Friday, February 12, 2010

A change of plans

Looks like our Canadian partner isn't living up to expectations. I've had one conversation with a casting director in L.A. who seems to suggest that working with Manitoba companies is frustrating and slow. She was casting a film there that took so long for the Manitoba contingent to put together their end of the deal that the film was shut down until re-financing could be found.

Not a good sign.

But I know this; most Canadian film production companies would prefer to just get a check from the U.S. or foreign producer for the full amount. In other words, they are "service companies" willing to spend the money you raised but slow and even reluctant to find their share.

To be honest, finding their share can be a complicated mess of forms and applications to one or more of a dozen Canadian funders, including the grand-daddy of them all, Telefilm. Telefilm is a government run corporation that funds at the most, 50% of any project. And if you think Hollywood doesn't know anything, Telefilm knows even less.

Often headed by bureaucrats and civil servants akin to postal workers, they determine who should get money by a process that can only be described as unintelligible. In fact, their mandate is to promote the Canadian film industry and the joke is that if you have a script about a midget/female/transgender/anarchist/hunchback living on Prince Edward Island, then you have a hit movie.

Okay, so I'm hitting hard at the funding process in Canada, but now and then some good movies escape, although they are usually from Quebec. In last week's Playback, the Canadian "Variety", 8 out of the 10 top Canadian earners were from Quebec. Which represents maybe 25% of the population.

Why? I think because they have a strong identity. Some Quebecois movies earn more than U.S. movies in the province. And I think that Canadian filmmakers still can't quite decide if they're British or American. There are some good English-Canadian filmmakers, Cronenberg for example and my deceased friend Phil Borsos, but most of the best ones are in L.A.

Think Ivan Reitman, James Cameron, Norman Jewison (mostly retired) and a dozen others as well as a lot who do U.S. TV. I discount Atom Agoyan who is the darling of pretentious Toronto based filmmakers who my friend discounts as "intellectually incestuous". Watching an Agoyan film is similar to watching paint dry. I met him years ago and found his arrogance to be almost unbearable.


So back to the process of funding. I once got approval from Telefilm for a movie I wrote only to be told 2 weeks later that they had run out of money and I should apply the next year again.

So I can understand why the Canadian producers are slow and even reluctant to deal with these types of agencies. But our guy Dane came on board in October as some of you might remember, and he still hasn't provided a realistic budget and plan for Travel Day.

And it's already mid-February and since this is a winter story, our window of opportunity is going fast. Top that with a sense of loss of interest from the U.S. investors and it's beginning to look a little weak.

But I've been in the business too long to let anything go, because even when it looks completely bleak, an angel appears from the least-expected source.

And besides, we have another option that will take us to a totally new direction. I'll know more Monday.