François Macerola, Part 3: Development of the Film Industry through the NFB and Television

Interviewed by Evelyn Ellerman at Montréal on March, 2012

Ellerman. When we’re talking about the way audience has been built in Québec, what role does television play and is that different from the role it plays in English Canada?

Macerola. Absolutely. In Québec, television is really Québec television. I don't exactly remember the figures but for one particular program called La petite vie, the rating was close to 4 million people, on a regular weekly basis. We're trying to do in film exactly what we've done in television: create a star system, have direct and continuous access to the television products… our television is also really high quality. We have been invited to go to France to give seminars on the way that we produce television in Québec. There are many such examples of popular shows. On Sunday night in Québec there are three shows: one on Radio Canada, one at TVA, and the other one at VTV. Altogether they reach 3 or 4 million people.

E. You have half the population of the province watching the shows.

M. Yes. For me, it’s the kind of relationship that's been established with the overall television industry. They are very close to the people, with the stars, the filmmakers, the television producers, the technicians and so on. It's a small industry, but it has a fantastic relationship with the rest of the world.

E. It sounds as though, in Québec, whether you were working as a technician or producer or creator, there is a sort of seamless moving back and forth among various aspects of the industry. I'm wondering what role the NFB (National Film Board) plays historically in all of that. It's located in Montréal and a lot of people started in the NFB.

M. The NFB has been the perfect University. I started there as a young lawyer responsible for the relationship with the Board of Directors. After that, I went into production and distribution. But for me, the NFB has helped to build the film industry in Québec. Fifty years ago, there was no film production in Québec; now we really have an industry. The NFB has played a very important role.

E. This seems to be both a cultural approach, which is what SODEC is really about, but also a cross media approach as well for a small, highly-defined market.

M. And you know, we in Québec are bilingual at different levels. So it means that I can get in touch with Carole Vivier [head of the Manitoba Film agency] and say, “Carole, I would like to have a coffee with you.” We can be really pro-active. For example, with Kevin Shay at OMDC (Ontario Media Development Corporation), I can pick up the phone and say, “I would like to see you.” Sometimes it is more complicated for people outside of Québec to get in touch with us. They are shy and they believe that, in Québec, we are not open-minded towards Canada. That's not true.

Despite any political discussions that we have, Atom Egoyan is very popular in Québec. People refer to him as a filmmaker and they don't care if he's from Ontario or Québec. Denis Arcand works in Toronto and he works in Montréal the day after. And frankly speaking, we are more open than the English Canada population. We have challenged English Canada with some fantastic films: Jésus de Montreal, Invasions Barbares, Decline of the American Empire - it's a long list. And they're not working over there. So that's why I'm saying that my first mandate is to work with English Canada, because it's a very important market. They are people of culture and I think that we have some cultural exchanges to be made.