A Problem Money Can't Solve

By Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze


Ryan Hyland begins his morning routine like many Torontonians – a little coffee, a glance through the morning paper and the preparation involved in resuming a day’s work.

Yet Hyland, a Toronto film, commercial and video assistant director leaves his East York apartment less these days as the film industry he derives a living from slowly regains momentum after a two-year period of setbacks and bad luck. His patience is waning but his hope remains.

“The damage from SARS, American tax relief increases for American projects south of the border and the rise of the Canadian dollar have hurt the industry internally,” Hyland says.

Figures released by the City of Toronto in March 2004 indicate the city’s film and television industry experienced a $163-million decline in 2003 alone. Comweb Group, a Toronto-based film shoot supply company, discovered that thousands of the country’s 50,000 film workers left the business in 2004 when they released the yearly payroll stats. But some workers, like Hyland, are staying.

“I’ve thought of moving out west or down south but I love working in Toronto and would have to re-establish myself again if I relocated,” Hyland says.

In May 2004, the television and film industry was extended a helping hand – the Liberal government committed to a two-year, $100-million annual Canadian Television Fund to boost the entertainment industry. The injection was considered a major victory.

“A $100-million CTF holds the promise of more green-lit productions, more Canadian stories being told and more Canadian actors acting,” says Thor Bishopric, president of ACTRA, in a statement to the country’s 21,000 members.

But federal assistance is only one part of what’s needed to boost Canada’s ailing entertainment industry.

The CTF distributes the grants through three funding streams: (1) the Broadcast Performance Envelope, (2) English-language Drama and (3) Special Initiatives.

While Telefilm Canada administers funds for the English Drama and Special Initiatives streams, the CTF allocates funds directly to broadcasters who control the Broadcast Performance Envelope.

“Therefore, it is no longer the CTF who makes the decisions on which projects get funding. It’s in the hands of the broadcasters,” says Ryan Reyes, CTF’s public relations co-ordinator.

In a November 2004 Canada Newswire press release, Stephen Waddell, ACTRA’s national executive director, commented on the spending habits of private broadcasters.

“While they’re congratulating themselves for all the good things they’re doing for Canada, their schedules tell a different story. CTV has only two one-hour Canadian dramas on its schedule. Global has one and it’s a rerun. How is this putting Canada first?”

The press release revealed some alarming facts. In 2003, private broadcasters spent four times more on U.S. and foreign drama than they did on Canadian drama – $382-million on U.S. products compared to $93-million on Canadian programs.

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