Canada funds fest push for pics

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TORONTO -- The Canadian government on Monday said it will step up its promotion of homegrown movies competing for glory and foreign pre-sales at international film festivals.

The latest film promotion plan from Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financier, will see English- and French-language Canadian films selected for festivals at Cannes, Berlin, Pusan, Sundance and Venice receive up to $50,000 each to secure publicists and other promotional tools for additional publicity and possible sales.

And in a separate move, Telefilm Canada said it will answer a shortfall in key government subsidies for indigenous Quebec movie scripts by helping French-language producers in Quebec secure foreign pre-sales and after-sales in overseas markets.

Government subsidies already account for three-quarters of investment in French-language films made here, either through direct subsidies or tax credits, and Telefilm Canada put no new money on the table Monday for investment in Quebec films.

Quebec producers are being urged instead to invest more of their own equity or to secure additional financing from private sector sources or foreign pre-sales to finance bigger-budget projects.

"The French-language industry must be able to more effectively leverage the international market," Michel Pradier, director of French operations at the Quebec Office at Telefilm Canada, said Monday.

But Telefilm Canada will chip in by hosting a meeting next month in Montreal that will see representatives of film funding agencies from Quebec, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland discuss how to co-produce more French-language feature films.

In a global film industry dominated by English-speaking fare, securing domestic or foreign pre-sales for French-language movies remains a challenge for Quebec producers.

That uphill battle was underlined this summer when producers of Quebec director Denys Arcand's next project, "L'Age des Tenebres," went public with their difficulties in completing financing for the project. That was despite Arcand's last movie, "The Barbarian Invasions," earning the 2004 foreign-language Oscar.

Also this summer, 43 Quebec film directors, including Robert Lepage, Bernard Emond, Lea Pool, Micheline Lanctot, Denis Villeneuve, wrote to the federal government complaining about how Telefilm Canada finances the Quebec film industry, arguing that too little money was going into too few projects.

In response Monday, Telefilm Canada said that on Wednesday it will host a New York screening for key American buyers of Stephane Lapointe's " La Vie secrete des gens heureux" (The Secret Life of Happy People) to generate possible foreign sales.
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