CAA, Telefilm Canada deliver package deal

Canuck film biz angry, claim move wastes taxpayer money

MONTREAL — Federal film funding agency Telefilm Canada has inked an exclusive deal with Creative Artists Agency under which the tenpercentery will package pics for Canadian producers.

Many in the Canadian film industry reacted in anger, saying the deal with CAA is a waste of Canadian taxpayer money and will lead to the production of Canuck films with more American actors.

A memo from Telefilm executive director Richard Stursberg revealing details of the deal has been leaked to certain members of the Canadian film industry. The memo states that CAA will “assist the repatriation of Canadian talent resident abroad to participate in the Canadian film industry.” Agreement will also “assist Canadian producers to attach talent, find financing and obtain distribution.”

Deal with CAA will last one year and, if successful, will be renewed.

“It’s very clear that this deal is to allow CAA to package U.S. directors, writers and actors for Canadian projects,” said Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, Canada’s main actors union. “And Canadian taxpayers are paying for this. It’s outrageous. This is a bogus effort by Richard Stursberg to attempt to make himself into a movie mogul in Canada. It’s preposterous. Who’s given him the mandate to do this? Does the board of Telefilm know what he’s doing?”

Some in the industry fear that Telefilm will follow this deal by loosening the rules to allow more American thesps on Canadian-content projects. Right now, Telefilm has fairly stringent guidelines restricting the use of non-Canadians in films funded by the agency.

“It’s shocking and disappointing that Telefilm feels it has the mandate to enter into an agreement with an American talent agency,” said Maureen Parker, executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada. “You can’t have American writers telling Canadian stories. I think it’s a step backward.”

Telefilm has already drawn flak for Stursberg’s more commercial approach to filmmaking. The agency is committed to having Canadian films account for 5% of overall box office in Canada by 2006. At present, English-Canadian film languishes at under 1% of ticket sales, while French-Canadian pics do much better, garnering around 13% of the box office pie in Quebec last year.

Stursberg was not available for comment Monday and a Telefilm spokesman would say only that the agency has signed a deal with CAA. Telefilm will provide more details today.

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