Richard Paradis - Part 2: Québec star system and audience response

Fraser. Québec producers, correct me with if I'm wrong on this, have a fascinating challenge because they have a solid, energetic, production community but can't find enough money to produce as many films as Quebeckers would like to see.

 Paradis. I don't agree with you. Everybody knows, on the cultural side, we always need more money. But in Québec, when you look at the amount of money that's available, and the resources that are available to develop films, we normally do, on the French side, about 12-15 films a year. On average, I would say, that about six or seven of those films easily make more than $1 million a year at the box office; some of them go as high as $9-10 million. So, there is a success story there, but we have to remember we’re talking about a population of 5 million people who speak French. To what extent would we want to have more production?

 F. A few years ago, Québec films had almost 26% of box office and someone said, “If we had more films to circulate, we would have an even bigger share.” You are disagreeing with that.

 P. I think that, when you're getting 26% share and in English Canada, they’re getting less than 1%, something is being done that is right, particularly when you're thinking of doing something in another language. And again, you're beating box office hits from the United States. But to what extent can you produce, and have the resources available, and the interest in the audience to go and see any more movies than 26% share of the market? In many ways, we even beat out the French in France for market share. Most of the producers in Québec have been asking for more funds per film [rather than money to produce more films].

 We also have a phenomenon that's interesting because we're a little bit like the American model; we've got people who are stars in Québec who themselves turn eventually to producing feature films. Very often, they both produce and act in the same film. So, we see a small example of how the American film industry affects the Québec market.

 F. Are you worried about the current federal government, which wasn’t being friendly to culture at one stage of the game and lost Québec [in the election] because of that? Where do think the government is going to go with culture?

 P. The present government is probably going to leave things the way they are; we're not going to see more money invested. But I don't think they'll touch the money that's already there. On the feature film side, there's a consensus that there isn’t enough money. But then, we're not seeing any will on their part to add any funding. So, for English Canadian film, it probably means that it's going to be even more difficult than it has ever been.

 In Québec, the way provincial government has reacted to the fact that the federal government hasn’t put in any additional money, was to add some funding. My sense is that the Québec government, if it was pushed, would likely give additional money. It sees the value of what it's doing. It also gets a fairly good return, because of the success of movies. In English Canada the situation is extremely difficult because we’re so close to the States. And the budgets in the US just keep going up and up. They spend on average $35 million on marketing.

 F. Why can't Québec-produced films like Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which did over $10 million, over 90% of which was in Québec, get any real traction in English Canada?

 P. It's a reflection of the problems of English language films in Canada. The audience is oriented towards American productions and it’s very difficult to get them interested in Canadian films. Even if they know something has worked really well in Québec, and it's a bilingual film, it still doesn't do very well. It's not that people are allergic to it; it's just that the interest isn't there. We've all been dealing with this. I used to be a consultant for Telefilm Canada; everyone's been trying to find a way to get out of this and there’s no easy answer.

 We've got films that have been done with stars from English Canada where we had a fairly substantial budgets of $10-12 million in production; and we put some fairly good marketing money into them and still, depending on what you're up against on a Friday, coming from the States, you can be lucky or not. And if you're only up there with two or three films of that caliber a year… and if you're not lucky because of the weather… or the competition.... People say that moviegoers should go out to see more movies, but once you've been to a theatre where you’ve had to pick out of 12-15 possibilities on the weekend, you're not going to go to the movies every night of the weekend; you're going to go once. And what are you going to pick? Then, next week, there's going to be another roster with another 10-12 movies. So that's what the industry in English Canada is up against. In many ways the film industry in Québec realizes that it’s lucky. And also, the people who deal with French language films, know how to work government relations (in Québec at least) to get results. It doesn't really matter what colour the Québec government is, it's going to support the film industry. In Canada, who knows what can happen?