Banff Day panelists (l-r): Sandra Dewey, Pres, BIz Ops, HBO Max; Manori Ravindian, Int’l Editions, Variety; Danna Stern, Man. Dir, Yes Studios; Kevin Beggs, Chairman, Lionsgate; Catherine Tait, Pres & CEO, CBC

Over the years, one of the great attractions of the Banff World Media Festival was the opportunity to actually go there. The setting is stunning; straight out of a fairy tale. The magestic Fairmount Banff Springs Hotel set against mountains of evergreens is one of the great picture postcard sights in all of Canada.

So doing the festival without being there is a bit like having a gourmet meal on-line. It just doesn’t taste the same.

Still, with awards to present and sponsorship funding somewhat in place, the folks behind BWMF have pressed on. Today is Banff Day, part of a virtual edition of the festival. A full list of activities are planned.

Peeking in on the morning sessions, there does seem to be some benefit from doing panel sessions on a virtual, zoom meeting basis. For one thing, the view and scenery do not distract from some pretty serious discussions.

The first one this morning featured Canada’s latest Minister of Heritage, the Honourable Steven Guilbeault. This is the third Minister of Heritage since Justin Trudeau became prime minister five years ago. Much is expected and is indeed demanded from this portfolio, including progress on a new Broadcasting Act. COVID-19 has knocked everybody’s agenda back, however, so Guilbeault was looked upon to bring the industry up to date.

One matter the minister did address this morning: the tricky business of artists and self-employed workers in the film and TV industries receiving federal CERB benefits during the pandemic. Guilbeault says the government has heard workers on this issue and “a solution will be announced very soon.”


Beyond the minister’s address, other usual suspects are part of the virtual festival. CBC president Catherine Tait and Lionsgate chairman Kevin Beggs are part of a Media Leaders panel Tuesday morning.

Tait raised the issue of rising production costs in the near future. Her independent producers are facing rising costs in order to shoot safely on TV sets. CBC, she said, won’t be paying more for shows despite these rising costs. Her math: incremental costs equal fewer productions. Her solution: more international partners pooling resources to produce the episodes Tait and others need for their schedules.

“I think people are looking at co-productions to mitigate risks,” added Beggs.

Moderator Manori Ravindran from Variety went straight at the leaders on the issue of race and equity in the TV workforce. Tait repeated a vow to insure that one of the key decision making roles at the public broadcaster would be from the visual minority community by the year 2025. HBO Max’s Sandra Dewey talked about the recent decision to yank “Gone with the Wind” off the new streamer’s schedule and suggested they’re in no rush to announce when that 1939 film might return to their schedule. When it does, she said, it will be put in some sort of historical context.

As for COVID interruptions, Lionsgate’s Beggs says one day was lost of the shooting schedule for Love Life starring Anna Kendrick; fortunately it didn’t impact finishing the first season. Six other pilots the studio was prepping, however, were shut down completely. The studio took some insurance claims, Beggs revealed.

In other sessions, CBC GM Sally Catto and Sienna Films Jennifer Kawaja will be among those talking about bringing “Trickster” to the screen at noon. There’s also a Master Class at 2 p.m. featuring a panel talking about the reality series Canada’s Drag Race.

A Showrunner Superpanel follows at 3 p.m. ET. Among the panelists are Kerry Ehrin from Apple TV+’s The Morning Show and Liz Feldman from the Netflix series Dead to Me. Tuesday’s last session starts at 4 p.m. with a look at the popular Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls ESPN documentary series The Last Dance.

There are further virtual BWMF sessions scheduled for next week. Interested parties can still register and join the virtual sessions. Follow this link to make it happen.

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