The Quest to get Canadians More Interested in Homegrown Content

By The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
The Canadian Press
November 16, 2016 Updated: November 16, 2016

TORONTO–The new head of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television says she’s taking inspiration from some powerhouse U.S. producers in an effort to get Canadians more interested in homegrown fare.

Beth Janson says she’s planning a “big rebrand and refresh” in January meant to improve the organization’s mission to promote and discover different kinds of content.

“When I started talking to the academy about this job and in my first few months here, I came to realize that Canadians have a very different feeling about Canadian content and it’s not always overwhelmingly positive,” the Montreal native said.

“You can read it in the press yourself–that the production values are low or the writing is not strong. There’s endless criticisms about Canadian content.

“And what I realized is that there was this incredible opportunity … to find the true gems and the incredibly magical storytelling moments and to highlight those, and to really market Canadian content in the way that you might market any other product.”

Janson replaced Helga Stephenson as chief executive officer on June 1. She was previously the executive director of the Tribeca Film Institute and has been programming director of the Newport International Film Festival and worked in the programming department of HBO Documentary Films.

She said her area of expertise is in digital production and she’s been impressed with what Canada has been doing in the field of interactive storytelling.

But she thinks the screen industry has “over-emphasized branding stuff as Canadian content.” Such branding “should be secondary to helping excellent content in whatever form stand out.”

“So that is to say, looking at the piece, if it’s a feature film or a short film or a web series–who is the target audience for this and then let’s figure out a way to market it to that audience and to not lead with, ‘This is Canadian therefore you should like it, therefore you should be proud of it, therefore you should watch it,’ which just puts it on everyone’s to-do list and it never actually gets done.”

The rebrand will include a new logo to be launched in January, when the academy announces nominees for the Canadian Screen Awards, set for March 12.