Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen of the Committee. I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to introduce myself and to discuss Telefilm Canada matters with you.
Given that the purpose of my appearance today is to examine my ability and skill to undertake the duties of Chair of the Board of Telefilm Canada, I’m sure you won’t mind if I begin with a brief overview of my career path to date.
I have held a number of senior managerial positions with the Government of Quebec since 1970, serving as director of communications and publicity with the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (Quebec health insurance board), director of tourist marketing, assistant deputy minister and director-general of tourism, vice-president of the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (Quebec auto insurance board), deputy minister of tourism, deputy minister of communications, and delegate of the Quebec government in Chicago. During this period, I also taught a course and offered consulting services in public affairs management at the University of Quebec’s École nationale d’administration publique (school of public administration). The major part of my 30-year career, therefore, has been spent in public service, holding senior management positions with government ministries or public corporations. In this capacity, I was frequently called on to manage considerable human and financial resources.
During my career I have also sat on a number of boards, including those of the Société de développement industriel du Québec (Quebec Industrial Development Corporation) and the Régie des installations olympiques (Olympics Installations Board), and served as Quebec’s representative on a variety of Canadian and North American bodies, among them the Conference of Canadian Tourism Officials and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. I also had the privilege of representing Canada on an expert scientific panel with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris.
After leaving public service, in 1996, I worked as a management consultant in the private sector. Among other things, I served, for two years, as chair of the board of International Hospitality of America, a Miami-based company involved in the cruise-ship industry. Returning to Quebec, I released two jazz albums—as composer and performer—which were distributed, respectively, by Les distributions Select, in 2001, and Warner Music Canada, in 2003. I then turned my attention to writing, and in November 2007 I published a biography of goalie Patrick Roy, titled Le Guerrier, which is published by Éditions Libre Expression.
Finally, I think it’s worth mentioning that I was introduced to the world of cinema at a very young age. My father, who was a reporter and writer—by that I mean novelist—began making films in Quebec in the early 1950s. Starting at the age of nine, I was cast as an extra in several of these films, and I got to know what a film shoot was like. Sometime around 1955, my father set up his own film production company, in Montréal: Serge Roy Productions. As a student, I spent my summers working as an assistant cameraman. Then, when I was 20, I learned film editing, and subsequently went on to work as an editor on more than 60 television programs for Radio-Canada, between 1962 and 1964. With this work experience under my belt, I now like to say that I have the mind of an administrator but the heart of an artist, a fitting combination for someone who has been asked to chair an organization dedicated to supporting cultural companies and organizations.
Although my appointment was announced on October 12 of last year, previous commitments undertaken well ahead of the appointment prevented me from getting as involved as I would have liked in Telefilm Canada matters. However, this didn’t stop me, in November and December, from reading a number of documents—I should say a tonne of documents—that allowed me to really begin my education in Telefilm Canada’s business; from meeting several times with senior managers, who outlined some of the major issues Telefilm Canada is currently facing; and from participating in a meeting of the Operations department in Montréal. At this meeting I also met the directors of Telefilm Canada’s four regional offices, who talked to me about the particularities of their respective markets.
During this period, I even began a series of one-on-one meetings with producers, directors, and writers in order to solicit their impressions of Telefilm Canada, in their capacity as Telefilm clients.
I admit it was not without some apprehension that I accepted the mandate the government conferred on me. Before my involvement with Telefilm, I had got wind, through the media, of some of the harsh criticisms that had been levelled at Telefilm in the past. But I must tell you that I was totally reassured after I went on a “fact-finding mission” in the last two months of 2007. Telefilm Canada is a well-run organization, managed by people who are competent, conscientious, honest, committed, and who manage to convey an infectious enthusiasm for the challenges they face every day.
What impressed me the most is the way Telefilm has evolved over the last few years—in a world where the only constant is change—in partnership with the industry and by paying very close attention to the industry’s needs. I was pleasantly surprised by the Corporation’s ability to adapt as its work environment changes and in response to the larger context in which it is evolving. Because there’s no point avoiding the fact that we are in thrall to an unprecedented technological revolution. This revolution is, almost on a daily basis, providing us with new ways to reach audiences and, bit by bit, is transforming the very nature of the audiovisual industry, from the production and broadcasting of works, by way of the increasing control that audiences now want to exert over the products they consume.
