gore-master, Stuart Gordon.

Prolly a buncha other shit that I didn't attend, but all this to say: Taketh from T.O. and giveth to Quebec you English batards!


Elize Morgan said...

Also: The Kingston Canadian Film Fest which actually focuses on people who want to see, you know, films. Rather than selling half of their tickets to people who don't go.

Sam said...

Well done Jim! Piers was clearly under the influence. I didn't realise that he received so much public funding...

RetroWinnipeg said...

Sorry to hear the news about your Tenderheart predecessor, Billie Mae Richards.