What is Stephen Harper thinking? Here is a man who generally has a measured and calculated approach to every move he makes. Nothing is by chance, nothing is without design. So what is the grand design behind the systematic elimination of the Canadian Film Industry? It doesn't make any sense. Here you have a man who willingly mugs the camera at almost any request for a guest appearance. Here you have a man who, in the past, has spoken if not in glowing terms about the industry in Canada, at least in positive reference.
His recent statements that the industry is characterized by glitzy festivals is only partially true. Sure the trappings look great, but if he has ever gotten close to the behind the scenes of such events he would realize that everything is rented.
Its all smoke and mirrors Mr. Harper. When we walk the red carpet, few of us have the money to buy the clothes we wear and are generally handsomely outfitted in loaned or rented clothes. The clothiers and couturiers are more than happy to gain the exposure such events afford and eagerly push their wares onto the backs of the willing for the night. Its great advertising. We don't object, it makes us look fabulous and feel fabulous - sometimes only for once in a career of hardship and poverty.
There are probably more writers, filmmakers, artists and actors that live below the poverty line in Canada than in any other developed country. I'd like to see somebody do the real numbers on that. I bet you'd be very surprised Mr. Harper. Rich artists indeed!
From coast to coast I hear almost daily of the plight of my fellow filmmakers, losing their houses, losing their cars, and most tragic of all, giving up on their dreams and their careers. Please don't forget that these are careers that Canada encouraged us to engage in, to commit to. These are careers that Canada poured millions into, and by doing so created an industry that equaled the proficiency of Hollywood itself. So much so that the MPIAA objected, the Unions and activists south of the border protested our success.
What happened Mr. Harper? Did we get sold out? Is this all part of a grand plan to eliminate the Canadian industry? Is this part of the American takeover of our movie screens, our Television networks and of our culture? Is this the final footnote to the Goldman Sachs buyout of the Canwest Global Alliance Atlantis deal? Is our culture and our individuality not worth protecting?
We understand that the Canadian dollar went to par, we understand that there are considerations other than the movie and television industries, but when the oil & gas industry (such poor fellows) can be government supported and continuously given tax breaks, is it too much to ask that we get a little consideration? That the minor gestures you had been making were worth leaving in place? That it actually made a difference to the viability of our industry abroad?
A speech about "these are tough economic times" when pestered by journalists about the treatment of the arts doesn't cut it. Not when your next speech is about how strong the economy is in Canada and how we all need to stay positive. Which is it Mr. Harper?
All we want Mr. Harper, is to be given a bit of a break to create the projects that we know are competitive in the international marketplace. Instead of stripping what little we have away from us you should be topping up some of the funds that were there and already moderately successful - make the programs actually work for Canadian producers!
Most Producers in this country have been starving since at least 2003 when the last grandfathered (and yes, much abused) tax shelters were retired. In order to make their financing work, most Producers have to pay themselves first in order to qualify for the maximum tax credits, then they have to loan that money back to the projects they are trying succeed with.
That leaves the production companies with money to get the projects running but it doesn't leave anything for the actual Producers to live on. That usually ends up being a personal line of credit, if they are fortunate enough to be able qualify for a line of credit... No Mr. Harper, you need to examine the true state of the arts industry before you start making statements that don't befit a man of your intellect and stature or the Prime Minister of Canada.
All we want is to be treated fairly and given a chance to compete on a no longer level playing field, we ask that you look at what our needs are and actually help us to achieve the greatness that we are capable of.
As Gordon Pinsent said yesterday "we need to be the landlords of our industry, not the tenants!" Bless you Gordon!