Of course, these new technologies stimulate the bright minds who produce cultural products and enable these minds to stand out from the competition, at the national as well as international level. At the same time, however, these technological discoveries—which seem to increase tenfold every minute—are creating multiple new challenges. These are challenges that those who want to support companies in the audiovisual sector now have to take on.
Even the globalization of markets has thrown up its share of new challenges: high-quality works now enjoy a wider and wider reach and offer increasingly larger returns; however, this is offset by the fact that these works entail significantly higher financial risks that force their producers to be innovative also when it comes to funding methods.
Telefilm Canada’s birth, more than 40 years ago, was prompted by the needs of the film industry. The television industry was added later on, as was, more recently, what we call, for want of a better term, new media. When we speak of Telefilm Canada today, we’re really talking about “Audiovisual Canada.”
Under my watch, Telefilm Canada will continue to listen to its clientele, to maintain constructive relationships with the group of clients it serves, so as to continue being attuned to the changing dynamics of this constantly changing technological environment. I will encourage Telefilm to continue its fruitful dialogue with its clients and other industry stakeholders.
I convened a meeting of the Corporation’s Board for the first time two weeks ago. Two Board seats are currently vacant, but the has assured me that they will be filled very shortly. I eagerly await these appointments, which will allow the Board to fully undertake its mandate. The Board’s mandate, broadly speaking, is to oversee the management of the Corporation’s business activities as well as its internal affairs.
At my first Board meeting, I indicated to the members that I did not want a ceremonial Board; I wanted a Board that would be deeply involved in the Corporation’s business. We were called upon to contribute our experience and our expertise—I'm talking about members' services. We are here to serve Telefilm Canada, and in this spirit we will undertake our duties. I insisted that the Board be vigilant when it comes to two matters in particular. First, the Board must ensure that Telefilm respects its governing mission, its raison d’être, at all times. Second, the Board must ensure that Telefilm’s operational mechanisms yield decisions based on the highest standards of integrity and probity. This oversight will obviously be conducted in close collaboration with senior management. Telefilm’s Board and senior management will also study how we can do business in new ways so as to maximize the necessarily limited resources that the audiovisual sector can draw on to flourish and develop.
But we’ll have to answer the following questions at each step of the way: Does this fit in with our mandate? Are we carrying out our activities in a fully accountable and fair manner? Are we capable of adapting as quickly as necessary to the changing needs of an industry constrained by technology’s relentless advance? Can we quantify and measure real results flowing from our strategies? Are we operating as effectively and as efficiently as possible?
Telefilm Canada plays a unique role, the only one of its kind among cultural organizations. That role is to support the development and promotion of an audiovisual industry and of talented Canadians who, through their products, seek to attract audiences at home and abroad using all broadcasting platforms available to them. As we evolve in a highly competitive environment, we must, to the greatest degree possible, ensure that the Canadian public funds we draw on serve to attract funding from private sector or other sources, thereby creating a multiplier effect.
I am honoured to be associated with an organization of this scale and scope, and I plan to bring the greatest level of enthusiasm and passion to the time, energy and knowledge I invest in Telefilm. Telefilm Canada is already entering its fifth decade, and it is to the future that it must turn its attention. Film, television, all the new ways of reaching audiences that are becoming more and more demanding, via traditional, digital, interactive or other type of content, will continue to play a larger and larger role in the lives of citizens over the next few years. The Canadian audiovisual industry must stake its place. The current context is clearly very different from the one which existed prior to the Corporation’s founding in 1967. The same holds true for the challenges we now face, and I’m very proud to be involved with Telefilm at this point in its history.
So it is with pleasure that I'll now try to answer your questions. I say “try” because I'm not sure I can. As you'll understand, my appointment is a very recent one. I would have liked to appear before you with a full and complete knowledge of what Telefilm Canada and the Canadian audiovisual industry are. Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to acquire that knowledge. I can talk to you about my personal experience. I can talk to you about my knowledge, as it is limited today to Telefilm and the Canadian audiovisual industry. In the more or less near future, you'll no doubt invite me again to speak more about the content of Telefilm Canada.
I look forward to answering your questions.
