BANFF, Alberta — The American presence is about 500% more visible at this year’s 14th Banff Television Festival with the number of U.S. players represented on panels an impressive 62, per conference producer Carrie Hunter.
The U.S. contingent has helped fuel record attendance levels. This year’s fest, which runs June 6-12, has attracted a record 850 delegates, up 16% from last year.
The conference theme, “Building Bridges With the U.S. and Europe,” focuses on international co-productions. And increased participation on panels by Americans — and, to a lesser extent, Europeans — reflects that international co-productions have become a necessary part of doing business in a sputtering global economy.
Fest prexy Jerry Ezekiel says having more panel participants from theU.S. and Europe was something delegates requested after last year’s event. And they targeted key European and American players to try and meet that demand.
Among the broad-based list of U.S. participants are Gary Randall, prexy of Spelling Television, who will moderate the opening sesh, “Building Bridges With the New America”; Stanley Hubbard, topper of Hubbard Broadcasting; Carol Rosen, veep of family programming at Home Box Office; Jeffrey Wachtel, senior veep of drama development at Columbia Pictures Television; and Marion Davis, CBS veep of international program development.
Delegates heard that American networks have become more open to co-producing with Canadian partners. “The reality is Canada is the future for American co-productions,” said Randall.
But Canadian producers were told they could take better advantage of increased opportunities if they “partnered” with individuals or companies that have relationships at the U.S. networks.
Alliance Communications was cited as an example. The Toronto-based production and distribution company is represented by William Morris and hired Michael Weisbarth, a “known” U.S. player, to head their L.A. office. The result has been numerous development and production deals.
“I think Canadians do have a leg up (over Americans) when it comes to cost efficiency. But we’re still primarily driven by who’s the desirable talent,” said Kevin Reilly, NBC veep of drama development.
Also brought up in the discussion was how the repeal of the financial syndication rules would affect Canadian and U.S. producers.
“There is going to be an opportunity — especially some of the deals that major studios may not find as attractive, Canadian companies may find attractive , as a way in (to the webs),” Reilly said.
Last year’s sessions highlighted new technology. This year, the fest is geared toward TV content and doing business in an advanced technological environment.
Other topics to be covered during the week include “Building Bridges With the New Europe,” moderated by Simon Hart, director of international program development director, France-based Ellipse Program.