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Canada Stands Up to Hollywood

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Kingston, Ontario, is filling in for the Big Easy this week.

What a film-company publicist in New York calls a "lovely town," Kingston is being used for location shooting for "Vendetta," a coming Home Box Original movie set in turn-of-the-century New Orleans.

The movie shoot illustrates Canadians' contradictory attitudes toward what their heritage minister, Sheila Copps, has called "the Hollywood juggernaut."

Canadians are concerned about maintaining their identity against the onslaughts of American movies, television shows, and publications. This concern has put them in the forefront, along with France, of nations willing to stand up to the United States on cultural issues and seek some form of protection for their national culture.

But the Canadian film industry benefits enormously by being, in effect, an extension of Hollywood. Industry sources agree that this sector dwarfs the indigenous independent film and TV industry. The film industry, which an official describes as "very large," is estimated at $1.23 billion (Canadian; US$1.87 billion) annually.

Particularly at a time when every day seems to bring another record low for the Canadian dollar, this country offers film-production companies low-cost alternatives to location shooting in places like New York.

And for people in the Canadian film industry, the opportunity to work on a top-dollar American production may mean they earn enough on one project to afford to work on a perhaps more interesting local production for less money - or no money.

But American film companies tend to assume Americans won't want to see a movie set outside the US, says Eileen Hoeter, program director at the Vancouver Film Institute. So in many productions, the license plates on cars are changed from Canadian to American, and all the dollars that change hands are greenbacks, and not the multicolored currency of Canada.

"But the stories are universal," Ms. Hoeter says. She's looking forward to the day "when Canada can just be Canada."

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