What The Lack of Innovation In Television Means for Canadian Filmmakers

Written by Brandie Peters

Anyone who has attended film school in Canada in last 10 years probably knows that the T.V and film industry in this country is far from perfect. One of the biggest flaws in the system is that it encourages young talent to be creative trailblazers during their school years, only to graduate to a job market in an industry that refuses stubbornly to accept change. This only leads to a migration of the best-nurtured talent to the west. Film and T.V production graduates specifically screenwriters and other creative visionaries often find that they cannot get support for more progressive projects here. This is because the Film and Television industry within Canada is largely fixated on creating more of the “same old same old” meaning the funding of content that highlights Canadian culture and heritage but does raise too much controversy or blur the lines of social convention.

Unfortunately this has led to two discouraging realities. First of all, as long as production companies in Canada refuse to green lite more progressive projects we will continue to lose our best talent to the United States. Second of all it also means that Canadian viewers as a whole will continue to choose American programming over homegrown Canadian productions. It comes as no surprise that the ratings for Canadian T.V have continued to decline to the point of non-existence. This may suggest to some that we simply do not have the talent or creative gumption to compete here in the North. However, this could be easily disputed by evidential fact that many of the most distinctive show runners in American television actually descend from Canada.

canadian-tv-Jeremy-podeswa

For instance Canadian Director Jeremy Podeswa who is best known for his work on T.V series such as “Boardwalk Empire” and recently “American Horror Story: Coven” has found great success working on independent projects for HBO in the U.S. When asked in an interview for Huffingtonpost.ca about why he does not work in Canada Podeswa responded with an answer that many would find far from surprising.

In Canada, everyone seems to be so terrified of doing something different, and so they’re sticking to the oldest paradigms — doing procedurals, doing lightweight comedies. Where’s the innovation? The talent is here to make a good show, but no one’s commissioning them. For example, I don’t really see the point of a Canadian making a cop show. How is that going to illuminate the Canadian culture?

He went on to say why he believed that this was the case,

I think it’s an executive thing. People at the top are not commissioning shows they need to be commissioning. They’re not looking at the TV landscape, and what it actually is. They’re still stuck in some 1970s idea of what television is. I wonder: do these people even watch HBO?

Read full interview here

What does this mean for aspiring short filmmakers or television production graduates hoping to get their projects produced here?

The good news is that there have been some small strides made in the Television spectrum that may open doors for future productions. Shows like “Orphan Black” and “Continuum” have demonstrated that programming here can both be successful and “Canadian”. That said we are still years away from putting out anything as unconventional as AMC’s “Breaking Bad” or a global phenomenon like “Game of Thrones”.

That said the independent film industry is still alive and well. What we do have in Canada is a highly supportive network of freethinking independent filmmakers who are getting their projects made with sheer will power and community support. Although it may be a lot harder to procure financial backing for an “out of the box” project, it isn’t impossible and it does happen. Furthermore with crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo helping more independent productions take wing it is very likely that we will continue to see the Canadian filmmaking industry evolve in the years to come. Hopefully allowing young talent to stay at home and revitalize the cinema entertainment industry in this country.

Brandie Peters is a work at home mom, freelance writer and film enthusiast from Medicine Hat Alberta. In 2012 she graduated from the Red Deer College Motion Picture Arts Production Program.