Canadian Film Centre CEO

Canadian Film Centre CEO Slawko Klymkiw’s average day is about engaging with the many moving parts of a career and biz-accelerating hub. Since 2005 the former CBC-TV exec has shaped the strategic vision of the center’s initiatives, led the charge to grow its annual budget from $7 million to $13 million (60% from private investors), overseen several program launches and stoked the board of directors with industry and finance leaders keen to chime in.

“When I meet potential partners and funders now, they say we know you’re doing good works but what value, other than education, do you bring to the conversation?,” he explains. A recent economic impact study conducted by Nordicity found that since 2006, 171 alums have started media companies that have generated $101.8 million in incremental production volume — a stat that pleases Klymkiw. “Even our public sector dollars are seen not as grants but as investments in the growth agenda.”

While the short-term challenge is the roller-coaster of renewing the many partnership deals that typically run three years, the long-term task is keeping CFC programs biz relevant. “I’ve put more pressure on all our exercises to have a commercial bent — because I believe you can be smart, provocative and successful.”

Director and executive producer of
CFC features

Justine Whyte is proud of all the films developed (46) and produced (21) since CFC Features launched — and her tenure began — in 1992. And with eOne now on board as the Canadian distributor and foreign sales agent of CFC-produced features, she is happily devoting more time to overseeing business and creative development of a roster that includes Palm Springs world-preeming “Molly Maxwell” and soon-to-unspool “Old Stock,” and fest hopefuls “Cruel & Unusual” and 2012 Tribeca All Access Creative Promise award-winner “Rhymes for Young Ghouls.”

“In the past it often took over a year to lock distribution,” says Whyte, whose challenges don’t differ much from those of anyone acquiring strong, production-ready scripts with able teams attached. “The more recent challenge is being cognizant of how people are consuming movies now and ensuring filmmakers are aware of those realities — because it’s all about reaching those audiences.”

CFC Chief Program Officer
Head of film, TV, actors and music

Natural-born talent scout and tireless booster Kathryn Emslie most recently kickstarted the Showrunner Bootcamp, tuned up the Music Lab, lit up the Actors Conservatory and got the laughs rolling in the Comedy Exchange in addition to her long-standing role overseeing CFC’s shorts and primetime TV programs and managing alliances with international partners and stakeholders.

“Our core principals — learning from the best and the practicality of making real content — are sound but we can’t rest on our laurels,” she says. “We’re constantly anticipating new marketplace appetites so we can evolve our programs, and our long-term commitment is to more aggressively showcase our talent in the international market.

“The CFC has matured to the level that we can now get the attention of folks south of the border and say ‘You should have our projects and talent on your radar,’ ” continues Emslie.

“The biggest challenge is not diluting the quality of the experience we’re offering and not duplicating something that already exists — everything we offer has to have merit in the industry.”

CFC chief digital officer
Founder of CFC Media Lab

The CFC’s prescient move to launch the Media Lab in 1997 has prepared the way — through early experiments in new forms of storytelling — for the center’s next 25 years. Lab founder Ana Serrano’s role is evolving to include overseeing the CFC’s transformation into the digital space, finding ops for all talent coming through the doors and ensuring the CFC is leading the transformative process in the industry itself.

“We’re migrating the digital DNA of our faculty, networks and curriculum across all CFC programs,” explains Serrano. “Our new role is helping Canadian film and TV producers attain the entrepreneurial mindset they need to exploit all aspects of their properties so they’re not siphoning off parts of it to others.”

Having launched ideaBOOST, an aud-engagement-focussed biz accelerator for digital entertainment startups, last fall Serrano’s challenge now is to forge relationships with key policy and infrastructure entities. “How can accelerators motivate companies if the access to capital — which has always plagued Canada — isn’t fixed? So the CFC is focussed on systemic changes that need to happen outside the entertainment industry.”