On Sunday, Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany became the first Canadian to win a lead actor Emmy for her role on a Canadian series. But many homegrown TV creators worry she could be the last, given a recent change by Canada’s broadcast regulator.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) revealed on Aug. 25 it was dropping the minimum certification points required for projects seeking access to funds that support Canadian independent productions.
According to the CRTC, the decision provides “flexibility” for creators and could “facilitate the hiring … of non-Canadian actors or creators, who may increase a project’s attractiveness and visibility in international markets.”
If these changes had been in place when he and co-creator John Fawcett were first pitching Orphan Black, Manson said, Maslany would likely not have been chosen as the lead — a complex role that requires her to play multiple characters.
“The networks would have pushed for a name.”
The CRTC’s ruling has been applauded by the Canadian Media Producers Association, but pilloried by other creators and groups that represent them, such as the Writers Guild of Canada and the performers’ union ACTRA.
Canada’s current success on the international music scene — where, for instance, Drake, Justin Bieber and The Weeknd are chart-toppers and music awards show fixtures — is a direct result of Cancon radio requirements of decades past, according to writer and show creator Emily Andras.
Whether in music, film, television or other industries, Canadian sensibilities are interesting to audiences around the globe and should be supported, said Andras, showrunner and creator of Wynonna Earp, whose credits also include the hit Lost Girl.
“Nobody’s talking about trying to take away access to American television. If you want to watch 55,000 episodes of CSI, you have that on American networks and Canadian networks… We should just add our [Canadian] stories to the mix.”
Andras also challenged the notion that reducing Cancon requirements will inspire high-profile foreigners — say Jennifer Lawrence or Steven Spielberg — to make Canadian productions.
“If we could make our own Game of Thrones, yes, let’s have at it. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about just opening the playing field to people who maybe haven’t been the best or the brightest in any entertainment business anywhere, but somehow have some recognition.”
It’s wrong to think that Canadians need outside help to make internationally successful programs, he added.
“I’ve been on the subway in Paris and seen posters for Rookie Blue. I have German actors who want to work for us because they watch Canadian TV,” said Ellis, noting that his latest series, X Company, is shown in a dozen Latin American markets.
In a statement that praised the talent of Canadian creators, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly acknowledged the industry faces new challenges and said her government is examining “how to better support the creation” of Canadian content.
Cancon points systems
To access the Certified Independent Production Funds, a project is awarded points depending on the number of Canadians in key creative posts, such as director (two points), screenwriter (two points), the top two lead performers (one point for each), director of photography (one point), art director (one point), music composer and picture editor (one point for each).
The Canadian Media Fund requires 10 points for a project to access its funding.