Helene White, Part 3: Royalties

Interviewed by Fil Fraser at Banff World Media Festival on June, 2011

Fraser. Tell me a success story about something that worked.

White. One day, when I was wondering what I was doing in this industry, I was contacted by Toronto. They were looking for someone who could handle a dramatic series. So, we had a long chat and he thought I could do it. It wasn't one of my ideas; it was from someone in LA, Tommy Lynch, but I really liked the concept. It was something I could live with and enjoy doing. It was a totally Canadian production. We did 54 episodes and a pilot. It was called Kaitlin's Way. It went into 26 countries. In Europe it was called Just Kids. It was a success. Nickelodeon in the US was a broadcaster. Even today, there's a huge fan club. I get messages constantly. That ran from 1999 to 2002.

F. Are you getting royalties?

W. No. I had to give my back end up to get the rights.

F. Explain that.

W. I had to own the rights to do it as a Canadian production. I didn’t have the cash money that they wanted for this, because a well-known producer in the US owned the rights. So I said, “Look, they've given me the back end on the revenues on the sales and a license, so I gave that up in order to get the rights.

F. What is your advice to young filmmakers coming into the business?

W. You have to be ready to sacrifice in order to do what you want to do. It's a hard game. There are a lot of pitfalls. You have to learn the legalities of it and be realistic about where you are in terms of the ladder you’ll have to climb. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with your concepts. If you don't have honesty about your concepts and ideas, you're never going to do anything meaningful. You have to really believe in your project and protect it.

F. You came in from the oil patch and went back to school in order to be able to do this.

W. Yes. I’d been working with a small company that dealt with risk all the time; so I’d become used to the idea of dealing with risk and loss sometimes, and with success, too. So, that helped me. You have to have the determination to really succeed.

F. Does the technology today to make it any easier?

W. It’s interesting and more challenging. I've started to work with the Internet. We’re building a website right now and hoping it’ll be good value. We're still trying to figure out how to make money on the web. It’s an enhancement in terms of communication, in terms of ideas that we didn't have before. So you have to look at the whole thing as different ways to communicate: different languages, different delivery systems. I find it very exciting.

F. Are you optimistic about the industry?

W. Yes, because there are more people that are aware of the value of films coming from this part of the country. And we're starting to get attention from outside the country; I went to a panel this morning where there were people from ABC in Australia, Disney Worldwide, and BBC. They were talking about their desire to hook up with Canadian producers. It was all to do with kids and animation. It was very heartening to hear the praise being given to Canadian players.

F. Why is it important to do this?

W. It’s important because communication is important. There are people in this business who have something to say that is worthwhile listening to. And they're able to collect people around them who have important things to say. In a world that is now more and more influenced by communications systems, it's more important than it ever was.