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BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY PART II


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#1 Milo Sekulovich

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 06:24 AM

Greetings,

Since I'm the one responsible for this avalanche of responses,I
felt compelled to show my face again.

I'm in the US, and love many (primarly older) British films.

I wasn't purposely trying to knock the British film industry.
Rather,I wanted to be enlightened as to the reasons why
the situation is so bleak. The funding paradigm it seems is a huge culprit.

How many of you are aware of the following scenario
having taking place in the last few years in the UK:

1. A director/producer/screenwriter/cinematographer(any of those)
wishes to make a feature. Goes on fund raising mission,borrows from friends,relatives,
gets dentists,doctors.a person of wealth to invest. Say 50-100,000 pounds raised. Feature shot on
Super 16. Film slated just for direct to video distribution either just in the UK or a few other regions.

Financing is not dependant on any sort of grant.

I realise that this is a bit of a generalisation,but the reason I mention it is that this scenario
is played out on a regular basis here in the US. I myself am shooting my own feature in 35mm-short ends,small crew,no pay etc.

Andy raised an interesting point-is there really such a dearth of shooting on Super 16 in the UK?

I see a certain absurdity in approaching a film granting institution with a possibly good marketable project
only to be rejected for those very reasons-then watch them grant thousands of pounds to things that will most certainly not see the light of day!

Regards,
Milo
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#2 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 07:16 AM

> I wasn't purposely trying to knock the British film industry.

Oh, don't worry, it deserves it.

> Rather,I wanted to be enlightened as to the reasons why
> the situation is so bleak. The funding paradigm it seems is a huge culprit.

There's two issues. First, the funding is nonexistent, and then second, exacerbating that, everything here is extremely expensive. I wouldn't be surprised to find that every percentage point of budget in the UK has to be stretched three or four times further than in the US, because the budgets are smaller and the goods and services more expensive.

No, there isn't really any terribly good reason for this. Probably the best example is the way indies in LA have their crew griping that they eat nothing but delivery pizza. In the UK, a delivery pizza would be a luxury - costing three or four hours at minimum wage, it's too expensive to be the main way of feeding a crew!

> 1. A director/producer/screenwriter/cinematographer(any of those)
> wishes to make a feature. Goes on fund raising mission,borrows from friends,relatives,
> gets dentists,doctors.a person of wealth to invest.

Never happens. I'm vaguely aware of a couple of (very bad) 16mm features being made this way back in the early 90s, which had extremely limited (one to four screens) theatrical runs and never made a penny. The rules on seeking investors make it more or less illegal to do that anyway.

> Say 50-100,000 pounds raised.

You can't shoot a 16mm feature for £100k in the UK. You can shoot a feature for $200k in the US, of course, which is a broadly equivalent amount of money, and that of course is the difference.

> I realise that this is a bit of a generalisation,but the reason I mention it is that this scenariois played out on
> a regular basis here in the US.

I know. Something I've said a thousand times on this and other fora is that the nonexistence of this situation is one of the biggest problems in the UK. We have tiny, no-budget PD-150 shoots, then we have Harry Potter, and there is absolutely nothing inbetween. This is the reason I have never tried to do the traditional route of working up through a camera department (if I was interested, which I'm not particularly) - you'll be a no-pay loader for ten years because there is simply nowhere to go.

Last time I was in LA I shot a five minute short on 35mm using microbudget techniques, and I think, including paying everyone who was involved at least something, I spent well under $1000. You couldn't do that for five thousand pounds in the UK. It's sickening, and the people who sit at the top of this heap, happy with the situation because it means their positions are unthreatened by newcomers, are beginning to retire. There is nobody to replace these people, who mainly started off in the 60s at the BBC, because the industry will not allow them to be trained. It could be said that the abundance of crusty old codgers shooting stuff is part of the reason why things like Torchwood look so dated and horrible, but that's only part of the problem.

> Andy raised an interesting point-is there really such a dearth of shooting on Super 16 in the UK?

Yes. There's more 35 than therre is 16, because of the issue I mentioned - we have super high end TV ads, and to be fair we do those better than anyone else in the world, we have TV stings and trailers, and we have the extremely occasional feature, all of which shoot 35. 16 is nonexistent - the odd film school shoot and low budget music video.

