Summary of the Kitchen Table meeting
May 1, 2012
The following themes emerged during the meeting:
â€˘ A short term public response to the recent budget cuts
â€˘ A long term strategy to mobilize and affect real change for documentary
â€˘ The role of DOC in this mobilization and whether it should do away with its charitable status
â€˘ The actual impact of the cuts
â€˘ The vanishing market: the absence of slots
â€˘ DOCâ€™s positions vis Ă vis the various institutions: CBC, NFB, Telefilm, CRTC
â€˘ The untapped opportunities
A short term public response to the recent budget cuts
Members speak about the tumultuous times we are in. Thereâ€™s a sense that public interests are being transferred to private interests, both federally and provincially. Journalists are being muzzled, itâ€™s hard enough to make documentary, but itâ€™s becoming impossible to make films that hold dissenting views.
Quebecâ€™s students are leading the way in gaining public support in railing against government policy. In response, the cultural sector in Quebec has mobilized and has created Coalition Culture. The aim of Coalition Culture is to prepare for the next election. It has struck 14 committees focusing on actions to mobilize the larger community and to integrate with orgs. outside of Quebec.
Should DOC undertake similar actions?
This led to conversations about various actions filmmakers could undertake while in town for Hot Docs and the messaging that would be delivered.
Not all members felt that a demo would be a productive use of their time, nor the way they want to show the government their displeasure with the budget cuts.
Short term and long term strategies
Both are needed along with messaging to all political parties. Things werenâ€™t necessarily a whole lot better under the Liberals. We need to have a definitive voice for documentary production and we musnâ€™t let the broadcasters off the hook.
We need to target the board members of the various institutions we interact with (ie NFBâ€™s board members)
We need to make our advocacy message visual and we need to reach out to other cultural groups who fear, like we do, the loss of the Canadian cultural voice. A vast coalition of sectors will need to come together to oppose this government for the next election if change is to happen.
We need to engage average Canadians in our advocacy efforts, more in line with a public education strategy. We must emphasize the importance of our stories and the importance of freedom of expression. We should make a list of influential documentaries that have been made over time and that have altered social perceptions in order to demonstrate the value of the work done by documentary filmmakers.
DOCâ€™s charitable status
Many members were unaware of DOCâ€™s charitable status as a national arts service organization. Under the law, DOC must respect the 10% rule that stipulates that, as a charity, it cannot devote more than 10% of its ressources to political activities. Many members feel that this is not an asset: we need to be more vociferous in our response to the cuts and to this government. DOC should give up its charitable status.
The main benefit of the charitable status is the ability to offer tax receipts for donations (which do not apply to membership fees). So far, DOC has not made great use of that ability and has only receipted about $1500/$2000 per year. However, itâ€™s never had the means to implement a comprehensive giving campaign and has never been able to assess whether it can leverage that charitable status to a financial advantage.
DOCâ€™s charitable status does not, in any way, prevent members, as individuals, from expressing whatever political views they hold.
Could DOC run two organizations? One that is charitable and one that is free to do political activity?
Could DOC be a fiscal sponsor with its charitable status? Not under Canadian law.
This quickly became a focal point of the conversation and something that was carried over at the AGM.
Actual impact of the cuts
Not all members agreed that the cuts would impact them. What seemed to emerge was that on principle, members are against the cuts. If there is no access to the CBC and the NFB, then, as documentary filmmakers and as Canadians, weâ€™re in trouble. The slow erosion of the CBC and the NFB will mean that the institutions will no longer have relevance to Canadians and will eventually disappear.
The absence of slots
New slots have to be created: whether itâ€™s by pressuring CBC, private bâ€™casters, the CRTC, whether itâ€™s done in a subtle or activist way, the consensus is that better relations have to be developed with bâ€™casters in order to increase documentary slots. Ultimately, whether itâ€™s through the soft sell or harder pressure tactics, they must be made to understand.
Some members want to see the funding model untethered from broadcasting and want DOC to do research on this.
Question: Could we convince the CMF of untethering bâ€™casting from financing? Answer: until the policy directive that saw the CMF formed in the first place is revised, we wonâ€™t be able to affect that change.
CBC: Many members feel that CBC has lost sight of its responsabilities and has to be called into account.
CRTC: CRTC should be defending the view that documentary filmmaking is a quality public good and is a successful international export.
We must reframe our relationship with NFB and CBC
Some members feel we need to forget these institutions and bravely create our future.
â€˘ Nova Scotia Film counts international money as a trigger for broadcasters
â€˘ ISUMA TV was able to trigger licence fee for northern territory, over the Internet. This is a precedent. We could create our own broadaster and use it to trigger licence fees.
â€˘ Public service announcements: we could avail ourselves of that (a la Jâ€™aime le documentaire and Canal D)
â€˘ Turn to international allies to comment on the Canadian situation: Arte, Nick Fraser, others
â€˘ Sokap.com is a new online funding approach that seems promising
â€˘ Telefilmâ€™s private fund: could we create something like Britdocs corporation for web series or digital docs?