Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Film Policy and Practice in Canadian Regional Cinema: The Case of the Atlantic Provinces

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Film Policy and Practice in Canadian Regional Cinema: The Case of the Atlantic Provinces

Article excerpt

Looking at recent developments in Atlantic Canada, this article examines the articulation of film policy, collective strategy and the intersection of public/private and local/foreign interests in Atlantic Canada. Are local funds and incentives (particularly the introduction of tax credits systems) part of an industrial or cultural project? To what extent do they encourage film-makers from different regions to compete/collaborate with each other and/or to enter into partnerships with other countries? What are the advantages of a regional policy for the local film industry and for local communities?

GOVERNMENT FILM POLICY in Canada has long pledged to cater for regional diversity, but it was only after the establishment of the Canadian Broadcast Program Fund in 1983 that the Canadian Film Development Corporation, renamed as Telefilm Canada, 'adopted a series of measures to encourage and support projects originating from across Canada, particularly those from outside the production centres of Montreal and Toronto'.1 Telefilm Canada established an Atlantic office in Halifax in 1984, shortly after opening its Vancouver office. Around the same time, realising 'the economic interdependence between provincial government funding programs and investment from federal government and private-sector sources' (Gasher 2002: 82), a number of provincial governments set up their own film agencies. They are responsible for developing film policies and providing financial incentives and other support for developing film production locally. Outside Ontario and Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia have been front runners in terms of provincial government support to local film industries. In the last decade, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island have also established film production funds.

Looking at recent developments in Atlantic Canada, this article examines the articulation of collective strategy and film policy, and the intersection of public and private, local and foreign interests. Are local funds part of an industrial or cultural project? To what extent do they encourage film-makers from different regions to compete or collaborate with each other, and/or to enter into partnerships with other countries? What are the advantages of a regional policy for the local film industry and for local communities?

The Early Years and the Role of Atlantic Film-makers' Cooperatives

Nova Scotia has a long and well-established film-making tradition. US and European producers have been visiting Nova Scotia to shoot films since the turn of the last century, 'attracted to the province's natural beauty, the variety of its landscapes and a cast of colourful stock characters'.2 Evangeline, the first Canadian commercially-produced feature-length film, was made in 1913 by the Canadian Bioscope Company of Halifax. The Nova Scotia government's involvement with film production dates back to the early 1920s, when films were used 'to promote the province abroad and educate its citizens' (ibid.). In the 1930s, Nova Scotia and Ontario were the only Canadian provinces to establish a minimum Canadian content requirement in newsreels screened in local theatres (Morris 1978). Nova Scotia had the first and most prolific provincial film bureau in the country: it helped produce award-winning films about maritime history and culture between the 1940s and the 1960s. Up to the 1970s, however, much of film production in the province originated from the studios of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in Halifax.

In the 1970s, avant-garde cooperatives, such as the Atlantic Film-makers' Cooperative (AFCOOP) and the Centre for Art Tapes, together with independent studios (Picture Plant, Red Snapper and Salter Street), ensured that film-making activities continued to take place in the province. Still in existence today, AFCOOP is an artist-run centre that helps independent film-makers by providing assistance, instruction, facilities and equipment for both members and the general public. …

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