So the big award show happened last night. And no, I’m not going to take the all too easy pot shots. Every year everybody chimes in about how much they hate the Oscars yet every year, there we are, back for more.
What’s being said about the Academy Awards north of the border is… Very little. And if it weren’t for Christopher Plummer that chitchat would probably drop to zero. I am, of course, only referring to the chitchat coming from the mouths of Canadian filmmakers about Canadian film. The Canadian masses were pleased as punch, I’m sure, to revel in the glimmer of the American glitterati. And why shouldn’t they? Without American film we wouldn’t even need to build cinemas up here.
I think most Canadian filmmakers blame the public for this. I may have been guilty of this too, once upon a time: Why can’t you all just support your homegrown films? Why does our talent have to go south of the border to make a name for itself before anybody will give them the time of day here at home?
Maybe - and I’m just spitballing here - maybe, it’s because we don’t have anything to offer?
I’m not saying the talent isn’t here. It is. Until it’s not; because it’s gone south. So why can’t we take that talent and turn it into films everyday Canadians want to watch? Could it be that, as filmmakers, we have a bit of a skewed way of thinking about an audience’s relationship to the medium? Allow me to illustrate my point:
I recently received a mass email from a Canadian producer promoting their latest film. Nothing wrong with that. Get the word out there. Sure. Except– At the end of the very enthusiastic letter about how happy we are with the movie yadda yadda, comes the line: “Please buy a ticket, even if you don’t go to see the movie. It would really help me out.”
It’s important to understand that the producer wasn’t literally panhandling for change here - though that’s not unheard of up here. What they were after was a theatrical run. See, getting your movie into a theater for anything longer than a weekend is the mother of all Canadian film achievements. It also means you acquire bona fide producer credits as determined by our nation’s film financing agency. Producer credits mean you’ve arrived. You can just sit there and massage the federal teat for as long as it takes to squirt.
What’s more is, I was told by this producer in person, a month earlier, that the movie in question was terrible. Yes, he said this about his own movie.
Going to our movies - or worse, buying a ticket to a movie we’re not going to watch - shouldn’t be a favour we ask of the public. It’s embarrassing. For everybody. Including, and perhaps foremost, the financiers of these make-work projects. The public has to want - desperately - to see what we’ve created. Before you laugh, think about the Star Wars geeks standing in line to see The Phantom Menace for the first time with their Darth Maul tattoos already inked on their chests. That was just a movie too. Just like what we can do here.
I don’t despair however. Ever slowly things do change. Risks do get taken and are rewarded. That’s Canadian “risk” by the way - not real risk. But it’s certainly not the fault of the public. They - we - just want to be entertained. Don’t ask us to do stuff. Or to care about your career. Just make something good for us to watch. Then maybe, just maybe, someone will give a shit when the Genies roll around.
They’re March 8th, incidentally.
I had to look it up.