This article was originally published in 2013
Perhaps the Canadian Film Centre’s multi-year expansion and construction project, the Windfields Campus improvement and expansion project, is a metaphor for the formidable task Slawko Klymkiw has undertaken as the organization’s CEO since 2005.
Funding and executing a multi-million dollar building project and running a successful non-profit takes business savvy, brand vision and plenty of sweet talking.
In the past eight years, Klymkiw has had plenty of practice with both.
“One of the metaphors I like to use is that we wanted to change from a mom and pop [shop] to a small business,” Klymkiw says of the CFC’s strategic plan. The Windfields expansion was an especially daunting challenge: “There were times where I didn’t think we’d raise all the money,” he admits.
Lead by the organization’s fundraising efforts and an infusion of government dollars, Klymkiw has so far kept the project on track. The $12 million build, which includes earlier upgrades and repairs to increase the sustainability of the CFC’s multiple buildings, entered its final stretch in May this year with shovels in the ground for the Northern Dancer Pavilion. The new structure will create additional space to house the organization’s film, TV and digital media programs.
The expansion is the most visible evidence of Klymkiw’s work but under his oversight, the CFC has, by all accounts, flourished, growing from a $7-million to $13-million organization. A multi-year restructuring plan has achieved reduced operating costs, increased exposure, a diversified board and an increased slate of programs for talent development.
Communication, networking and outreach – skills Klymkiw holds in spades – have been a key part of the process.
“We began really making sure that our stakeholders, public and private, understood the huge economic return that came from the centre,” he explains.
Klymkiw’s dedication has not gone unnoticed.
“I think one of the great things for me working with him, what I appreciate – he really loves to convince people of the merit of what we’re doing,” says Sheena MacDonald, CFC COO, who also worked with Klymkiw when she was at Rhombus Media and he at the CBC, where he began his career.
He started at the CBC in 1980 as a researcher for its supper hour program 24Hours, then as executive producer of CBC News Manitoba. He moved to CBC News in Ontario, and in the late ’80s became EP of CBC at 6. He launched CBC Newsworld in 1992 before becoming program director of CBC Television in 1996.
Ever the builder, grower and instigator of change, Klymkiw’s tenure at the CFC reflects the relentless drive for improvement he developed in his career at the CBC.
Since 2005, the CFC has launched a slew of new programs, including the Actor’s Conservatory; the Bell Media Showrunner Bootcamp; the Slaight Family Music Lab; the CFC Media Lab’s digital business accelerator ideaBOOST; the CFC/NBCUniversal TV Series Exchange; and an ongoing partnership with the Tribeca Film Institute.
Despite this growth, Klymkiw knows the biggest challenge for the industry may still be ahead.
“I would say that the big challenge for all us is to find the way of monetizing the digital world. Financing all of this might not be romantic, but that’s what makes shows. There has to be more work in research and development, there has to be a concrete, rigorous attempt at finding these models going forward,” he insists.