> I see a certain absurdity in approaching a film granting institution with a possibly good marketable project

Well for a start in the UK you won't have a marketable project because there is no culture of packaging a director and a name cast. The only people who can do that are Working Title. Yes, that means there is effectively one production company worth mentioning in the entire country. When she wanted to sell Harry Potter to a film company, J. K. Rowling looked all over the UK for an outfit capable of making a decent job of such a potentially upscale and expensive production. From what I read, she actually tried to keep it in the country and sell it to a UK producing house.

But she couldn't.

Because there aren't any.

> only to be rejected for those very reasons-then watch them grant thousands of pounds to things that
> will most certainly not see the light of day!

Ah, but it's politically correct, you see, and that's much more important!

Phil
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#3 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 11:49 AM

Milo, I can't speak for the British situation because (1) I'm in Italy and (2) I don't know the details as much as I should to be able to comment on it. However, the situation here is not that different. There are very few "studios", and only one or two can afford to invest more than 1 million euro on a feature film. The biggest studio, ironically, is also the biggest distribution company, and it's owned by former prime minister Berlusconi (I won't make political comments because I'd risk getting banned from this forum).

So most filmakers find other ways to get funds: RAI, the national public television, sometimes puts some money into features ("The best of youth" was produced by them), but it's usually shows they write and produce, so they never invest in other productions. Then I'm sure there are lots of filmmakers who go and ask everyone for money, hoping to get enough funds to get started.

Then there's the Italian public state funding commitee, which is laughable at the very best: if i recall correctly, last year funds were a grand total of 10 million euros (compared to other european countries, it's the lowest): about 8 of them were given to some feature film productions, the rest was for first time filmmakers, and they usually give 15.000 euros for a short film. As good as it sounds, let's just say that the big money goes ALWAYS to the same people, and the films produced with that money are 90% of the time simply BAD (and it usually takes at least a year before getting the money, three separate committee meetings and enough paper work to destroy the amazon forest). Of the 200 first time filmmakers who get the funds for a short film, less than 2% go on and produce a second short: there's no funding for second-time filmmakers.

But the biggest problem of all, and I think it could be said of other european countries as well, is that there is no industry, although there are lots of excellent professionals: most people solely rely on the state for fundings, because there are no studios, no majors, no market, no money. The thing that strikes me the most about the UK is that they shouldn't have the same problems since they can easily put their movies on the north american market, without the language barrier and all of that, and still there's virtually no one who would start investing in movies without being too scared.

my very humble two cents...
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#4 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 11:57 AM

Hi,

> can easily put their movies on the north american market

Not so. Unfortunately, in the continental vastness between LA and New York there exists a people of such parochial xenophobia that you'd think anyone who isn't American was born on another planet; put more simply, Americans just won't watch non-Americans in movies. Why d'you think that so many Working Title shows have an obvious token American?

The only exception seems to be period drame; apparently thee's some kind of deep-seated cultural understanding that Jane Austen is set in England. Obviously, since there have been no cultural, technical or sociological advances in the UK since 1820, we're incapable of making modern movies.

Phil
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 12:24 PM

The only exception seems to be period drame


And James Bond movies. If the action is hardcore enough, it transcends culture/language barriers, as the popularity of Jackie Chan movies shows.

Bread and circuses... or is "circui" plural for circus? "Circi"?
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#6 Tim Partridge

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 12:43 PM

Let's not forget that the James Bond movies were initiated by North American producers, and have always been owned by a big Hollywood studio. They are about as truly British as the Harry Potter movies (see above).
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#7 Francesco Bonomo

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 01:07 PM

Bread and circuses... or is "circui" plural for circus? "Circi"?


Circi, Circorum (singular Circus, circi). It's "panem et circenses" ("circenses" being different from "circi", since circenses it's the games, circi the physical place).
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#8 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 01:14 PM

So most filmakers find other ways to get funds: RAI, the national public television, sometimes puts some money into features ("The best of youth" was produced by them),....


Thats a great film, everyone should see it.
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#9 Jon Kukla

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 02:18 PM

Lies, lies, and lies.

For shame, Phil!
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#10 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 02:21 PM

You guys complaining about the state of the British film industry have no idea how good you've got it!

Think of your system, only 100 times worse, that is Canada.