First, your introduction very much reassures me because, if you mention that you're going to meet with me again, that means you won't have any objection to my term continuing.
As to your more specific question on new media, we do say “new media”. This is something that is new for us all and that is developing exponentially on a daily basis. We currently have $14 million in funding to support these initiatives. I feel that the program currently in place—and this is me speaking personally now, not Telefilm Canada—is an experimental program. We're experimenting in a new sector consisting mostly of very small businesses and of entrepreneurs who can invent things in their basements, come up with brilliant ideas, but who then don't have the necessary resources to develop and market their products. And it's often at that stage that they're bought out by others, by foreigners who ultimately benefits from their bright minds.
We're somewhat in the situation Quebec was in a few years ago, when our natural resources were being exploited by others. That's somewhat what's happening. I believe that, at some point, there will be a change in the way we address the new media program. I think we'll have to ask ourselves this question: what do we do with new media? Should we continue to support them in a lukewarm and timid fashion, or should we take the leadership role in developing new media?
If we assume leadership in new media development, that will take much more considerable funding than what we currently have. When you look at the feature film industry, which is a major industry in Canada, you see that box office receipts are $850 to $860 million, perhaps $900 million in good years. New media revenues in Canada are about $5 billion. This is a much bigger industry. If we want to assume leadership of that industry, we will obviously have to...
Furthermore, I also wonder, given the size of this business—and once again this is a personal thought—whether, if we develop a new media fund, we'll be able to afford to act as a bank. I'm thinking of a bank that would make high-risk loans, for example, but that would manage to get a return on its loans, on its investment, which would enable it to constitute a fund that would then be enough to enable us to assume leadership in new media development.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Monsieur Roy, for appearing before our committee today. It's greatly appreciated.
Sir, I understand from the chair that because we don't have an NDP member here today we're going to get seven minutes for this exchange. I plan to speak for about four minutes, leaving time for your response. When I finish, I'll ask a few questions that will be directly related to your ability and skill to chair the board of Telefilm.
On the bottom of page 3 in your opening remarks you said that you had some apprehension before you accepted your position as chair of this board, because of the harsh criticism of Telefilm in the past. I will be asking you to comment on that past.
My comments obviously in no way will be a criticism of you, Monsieur Roy, as you're a recent appointment, but I want to touch on some of that harsh criticism and then allow you to enlighten us as to how you may lead the board forward.
First of all, in terms of the board, it's responsible for providing strategic guidance to management, ensuring good value for the funding provided by taxpayers, and holding management accountable for its performance.
The mandate of Telefilm Canada I read verbatim:
||As a cultural investor in cinema, television, multimedia and music, Telefilm Canada is primarily concerned with the funding of original, diverse and high-quality productions that reflect Canada's linguistic duality and cultural diversity. Telefilm Canada accordingly supports productions with a high level of Canadian content.
It goes on from there.
Telefilm is an arm's-length entity to the government. Telefilm uses established criteria to distribute taxpayers' dollars. But the established criteria include discretion and value judgments.
In my mind, sir, and in the minds of many of my colleagues and many, many Canadians who will be watching today, the purpose of Telefilm is to help facilitate the making of films for mainstream Canadian society, films that Canadians can sit down and watch with their families in living rooms across this great country.
Historically, though, some of the judgments of Telefilm have raised controversy, the most recent example being a film.... I'm very hesitant to use this title, Mr. Chair, but it's part of the harsh criticism that we're going to levy at Telefilm Canada. The film is titled Young People Fucking, and that was shown this summer at the Toronto International Film Festival.
I haven't seen this film, but it's my understanding that the film contains a lot of soft-porn images. It's supposedly somewhat witty, but with very blue dialogue. It is certainly not discussion that most Canadians would share in their homes or offices.
There are, of course, other examples.
Let me just back up a minute. I'll read a description of the film I just alluded to. The description is that is “a scathingly honest and hilarious portrayal of four couples, one threesome and a crazy night of sex”.
There was, of course, a lot of controversy previously about a film called Bubbles Galore, in which an adult entertainer obtained a grant from the hard-working taxpayers of Canada to make what was a soft-porn film.
You can continue on and look on the Internet, and there's a film entitled Rub & Tug.
