MIPCOM 2012: Canada Shows Cannes-Do Attitude to Global Co-Productions on the Croissette

THE NEW BODICE-RIPPERS: “The Tudors” (Showtime)
Jonathan Hession/Showtime

With his sexed-up version of Henry VIII and his many wives, creator Michael Hirst’s “Tudors,” which ran from 2007-10, set the template for the new wave of period series: light on the history and heavy on the frippery and fornication. 

Not since the D-Day landing in 1944 has a French beach seen such a Canadian invasion, this time to find the next "The Tudors" or "The Borgias" multinational drama.

CANNES - Not since the D-Day landing in 1944 has a French beach seen such a Canadian invasion to reinforce a growing presence on the world stage.

The Croissette came alive Monday with Canadian distributors, actors, bureaucrats and keynote speakers spotlighting arenas like international co-productions, scripted dramas, animation, documentaries and digital media where Canada is making a mark internationally.

With their hands firmly planted in the co-production tool kit, the Canadians are marching in Cannes to find foreign partners and financing for their TV shows, scripted and unscripted.

“A co-production with Canada can be a gateway to other partners and the North American market,” Carole Brabant, executive director of Telefilm Canada, the Canadian government’s film financier, said of the promise of collaborating with Canadians.

Telefilm Canada and the Canadian Media Fund, the main source of subsidies for Canadian TV producers looking to get their programming into the world market, are co-sponsoring the Canada focus at MIPCOM to take advantage of U.S., U.K. and other foreign producers looking to share the risk and cost of TV shows.

That’s especially so as austerity measures in Europe to deal with mounting government debt has EU film and TV producers increasingly looking across the Atlantic to find new partners and markets.

“So there’s an opportunity, given the changes in the co-production environment, to put Canada forward,” Creighton observed.

Canada as the country of honor at MIPCOM this week also aims to let Canadians know heavy annual taxpayer investment in local film and TV product is paying off as it finds it way into the world market.

After all, on the map, Cannes isn’t hard to find for ordinary Canadians.

They just know the French seaside town as the high altar of cinema.

So Canada's powwow this week in Cannes aims to underline how Canada enjoys a growing international stature and rise as an intermediary between U.S., European and other world media producers partnering on global dramas.

“It’s great for Canada to have a higher profile,” said John Weber, president of indie producer Take 5 Productions, which is currently co-producing with Ireland’s Octagon Films and Morgan O’Sullivan’s World 2000 Entertainment the European costume drama Vikings for History in the U.S.

Of course, there’s nothing new in this.

Canadians, burdened by a tiny home market, have long seen their fate tied to Hollywood and the world market.

So they’ve long been permanent fixtures at international TV markets, in the same numbers as this week, with Ottawa and its proxies urging a foreign presence.

But the Canadian industry taking a bow at MIPCOM this week is showing yet again a peculiar resilience.

Despite dwindling government subsidies at home and the uncertainty and digital challenge engulfing the global TV business, these are glory years for the Canadians, given the increasing number of homegrown dramas like Flashpoint, Saving Hope, Rookie Blue and L.A. Complex that have filled U.S. network slots since the 2008 Hollywood writers strike.

“The only way to attract private investment is to think internationally and think co-productions and to think having our creative industry tell stories to the world,” Michael Hennessy, president and CEO of the Canadian Media Production Association, representing Canadian indie producers, argued.

That international focus has Canadian mini-studios like Lionsgate, Cineflix Media and Entertainment One expanding in Los Angeles and London to make copycat shows that work in the U.S. and British markets.

This week, they and other global producer and distribution players like Cookie Jar, Tricon and Shaftesbury Films have booths nodding at one other in the Palais, as they look for rest-of-the-world markets after selling their best shows into the U.S. and other major territories from offices in Toronto and London.

And the irony is it’s bureaucrats in the bowels of Ottawa and Montreal that are leading the Canadian march into Cannes, orchestrating indie distributors as they hawk their wares in cramped booths and chockablock displays in the Palais, or stage red carpet showcases of homegrown talent.

Canadian producer White Pine Pictures has brought David Sutcliffe (Private Practice, Gilmore Girls) and Stefanie von Pfetten (NCIS, BattlestarGalactica) to Cannes to help the homegrown police procedural Cracked follow earlier Canadian cop dramas like Rookie Blue and Flashpoint into the world market.

“The German, French and Italian broadcasters get a sense of how good Stefanie and David can be selling the show to their viewers,” Cracked executive producer Peter Raymont said as Beta Film shops the CBC drama internationally, and Carrie Stein reps the series stateside.