This week’s podcast: funding Can-con in a global TV age

THE 68TH EMMY(r) AWARDS - “The 68th Emmy Awards” broadcasts live from The Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles, Sunday, September 18 (7:00-11:00 p.m. EDT/4:00-8:00 p.m. PDT), on ABC and is hosted by Jimmy Kimmel. (ABC/Image Group LA) TATIANA MASLANY
Tatiana Maslany

This week, Scott Thompson at Hamilton’s CHML wanted my take on a thorny issue stirring up plenty of controversy in Canadian TV circles: changes to the CRTC regulations regarding funding.

The rule change that rankles many in the Canadian writing, directing, acting and production communities: shows now only need to achieve a 6 out of 10 score in terms of qualifying as “Canadian” and thus be eligible for certain funding. Before it was 8 out of 10.

There are all kinds of ramifications to that.

Scott was seeking reaction to a report that, had Orphan Black been created under the new funding rules, some big name American would have won the lead and Saskatchewan-native Tatiana Maslany would never have been cast. She would therefore not have become the first Canadian on a Canadian-made drama to win a Best Actress Emmy award.

Now, holy hypotheticals. Is it the same showrunner and creator auditioning actresses for that role? Does Maslany not blow away anybody seeking somebody to play eight or nine different personalities? If they had cast some big name American to be the lead, would the show’s ratings have improved in Canada and the U.S.?

Dealing in hypotheticals is about as valuable here as kneejerk reactions to such a complex issue. There are many stakeholders here, and room for a lot of valid points.

The challenge for the CRTC and Canadians in television production is that viewers all around the world can now watch TV shows from anywhere, anytime. Funding requirements have to adapt to today’s borderless business of television.

The CRTC, I believe, was trying to address that by making a change they saw encouraging world-wide co-production and treaty deals.

There’s plenty of evidence they’re on to something. This week I was on the set of Ransom, a Canada, U.S., France and Germany co-production. It just wrapped eight episodes in Toronto and heads to France to shoot five more. The writer’s room is in London. Three Canadians are among the nine scribes. Directors hail from all over. The lead, Luke Roberts (Game of Thrones, Black Sails), is a Brit. Canadians Nazneen Contractor, born in Bombay, and Brandon Jay McLaren co-star, along with actresses from France and Ireland. American Frank Spotnitz (X-Files) is executive producer. The series will premiere in 2017 on Global and CBS as well as TF1 in France and RTL in Germany.

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Roberts seen in monitors on the set of Ransom

A Canadian, David Vainola (Combat Hospital), is the creator. He was on the set Wednesday, laptop on lap, tweaking that week’s script as he kept one eye on monitors in video village. Another Canadian, Jennifer Kawaja (New Waterford Girl), is also an executive producer.

The show employed a large, 100% Canadian crew in a city stretched to the limit for studio space as well as crew members. (It’s even busier in Vancouver, where I was recently on the set of Timeless and The Magicians.) Ransom, in fact, had no base studio in Toronto, camping out at various locations around the city, including the former slaughterhouse-turned-studio I visited Wednesday in Etobicoke.

The lead, Roberts, is fresh off Black Sails, shot in South Africa, and Game of Thrones, shot in Ireland. He previously worked on Reign and Beauty and the Beast, both shot in Toronto for an American network, The CW.

Did he beat a Canadian out for this role? Quite possibly. Are the folks behind Ransom hoping to catch Roberts hot off his Game of Thrones glory? Most definitely.

CHML_AM_Logo.svgWill another Canadian actress ever win a Best Actress is a Drama Emmy? Hell, it took 68 years for that to happen once under the old rules.  You can listen in to the CHML hit here.

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