Prisma declares bankruptcy

Montreal: Productions Prisma, one of Montreal's oldest production houses, was officially declared bankrupt Oct. 22. The company's total debt is close to $10 million....

Montreal: Productions Prisma, one of Montreal’s oldest production houses, was officially declared bankrupt Oct. 22. The company’s total debt is close to $10 million.

Documents filed in Quebec Superior Court by bankruptcy trustee Ernst & Young indicate Prisma owes more than $9.9 million to creditors, including $8 million-plus in secured credit, loans and personal guarantees or bonds made on behalf of other companies (typically production affiliates established by Prisma) and owed to the Royal Bank, a small portion of which, $446,141, is secured debt.

A spokesperson for the trustee says other than the secured creditors – Royal, funding agency sodec ($305,000) and Banque de Developpement du Canada ($827,000) – ‘the amount available for all [the other] creditors is nothing.’ bdc is in the strongest recoupment position, holding all the guaranteed assets, while Royal only has the receivables, the trustee says.

The bankruptcy documents show outstanding payroll deductions amount to more than $62,000. Preferred creditors listed include building rental costs to 165588 Canada ($64,063) and Jalbec ($11,009).

Seventy-nine unsecured creditors are also listed, including prominent entertainment law and accounting offices, assurance and document companies, the Quebec producers association, Telefilm Canada ($167,157), u.k. coproduction partner Winklemania, and Royal, the latter for the unsecured amount of $7.6 million.

According to information provided by Telefilm to La Presse, the agency has invested close to $25 million in Prisma productions in the past five years, most of it prior to 1998 when the agency became aware of the company’s solvency problems.

Prior to the ctf, producers of big-budget Quebec drama series were feeling the pinch and complained in the press they were obliged to start principal photography with serious gaps remaining in the production budget.

Prisma then pushed in the direction of selling to the international market.

In a prepared statement, Prisma president Claude Godbout says the company had invested close to $3 million in three recent tv series: Platinum, initially planned as an mow/series coproduction with the u.k.; a Chinese/Canadian coproduction, and Back to Sherwood.

When the u.k. coproducer partner on Platinum declared bankruptcy, the project ended up as a tv movie, sold to cbc, and did not become a series. The China coproduction died in development amidst allegations a Radio-Canada program executive had traveled to China in the company of a producer with Prisma, who happened to be his girlfriend. Back to Sherwood, broadcast in the u.s., u.k. and Canada, was not renewed after its first season.

As the end approached, Godbout was reported to have remortgaged his house to pay employees who were being laid off and ultimately has lost the house as well.

Over the years, Prisma produced award-winning feature films such as Les Ordres and Les Bons Debarras, moving into tv with children’s and primetime drama series such as the long-running Kitty Cats, the medical drama Urgence, Paparazzi, the miniseries Le Masque and various magazine shows.