Christa Dickenson named new head of Telefilm Canada

News: Canadian Film

Christa Dickenson named Telefilm Canada’s new executive director, replacing Carolle Brabant as keeper of Canadian entertainment’s purse strings.

By Ex-Press Staff

(June 26, 2018) — Veteran marketing executive Christa Dickenson will replace Carolle Brabant as the executive director of Telefilm Canada, the public administrator responsible for funding the vast majority of Canadian audio-visual content.

Heritage Minister Mélanie Jolie made the announcement today via press release, which cited Dickenson’s years of experience in the entertainment industry, as well as excellent language skills, as central reasons for the hire. Dickenson will leave her job as president and CEO of Interactive Ontario to start the five-year mandate on July 30.

“To say that I’m excited to be named the Executive Director of Telefilm Canada is an understatement,” said Dickenson in the release.

“I cannot wait to be part of an organization that has put Canadian storytellers at the forefront of our culture for over half a century. Working alongside the incredible talent of the Canadian film industry is not only inspiring but also humbling. I look forward to the incredible challenge.”

A graduate of the Rotman School of Management with an MFA in film from York, Dickenson is well-prepared. But she wasn’t wrong about the challenges ahead.

The Canadian film industry has made great strides into the national consciousness over the past decades, but the money is still scarce, and for the most part, public.

In the fiscal year 2016-17, Telefilm disbursed $362.7 million. Out of that, the agency funded 88 features and 18 micro-budget features for about $70 million – with the rest going towards television, promotion, education and development.

They also set a goal of a 50 percent “awareness level.” The good news is it exceeded its target. According to the Annual Report: “In 2016-2017, results showed that 53 percent of Canadians surveyed reported being able to name a Canadian film—an eight percent increase over the prior year.”

But the “Awareness Index” doesn’t tell the whole story. Another new metric created under Brabant, and one that supplants the old box-office scores, is the “Success Index.” This new number includes box-office, but isn’t calculated in dollars. Revenue and share are weighed in with other factors, including festival presence and honours, as well as the amount of outside investment in the industry itself. The result is a “success score” — and even on that one, which has no scale or comparable values — we’ve gone from 96 to 89 from 2012 to 2016.

With Canada now knee-deep in a trade war with the United States, things could get worse. Or, should Canada and the rest of the world decide to impose tariffs on Hollywood entertainment, Canadian content could — conceivably — boom.

That’s not likely, however. Attempts at tariffs have been made in the past: post-war throughout the 1950s, followed by calls for Canadian quotas in the ‘70s ad ‘80s. All legislative campaigns for control and reinvestment of US-destined profits were quashed by effective industry lobbying by the Americans.

The only effective response was creating a funding body to nurture and support Canadian film. Once called the Canadian Film Development Corporation, it’s now Telefilm Canada. Come July 30, 2018, it will welcome a new leader recruited by representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Privy Council Office, Canadian Heritage and Telefilm’s board of directors. Christa Dickenson will face the same obstacles as her predecessors. Whether she can find new solutions is the $362.7-million question, and the continuing existential riddle called Canadian film.

– With files from Katherine Monk


Main Photo: Christa Dickenson, courtesy Telefilm Canada
THE EX-PRESS, June 26, 2018


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