Tom Cox, Part 1: Choosing to be More Commercial.
Interviewed by Fil Fraser at Banff World Media Festival on June, 2011
My name is Tom Cox; I'm the President and managing partner of SEVEN24 Films, based in Calgary.
Fraser. That is one of your many hats.
Cox. It is my principal hat. I am one of the co-CEOs of a new boutique distribution company called Distribution360 in partnership with marblemedia in Toronto; and I'm currently Chair of the Board of the CFPTA.
F. You’ve been involved in all the challenges that face independent producers. How has the policy environment got us to where we are now?
C. It has become far more sophisticated. I remember the days of taking a project to Telefilm when there were one or two people in the country you could go to for a yes or no. You might get a project funded through the Canada Council. There were no provincial agencies. It was a cottage industry. We are now light-years ahead in terms of understanding our needs and how to create content. The CMF is illustrative of that, and Telefilm is constantly reassessing its position in the system. The provincial agencies and the private agencies (whether it's Shaw or Cogeco) all seem conjoined in the process of making Canadian content and making it well. That's wonderful. That's not to say there’s not work to do or flaws.
F. Can you talk about the early days when, every time you wanted to get a film made, you had to start all over? Yours is one of a handful of companies now succeeding in this country. You operate in a businesslike manner, not going from project to project.
C. That was a conscious decision. There was a point at which my then producing partner, Doug MacLeod, and I realized that we were basically buffalo hunters: we would go out, find a buffalo, kill it, eat it, and go find another buffalo. If we were going to create anything sustainable, we had to think differently and step back from the process a bit. On North of 60 for example, and the Ray Bradbury Theater series, we were on set 24/7; if you’re on set dawn to dusk, that's wonderful and you can create wonderful content. But when that's over, you’re at square one again.
F. Nobody in their right mind would do that kind of work without a passion to tell those stories.
C. It's true and that's where it should begin. I have to struggle these days knowing that, to a large extent, I'm drawing on other creative talents; I’m not directly involved in the creative process and I miss that. I take great pride in seeing things created and helping them to progress; but I have no place on set anymore. I go to set and, within seconds, it’s obvious that that's not where my job is.
F. The evolution of associations to which you've made a contribution is quite spectacular. You were part of AMPIA in the early days and now you are part of the national organization. But they struggled. At one time, no one took any these organizations seriously. Now, governments won't move without them, or without consulting.
C. With both AMPIA and the CFTPA it's been a long process of obtaining trust and faith based on years of dialogue and speaking with a united, reasonable voice. We are not simply there with our hands out; we want to work with the broadcasters, distributors, government, and with agencies to build a better industry. I think our relationships with government are unprecedented. We have to work continually to maintain that high degree of trust so that the dialogue can be more fruitful.