Friday, September 12, 2014

Writing the CRTC’s Movie

Yesterday, it appeared that CRTC Chair Jean-Pierre Blais had found himself in a socially awkward position.

The Writers Guild of Canada had presented their clear and cogent argument on the quality and appeal of Canadian made television. It wasn’t anything Blais hadn’t heard before. And maybe he was tired or maybe had just heard too much irreconcilable difference from a week’s worth of self-serving interveners. But the man knew these people had put a lot of work into their presentation and deserved at least a couple of half-hearted questions.

But somehow he asked this one –- How would the WGC as Story tellers make the people of Canada understand a complicated regulatory system involving SimSub, linkage rules and the business models that make up the Canadian television system…?

This took me somewhat aback, mostly because of what the question revealed of Blais himself and perhaps his entire Commission.

He was just like the rest of us, a guy who looks for guidance or at least some kind of plausible world view that so many glean from the stories they see in movies and on television.

Gee –– despite all those broadcaster arguments about what the audience thought was good or how commerce obviously mattered more than spending money on Art –- Blais recognized the inherent need for individual clarity and social self-examination for which the Human race created Drama in the first place.

It struck me that maybe, after all these years of CRTC hearings on Canadian television, that maybe we were getting somewhere.

My own movie about CanCon would have paralleled “Romeo and Juliet” in which the star-crossed creators of drama and those hungering for it have been kept apart by a broadcast system ruled by what keeps violence from breaking out on the streets of Hollywood.

Or it might be one in which the star-crossed find themselves aboard a doomed broadcaster ship heading straight for an iceberg labelled “Netflix”, its Captains rigid and unable to change business model course and save not only themselves but all aboard.

Either of my movies, it seems, would require Leonardo DiCaprio as one of the leads -- meaning we’re back to International Co-Pro’s or buying big budget American product, which doesn’t really help our case.

But maybe one of those in the tribe of Canadian writers can. There must be a story out there that turns all those arcane concepts from “Pick’n Pay” to “OTT” and “Cord Cutters” into relatable characters every Canadian can recognize and embrace.

If you know that story, feel free to share it here.

Or at least share it somewhere.

I think the CRTC might finally be ready to listen.


Anonymous said...

What sat you, Jim, to this comment in response to the Star's article about Netflix and the CRTC hearings?

"For years Canadians have had to put up with the Rogers/Bell monopoly (sponsored by the CRTC) with the price gouging and the indifferent customer service. For years we have funded productions so that we could grow a decent television industry with at least a couple of evenings a week of entertaining Canadian shows that we would go out of our way to watch happily and proudly, not poorly written dramas and comedies and endless cheaply made reality programming.

Yes, we have many people who work in the industry that without the funds and tax credits, they probably would be working in another field or another country. Yes, we have a small handful of shows that do well here and internationally (ie. Murdoch). After all these years, we seem to have come away with so little for such a large investment of money, time and people. Have our productions not made enough money so that the profits could be reinvested in the industry, thus making it self-sufficient?

Netflix is the breath of fresh air in the stifled and monopoly-filled Canadian market and Canadians are voting with their wallets. This Canadian has been more than patient over the last 30 years. I want another option and have found it in Netflix and in the hope for a different future."

jimhenshaw said...

To be honest, Anonymous, I couldn't agree more with that comment. Unfortunately, what the comment doesn't address is that the broadcasters have invested in quantity rather than quality, filling their channels with programming with stuff that costs next to nothing yet fulfills their regulatory commitments. That's because they see Cancon as an onerous annoyance rather than product which could enhance their brand. But since their current brand is simply re-branding imported content, they're producing and selling the audience empty calories.