Hot Docs 2012: Film industry insiders to stage protest

Filmmakers, festival reps and documentary fans will use the festival as a platform today (May 4) to draw attention to the threats facing the documentary genre in Canada.
May 4, 2012

Industry insiders, weary of government cutbacks to the arts, are planning to use Toronto’s Hot Docs festival as a platform today (May 4) to draw attention to the threats facing the documentary genre.

“Increasingly, Canadian films are being recognized internationally. We’re seeing increased success and critical acclaim internationally, yet decreased support nationally,” Sarah Spring, founder of Parabola Films and protest organizer, told realscreen‘s sister publication¬†Playback Daily.

The “symbolic moratorium,” which is scheduled to begin at the corner of Queen’s Park and Charles St. West 12.30 p.m. EST, is geared at uniting filmmakers, festival representatives, distributors and documentary fans, all of whom are upset at what they perceive as an attack on independent documentaries.

In the interview, Spring didn’t elaborate on exactly what form of protest the moratorium would take. According to the Documentary Organization of Canada, the industry has seen a 30% decline in indie documentary production since 2008, with CBC, CTV and Global all cutting back on factual content.

This has led to the disappearance of at least 1,500 full-time documentary-related jobs over the past two years, it claims, which Spring says has a big impact on the Canadian economy.

“There’s a perception that film-making is some sort of luxurious business,” she suggests. “I’m not sure people outside the documentary community understand what a struggle it is, or how much money we’re putting into the economy. Our films are paying Canadians to do the work,” she adds.

As previously reported, the CBC, NFB and Telefilm Canada have all sustained significant cuts in recent weeks. These and other federal cuts to the arts were the last straw for Spring.

“It’s clear that the government isn’t very open to listening to [our] concerns, but it’s important for Canadians to see that,” she said. “They need to know that there are some serious issues affecting the people who are making these films.”

Spring added she’s hoping for a turnout of at least 100 people, but that the message of mobilizing Canadians to put pressure on the government to support indie culture is most important.

“It’s important that we realize that it’s not just tightening the belt all around. It’s an attack on independent Canadian voices,” she insists.

Photo: Sveta Suvorina / flickr Creative Commons

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.