Canadian film. I won’t hold it against you if you just rolled your eyes or muttered to yourself, What’s that? Ask an average Canadian to describe Canadian cinema—from Victoria to Toronto to Halifax and everywhere in between—and you’ll probably get the same response.
As a filmmaker who loves independent mystery thrillers, I’ve spent the last few years wondering why there aren’t more movies set in Canada like "Fargo" (USA) or "Headhunters" (Norway) or the original "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" (Sweden).
If ‘The Great Canadian Thriller’ already exists, I’ll be the first to admit that I probably haven’t heard of it. According to Telefilm Canada, the federal agency responsible for developing Canadian film and television, the market share for Canadian films in theaters across Canada was just a dismal 3.2% in 2010.
Now factor in that most of Canada’s audiovisual industry relies on traditional government funding bodies, so if you aren’t interested in making a campy comedy about hockey or a drama about dysfunctional relationships, good luck finding funding.
“There is an 'after-school special' mentality regarding the funding of story-telling in this country,” explained Devon Richards, the CEO of Hot Buttered Productions, in response to an October 2012 Techvibes piece on the impact of wireless internet on the Canadian broadcast industry. “If it doesn't have an in-your-face, moral, high-ground message, it's not getting funded.”
Enter the Cinecoup Film Accelerator. In February 2013, 90 filmmaking teams across Canada—including my Vancouver-based team for "The Mill and the Mountain"—submitted concept trailers to give Canadians a sneak peak at what Canada’s independent filmmaking industry could look like if it was unhindered by federal and regional cultural watchdogs.
“I want to make international films that happen to be made by Canadians,” explains Cinecoup founder J. Joly. “Right now, Canadian film as a whole is a lot like eating bran for breakfast. You know it’s good for you, but you don’t always want to eat it. I want bacon and eggs every day. I want audience-focused films that people actually want to watch.”
The public portion of Cinecoup launched February 28, 2013. Over the next eight weeks, through online voting and social media stunts, these teams will compete to qualify for a $1M production budget and a 2014 theatre release for their feature film via Cineplex.
“Today’s filmmakers need to be more than great story tellers, they need to be entrepreneurs,” Joly says. “Entrepreneurs by definition are creative people. To be successful, they need to be are accomplished storytellers because that’s the only way you can convince people to invest in your idea.”
Wait. Make movies that people actually want to watch and make money? This is the approach to filmmaking in Canada that I’ve been waiting for.
Two years ago I founded a creative studio with partner-in-crime Steve Adams. Like most start ups, we had no investors and built our production business and client list through sweat equity. We leveraged social media marketing strategies and partnerships to build a quality, online following, that in turn, generated more business opportunities for our company.
Is this model the future for Canada’s independent filmmakers? I know it is and with Cinecoup’s as my platform, I have eight weeks to test and prove that there’s a market for a thriller about one of Canada’s dirtiest secrets.
The Highway of Tears is 500-mile stretch of road between Prince George and Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia. It’s a place so remote and empty, it feels like it could swallow you whole. And in some cases, it has. Officially, 19 women have been murdered or gone missing on this highway since the 1960s. Unofficially, some locals say that the number of missing women is closer to 60.
Our story is inspired by a 2011 murder on the Highway of Tears by accused, serial killer Cody Legebokoff and a ‘Mr. Nobody’ amnesia case that occurred in Vancouver in 2005.
We think this is a story worth telling. Check out our trailer and let us know if you agree.
Sean Horlor is a filmmaker participating in the 2013 Cinecoup Film Accelerator with The Mill and the Mountain. He is an award-winning author and the co-founder of Steamy Window Productions.