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Canada keeps fund czar

The Canadian film industry breathed a collective sigh of relief Wednesday when Pierre DesRoches, the highly respected executive director of federal funder Telefilm Canada, had his contract renewed.

As expected, Harvey Corn ankled from a three-year appoint-ment as chairman of Telefilm to become an ad-hoc commissioner of the Canadian Pension Commission. Veepee Andre Provost is acting chairman until a new appointment is made.

DesRoches’ five-year federal appointment ended May 31.

The renewal ends weeks of speculation that Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who has announced his resignation, would appoint a non-pro exec before he steps down later this year.

Strong lobbying effort

The 11th-hour negotiations had key Canadian players lobbying communications minister Perrin Beatty to keep DesRoches in charge of the Canadian industry’s funding lifeblood.

Telefilm Canada will dole out about $ C149 million ($ 119 million) in fiscal 1993-94.

Family film producer Rock Demers, prexy Les Production la Fete, said he believes DesRoches’ contract renewal is the only hint of stability the government have offered the industry.

“The industry has learned how to work with DesRoches and Telefilm during his term and I am very happy that his mandate has been renewed. (In Canada) we go from breakdown to breakdown, so this continuity is a nice change,” said Demers.

The length of DesRoches’ term has not been determined. Canadian federal appointments generally run three or five years.

Praise for DesRoches

Robert Lantos, chief executive officer of Alliance Communications, the nation’s leading production and distribution org, said: “Pierre DesRoches is the first executive director in a very long time who has gained the confidence of both the public and private sectors. He has succeeded in minimizing the negative impact on the industry of a relentless series of budgetary cuts by the federal government.

“He’s an exceptional civil servant in that he combines administrative skills with entrepreneurial judgment and the beneficiary of that has been the industry, so I think it’s a very positive development.”

Telefilm’s most recent budget cut was about $ 17 million.

Protected funds

DesRoches promised the industry that the cuts wouldn’t be from the $ 52 million broadcast fund or the $ 19.6 million feature film fund.

The new 1993-94 action plan reveals the promise was kept.

“I said we’d keep the same level of funding and activity in the funds,” DesRoches said in a phone interview from Telefilm’s Montreal headquarters.

“We have cut in administration and ancillary programs. We have increased the production revenue sharing program because we think this is a good incentive for more revenues. We increased the special fund (to $ 3.8 million) and those revenues will allow us to put morein production than we would otherwise under the circumstances.”

“There are two more cuts coming,” he said.

Another $ 4.8 million will be sliced in ’95, followed by another $ 9.6 million chop in ’96.

Foreign fund cut

Meanwhile, the foreign launch fund — which aids American and Euro distribs of Canadian films outside Canada — was sliced to $ 400,000 from $ 480,000.

However, Sam Wendel, director of Telefilm’s Los Angeles office, said he’s rolling with the punches.

“We’re now working within the framework of the cutbacks and surprisingly we’re investing less money in more films, but more effectively,” Wendel said, noting revenues from ’90 and ’91 are “coming back now so we’ll have more than just the $ 200,000 to draw on.” The other $ 200,000 is for Euro launches.

Wendel said that since the launch fund’s 1990 inception, the Los Angeles office has contributed to 11 of 18 Canadian pictures released stateside, including the critically acclaimed docu “Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media,” which has topped $ 200,000 at the box office on several specialty screens.

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