A colleague of mine approached me today, a very esteemed colleague, an assistant deputy speaker, and said, “I want you to bring up at committee today a film called Control Alt Delete”. I just want to read for you, sir, a brief description:
||It’s 1999 and lovable computer geek Lewis is dumped by his long-time girlfriend Sarah. So he does what any young techie would: beat off to Internet porn. But as Y2K hysteria takes hold, Lewis discovers that the website images no longer turn him on... and so begins his strange sexual relationship with the machine itself.
||It isn’t long before his desire for newer, sexier models has Lewis copulating with co-workers’ CPUs.
I could go on, but I'm not going to.
Madam, you asked three questions. I'll try to remember all three. The first concerned the market.
As a result of Quebec culture, the French-language film market is a captive market in Quebec. Quebec has managed to establish a star system. It has its star producers, its star directors and its star actors. When people open a magazine in a supermarket while grocery shopping, they see a list of Quebec films. They watch Quebec programs, sitcoms in English, but which are also québécois. They enjoy productions like Un homme et son péché, Le Survenant and so on.
It's very different in English Canada because of the invasion of the U.S. film industry. When people shop for groceries and open a magazine, in many cases, it's a publication belonging to an American business. So it contains a lot of advertising and promotion for U.S. films. Very often, those who become the best Canadian actors and directors ultimately cross the border and go to work in the United States. It is really very difficult to establish a star system that would create enough interest in English-speaking Canadians for them to discover their own stars and watch their productions and films. These are two very different markets.
However, the Quebec market remains very small because it is captive. So it's a limited market. My thinking isn't based on any solid foundation yet in view of the fact that I've just arrived. However, I am of the view that co-productions would satisfy both markets. First, it would be a way to secure foreign investment. That would also make it possible to add private funding to public funding, which could help finance productions. In that way, we would reduce the percentage contribution of public funding to film production. That would also be a way of having Quebec and Canadian actors work with American actors, who are already established major stars. That would help increase the credibility of actors here.
Let's take the example of Marie-Josée Croze, who makes films in France and who has become an international star. She's excellent. That's also the case of Roy Dupuis. When these people make films in Quebec, they aren't less good than if they were filming in Paris. So people are encouraged to go and see their films, their productions. That, I think, is what is currently lacking in the English-language film industry.
You had two other questions. Would you help me?
Thank you, Monsieur Roy, for appearing before us today. So far I've been quite encouraged by the testimony you've given to us.
I did notice from your opening comments that you understood very well the mandate of Telefilm Canada, and I'll just quote that back to you. You refer to its role as being “to support the development and promotion of an audiovisual industry and of talented Canadians who...seek to attract audiences at home and abroad, using all broadcasting platforms available to them”.
That's correct. Much of the focus in the mandate is an industrial-cultural focus, making sure that our industry is healthy. But you also acknowledged earlier, when you responded to my colleague's comments, that in fact there also has to be accountability to the public, because it is taxpayers' money. There has to be a level of understanding of what the public values are that Telefilm Canada should reflect.
I'll tell you quite frankly that I don't believe it's the role of this committee to act as a censor. I will say this, though. When there are public moneys involved, we want to make sure that the product the taxpayers pay for is one that taxpayers in general consider to be reflective of the values we have.
There was a suggestion, actually, from my colleagues on the other side of this table that perhaps we didn't understand the content of the films my colleague referred to. We are very well aware of them. We've seen significant portions of at least one of those films. Unfortunately, my impression was that the content was degrading to women. It focused more on recreational sexual activity than loving relationships. It was not redeeming. At the end of the day, I'm not sure Canadians would have been left with something that would improve them as human beings.
I was really encouraged to hear you acknowledge that there is a set of public values Telefilm Canada must take cognizance of. So thank you for that.
I will say this. You're going to be challenged fulfilling the mandate, because you have so many stakeholders you're responsible for. You're responsible to the industry, you're responsible to government, and you're responsible to the public.
Can you let this committee know how you're going to determine your response to these various stakeholders? Will you have a consultation process on a regular basis? And what will that consultation process look like to ensure Telefilm Canada is strong and actually fulfills the mandate, the vision, and the mission that's clearly articulated, certainly on the website that I viewed?