What's Next for Canada's Top Producer Rep John Barrack?

The former lead negotiator for the Canadian Media Production Association has set up as a top adviser for local filmmakers, urging the Canadian industry "to grow up and become a business."

TORONTO – These are tense times for Canadian indie producers as they transition to digital media platforms like YouTube and Facebook that siphon away old-media audiences.

Handily, John Barrack has entered the Canadian arena as a top-level strategist for major film and TV producers after long serving as their brain in his role as top labor negotiator for the Canadian Media Production Association.

Fresh off nearly a decade negotiating labor contracts for Canadian producers, Barrack is turning his focus to helping local filmmakers face their toughest challenge: securing a commercial future with global partners as the safety net provided back home by the Canadian taxpayer increasingly frays.

“It’s time for this industry to grow up and become a business, and that means taking some real risk, especially in the international marketplace,” an upbeat Barrack, who is now set up at indie producer marblemedia in Toronto, said.

That means Canadian producers going beyond their usual show-us-the-money for more-of-the-same pitch to politicians in Ottawa to identifying what emerging digital audiences need globally.

“The system as we know it today may not exist tomorrow. We need to figure out how to go to the government with a viable alternative,” Barrack said of his boots-on-the-ground approach to new business development.

An example: Barrack sees frontier business opportunities for Canadian film and TV producers at the nexus of online communities and live events.

“Social media is not an end in itself. It’s a tool. The aim is to create live events and gather communities in,” Barrack said.

Here he urges Canadian producers to follow the music industry, a business battered by new digital technologies, and leverage social media to build live audiences for its product.

“You have the luxury of the communities you have around your shows. How do you leverage that?” Barrack questioned.

marblemedia co-CEO and executive producer Mark Bishop said Barrack is unique as an Canadian industry consigliere because of his business acumen and blue-sky thinking.

“It’s about seizing opportunities and looking at things from a different perspective, where there’s an opportunity for a new way to expand our content,” Bishop said of collaborating with Barrack on new initiatives.

“It’s all possible, but we spend a lot of time in the industry focusing on the financing for a single project, and we don’t spend enough time to say, it’s really about taking and expanding beyond what we’re thinking right now,” Bishop added.