Jump Cuts

Strong year for Astral

Strong year for Astral

Net earnings rose 14% to $104.4 million at Astral Media in 2005, according to recent year-end numbers. The Montreal-based radio and TV broadcaster is reporting across-the-board gains, with revenue up 6% to $549.6 million and EBITDA up 12% to $172.6 million. Astral president and CEO Ian Greenberg also noted ‘impressive’ gains in its specialty TV sector, where ad revenue jumped 25%, and in pay-TV, where subscriptions rose 5% to 1.5 million.

Rebound for Global

CanWest Global Communications had a good year in 2005, and is reporting net earnings of $10 million for the year ending Aug. 31, up from a net loss of $13 million in ’04 – but Canadian TV is still the weak link in its international chain of broadcast and print holdings.

The conglom’s outlets in Ireland, Australia and New Zealand are all reporting double-digit growth, while its Canadian broadcasters, which include the Global and CH networks, saw a revenue gain of 1% to $699 million. CanWest is blaming a weak advertising market and increased spending on programming at Global. Revenue at its domestic casters was down 5% last year.

Applications? Anyone?

VisionTV and the National Screen Institute are again encouraging native and visible minority producers to apply for DiverseTV, a joint program on broadcast development and production. The project has so far seen few applications from outside B.C. and Ontario – and none from the Prairies or the East Coast.

‘It’s called DiverseTV for a reason,’ says Vision spokesperson Sarah Kiriliuk. ‘We don’t want to have just people from Toronto.’

Deadline for applications is Dec. 12. See www.nsi-canada.ca for details.

NSI and Telefilm, meanwhile, have chosen the filmmaking teams for the 2005/06 Features First program, which helps filmmakers develop their first or second feature. The five teams are: Larissa Giroux and Jeffrey St. Jules, with their Bang Bang Baby; Anneli Ekborn and Kirsten Carthew with The Sun at Midnight; Timo Puolitaipale, Darren Wall and Ryan Fitzgerald with Chroma; Brent Deere and Adam Smoluk with Foodland; and Rick Stefanowski, Torin Stefanson and Teri Armitage with Time to Reap.

Banff deadline draws near

The Banff World Television Festival has issued a call for entries for its Banff World Television Awards, to be handed out at the 2006 edition of its fest. Formerly the Rockie Awards, there are 18 prizes available, including a new one for interactive television projects. The submission deadline is Feb. 28, with the festival taking place June 11-14. See www.banff2006.com.

Call for third workshop

SODEC is calling for applications to the third edition of its l’Atelier Grand Nord – aka the Far North Workshop – to be held in Saint-Alexis-des-Monts, QC, March 18-26, 2006. The event focuses on feature-length fiction, in French, from Quebec, France, Belgium and Switzerland, and includes discussions and critical analyses by high-end auteurs. Deadline for applications is Dec. 16. See www.sodec.gouv.qc.ca for details.

Telefilm, Bell come together

Telefilm Canada and the Bell Broadcast New Media Fund have merged their application processes into one – cutting down on paperwork for film- or TV-makers seeking funds from either or both organizations. The new budget template takes effect at Telefilm with its December deadline for full applications, and with the February deadline for production applications at Bell. The organizations plan to further align their processes in the coming months, based on consultations with the industry.

Eve heads to Sundance

Eve & The Fire Horse, from Vancouver director Julia Kwan, has been selected for the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, to be held in Park City, UT Jan. 19-29. Eve, about a little girl who wrestles with the ideologies of religion and superstition, is the only Canadian film selected for the 2006 Sundance and will compete in the world cinema dramatic heat.

B.C. backs ‘at risk’ kids

B.C. producers are donating $10,000 to a film and video mentoring program for ‘at risk’ youth in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and South Vancouver. The four-year-old Projections program pairs industry mentors with street youth, taking them through the filmmaking process from concept to completion.

Peter Leitch, chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association, says the organization supports Projections because it ‘provides opportunities, builds skills and community, and offers inspiration for a future in film and television and related industries.’

‘This contribution from MPPIA is setting the stage to facilitate long-term access, opportunity and experience for youth at risk. Together we are investing in the future of youth and in our community,’ says project director Alanna MacLennan.

Numbers up again: Decima

Satellite TV and digital cable continued to grow through the second quarter of 2005 – up 4% to almost 4.7 million subscribers nationwide, according to a new study by Decima Research. The sector grew by 3% in the same period last year. Decima has revised its estimates and now predicts that digital TV subscriptions will hit 5.1 million by the end of 2005, and 5.9 million by the end of ’06.

Rogers Cable, meanwhile, is crowing that its high-definition service has hit 100,000 subscribers, more than double what the company had in January, and is predicting HD sets will be big sellers this holiday season.

Welcome to Canada

The CRTC has opened the door for six third-language services, to be carried digitally in Canada. Radio Television Portugal International and TV Globo Internacional (both in Portuguese), New Tang Dynasty Television and Phoenix North American Chinese Channel (both mainly in Mandarin), the family-aimed Urdu channel PTV-Prime and the 24-hour Russian-language Channel One all joined the list of eligible satellite services after lobbying by the Canadian Cable Telecommunications Association.

NFB remembers

The National Film Board is helping to mark Women’s Remembrance Day with a new website that, on Dec. 6, will bring together streaming video, public art and appearances by filmmakers and activists from across the country – including authors Judy Rebick and Maggie de Vries and filmmakers Gerry Rogers (Pleasant Street) and Christine Welsh. The Global Women’s Memorial Website, produced by Tracey Friesen (Exposing Ourselves), aims to become a meeting ground for those seeking to end violence against women. See www.globalwomensmemorial.org.

Devine cheered in Texas

Toronto producer David Devine will be recognized at next month’s USA Film Festival in Dallas, TX for his commitment to high-quality historical and biographical works for children. Devine’s work – which includes Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Galileo: On the Shoulders of Giants and the recent feature Bailey’s Billion$, ‘stands as an exemplar of the truly enriching aspects of the field,’ says festival manager Ann Alexander. The USA Film Festival runs Jan. 21-22, 2006.

Tax-break-achusetts

Massachusetts has approved a new tax break for motion picture production – offering a 20% credit on in-state payroll, a 25% credit on qualified production expenses, and a break on sales tax for producers who spend a minimum of $250,000 per year in the Bay State. The law, signed into effect by Governor Mitt Romney on Nov. 25, takes effect Jan. 1, and will be in place through 2013.