Judith Brosseau, Part 2: Future of Québec’s cultural industries

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

Fraser. [With respect to government support for cultural industries], how hard was it for Québec governments going back to René Lévesque, going back to the Quiet Revolution, going back to…

Brosseau. Lesage…

F. Jean Lesage. Does this come naturally to the government in Québec? It doesn't seem to be that way in the rest of Canada.

B.  I think it's related to the fact that we always thought our culture was more fragile because there were so few of us and we that were so isolated; therefore we needed strong cultural policies. It's hard for me to compare our policies to Ontario policies or BC policies because I don't practice there.  It goes all the way back to a time when we thought to survive you had to be Catholic and that was the way to protect the French language. It’s as old as that.  It probably comes from an era when we thought we had to be very strong, or we would disappear. When you look at francophones outside Québec, that's the way they still feel. And I can totally get that. But in Québec we managed great successes in our cultural arena and it has been like a snowball. Our success brings more people to the screen, more people in front of their TVs and so on.

F.  How does Québec television and film do in la francophonie?

B. I think that the films are doing very well. As you know Incendies was almost Oscarized. I'm being very chauvinistic here, but I've seen all the other movies and I think Incendies ought to have won, not because it's a Québec film, but because it's a great film. I think we’re doing well outside our frontiers. In television, there has been for several years, a very strong wave where we're selling formats.

F.  Do you sell Québec programs in French?

B.  We do, but it’s marginal. What's interesting is that producers from Québec, for example, we have a wonderful family sitcom that is, in my opinion, as good as Modern Family. They just sold the format in 25 countries. So that is great.  I remember 12 years ago on canalD, we launched a program on incest; it was called Insexia and sold in 150 countries. We have ideas and great talent plus the capacity to export.

F.  Behind that question was the fact that it is very difficult for Québec film and television to survive in such a small market with an audience of only 7+ million people. So you need something sustainable to market to the rest of the world.

B.  But, also, just like the rest of Canada, we need public money. There is no culture that could happen without public subsidies; we have to accept that. And, by the way, there's public subsidies in all areas of Canadian life, so why should we worry about it in the culture area?

F.  Do you see a good future for Québec cultural industries?

B.  Things are so bloody creative. I was just at the awards ceremony yesterday at Banff and in three categories the winners were programs from Québec. So there you go. And they were competing with the rest of the world. Yes, I think we have a future, because there is a lot of talent there.

F.  One of the interesting things in Québec is that Pierre-Karl Péladeau gave Marie-José Reynaud and Claude Fournier….

B. The Eléphant project…

F. You know that project?

B.  I know it from a distance because it is a movie project. I think it's a great project because these people from that era realized we were about to lose precious copies of wonderful old movies. But no one had the means to conserve them and make them available to the public. So, M. Péladeau put $50 million, I don't know if that's the right amount, but a lot of money together and gave it to Marie-José and Claude to preserve that wonderful heritage and to make it accessible through Videotron. I think it's great. M. Péladeau is a great example of someone who is a businessman; but his business is culture and he totally gets it. He has been a wonderful patron, putting money into the theatre as well. There is a theatre in Montréal that was on the brink of collapse and was saved.  He has done wonderful things in the area of songs. So that is a great example of someone who believes that, if you put your money where your mouth is, things happen.

F.  It's unique, or is the Québec corporate sector pretty good?

B.   I think M. Péladeau is pretty good in the scale, or scope, of his ability to finance stuff. But he is part of a trend. Yes, you are right.