Focus On Canada – Report

Posted on: Friday 04 July 2014 9:15am by Danny Stack


Co-production between UK and Canada is even more appealing because of the tax breaks in the UK. The two countries share a lot of sensibility regarding style culture and humour, and the Canadians even use UK spelling, the clever lot!

Session Details

Blame Canada?

In the wake of the recent Canada Day (1st July, you knew that, right?), it was only fitting that this session should focus on everything Canadian. Smart, funny, articulate, charming. And that’s just the panel!

Canada has a fantastic funding system in place for its media culture, as Agnes Augustin from Shaw Rocket Fund pointed out.

It’s a $2b annual industry, and 20% of that is generated by children’s content. This is achieved via tax credits, Canada Media Fund and public agencies. The Rocket Fund is specifically for kids.

Co-Production? Yes! 

Co-productions between UK and Canada are seen as a very good thing indeed. The different legal ways of finalising a deal between the two countries can get complicated, and Rosemary from RightsTV remarked that you could expect to pay £10-£15k on legal fees alone! So, a co-production can cost more money to achieve but it’s definitely worth it in the end. Canadian co-production also acts as a good bridge for UK shows to be seen in the US.

Ken from Nerd Corps encouraged those interested in co-production to ask “why?” from a creative viewpoint, not just a financial one. In Canada, he felt they had got a little ‘lazy’ about the funding opportunities they have, so the creative impetus had lost its spark. Agnes disputed the ‘lazy’ tag, saying that a sense of entitlement might be a better way to express it. A lot of Canadian producers had become ‘lifestyle producers’, getting funding for a nice life rather than building a business through innovative and creative projects.

What’s attractive about a UK co-production is the access to the UK talent pool of writers, producers and creators. The UK has a competitive advantage with its talent! Lucy, author of the George Greenby series, explained how she developed the TV adaptation with Pure Grass Films before they eventually hooked up with Ken from Nerd Corps to build the co-production. It was new territory for Lucy, and working in TV, but everything about Nerd Corps was a good fit, right down to the ‘nerd’ aspect of their profile, which appealed to Lucy’s science-driven show. Lucy backed up the notion of a natural connection between Canada and UK in terms of having a good empathy and synergy with its cultural values.

Financial vs Creative

Rosemary commented that a good programme is not deal-led, it’s creator-driven. The co-productions that are structured for money are the ones that inevitably don’t do as well. Ken agreed. Someone has to take creative control, regardless of what’s going on with the deal; when it comes down to it, you got to say to someone: ‘make the show’.

What about digital content? Agnes from Rocket Fund said that they still lived in a geoblocking world of territories. They usually say no to non-exclusive rights. But what is digital nowadays? The government is pushing for international digital co-productions but it’s not a policy anywhere yet.

What about the Canadian audience’s appetite for British protagonists and settings? It was felt that this was easier to achieve in the world of animation rather than live-action. In animation, it can make sense creatively. But Canadians are amenable to UK accents, and Thomas The Tank Engine was referenced because the characters weren’t re-voiced from the original series.

Should a third partner become involved a co-production, would that help? One word answer sums this up: horrendous!

Overall, it was a lively and interesting discussion. The UK tax breaks have made co-production with Canada all the more appealing, so it’s definitely something to explore and consider.

For full details of the speakers check out the Session Guide here.

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Danny Stack

About the author

Danny Stack

Nelson Nutmeg Pictures, Screenwriter

Danny’s writing credits include 'Octonauts', CBBC’s 'Roy', and the new 'Thunderbirds' for CITV. He also writes/directs, and is in pre-production for a live-action children's film called Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? Danny is known for his popular blog, Scriptwriting In The UK, which inspired him to set up the Red Planet Prize (a… Read more