MONTREAL — Seasoned Canuck film industry veteran Wayne Clarkson has been tapped executive director of Telefilm Canada, the country’s main film and TV funding agency
Clarkson replaces Richard Stursberg, who ankled the top Telefilm job four months ago to become head of English-language television at pubcaster CBC.
Clarkson has spent the past 13 years as executive director of the Canadian Film Centre, the Toronto-based film-training facility founded by helmer Norman Jewison. Clarkson headed the Toronto Film Festival from 1978-85 and was CEO of the Ontario Film Development Corp. from 1986-91.
Clarkson is well liked and respected in the country’s film and TV sectors, and his reign at Telefilm is expected to be less controversial than Stursberg’s. During Stursberg’s tenure, Telefilm drew much criticism for inking a deal with Creative Artists Agency to help develop and finance Canuck pics and for forcefully pushing an agenda to make more commercial pics.
Clarkson is seen as more of a supporter of auteur cinema; during his time as head of the Ontario Film Development Corp., he helped nurture a new generation of arthouse filmmakers including Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema and Bruce McDonald.
Clarkson told Daily Variety there is no reason Canada couldn’t produce a smart, upscale hit like “Sideways.”
“It’s a wonderful script and a good cast,” said Clarkson. “It’s not big Hollywood stars and it couldn’t have cost a lot of money. So certainly that’s a model for us.” But Clarkson was also at pains to note that he is a supporter of commercial cinema. Most in the biz figure he can’t completely reverse the Telefilm policy to push for market-driven pics given that the federal government has ordered this public agency to increase the box office for English-Canadian film. Telefilm was given an extra C$100 million ($83 million) with the requirement that it up the box office for English-Canadian film to 5% of overall ticket sales in the country.
Initial industry reaction was positive to the news of Clarkson’s appointment at Telefilm. Unlike Stursberg, who came from the cable and telecommunications sectors, Clarkson has been a fixture on the Canuck film and TV scene for three decades.
“Barbarian Invasions” producer Denise Robert applauded the appointment.
“It’s an excellent nomination because he knows world cinema and Canadian cinema,” said Robert. Clarkson is expected to start at Telefilm in January.