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Author Topic: Funding cuts may kill many Canadian TV projects
CocaCola58204
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posted 14 April 2003 10:01 PM      Profile for CocaCola58204     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
TORONTO - CBC-TV's This Hour Has 22 Minutes is one of many high-profile Canadian television shows that may be scrapped, a result of the Canadian Television Fund rejecting nearly two-thirds of its subsidy applicants.

While $75 million will be contributed to 73 productions, 129 productions will not receive CTF funding - 64 per cent of total applicants.


CBC's News Division

CBC Managment Responds

CP Wire Story

The Producers of Degrassi: TNG Strike Back

quote:
Schuyler and Stohn make the following call for action: "We ask the Prime Minister to consider a legacy gift to Canada, by reinstating at least some of the withdrawn $25 million so that Canadian audiences can continue to enjoy acclaimed shows such as This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Red Green Show and The Eleventh Hour, in addition to a potential slate of CBC and CTV movies of the-week and mini-series which have traditionally been the highest rated of
all drama productions."

From: Grand Forks AFB, ND | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
sheep
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posted 14 April 2003 10:40 PM      Profile for sheep     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
22 minutes needs a government subsidy to survive? Isn't that called corporate welfare? Red Green seemed to do just fine on PBS before CBC picked him up. In fact, I recall reading an article about how it was one of the few Canadian comedies to thrive and find an audience without the CBC. They just jumped on the bandwagon after it was a hit.
From: Vancouver | Registered: Jan 2002  |  IP: Logged
DrConway
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posted 14 April 2003 11:15 PM      Profile for DrConway     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
It's not corporate welfare if the government OWNS the corporation.
From: You shall not side with the great against the powerless. | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Dr. Mr. Ben
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posted 14 April 2003 11:36 PM      Profile for Dr. Mr. Ben   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I presume you mean the CBC, rather than Salter Street or S&S.
From: Mechaslovakia | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
CocaCola58204
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posted 14 April 2003 11:50 PM      Profile for CocaCola58204     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
But It Is Corporate Welfare when they give money to CTV/Global/Chum/AChannel. Things that make you go Hmmm....

Do Canada's non-CBC TV Productions and Motions Pictures deserve Government Funding?


From: Grand Forks AFB, ND | Registered: Jul 2002  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 16 April 2003 10:32 AM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Do you think that it could have anything to do with their anti-war stance? This war hit me harder than I expected it to. If it wasn't for 22 minutes helping me to laugh at what scared me... And it looks like Bush/Voldemort isn't finished yet.

Who is going to explain hypocrasies the way Marg (Mary Walsh did?). For example Bombing For Peace: "What's next - screwing to get their virginities back?!"


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
shelby9
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posted 16 April 2003 02:04 PM      Profile for shelby9     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
While I will miss some of these shows, such as the 11th Hour on CTV, I have always asked why we had to subsidize the Canadian entertainment industry in the first place. I've never agreed with the government owning the Communist Broadcast..... er sorry, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Canadian TV will have to compete with other entertainment markets. Perhaps corporate sponsors of tv shows will have to become the norm. The government can't bail out everybody.

However, I also question where the money shortfall from the Canadian Television Fund went in the first place?


From: Edmonton, AB | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Mycroft_
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posted 16 April 2003 02:08 PM      Profile for Mycroft_     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Time to write Sheila Copps.
From: Toronto | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Tommy Shanks
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posted 16 April 2003 02:30 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Maybe someone (Zoot, perhaps?) clarify exactly how much a TV show costs to make in Canada? I really have no idea. I can't imagine a show like 22 Minutes, being filmed in a single studio, with current events supplying grist for the mill, costing that much? And its not as if they don't have advertising either. Re-runs, syndication, all these must contribute to revenue for Salter.

But I assume that 1 or 1/2 hour dramas or comedies cost different amounts. And how big are the subsidies we're talking about 25%?, 50%?

Seems like a pretty convoluted process.


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Dr. Mr. Ben
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posted 16 April 2003 02:51 PM      Profile for Dr. Mr. Ben   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Shelby, the money that was cut from the Canadian development fund has been transferred to subsidize foreign productions in Canada. Apparently, Hollywood can't compete, either, and needs the government to bail them out.

I think we have to accept that Canadian media production will probably never be strictly competitive because of the economies of scale. The market is so much smaller for original Canadian content, that it will always need a little support. The question is whether having a distinct Canadian culture is worth it to us. National sovereignty starts with cultural sovereignty.