Why do you think there are HUNDREDS of thousands of Canadians working in the film biz in LA? (Hint: They are mostly English speaking white males, gee I wonder why that is?)

If you think gov't funding for film in the UK is a joke, you should see it here. For the record I think the whole idea of handing over tax payer money for filmmaking is a total crock! It's nothing but a form of welfare. No one has ever given me a penny to fund any of my projects and yet I do just fine.

Message to all Canadian filmmakers on the government pay rolls: Get off your lazy asses you are a bunch of blood sucking whores! And that goes 10X for all of you in Quebec that get the lions share of Ontario and Alberta tax dollars to support your "Quebecois" film industry that no one gives a damn about.

R,
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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 02:47 PM

Yes Richard.

But you can get short ends and your goods and services aren't at least 50% overpriced.

Last I heard there was a thriving production industry in Canada (that's where your short ends come from, remember?). This provokes a pronounced trickle-down effect - actually, the way capitalism is really supposed to work. Well booked, busy rental houses can give you deals. Well booked, busy crew can afford to do freebies. The less there is going on, the less there can ever be. It's a vicious circle.

And your position rather proves the point. You can make features in Canada without government help because it is feasible to sell them to video and make money, or at least make a reasonable stab at it. In the UK, this is absolutely impossible. There are no companies in the UK who will consider small independent movies for video release. Your film will sit uselessly on the shelf. Not so where you are.

The government situation sounds grim, but that's only what we have here. You, at the very least, have alternatives.

God, I hate this country...

Phil
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#12 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 03:05 PM

Ah yes I forgot to add that Canada is only a service industry to Hollywood as you point out. And yes those rolls of cheap film do no doubt flow from US productions that go home and have lots of film left over. Which I do pick up for a song. But, that is all as a result of US money flowing into Canada.

There are definate pros and cons for Canada as a result of Hollywood shooting here. On the plus side they support the post houses and rental houses, so when I need some thing from these folks they are there for me. Usually at a greatly reduced rate since they make all their money from the millions they bill the US majors each year. That's good.

The cons, the Hollywood shoots eat up transfer time at post houses like a dinosaur, and drive up rates all over the city. My transfer for my feature was bumped three times by Jumper. They have a lot more money, so they get the time. Thanks Deluxe for making it right in the end though incase you guys ever read this :D (Google has strange powers).

The Hollywood shoots also make Canada 100% reliable on them to the point where we never develop a domestic industry of our own. When the Canadian dollar hits a new high or the US congress rattles the sabres over "runaway productions" Canada gets screwed and people are out of work again.

In the short term the US shoots are good for Canada, but over the long haul, it will end in disaster. US states will catch onto Canada's tax credit game and if the Canadian dollar stays high it is not worth while to shoot here or Vancouver.

R,.
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#13 Tony Brown

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 03:58 PM

I think a little perspective is needed here.

20 years ago our industry in the UK was globally receiving the same sort of doom and gloom analysis. 'British' films have for years and years been rubbish, with very few exceptions. Somebody cited Hammer as an example of the good old days - oh please - be serious, They were then and still are the 'carry on' of the horror genre, lets not kid ourselves. However the 'British Film Industry', i.e. the active making of films in the UK or with UK crew has been pretty good with the exception of a couple of dips over a 70/80 year period. Until 20 years ago the number of technicians was relatively small. The Union structure (the ACTT) was such that it was very difficult to break into the industry unless you knew somebody and were prepared to 'do your time'. I for example was restricted to work for a rental house for 2 years before I'd even be considered to be granted a freelance ticket (I actually did 3 before I was even accepted for the restricted ticket). This may sound archaic, but in many ways was no bad thing. It ensured that those entering the freelance world really wanted it. They had family / friends that had helped them get this far and there was a sense of not wanting to let people down. Pretty much everyone knew or knew of each other. Thanks to Thatcher the union was crushed and when the TV companies decided to lay off their crews and adopt a freelance policy, 100's of people flooded the ('our') market. Whereas before a tight knit community stayed on top of rates and conditions, now there was a new breed of people frightened of being freelance and the uncertainty it brought. They took any and all work whatever poor pay and conditions were offered. Hours went up. Pay went down. So did the standard of technicians in the UK. Couple this with Governments who could not see the benefits of offering tax breaks to overseas (primarily US ) productions and suddenly we were no longer responsible for the Star Wars / Supermans / Indiana Jones / Bridge Too far / Empire of the Sun / type productions that had until then kept us well fed.

