Time and again, through his history as co-CEO of Montreal-headquartered non-fiction shop Cineflix, Glen Salzman hasn’t shied away from taking risks. When the prodco was still in its swaddling clothes, he and partner Katherine Buck went against all common sense and expanded into the U.K., a move they compounded by adding a distribution division. Later, in the depths of the recession, they started hiring.
And yet, these days, their company is producing over 250 hours of programming and distributing over 1400 hours. With offices in Montreal, New York, Toronto, London and Dublin, it’s making and selling notable series like Conviction Kitchen, Dogs With Jobs, History hit American Pickers and the new William Shatner vehicle Weird or What? The moves Salzman, Buck and the Cineflix team made, it turns out, were quite right indeed, and were discussed in detail at the Banff World Television Festival on Monday, in a session about the company’s remarkable success, hosted by Bill Nemtin.
‘Most people thought we were crazy to open a distribution business,’ Salzman told attendees, ‘but we figured we could take the risk and do better.’
And they did, notably through the office in the U.K. ‘All factual comes through London eventually,’ he noted. ‘It’s more expensive but it’s a better place to sell from – so we sell face to face, not via email.’
Beyond that, Salzman explained that the company motivates its staff with ‘imaginative compensation packages,’ as the more common way of doing things – setting sales targets – just moves the big items in the catalog, while smaller shows can become shopworn.
The company also has a knack for meeting Cancon requirements without loading its shows with what could be considered by some audiences to be distracting Canadiana. The company’s recent Campus PD – a Cops-style look at the thankless jobs of university security staff seen on G4 – is shot in the U.S., posted in Canada and executive produced from London, for example.
Salzman added that the Canadian system itself has been a boon to the company; specifically the tax credits, the relatively high license fees, and the experience one gets putting together shows with multiple and often international partners.
‘Canada is the best place to produce non-fiction, bar none,’ he enthused.