From: Mechaslovakia | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
vaudree
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posted 16 April 2003 04:20 PM      Profile for vaudree     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
If anyone finds a petition to keep 22 minutes on the air - I'll sign. My mother said that they did the same thing to "This Hour Has Seven Days" for the same reasons.

Cutting 20% of my income/funding would be hard for me to swallow.


From: Just outside St. Boniface | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Tommy Shanks
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posted 16 April 2003 04:34 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I agree that we need to nurture Canadian voices on TV and in film. I don't understand transferring production dollars to american productionbs when they already get a defacto subsidy due to the Canadian dollar. Why in gods name does the american film and television industry need a subsidy of any sort, when they are the biggest kid on the block anyway?

I was just wondering if the money actually gets in the hands of those its intended for, or does it disappear into the ether as it winds its way to those at the end.

[ 16 April 2003: Message edited by: Tommy Shanks ]


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Michael Hardner
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posted 16 April 2003 05:05 PM      Profile for Michael Hardner   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
I was just wondering if the money actually gets in the hands of those its intended for, or does it disappear into the ether as it winds its way to those at the end.

Bingo. It creates a thriving industry for bureaucrats and producers, while the artists still starve.


From: Toronto | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
Tommy Shanks
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posted 16 April 2003 05:33 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Why am I not surprised.
From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
Timebandit
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posted 16 April 2003 06:00 PM      Profile for Timebandit     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Bingo. It creates a thriving industry for bureaucrats and producers, while the artists still starve.

Oh, FUCKING Hell!!!

Could you give me the name of this wealthy Canadian producer, please? I'd like to pick his brain. Most of us are so busy deferring our fees just to get the sonofabitching project MADE that we're making less than our unionized production assistants.

What a wrong-headed, misinformed, gross generalization... Too many American entertainment magazines... Bah!!!

More later (including the cost of production as requested by Tommy Shanks), when I've calmed down.


From: Urban prairie. | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michael Hardner
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posted 16 April 2003 07:40 PM      Profile for Michael Hardner   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Ok, I take it back. The present situation is good for production assistants, bad for producers and artists.

Look:
I see Canadian media giants, American production companies et al. sticking their hands out for more while some of my favourite actors, comedians and dancers (God, the poor dancers) are impoverished.

It sounds like you know more than me about the situation, so explain it from your point of view. I'm all ears...


From: Toronto | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
Dr. Mr. Ben
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posted 16 April 2003 07:49 PM      Profile for Dr. Mr. Ben   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
I think the present situation is good for folks who want to make stuff for the US market. If you want to make Canadian content for Canada, you're gonna have a tough go of it, regardless of what you do specifically.
From: Mechaslovakia | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
speechpoet
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posted 16 April 2003 07:51 PM      Profile for speechpoet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Zoot Capri is my new hero. :-) Not every prodco is Alliance Atlantis (altho AA's M-and-A folks are apparently working on it).

The CBC was hit as hard or harder than any private broadcaster. I'm still reeling at the news that not one movie was approved.

For that matter, I don't think I'd be happy with a policy that only supported shows produced through the bureaucracy of the CBC. That's not a knock on the CBC; it is a plug for species diversity in the TV production ecosystem.

BTW, the latest Playback includes an interview with Glenn O'Farrell, president of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters. He calls for the restoration of the reduced federal funding for the CTF. Should that happen, he thinks Monday's decision would be revisited.

(Lest anyone mistake the CAB for a charitable organization, he doesn't suggest a quid pro quo from broadcasters. Meanwhile, the CAB is demanding an end to the CRTC's ban on prescription drug ads and the end of Part Two supplementary fees. )

Meanwhile, does anyone know what role the new broadcaster scoring system played in the outcome? Did the standard practice of weighing the most expensive projects the highest backfire?

And has there been any word of Sheila Copps' review of CRTC drama guidelines, or have they vanished without a trace?


From: Sunny Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
speechpoet
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posted 16 April 2003 08:21 PM      Profile for speechpoet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Here's an interesting take on the choices the Liberals made in the February budget from the Toronto Star's Don Lamoureux:
quote:
Federal Finance Minister John Manley's recent budget increases the incentives for big U.S. studios to shoot in Canada, while reducing by 25 per cent the allocation to the Canadian Television Fund, the primary support program for Canadian television shows.