In spite of those setbacks, even today its difficult on commercials to get a top rate Gaffer / Grip as they are always working on features. They may not be 'British' features, they may not be the big films of the 70's and 80's but they are being shot by the 'British Film Industry'.

Wherever I've shot in the world, and I'm lucky enough top have shot in over 60 countries, I have found a rule that holds true anywhere. probably only 10% of crew in any capacity in any country (including US and UK) are top notch. Maybe the next 40% are ok, the rest are ...... well best left without comment probably.

I've not found this argument to be a uniquely British one. I've had the same discussions in Australia, NZ, South Africa, Canada..... Even local crew in Prague are now feeling the effect of being undercut by crews in Bucharest. My experience of working in markets to which the job has been awarded because of budget has never been a rewarding one. The quality of crews, and equally important the attitude, is generally reflected by what they get paid. Why should a 1st AC on $50 a day and no overtime, working 20 hour days give a flying F if the camera and lenses get unloaded into a warm environment at night? Why should the 2nd run to the truck for a forgotten box? When a 10k blows moments before turn over, why should the Gaffer stop chatting up the Make Up girl and sort it out? I feel frustration and understanding in equal measure at these times.

My point is that I don't really find it so different anywhere in the world, London, Glasgow. NY, LA, Cape Town..... terminology changes, who does what changes.... but attitudes are not so different. Everyone feels hard done by, US moan about the Canada taking the work, NY moans about LA...LA moans about everyone..... maybe in the UK we moan a little more than most..... but then we have just lost an Empire..... :o)

Enjoy what you do folks, even the wrong end of the shitty stick in this business is better than what most people do for a living.

A quick addition.... I dont think the amount of 35mm / 16mm stock shot is any different now to what its ever been in the UK, The big difference is the number people trying to work on the productions using that stock. If anywhere, thats where our industry has shot itself in the foot.....
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#14 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 05:37 PM

"but then we have just lost an Empire"

Technically speaking the sun still never sets on the British Empire. Get a globe and put flags on all the remaining full British territories, then shine a flashlight on one side (the sun), as you rotate the globe you'll see that at least one flag is always in the light.

Just another useless experiment I conducted in my many hours of free time :D

Here's a visual aid.

http://en.wikipedia....ki/Crown_colony

R,
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#15 Tony Brown

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 06:11 PM

Get a globe and put flags on all the remaining full British territories, then shine a flashlight on one side (the sun)........


....and feel the cringing embarrassment from the citizens of Britland

:angry:
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#16 Matthew Buick

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 07:17 PM

Why do you think there are HUNDREDS of thousands of Canadians working in the film biz in LA? (Hint: They are mostly English speaking white males, gee I wonder why that is?)


GOSH!! :blink: And I thought the UK was bad with that!!! :blink: :blink: :blink: :blink: :blink:

Anyways, whatever happened to ol' Rank? They haven't had much of a mention yet. :(
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#17 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 07:59 PM

Yeah check it out 600,000 Canadians living in the LA area alone!!

http://geo.internati...services-en.asp

Pretty soon signs in Los Angeles will have to be in American and Canadian.

R,
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#18 Keith Mottram

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 01:08 PM

As far as i'm concerned the only way to reverse the situation is via protectionism, this is why france unlike the uk has a stable(ish) film industry. the reason why the us has such a strong position is because no government bar france and ________ (someone fill in the blanks?) forces the market to accept other product. if you then have a heavily funded system forcing their product upon the largely thick masses and a distribution system which is weighted in the united state's favour then how are you ever going to have a proper home grown industry? my hope is that through digital distribution there will be more outlets for uk and europeon content, but with the publicity budgets of american films dwarfing uk shooting budgets i'm not sure how much, if any, effect this will have theatrically. if we had a quota of uk films for british tv and satallite then we could start to see a real change. this will never happen of course as television is dominated by global media companies who are more interested peddling second rate american tat than creating original content, plus we have a labour government that is so scared of being tainted with a socialist brush that it would rather cradle satan's balls till he's ready for a money shot than consider any form of protectionism. it is all rather depressing...
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#19 Andy_Alderslade

