CFC NBC Deal: Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Writers

When I was talking to my old pal Slawko Klymkiw the other week he was excited about a deal the Canadian Film Centre was working on with NBC Universal. The CFC sent out this release about it yesterday:
“CFC ANNOUNCES THE CREATION OF THE NBC UNIVERSAL CONTENT CREATOR PROGRAM
INNOVATIVE PROGRAM TO BRING ORIGINAL CANADIAN MADE CONTENT FOR ALL MEDIA TO INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCES”
The stated objective of the new CFC/NBC Universal Content Creator Program is to offer opportunities in “cross border relationship building” as well as “mentoring in the development and packaging of original concepts.” I guess this could eventually provide a window for Canadian film students to shop their wares on NBC digital or even broadcast platforms. Got a cool little reel and want to post it on Hulu? Right this way, Norm Jewison Jr.
You’ll have to submit a script or two first for consideration to get into this program, with CFC and NBC execs narrowing down the field. Lucky applicants will start courses in September.
NBC programming boss Angela Bromstad already has one Canadian-produced project on her summer sked–CTV’s The Listener. Guess she’s like to have more. Her boss, Ben Silverman–who has fond memories of Stratford, Ont., from when his dad’s days there as Festival music director–has stated often that NBC is looking beyond U.S. borders for content and talent.
Variety saw it earlier this week as “The Peacock is making a big push to scout for talent in Canada.” Some veteran Canadian writers and producers I have heard from, who presumably have the tire marks on their backs from the last time they were taken for a ride from a U.S. network, are at best a little suspicious of this venture. Some see it as an end-run around the Writers Guild of Canada (whose annual awards are in Toronto this weekend, where this will no doubt be a hot topic), a move back to a “Branch plant culture.”
That certainly wasn’t what was motivating Klymkiw and company to partner up on this deal when we talked the other week. Sure, Canadians with camcorders can already get webisodes thrown up on FunnyorDie or where ever but this deal seems to offer Canadians with career aspirations a way to navigate through the emerging business of digital streaming with one of the world’s biggest content providers.
“The program is designed to bring together talent from across Canada with original concepts to take part in forums and workshops that focus on innovative storytelling, pitching, and packaging,” goes the release. “The program harnesses the international expertise of NBC Universal, a global leader in entertainment, to help shepherd talent to successfully develop their ideas for the ever-changing global media landscape.” That sounds like a chance to get some expert advice about the very next big thing we’re all trying to figure out. Where can I sign up?
Maybe good news related to the television business has become harder to accept or recognize these days. Or maybe people see Zucker and Silverman crossing the border and just go, “Hide the maple syrup.”
Like any deal, we’ll all have to read the fine print, but this World Wide Web thing is going to require more cross border cooperation, less geo-gated protectionism. Anybody set to do business with NBC better have their eyes wide open but an open mind will help, too.
Klymkiw, a former CBC programming boss who bought movies and specials from the Peacock network in the past, has sat at the big table and knows the stakes. Partnering with NBC gives the CFC a little profile, but it also should open a few doors as it provides expertise to Canadian talent.
I’d dig a little deeper into all this but the CFC kids are all in L.A. tonight, getting set to salute their mentor, Norman Jewison. Should be a good shindig, read more about it here.

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