From: Sunny Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Timebandit
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posted 17 April 2003 05:20 PM      Profile for Timebandit     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
Maybe someone (Zoot, perhaps?) clarify exactly how much a TV show costs to make in Canada?

That depends on a number of factors, including genre, cast size, location vs studio...

Now, bear in mind that my perspective is as a producer working in the "regions" (that would be outside TO or Vancouver). Most productions out here are lower budget than they are in larger centres.

Let's start with docs.

One hour documentaries cost about 250 to 300 grand to produce. $300 grand is quite comfortable, but that gets eaten up pretty quickly if you have to travel. I ran a budget for an international doc, and at that level, people were receiving fair remuneration, but nobody was getting buying much for RSPs. For docs with less travel, you might be looking at the $150 grand to $200 grand range. I am currently working on a low-budget one hour for under $100 grand, and that's not going to be easy to pull off with strong production values.

Drama tends to be even more expensive. I did a half-hour drama under a calling-card program with a budget of $50 grand, but that required all involved to take hefty deferrals. The actual cost would have been in excess of $250 grand. This was, by the way, fairly low budget drama with a very small cast and a relatively small crew, with only one week of shooting. Director, producer and writer took only a small, token honorarium so that the cast and crew would not have to be asked to defer as much.

Series drama, with larger casts, sets, etc, are far more costly. Studio shoots, contrary to popular belief, are much more expensive than most location shoots. Studio sets generally have to be constructed pretty much from scratch, which means you have to hire carpenters, painters, scenic designers, etc. The trade off is no problems with power sources for lights, more control over the environment, that sort of thing.

Movies, and this includes MOWs, tend to cost between $1 million and $5 million. Depends on the needs of the production, the casting, etc. If you have a star, you can count on paying considerably more than ACTRA scale.

Out of these munificent budgets, the maximum a producer is allowed to take is 10%. I know this looks like quite a bit, but when you consider that it takes between 2 and 5 years to bring a project to fruition (if it happens at all, and more don't than do -- you take a flyer on every project) and spread the earnings out over that period of time, it isn't nearly as fat as it immediately appears. That, and most production companies will defer their overhead costs and producers' fees in order to get the immediate production costs financed, so you might see the fees a couple of years in with additional broadcast licenses, syndication fees (if it's a series that goes beyond 5 years, and most don't), employment tax credits, etc. You might be ahead of equity investors, or you might have to cover off what they put into financing first, depending on your agreements. Chances are, you're never going to see the full fee.

quote:
I can't imagine a show like 22 Minutes, being filmed in a single studio, with current events supplying grist for the mill, costing that much? And its not as if they don't have advertising either. Re-runs, syndication, all these must contribute to revenue for Salter.

Re-runs are usually built into the initial broadcast license. The broadcaster gives you so much, and has the right for so many years and so many plays of each program. Usually there is some exclusivity before a second "broadcast window" is open for another license to come into play, or a third or fourth. Syndication, as I mentioned, takes over 5 years to achieve. Advertising goes to the broadcaster, not the production company, which then gets to the prodcos as broadcast license and covers the operating costs of the broadcaster. Add to this that international sales for 22 minutes is unlikely because of its ever so Canadian perspective -- the very reason most of us love it.

As to the cost of actual production... Well, it might be one studio, but for the sketches and the news desk, you're looking at several different sets. Four on-air personalities, all getting above scale. Several writers, as you have a short period of time to turn "grist" into well-written, usually well-rehearsed monologues, sketches, etc. Costume. Makeup. Technicians, editors. You're looking at 30 to 40 full-time jobs for about half the year, at a decent rate of pay, because it's not possible to work all of the time in this industry. When in production, pretty well everybody works 14 hours a day.

So it's actually not all that low budget. And the most you can count on from a broadcast license is 15% to 20% of your budget.

quote:
And how big are the subsidies we're talking about 25%?, 50%?

CTF is capped at 50%, but to get that much is rare. It's usually much lower.

quote:
Why in gods name does the american film and television industry need a subsidy of any sort, when they are the biggest kid on the block anyway?

As much as I vehemently disagree with the decision to cut the CTF in favour of off-shore production subsidies, I still have to acknowledge a need for the subsidy to exist. The Canadian industry is primarily a service industry, and many production companies (including our "media giant" Alliance Atlantis) rely on service productions to pay for their overhead.

quote:
I see Canadian media giants, American production companies et al. sticking their hands out for more while some of my favourite actors, comedians and dancers (God, the poor dancers) are impoverished.

