“Something is better than nothing” is better not having that something sometimes…

Canada’s maquila film industry was just a way to keep Canadian audiences away from attracting the Hollywood film industry. It was interesting how McIntosh’s reading stated that “there is no Canadian film industry — just talk of a Canadian film industry,” because Canadian film industry is influenced by the Hollywood film industry. The statement above is relevant on many levels to the Canadian film industry because it lacks in promoting its own values, cultures, and identities. Having treaty co-productions, Canadian Feature Film Policy, National Film Board, and Telefilm Canada shows that the Canadian film industry is attempting to create an authentic film culture. The Canadian film industry also opens avenues to local citizens to tap into local storylines that can cross boarders to promote a genuine Canadian film industry. However, the Charles Davis’s et al reading provides great insight into how the Canadian film industry still does not pay close attention to the reality of Canadian culture and multiculturalism/diversity.

Don’t dig your own grave!

            McIntosh’s reading demonstrates that no matter how talented and up-to-date Canadian filmmakers are Hollywood can easily come between, like the Hollywood maquila film industry. Policies need to be much stronger in the film industry because Hollywood will only support the short-term development of the Canadian film industry, which eventually creates a decline in Canadian film productions. I like how McIntosh used the word “self-dumping,” which is accurate because policies are not strong enough to protect Canadian film industry’s technical crews, storylines, and production values. I think based on McIntosh’s reading, policies are not meant to be strong in the Canadian film industry because it allows Hollywood to monopolize them. As Andre Lamy, the former director of Telefilm Canada, states, if not it would have “lead to catastrophic results” to the Canadian film industry. The fact that the maquila film industry returns to Canada numerous times shows how much weaker Canadian film industry was during the recent past.

In fact, in general the strong influence from Hollywood can be the reason that the Canadian film industry and its policies pay little attention to multiculturalism and diversity in the nation. Canada is known for its acceptance towards multiculturalism and diversity through its immigration policies. However, this acceptance is not reflected in the Canadian film industry. As Charles Davis et al. points out, there is an extremely low level of inclusion of visible minority producers in film and television and on-screen representations. Canadian film industry seems to set its policies and systems not to project Canadian values, but instead to attract the American film industry. Then the level of locality seems to diminish. Canadian locality is defined through its multicultural and diverse communities. However, according to Charles Davis et al., the CRTC is not seen to behave proactively in the diversity issue area. The Canadian film and television industry needs to self-represent rather than trying to tap into the American dream. In reality, Canadian programming should allow more original ethnic programming and productions to achieve equitable representation of visible minorities in the Canadian independent media production sectors.  If the Canadian film industry wants to gain local credibility it needs to strengthen their policies to enable the production and dissemination of genuine cultural diversity themes and stories in popular genres. It is also critical for the industry to pay close attention to how employment equity and on-screen representation is defined and enforced. As Charles Davis et al. suggests, diversity ought to be taken seriously and employers must be held accountable for hiring visible minorities.

Trying is better than nothing

The Canadian government has taken action to revitalize and sustain a film industry that has the ability to reflect national identities and values for the citizens. Treaty co-productions, Canadian Feature Film Policy, National Film Board, and Telefilm Canada show that the Canadian film industry is trying to make a strong film industry through self-determination and self-representation. Treaty co-productions are when two or more production companies based in different countries combine resources to produce an audiovisual project. Treaty co-productions are a very systematic and effective way to combine content and cultural values from other countries. It also brings economic benefits- treaty co-productions increase the creation of Canadian cultural content that allows crossing borders. Treaty co-productions can also benefit domestic audiences; since Canada has diverse ethnic communities, it can satisfy the needs of multiculturalism in the film industry. The cultural benefit can be effective because Canadian values and international values are combined, which opens access to a greater audience.

In addition the two categories that interest me in the Canadian Feature Film Policy are to foster the quality and diversity of Canadian feature films and to build larger audiences at home and abroad for Canadian feature films. The two categories illustrate that the film industry is starting to pay more attention to diversity and to build a larger target audience, which implies that ethnic communities can have some hope for equality in the Canadian film industry. According to the Canadian Heritage (Film and Video), film is a powerful medium that influences the way we see the world by offering captivating pictures of faces, places, and experiences that we might not otherwise encounter. There should be much stronger policies that push film producers to consider multiculturalism and diversity in their production, which would allow non-visible minorities to gain more insight on communities of visible minorities. It would also increase representations of visible minorities and equal employment opportunity as well. The Canadian Heritage (Film and Video) states that film matters because it provides a window on history and a mirror of society, allowing us to reflect on the past and assess the present. The National Film Board attempts to include more diversity in their productions, however NFB films are not promoted well for people to benefit from them.

“Distorted mirror”

These readings assigned for this unit reminds me of the advertising concept the “distorted mirror.” According to Polly and Gallagher, advertising is a reflection of a society (360). The mirror is distorted because the advertisement only reflects selective values, identities, and attitudes in a society (Polly and Gallagher 360).  If film is also a reflection of its society, why can’t CRTC set strong policies that reflect its multicultural society? Film producers seem to pick and choose the values, identities, and attitudes that will bring more economic stability. It is not really about reflecting national characteristics in its reality. The concept of the distorted mirror is about how advertisements only reinforce characteristics that romanticize product or service to its target audience. This is also applicable to Canadian productions and polices. The distorted mirror effect is the key to attract target audiences rather than the “mirror effect.” If films used the mirror effect, which is the direct reflection of a society, people would not see the benefit of a product or service. Reality can be too bitter for the target audience; hence filmmakers stick to the distorted mirror effect. The distorted mirror effect in the film industry may satisfy a certain group but it can also exclude other communities in a society. Film is powerful in implementing larger cultural contexts into its aesthetics and its message. Therefore, film productions require values, attitudes, and behaviors of a society in order to create meaningful messages.

Conclusion

            In conclusion, the lack of multiculturalism/diversity and associated policies in the Canadian film industry show that the industry is not an independent media platform. However, the attempt to reflect an original film industry through treaty co-productions, Canadian Feature Film Policy, National Film Board, and Telefilm Canada to at least show a sense of independence. The Canadian film industry needs to pay close attention to representations of visible minorities in their productions and equal employment opportunity to be a true local player. The advertising concept “distorted mirror” is precisely applicable to make sense of how the Canadian film industry works.

Tinu Silva

External Resources:

Pollay, Richard W., and Katherine Gallagher. “Advertising And Cultural Values:    Reflections In The Distorted Mirror.” International Journal Of Advertising 9.4           (1990): 359-375

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