Sylvia Franck, Part 2: Role of the Canadian Film Encyclopedia

Interviewed by Evelyn Ellerman at Toronto International Film Festival Offices on March, 2012

Ellerman. What are you proudest of in your collection? If I asked you what I absolutely had to see, what would you say?


Franck. Oh gosh. That's hard to do. And I hate to play favorites. There's so many really fine collections. I think the Pickford was just wonderful and people were so surprised. It was visually beautiful. But there are others that are just as fascinating, like the Atom Egoyan collection, because it follows his career from high school. We have his high school plays, we have grant applications; so it is a very rare collection, because you can see the development of a Canadian artist from very early. We have a relationship with him and so he keeps adding to that collection. It would be very hard to find so much material on one filmmaker in one place. It's very unique and we've had a lot of people from around the world access that collection.

E. You do so many interesting things here. One of them is the Canadian film Encyclopedia, which is an online site with a wealth of information: summaries of films, essays on films, and so on. Talk about the genesis of that, how it developed, and what it looks like.

F. That was a very interesting project. That was something that Piers Handling (the head of TIFF) had wanted to do. I remember discussing it with him one day. So many people who worked in Canadian film had told him that they were always looking for Canadian film information, but that it was so scattered. It certainly was at that time. We didn’t have a lot of online information up, so we decided to have a focus. We thought that an encyclopedia was the way to go. We got an advisory committee with some really great people like Peter Morris and Peter Harcourt. It is our attempt to start bringing that information together in one place for people to access online.

E. One of the things that impressed me was that you have a nice balance between anglophone and francophone films on the website. Was that a conscious choice?

F. It was. The advisory committee had a lot of discussions about what should be there. What should we cover? And people with a deep interest in Canadian film felt that it had to reflect the country, the different languages. I think that people forget the scope of Canadian cinema. And another potential problem was that we're Toronto-based. Some people might say we’re Toronto-centric. We knew that it had to be very national to embrace all of Canadian cinema. So there was a conscious attempt to do that.

E. Canadian filmmakers have begun to get more and more into other media as they're working. How will you incorporate that into the film Encyclopedia?

F. We try to update entries as much as we can, but that's very labour-intensive, obviously. But we do make sure that every year Canada's top 10 films are entered; if we are working on a retrospective, we will update those entries; if TIFF is doing a film program on one director, we will make sure that we have our entries up-to-date. So, we plod along a bit. If we have lots of resources to put towards it, we do that. We would love to keep it completely up to date.

E. Where do you see all of these federated efforts that you have, these things that are connected together, in the future? If I gave you a crystal ball, where would you like to be five years from now?

F. Do you mean with the CFE?

E. With the CFE, the Library and the Archives, because there is the kind of relationship.

F. I think that this relationship that we have with Athabasca is very important; I think that what people will see when they come to this building is how much TIFF actually partners. We have partnered locally, nationally, and internationally. So, it is almost a philosophy. In five years, I think you'll see even more than that. I know that sometimes I come into the building and I'm surprised at what is happening, because there's so much going on with different organizations. I think that 10 other film festivals use this building. So, you have a lot of synergy. It’s fascinating. And because gaming is a real interest, it's a natural spinoff for the Library as well. So I think that any direction that TIFF goes, the Library will follow. There is a real desire to have a global reach, not just national. But we want to make sure that we never forget our legacy. In Canada, not enough has really been done about Canadian film history. There is a big gap.