Some of Trent University’s brightest alumni came together October 15 to give a critical appraisal of the state of Canadian media. A full house at Bagnani House were treated to “Through A Canadian Lens, The Current and Future Landscape of Television and Film.” This insightful event drew Peterborough community members, as well as Trent faculty, staff, and students to hear about the changing nature of television broadcasting and film.
The talk featured four notable Trent alumni as part of the Life After Trent program: Stephen Stohn ’66, President of Epitome Pictures, multi-award winning executive producer of Degrassi, and top entertainment lawyer; Bill Corcoran ’70, who has been in the television and motion picture industry for forty years as director, and an assistant director and producer who has directed over 300 hours of television and 30 movies; and Bay Weyman ’76, an award winning Canadian filmmaker with over 25 years’ experience writing, producing and directing documentary films through his company Close Up Films. Molly Blyth ’01, who has been a professor at Trent since 1986, moderated the event.
The panelists were each cautiously optimistic about the future of TV/film in Canada.
Mr. Weyman cited fewer funding options and documentary’s “mutant younger brother,” reality TV, for a tougher Canadian documentary landscape. He tempered this by noting an increase in the number – and success – of documentary film festivals as well as the success of new creative approaches to documentaries.
Mr. Corcoran stressed the need for Canadian filmmakers to be strong storytellers. He also pointed out that, rather than “broadcasting” – getting content out to huge numbers all at once – film and television is now “narrowcasting” – being extremely viewer specific in targeting age, gender, nationality, interest, and more. Due to streaming and video-sharing sites, getting content out has never been easier. “The ability to monetize it,” he notes, “is another matter altogether.”
Mr. Stohn addressed the need for a stronger government role when it comes to operating procedures for streaming channels, such as Netflix – that the financial gulf between American content providers and the rest of the world is too great.
“Politicians have a role to provide structure to an industry that ranks only behind mining and oil and gas in Canada,” explain Mr. Stohn. For Stohn, this issue has not been adequately addressed by the government or the CRTC.
At the same time, he says that TV is currently enjoying a creative Renaissance – that the over 450 new series’ being created this year alone speak to the ability for quality content to be shared.
The panelist all agreed, if there is one thing that is certain about Canadian television and film, it is that nothing is certain.