Report: film distributors have failed Canadian schools

A report out this week from Reel Canada, which brings Canadians films into schools, finds teachers too often pay out of their own pocket for DVDs screened in their classrooms.
Clapper

Another weak link in Canadian film distribution has been identified: school teachers.

A report out this week from Reel Canada, which brings Canadians films into schools, finds teachers too often pay out of their own pocket for DVDs screened in their classrooms.

That’s no help to Canadian filmmakers because DVDs are for private viewing only, and offending teachers are bypassing the official distribution route of purchasing public performance licensing agreements and returning royalties to creators.

Worse, despite teachers having a will to get Canadian films before their students, the screen time for homegrown movies in Canadian classrooms is roughly the same as that for English Canadian film at the local multiplex – a paltry 1%.

“The distribution system is failing [teachers]. The after-market distributors don’t even identify Canadian films in their catalogs,” Reel Canada executive director Jack Blum told Playback Daily.

Blum commiserates with the major distributors who see the educational system as too peripheral to consider exploiting.

And teachers see the official distribution system of performance licensing agreements as too bureaucratic and costly in time and money.

What’s more, the average school barely has enough money in their discretionary budgets for books, pencils and masking tape, much less Canadian films.

So the soft option for teachers is bringing their personal DVDs into the classroom, acquired through retail outlets, video stores or online, or by tapping films for free from the public library, YouTube or the National Film Board of Canada.

“The solution is not to let [teachers] rent films at video stores. The solution is to fix the distribution system,” Blum argued.

Enter Reel Canada and its missionary zeal for spreading Canadian film in nationwide schools for that fix.

“We are willing to take on this job, and take advantage of the extensive network we’re developing and we can make it happen,” Blum explained.

That said, it’s business as well as altruism. The fix includes carving out educational distribution rights for Canadian films, marketing them in schools, and then splitting revenue with major distributors.

The distributors get another pot of money, and Reel Canada gets to raise its game.

To entice teachers, box sets of Canadian films would be sold to school libraries, and their content would be more closely tied to classroom curriculum through study guides, for example.

“I don’t think we can depend on the demands of the marketplace to get product into schools. We can only depend on Reel Canada. This is part of our mandate,” Blum said.