More than two years in the making, Focus on Features: The Future of Filmmaking in Ontario made its public debut on Thursday, Nov. 29, at a launch event hosted by Ryerson University. The new study was jointly prepared by the WGC, the DGC, the Producers Roundtable of Ontario and Ryerson University. It endeavors to outline the current — if not “badly eroded” —landscape for English-language feature film creation/production in Ontario and identify next steps for an industry in need of a roadmap.
Research was compiled from 36 interviews conducted with industry stakeholders — including WGC members Leila Basen, Ian Carpenter, Atom Egoyan, Rob King, Jason Lapeyre, Patricia Rozema, Tim Southam and Adam Till — and from the results of an anonymous online survey in which many WGC members participated. WGC Director of Industrial Relations Laurie Channer also consulted on the production of the report.
If the report’s two-plus-hour launch discussion is any indication, Focus on Features has only scratched the surface of the climate, pitfalls and possibilities surrounding the film industry in Ontario. Some of the big challenges noted in the study, particularly for Canadian screenwriters looking to make a living in this industry, include insufficient development funding and overall funding, for that matter. Then there are the overarching issues of discoverability, poor distribution and overwhelming foreign competition (not only for bums in seats, but also for film crew talent and locations) affecting every member of the food chain.
In terms of moving the industry forward, the report recommends that next steps include concentrating on professional development; cultivating formal/informal networks for screenwriters, directors and producers; pushing for more diverse representation on and off screens; enabling more education on current and successful distribution/discoverability tactics; and of course, issuing calls for more studies.
Photo: WGC Director of Industrial Relations Laurie Channer, and Ryerson Focus on Features researchers James Warrack and Jessica Thom