Sunday, June 18, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 475: Worth It!


This is the second of what might become several posts on cutting the cord with your cable provider.

Over the last couple of weeks, the Writers Guild of Canada and various other local creative guilds, associations and unions have been urging those in the film and television industries to sign petitions calling for the government to rescind the recent CRTC ruling which, in their estimation, will remove over $200 Million from production financing.

It's a petition I won't be signing.

For as much as I sympathize with those who feel their jobs are under threat, I also know it's high time we abandon a system that hasn't done anywhere near what it was supposed to have accomplished for Canadian Creatives.

I have no love for the CRTC who, in my opinion, [one you'll find ample examples of by searching "CRTC" on this site] are primarily responsible for pretty much everything that's wrong with the Canadian industry, neither protecting the culture nor the needs of those who create it -- as their mandate clearly states was "Job One".

Instead they have bent over backwards to ensure the survival of broadcast entities who do as little as possible to support (never mind promote) a vibrant production industry.

Yeah, we make a lot of really good TV shows here. But the majority of what you find surfing the cable tiers is repetitive, derivative crap -- as it is in all countries.

But every endeavor made by Canadian Creatives to change that is fought tooth and nail by the very people who would most profit from making more original programming.

So why should we be in the business of coaxing more production out of people who not only don't want to do it, but already find working with us "onerous" as they've publically claimed on multiple occasions.

For while this new edict may threaten the way we work as the system is currently constructed, it's patently obvious to those who don't operate under the yoke of government management, that there are fortunes to be made in the online world.

You probably know about the massive number of original titles already being produced by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, some of it filmed right here in Hollywood North. But you may not know how large the online industry is becoming.

This week, Apple stole two of Sony Studio's top execs, the guys behind "The Blacklist", "Breaking Bad" and "The Crown" to begin producing original content for Apple TV.

Meanwhile, established entities like Turner have 25 series in development for social media and streaming services. Conde Naste now has 18 digital channels. And even Wired Magazine is producing online series.


Perhaps the busiest of these is Buzzfeed, which this week announced that it will have Thirty (Count 'em 30) online shows available by the time its prime college age audience (that advertiser essential 18-25 core demographic) heads back to school in the fall.

Among these is a returning series called "Worth It" which debuted last September and garnered between 10 and 20 Million views for each of its episodes. Episodes produced for a pittance while offering production values equal or superior to what you'll find on Canadian channels carrying comparable content.

The premise of "Worth It" is simple : a pair of Buzzfeed dudes sample three similar products with “drastically different price points” and decide which is the most "worth it".

It's the kind of show that makes you wonder why anybody still needs to watch the Food network -- or almost any other "lifestyle" show.

That cracking sound you hear is an entire specialty channel tier collapsing.

This is a coming reality $200 Million Canadian will not save -- even if all of that lost production money were to be spent in one narrow niche of programming.

So instead of beating our chests, signing petitions and writing open letters, perhaps its time to live up to our "creative" titles and come up with something that might find a larger audience online than currently tunes in to all of Canada's channels combined.

It's time to not only cut our cable cords but the intravenous drip from our broadcasters that is barely keeping most of us alive.

Trust me. It'll be -- worth it.

Enjoy Your Sunday...



Sunday, June 11, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 474: Mutants


There are reports out today that 2.5% of current cable TV subscribers will cut the cord by the end of Summer. They're part of an increasing trend that will see millions more not watching traditional television by year's end.

And none of this should surprise anybody. The past week's media "Up-Fronts" where networks debut their new shows for the new season created barely a ripple across public awareness. Quite simply -- there was nothing in the various line-ups that we haven't seen before (often many times before). Like their movie studio counterparts, traditional networks can't seem to do anything but recreate what worked in the past.

For every "Game of Thrones" or "Breaking Bad" there are hours after numbing hours of programming exhibiting a complete lack of imagination. Last night, surfing across channels to find a baseball game, I encountered "Masterchef: Australia" "Love it or List it: Vacation Homes" and a couple of new versions of storage locker shows.

There's not only a lack of creative imagination but an obvious desire to not even try to come up with something new.

Why should anyone doubt the audience quickly spins through the cable dial and then hits the Smart TV button to see what Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo and others have to offer.

Last night's lack of interest in keeping my attention after the ball game ended led me to Vimeo and the latest staff picks of film-makers to watch.

Top of the list was "Mutants" by Quebecois film-maker Alexandre Dostie.

Never heard of it? Of course you haven't. How much Canadian media attention has been paid to a film that merely won the 2016 TIFF award for Best Canadian Short Film, a Canadian Screen Award for Best Live Action Short and the Prix Iris.  

Why commission a film or TV series from this guy when you can buy another "Grey's Anatomy" spin-off or revisit "Rosanne" 20 full years after it was last on the air.

"Mutants" is not only an engaging film. It's proof that dynamic, challenging and original film-makers live and work in Canada.

And if we can't find them on our TV networks, we'll find and watch them online -- instead of continuing to support the endless drivel coming from the cable box.

Enjoy Your Sunday...


Mutants from Travelling distribution on Vimeo.


Monday, June 05, 2017

Lazy Sunday # 473: Nashville Cats


Like most Canadians, I'm an unrepentant hockey fan. And as this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs progressed and Canadian teams fell by the wayside, I hesitated to embrace any of the survivors as my -- or as the media chose to label them -- "Canada's team".

That's because I was hoping the dark horse of the season, the last team to claim a playoff spot, might make it to the final round -- The Nashville Predators.

The Predators and I go back to the day the team won its franchise in 1997. I was working in Nashville, staying in a quiet little hotel with a small diner where I had breakfast and read the morning newspaper. On the day the NHL granted the city a professional team, the short order cook spotted me and came out of the kitchen.

Cook: You're from Canada, aren't you?

Me: Uh-huh.

Cook: (gestures to the newspaper) This here "Hockey". It's that game they played in that movie, ain't it?

Me: What movie?

Cook: "Rollerball".

Me: (long pause) Yes. Yes it is.

While most people (and certainly the Canadian media) didn't think hockey could possibly catch on in Nashville, a city with no hockey traditions, little knowledge of the game and no major professional teams in any sport.

But those people simply didn't understand the kind of folks who live in Nashville. 

Almost immediately, the stars of Country Music were enlisted to sell the game, appearing in newspaper ads and on billboards with their front teeth blacked out.

But the initial crowds were small and the franchise was soon in trouble. A Canadian Tech Millionaire tried to move the team to Hamilton and might've succeeded except for his own smug hubris and a proud and independent community that decided it wasn't losing something else to anybody fighting for the North. 

They dug deep and saved their team.

Being at any hockey game is fun. It's particularly joyous when it's a do-or-die playoff game. But last night Nashville kicked the euphoria level up another notch. They had 17,000 fans inside the arena and 40,000 on the streets outside. They had special cheers. They had original songs and committed chants.

My favorite can be found around the 4 minute mark of the video below as the Pittsburgh Penguins are introduced, each player's name appended with "Sucks" -- with a special addition for the head coach.

Whatever happens during the remaining 4 games of the series, one thing is certain. Hockey has taken root in Nashville, embraced with a passion you'll never see in the Platinum seats of Toronto's Air Canada Centre -- or maybe any other Canadian hockey hotbed.

This is a fan base that comes to have a good time, win or lose. And that's something the rest of us should embrace.

I've got a feeling that this year, Nashville will become Canada's team.

Enjoy Your Sunday...




And the highlights from the first Stanley Cup Final played in Tennessee...