Creative Financing?

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Posted by Jon on December 02, 1999 at 09:24:04:

Hi folks. I'm back. Sorry, been busy. Still love me? So what's all this "Toy Story" talk when there are more important matters to discuss? Settle down, just kidding.

12-1-99 Went to the "Creative Financing for Film and Television" at West Hollywood's Wyndham Bel Age Hotel. Great hotel!

ANyway, here's my report, and if your eyes start to glaze over, snap yourself out of it, because I'm not writing this for self-therapy.

I had hoped to discover some tricks of the industry in an area that's always been StarToons' Achilles' Heel (and also, I suspect, for a lot of the readers, too); namely, financing and deal-making (and by the way, Atom Films is NOT interested in our cartoons. I'm guessing they're looking for the next "Bambi vs. Godzilla"). The listed topics for discussion were: "The Anatomy pf a Deal: Making the Most of Your Production Budget" (panel hosted by Rick Mischel of Harvey Entertainment), followed by "Co-Production and Co-Financing: A Necessity for Independents" (panel hosted by Bob Presner of Film Finances Canada, Ltd.), then "Alternative Financing for Films: Getting Your Films on the Small Screen" (panel hosted by Joey Mastrogiuseppe of String-o-names Law Firm), and then "How to Make the Most of Insurance-backed Financing" (panel hosted by Carol Stamegna of Another-string-o-names Law Firm.

The point is, these are all topics I don't know much about except the broad strokes painted in industry rags. So if I'm serious about making an impact with the lawyers in this town, I better know how to speak their language, however broken.

Well here's the scoop. This entire gathering was nothing more than a celebration of the success of the Canadian Tax Incentive Programs. The message THROUGHOUT all of the discussions was: "You want to be financially viable? FIND A CANADIAN PRODUCTION COMPANY." A lot of smiling Canucks. Probably only 25% of the total attendees there were Americans (I'm going to use that word instead of US citizens, OK?) and the only ones of those who were smiling were the panelists, who were either lawyers or TV or film execs.


It was hammered into us so hard. "You can't beat it. The national tax rebates, compounded with the provincial tax rebates, amounting to as much as 22% of total production budget, can allow you to sell at a loss and still make money." Representatives from B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick were fighting with each other for plug-time.

And Dave, forget about Canadian content laws. A chartered Canadian accountant, Andrew Kay, explained it to us, point by point. No hockey sticks or maple syrup needed anymore, as of 1997. Just be sure it's a Canadian property (written by a Canadian) and artistically controlled by a Canadian (the director) and then you get the aforementioned rebates on all expenses that go into Canadian pockets.

Ah, but that only goes for Canadian projects. Exactly. If the above criterion are met, they can be produced and get their rebates. So which show ideas are more likely to be green-lit, an American's or a Canadian's? If you think the quality of the idea has anything to do with it, watch some of Nelvana's shows and get back to me.

None of it means anything to CBS, for instance. They just want the job done as inexpensively as possible. And right now it means it's a hell of a lot easier for Canadians to make the promises they need to hear. So the Canadian properties go to air.

It means EVERYTHING to an American-based production house. It means we can't get through to any of the cookie-cutter-minded execs unless we want to talk ABOOT a deal ... in other words, we have an address north of the border.

The term, "Hollywood North" was gaily bantered back & forth by these happy Mounties, referring to Vancouver, where almost all TV shooting and a lot of film shooting ... and as we know, a lot of animation ... is being done. My brother-in-law, a specialist motion-control cameraman, spends half his time in Vancouver, working with the native crews there on U.S. productions.

But if the whole freakin' industry thinks American TV animation production is dead, I still don't. I may have to start referring to StarToons as "Canada South" but we are somehow going to devise weapons to get the attention of our own industry execs. Canada is not the bottom line, no matter what they say. Quality and profit are the bottom line.

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