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 02:18 PM

As far as i'm concerned the only way to reverse the situation is via protectionism, this is why france unlike the uk has a stable(ish) film industry. the reason why the us has such a strong position is because no government bar france and ________ (someone fill in the blanks?) forces the market to accept other product. if you then have a heavily funded system forcing their product upon the largely thick masses and a distribution system which is weighted in the united state's favour then how are you ever going to have a proper home grown industry? my hope is that through digital distribution there will be more outlets for uk and europeon content, but with the publicity budgets of american films dwarfing uk shooting budgets i'm not sure how much, if any, effect this will have theatrically. if we had a quota of uk films for british tv and satallite then we could start to see a real change. this will never happen of course as television is dominated by global media companies who are more interested peddling second rate american tat than creating original content, plus we have a labour government that is so scared of being tainted with a socialist brush that it would rather cradle satan's balls till he's ready for a money shot than consider any form of protectionism. it is all rather depressing...


I agree with what you are saying that only protectionist laws and quotas are the only way to ensure a healthy national cinema - and in France it works multiplexes are full of a vast variety of films, from France, the US and the rest of the world.

Italy has really felt the pinch of not implementing such restrictions.

I do dissagree with your believe in Digital distribution at present. It sounds like a good idea, what the UK Film council have done instatlling digital projection systems in selected cinemas round the counrty, however when you consider that each projector costs £100 000 including instalation. So only 100 screens has cost £10 million. Currently there's no guarantee how long that technology will run for, so it could turn out to be only a short term investment.

While that money could have been pumped into a national film distributor that could use that significant sum for prints and advertising. Those prints could be shown on any screen in the counrty, and though a 35mm film print is expensive (£1000 each) in larger cinemas they can be played over several projectors at the same time, so if the film is a hit, you are not restricted to a limited number of seats. One digital projector can only play in one theatre at a time.

So what seems at first like a great idea is actually the UK Film Council trying to rebuild the industry to its own needs - something it probably can't do.
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#20 Richard Boddington

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 02:21 PM

We use the system of Canadian Content or Can Con as it's known in the biz. About 60% of prime time in Canada must be made up of Canadian programming. (or some where around that number)

But after working for a TV network in Canada for five years, CTV, there are a dozen ways the Canadian broadcasters get around the rules. Keep in mind that Candian TV networks are just business people who want to buy American shows and put them on the air in Canada. It's a cheap and easy way to make money, especially when the Canadian gov't protects your industry from American take over.

What the Canadian networks do is cram their schedules full of Canadian programming during parts of the year when viewership falls off. CTVs famous trick was to stuff as many Canadian movies onto the air during the summer months, then switch back to American programming in the Fall. This way they would achieve their Can Con quotas for the year as an over all average. Neat trick. (I was stuck doing the promos)

The Global Network hates Can Con even more than CTV does and takes even more elaborate steps to keep as much Canadian content off the air as possible. I don't think they have any Canadian shows? Hey Global is Train 48 your idea of quality Canadian content? Any Canadian who has seen this show knows what I mean.

The Canadian government can force the networks to air Canadian content, but they can't force them to make it good. CTV for instance has tried and failed miserably to break into prime time drama with a long string of hideous shows, like: The City, The Associates, The 11th Hour, & Power Play.

Power Play was particularly hilarious, it was a show about a hockey team. I was part of the promotions dept at the time this show was on the air at CTV. The ratings where terrible and nothing could be done to save this piece of crap. Finally the CTV brain trust decided that we should make promos for the show that did not show any hockey footage because this was a turn off to women. Yet it was a show about a hockey team!!

Needless to say it didn't last long.

The best CTV ever managed was Due South about the mountie in Chicago. That only lasted because CBS aired it in the US. Once CBS pulled the plug, CTV did not have the cash to keep it going.

Over at the CBC it's not much better. They get handed 1 billion a year in tax money and never succeed in getting even one of their shows into the top 10. They consider any show that gets 500K viewers to be a huge success. What's that.....the local for Miami?

I could go on for pages, the legacy of failure here is incredible.

As for the theatres, get this, the Canadian gov'ts goal is to achieve 5% of the box office. Yes 5%. The remaining 95% was handed over to Hollywood without a fight.

I wonder what the American reaction would be if Canadian films made up 95% of the US box office :blink:

R,
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