Playback Fall 2019: The future of Canadian film in an OTT world

Our fall issue explores how producers are staying afloat in the uncertain waters of SVODs and OTTs and debuts the 2019 class of Playback's 5 to Watch.

I had my own movie moment about a month ago.

I got married just a few hundred metres from TIFF Bell Lightbox, the beating heart of Toronto’s film scene.

In many ways, weddings are like feature films, and many filmmakers/producers I’ve chit-chatted with have also made the comparison.

In this instance, the project was structured as a Canada/U.K. coproduction, development started about seven years ago, and it contained all the clichés of your typical indie feature: it went over budget, there were location switches, biblical downpours and everything went right down to the wire (scripts were still being tweaked as the cameras started rolling).

It got done, though. And, while it felt like an enormous feat, it’s one that simply pales in comparison to the stories and sacrifices I hear about almost daily from Canada’s vibrant film community.

Hearing the inspiring behind-the-lens stories of domestic features – which usually come together with a combination of unbreakable determination and a little alchemy – is one of the best parts of covering this industry. Sure, the deals, M&A activity and people moves are fun, but the stories behind the stories are the heartbeat of what makes this industry great.

For that reason, the six weeks leading up to TIFF is one of my favourite times of the year, as I get a window into the lives of people who (oh so modestly) tell me tales of quite literally moving mountains to get things made.

The strength of this year’s TIFF Canadian lineup is a testament to that skill and resolve, with legendary and transformative talents like Alanis Obomsawin, Zacharias Kunuk and Atom Egoyan sitting alongside a dynamic crop of rising stars, including a pair of Talent to Watch projects.

And if you’re looking for talent on the emerging end of the spectrum, look no further than Playback‘s annual 5 to Watch. This year’s picks represent a diverse roster of whip-smart, big-picture thinkers poised to become leaders of tomorrow’s industry.

Playback‘s TIFF issue is also a chance to reflect on the inherent difficulties of the domestic film industry, which recently lost a distribution company, D Films, that has long been a passionate advocate for Canadian cinema. It’s a stark reminder of the intensifying business pressures associated with today’s market.

But while times may never have been tougher, Canadian filmmakers and producers are rising to the occasion with grit and entrepreneurship. In this issue’s feature story, we dive into how Canadian companies are retooling in order to thrive in a film business that’s going full stream ahead.

Part of that new school, of course, are the digital giants. While Netflix has shaken up the film world in recent years, it has a bona fide Canadian competitor in Bell Media’s Crave. In this issue, we look at Crave’s remarkable five-year ascent in the Canadian streaming market.

As well, explore how CBC is building out its own film strategy, backed by its burgeoning streaming entity, Gem, a platform it hopes will become the future home of Canadian cinema. And for a different kind of platform altogether, check out Reflector Entertainment’s ambitious strategy to build a digital hub for multimedia story universes.

It’s a daunting and thrilling new frontier for domestic film, and one that we here at Playback are so privileged to be able to peer into.

Jordan Pinto, Associate Editor


Reflector Entertainment looks to build a new kind of platform

Programmer Profile: Netflix independent film

Programmer Profile: CBC Films

TIFF Diaries: Blood Quantum’s decade-long wait for a zeitgeist moment

TIFF Diaries: Taking First Person from Globe to screen

5 to Watch:

Maddy Falle
Nyla Innuksuk
Misha Solomon
Madison Thomas
Sabrina Sherif

Cover story: The future of Canadian cinema in an OTT world

Canada’s streaming champion: Crave @ 5

Playback’s 2019 Hall of Fame: John Grierson