On a comparative global scale, our media giants aren't really all that big, but this is a monter-sized post, and we can get into that another day.

The thing is, making producers out to be the big villians isn't going to do your performer friends any good. We need to support indiginous Canadian production. When you cut back on it, you cut back on the available work for local performers. American service productions tend to bring in most of their own actors, to the point where, if it weren't for CAVCO's Canadian content points system, they wouldn't hire any Canuck performers at all.

Then there's Telefilm. Now you have to have a sizeable distribution contract to qualify for Telefilm funding. Distributors like to have a name star. How many of those are Canadian, do you think? Even people like myself, who strive to only employ Canadians, are between a rock and a hard place -- Do I stick to my guns and never get that film made? Or do I cave a little, give the plum role to an American and give as much work as I can to my fellow citizens? As a former actor, this one cuts. Because you know what the answer has to be.

I'm sorry that most performers have a hard go of it. You are absolutely right, that sucks. I started out as an actor, and that's part of the reason I became a writer, producer and director (that and some control issues, but that's for another thread). But slagging the producers, pulling out a hackneyed caricature of a greedy, money-grubbing opportunist who makes a living on the backs of the talented just plain sucks. We work on spec for years at a time, we shape a project creatively, we get excited about it, we work our asses off to get other people excited about it, we deal with all the ugly little details that nobody ever wants to have to deal with, we take the responsibility, and we take the majority of the shit. Anybody on my project has a problem, sooner or later it becomes mine, too. Intimating that earning slightly more than the actors when we put in 100x more hours, never mind the sweat and the responsibility is just.... Words fail me.

Look at it this way. The project fucks up, the actor might not get a credit for their CV. Me, they come take my house. Who has more on the line? Have a little respect, already.

quote:
I think the present situation is good for folks who want to make stuff for the US market. If you want to make Canadian content for Canada, you're gonna have a tough go of it, regardless of what you do specifically.

That's just the problem. Canada's market is limited. We have to make sure projects are marketable other places as well. And most countries have increased domestic production (and they also have gov't support, for shelby9's big fat information, this isn't just a Canadian thing), which has narrowed the international market for Canadian productions. This is also why so many movies are now international coproductions.

quote:
Meanwhile, does anyone know what role the new broadcaster scoring system played in the outcome? Did the standard practice of weighing the most expensive projects the highest backfire?

I don't think it could have panned out any other way. And it made it absolute hell for broadcasters and for producers. I didn't have anything in this round, but a good friend did, and getting CTF was a make or break for her project. I've been meaning to call her and see how it went. Another friend is working at one of the broadcasters, and giving out their points (meagre ones, they're a small broadcaster) was a hellish decision to make. This system is almost as mental as the first-come, first-served application fiasco they had a few years ago...


From: Urban prairie. | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged
Michael Hardner
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posted 21 April 2003 12:21 PM      Profile for Michael Hardner   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Well, that was quite a post !

Thanks for the info.

Is the budget for ALL of this funding $100M a year ? That doesn't seem like very much.

And... I still feel that the actors are getting screwed, after reading your posts. Why should the carpenters, production assistants, technical people etc. etc. all be able to make a living but not the actors ?

I don't get it. It seems like such a cumbersome process to produce television that people don't really watch.


From: Toronto | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged
Tommy Shanks
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posted 21 April 2003 03:07 PM      Profile for Tommy Shanks     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
Thanks for the post Zoot, I really appreciate you taking the time to put that together.

Historically, has this always been the way? I mean that as the number of television channels has grown considerably, the demand for product has also grown. So has the rate, I would guess, of reruns and syndication.

With many fewer channels in the past, and thus less time for exposure, were productions apt to get more money then now, or were they more likely to be independently funded becase there were only so many vehicals for their broadcast? Is there now a race to the bottom because so many channels, bottom line, won't pay higher rates for completed shows?

Overall, it seems like the system is intent on making people do as many contortions as possible before paying them a relatively paltry sum. When you consider the fact that the overall package is pretty small in the big scheme of things, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that perhaps subsidies should be increased by a fair margin.

I can't imagine working 3 years on a project only to realize $30K at the end.


From: Toronto | Registered: Sep 2002  |  IP: Logged
speechpoet
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posted 22 April 2003 12:20 AM      Profile for speechpoet     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
It seems like such a cumbersome process to produce television that people don't really watch.

I know this was probably said partly in jest, but I think it merits a rejoinder. One of the great myths of Canadian television is the idea that nobody watches it.

