Telefilm Canada Chief on Country's Berlin Film Fest Opener: "It's a Wonderful Moment"

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival
Lone Scherfig's 'The Kindness of Strangers,' starring Zoe Kazan and Tahar Rahim, will open the Berlin Film Festival on Feb. 7.

Christa Dickenson discusses facilitating international co-productions, investing in local talent and the significance of backing 'The Kindness of Strangers': "It's great for our culture and for the growth and the sustainability of the cinematic industry."

Christa Dickenson took the helm as executive director of Telefilm Canada, the Canadian government's film financier, in August. Her immediate tasks included facilitating the kind of international co-production models that led to this year's Berlin Film Festival opener, The Kindness of Strangers, a Canada-Denmark co-production that was filmed in Toronto (doubling as New York). In the past year, Telefilm has helped ease the way for 19 co-productions, including The Hummingbird Project, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Salma Hayek.

The Hollywood Reporter talked to the head of Montreal-based Telefilm about the advantages of Canada's international co-production treaties, how it promotes local talent overseas and the significance of a Telefilm project opening the Berlinale.

How can international productions benefit from Canadian co-productions?

Any co-production that takes place with Canada, with Telefilm's help, is really at an advantage for the co-producing country in the sense that you're widening your audience for greater commercial impact. There's more commercial viability for those projects because the budgets are larger, and one can attract stars and bigger names.

And this offers Canadian producers the opportunity to tap foreign talent, correct?

Telefilm is not in a position to be dictating those creative decisions. That really lies with the producer and the director. What we're seeing in co-production opportunities for Canada is an ability to build relationships with international countries. Usually, for the production companies, that means they can have a partnership that can translate into more opportunities in the very near future.

Those opportunities include Canada becoming the first non-European member country in Eurimages, the European cinema support fund.

Eurimages is comprised of multiple countries. Why we struck that deal is to be able to socialize more of our talent, [connect] more Canadian films with other foreign investors and reach wider audiences. In our first year of that agreement, 2017-18, we had seven Canadian projects that were greenlit through that fund, which amounted to 2.2 million euros [$2.4 million] in budgets. That's quite significant at the end of the day.

How much does Telefilm directly invest in international co-productions?

Telefilm in 2017-18 financed 19 official treaty co-productions, and the total investment was $24 million. For us, it is a way of supporting the export of our content, and that's a high priority.

How significant is it that a Telefilm project is opening the Berlinale?

We are always very excited when any of our films that have Canadian content receive an official invitation to an international festival. That The Kindness of Strangers will be premiering at the Berlin Film Festival is a big deal. We're very proud of that. The fact that we are able to see our voices, our talent shine on the international stage, it's great for our culture and for the growth and the sustainability of the cinematic industry. So for us, we see this as a wonderful moment.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 30 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.