2020 brings a wealth of possibility to Canada’s screen industry

"You think you’ve seen disruption in the film and TV industry? Wait to see what 2020 has in store," says Valerie Creighton, President and CEO of the Canada Media Fund

Canada’s reputation is on a roll. We’ve been trending over the past ten years. The 2010 Olympics triggered a pride and collective consciousness from coast to coast to coast that rallied our nationhood and took our country to the world. Now, as we close the decade, Canada’s brand is stronger than ever. We’re recognized not just for being nice and polite, but also for our secure banking system, our exports of high-quality food and manufactured products, and our openness to the world. Our bold cultural goods are reaching new and growing audiences and are an economic driver in the digital age.

Canada’s cultural exports, from literature, music, to art, design and screen-based content—which means everything we watch in movie theatres, on TV, our phones, tablets or computers—are well poised to ignite the world’s imagination with our stories, our creativity and our innovation.

A window of opportunity has opened. In the last federal election, all major political parties included some form of support for Canada’s cultural industries in their platforms. There is a growing national consensus on the advantages that these industries offer the country. They cultivate our shared identity, which stems from the stories we tell each other—and the world—through television, film, music and visual arts.

Canada’s screen-based sector has a wealth of talent both on and off-screen that last year created 179,000 well-paid, full-time jobs across the country and added $12.8B to our GDP.

Investing in Canada’s creative content is not just good cultural and economic policy, it’s also an integral part of our public diplomacy efforts in an increasingly fragmented and polarized world. Creative content builds on Canada’s strong brand value. It allows us to share our ideals with the world, and our view for a more generous, prosperous and sustainable planet.

Despite the revolutionary changes going on in media, including the influx of foreign streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime—a massive shift that comes with both risks and opportunity—Canada’s screen-based sector has demonstrated success.

Smart investment in this critical industry is required if we are to retain our impact on the country and the world. The opportunity provided by these powerful foreign services is before us.

The Broadcasting and Telecommunications Legislative Review Panel is due to publish its final report in January 2020. Steven Guilbeault, the new Minister of Canadian Heritage has begun to meet key players in the industry and see firsthand the breadth and depth of Canada’s creative and production community. Current and previous governments have demonstrated their willingness to work with this sector.

Beyond the numbers and the political considerations, we need to look no further than our screens for evidence of success. Canada’s stories are exceptional and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best in the world.

Kim’s Convenience won the Most Popular Foreign Drama award at the 2019 Seoul International Drama Awards and has garnered millions of fans in Korea.

Schitt’s Creek and its talent have amassed a cult following in the U.S. and become role models—and meme generators—for a new generation of LGBTQ Americans. The show also earned four Emmy nominations this year.

Canada’s Indigenous stories and creators have garnered critical acclaim and awards from Venice to Berlin and Cannes.

In Finland, Vikings’ audience market share in the coveted 25-44 age category was 97% above the average.

TFO, Ontario’s French-language public broadcaster, has one billion views on YouTube, with many of them coming from the Francophonie.

Canadians are also playing integral roles in the development of new forms of content and innovative user experiences, like video games and virtual reality.

Montreal’s The Darwin Project has won critical acclaim because of its reinvention of the popular Battle Royale gaming genre.

Our embrace of multiculturalism, diversity and equitable representation has made Canada a powerful magnet for talent and perspectives that enrich our culture.

It’s no surprise that, according to research conducted by Parrot Analytics, television produced or co-produced in Canada today has the highest rate of global “travelability”—the ability for content to attract audience demand outside of the country where it was originally produced and aired—compared to any other market. Canada’s stories increasingly resonate with audiences from Vancouver to Vienna and Vladivostok.

Canada’s content travels and sells well. It’s time to equip our screen-based industry with the tools and resources that will make it extraordinary. Our current system just isn’t going to cut it in the face of aggressive international players. This is a global business and standing on the 49th parallel, looking up, is something we can no longer afford.

The government has clearly stated all players in the screen-based sector, whether Canadian or not, will play by the same rules. This will help to create a fair, competitive environment in this growing sector.

In this golden age of Canada’s media, and in this new year, we will no doubt see much-needed change, more collaboration and a smart approach to how we invest in and finance Canada’s screen-based content that makes sense for now and the future.

It’s time to collectively embrace the opportunities in front of us and determine the new tools required that will help us capitalize on our investments of the last 80 years, leverage our success and ensure brand Canada continues to thrive in the global marketplace.

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