That's not to say things aren't hard for Canadian TV; right now, they suck. After a few years of de-facto CRTC deregulation of dramatic programming, we don't have a single English-language series in the country's top 10.

But that doesn't mean we don't have series with loyal and substantial followings. This Hour Has 22 Minutes, DaVinci's Inquest, Air Farce and The Red Green Show jump immediately to mind. And looking to the recent past, shows like Due South and Road to Avonlea succeeded at home and abroad. There are a slew of other examples.

Mini-series and MOWs often do very well. Trudeau and The Boys of St. Vincent had viewerships in the millions. Love and Hate sold to NBC, where it topped the ratings. (There are probably even better examples; that's just off the top of my head.)

And those variety specials that make some of us cringe are often big ratings winners. IIRC, Anne Murray holds the all-time Canadian ratings record... I think it was 4.3 million viewers.

All this stuff isn't just being churned out to satisfy regulators (although on the private broadcasters, it sure seems to be promoted that way) or the creative community. There's a proven audience for Canadian television, within our borders and abroad.


From: Sunny Vancouver | Registered: Feb 2003  |  IP: Logged
Timebandit
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posted 24 April 2003 01:20 PM      Profile for Timebandit     Send New Private Message      Edit/Delete Post  Reply With Quote 
quote:
And... I still feel that the actors are getting screwed, after reading your posts. Why should the carpenters, production assistants, technical people etc. etc. all be able to make a living but not the actors ?

Who said they were doing better than the actors?

Actors, when paid on a unionized scale, make considerably more for their time than any of the technicians you list above. In the end, they're making almost the same amount of money (for a lead role, that is) on a project as the techs, and more than some of them, for considerably less time.

Actors do make a living. I'm well-acquainted with several of my fellow former drama majors who do.

The big trick with being an actor is to have gigs on a steady basis, and my point was that this isn't going to happen for Canadian actors if Canadian production keeps getting cut.

quote:
Historically, has this always been the way? I mean that as the number of television channels has grown considerably, the demand for product has also grown. So has the rate, I would guess, of reruns and syndication.

First, you don't make any more money on reruns. So many reruns are included in the initial broadcast license you use to fund production in the first place. Syndication often does not happen, as you have to find a way to renew your licenses for 5 years running. That's a very difficult thing to pull off.

Secondly, all those new channels may provide more venues, but they tend to pay very little. Like any new business venture, it takes them at least 5 years, sometimes longer, before they generate enough money to pay substantial broadcast licenses. You know you're going to get a lot less from the Documentary Channel than you will from History Television, for example. The latter is well-established now, the former is not.

quote:
With many fewer channels in the past, and thus less time for exposure, were productions apt to get more money then now, or were they more likely to be independently funded becase there were only so many vehicals for their broadcast? Is there now a race to the bottom because so many channels, bottom line, won't pay higher rates for completed shows?

You don't get much for completed shows. I can get a $10,000 pre-license from a small, regional broadcaster for a documentary, and then only be offered $2500 from another channel after its completion. Drama fees tend to be higher, but it's unusual to place a dramatic one-off.

Projects weren't as likely to get more funding, but funding was easier to get. The industry has grown, but the funding pools haven't, really, so what you have is increasingly fierce competition for what money is there, and massive oversubscription to the funds. And it trickles down to the little guys, too, because when the big fish can't qualify for CTF, etc, they start going to the funds where small projects are more likely to find success.

quote:
Overall, it seems like the system is intent on making people do as many contortions as possible before paying them a relatively paltry sum.

Oh, yeah. Jumping through hoops. If I could spend half the time writing on projects that I spend writing proposals and applications, etc, etc, I'd have an impressive body of work by now.

quote:
I can't imagine working 3 years on a project only to realize $30K at the end.

Yes, well, that's why you have to have a number of different projects in various stages of development at any given time. First, because not all of them will go ahead, and secondly, because you have to have some overlap to make a decent living.

See, I not only produce my projects -- I can't because I regularly defer nearly all my producing fees -- I also write them, do the research, much of the accounting, etc. My hubby is a director (who also takes deferrals when he has to on our projects). So we're kind of a mom and pop shop, here, and between the two of us, we manage. But you have to love the medium to do this.

Hey, speechpoet, right on! Now if we could just convince TPTB that there is an audience for our work...


From: Urban prairie. | Registered: Sep 2001  |  IP: Logged

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