the honour and the real pleasure of chairing a Board of Directors whose duty it is to oversee the activities of a Crown corporation that, in the last year, reviewed its parliamentary mandate, reduced its management costs, passed a special examination by the Auditor General, revamped its organizational structure, welcomed a new Executive Director, instigated the signing of an international coproduction agreement for assistance to cinematographic development, provided support for foreign sales and agreements worth almost $152 million, and maintained thousands of contacts in one of the most fascinating industries in the country. Welcome to Telefilm Canada! Below, I report on the main areas in which the members of the Board were involved during the 2009-2010 year.
Telefilm and Its Mission
Although at first glance it might seem a theoretical exercise, the members of the Board of Directors analyzed the parliamentary mandate that defines Telefilm Canada’s (Telefilm) reason for being. This review led them to recognize and appreciate the true extent of Telefilm’s mission: to foster and promote the development of the audiovisual industry in Canada, which includes feature films, television and digital media.
For this reason, the Board intends to support all initiatives that will enable Telefilm to fully execute its mandate and highlight its relevance to its political, economic, and cultural partners.
Telefilm and Its Budget
I join the members of the Board in conveying our gratitude to the Honourable James Moore, the minister responsible for Telefilm, regarding the preservation of the organization’s budgets for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. In the current economic context, a number of public agencies have been subjected to cutbacks, and so our situation is worth underlining.
Telefilm and Its Organization
The changes made late in the previous fiscal year, as well as the coming on-stream of the brand-new steering committee during 2009-2010, infused Telefilm’s organizational structure with new energy and efficiency. Telefilm’s management team and employees are now more involved in the important decisions made by the organization. This enables us to identify, communicate and understand the industry’s needs and, when applicable, fulfil them more effectively, rapidly and directly.
Telefilm and Its Governance
Today, Telefilm Canada is a well-governed corporation, with a skilled and devoted Board of Directors, an effective management structure, and enthusiastic employees. Comments by our clients, most of them people in the industry, confirm this assessment by expressing high levels of satisfaction with our expertise and services.
But there is more.
Every year, Telefilm is subject to examination by the Auditor General of Canada. However, the Financial Administration Act provides that Crown corporations in Canada must submit to a more complete and rigorous special examination every ten years. During 2009-2010, it was Telefilm’s turn to undergo this procedure, and the patient did very well as the examination revealed no important shortfalls in its management. As the Auditor General’s representative said, this is very rare for a Crown corporation undergoing its first special examination.
As a further sign of the healthy administration of the organization’s finances, the ratio of management costs for programs administered by Telefilm dropped from 7.2% to 6.1% during the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
Telefilm and Its Leaders
If we needed further reassurance, the person principally responsible for these excellent results, Carolle Brabant, at the time Telefilm’s Director of Administration and Corporate Services, is now the organization’s Executive Director.
This appointment was yet another positive event in 2009-2010. In addition to being an experienced manager, capable of exerting strong leadership, Ms. Brabant is a person of vision and open to change. She is also the first woman to serve as Executive Director of Telefilm.
Telefilm and the International Market
Having made international development a priority, the Board was particularly attentive, during 2009-2010, to Telefilm’s efforts to help Canadian companies sell their productions on different markets or undertake coproduction projects. It is worth noting that Telefilm already grants a quarter of the money in the Canada Feature Film Fund to coproductions.
Our presence at a number of international festivals and markets, such as Berlin and Cannes, has generated almost $18 million in sales and presales of Canadian films to foreign purchasers, and more than $134 million in coproduction agreements and co-ventures. Each dollar invested by Telefilm in these international markets has enabled Canadian companies to realize $16 in sales.
Finally, to further stimulate coproductions, Telefilm has sought the conclusion of an international agreement for assistance to cinematographic development and started negotiations with the Department of Canadian Heritage to simplify the guidelines in this area so that they more truly reflect the general principles set out in the international treaties currently in force.
Telefilm and the Future
The Daring to Change theme of the present report conveys an orientation shared by Telefilm’s Board of Directors and management: to face the many changes taking place in the audiovisual industry, both in Canada and elsewhere in the world.
Telefilm’s current 2006-2011 corporate plan terminates next March 31. It included three main objectives. First, Telefilm adopted a target that was already part of the Canadian feature film policy: to obtain, for the two linguistic markets together, a yearly Canadian market share of at least 5%, expressed in terms of box office receipts. Our second objective was to develop the industry’s potential by increasing the proportion of private and foreign financing. And our third objective concerned the governance of Telefilm Canada, and aimed for greater efficiency, transparency, and responsibility, as well as better service to our clients.
Although this third objective, in my humble opinion, was fully attained, experience has shown that this was not fully the case for the first two. In Telefilm’s defence, it must be said that the organization was far from controlling all of the parameters involved.
Nevertheless, a nation’s cinema is too important to leave it to develop on the sidelines. Therefore, as we are about to formulate a new corporate plan, we must dare to change the way we do things so that, especially on the Anglophone side, we reach more movie-goers. We must not lose sight of the fact that almost three quarters of Canadian feature film budgets come from public funds.
Daring to Change Together
It would be premature, in this message, to outline the change scenarios that are currently being studied for the next corporate plan. But it is not too early to state that we will multiply our efforts to elevate Canadian cinema to the place it deserves.
We have too many images to show, too many emotions to communicate, too many top creative artists to highlight, to give up now. The Canadian film industry is alive, vibrant, and dynamic. Its artisans want to succeed, and we want to support them.
Thank You to a Big Team
I am grateful to my colleagues on the Board of Directors for their dedication and valuable advice: Elise Orenstein, Vice-Chair; Marlie Oden, Chair of the Strategic Planning and Communications Committee; Yvon Bélanger, Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee; Grant Machum, who chairs the Nominating, Evaluation, and Governance Committee; and Tom Perlmutter, Government Film Commissioner and Chair of the National Film Board, who is an ex-officio member of the Board. I would also like to take this opportunity to welcome Ram Krishna Raju. With this recent appointment, the Board of Directors is now complete.
Thank you to the executives and employees of Telefilm, whose constant commitment and involvement are greatly appreciated.
I would also like to acknowledge the working groups of the Canada Feature Film Fund for their valuable contribution. These groups, composed of representatives from companies, unions and guilds, provide us with a valuable consultation forum. And I would like to salute all the people in the industry with whom I had an opportunity to sit during this past year at consultative roundtables and informal meetings from one end of the country to the other.
Finally, I would like to tip my hat to the many Canadian creative artists who, in 2009-2010, distinguished themselves in productions that are our pride, both here and abroad.