Guild sounds off – composers should count too!

The Guild of Canadian Film Composers may have been operating since 1980, but it still hasn’t made a point. In fact, the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office of the Department of Canadian Heritage won’t give a producer even half a point for employing a local composer. It’s something that Marvin Dolgay, the guild’s president, and Maria Topalovich, its executive director, would like to see change in the near future. After all, it can affect whether a Canadian composer is employed – or not.

‘We need our composers to be out there, creating wonderful work, writing scores, whether they’re writing for iPhones or the latest movie. They’re all part of the group, and that’s what the guild is all about,’ says Topalovich.

But truth be told, Dolgay, a veteran composer for comedy troupes the Royal Canadian Air Farce and the Frantics, is more concerned about building an organization than righting any wrongs against his guild. ‘We’ve only been certified under the Federal Status of the Artist Act since 2003,’ he points out. ‘We’re just finding our legs.

‘Composers aren’t like performers or songwriters,’ Dolgay admits. ‘We don’t get instant gratification. We keep a thick skin because producers often ask for revisions of our scores. And we don’t have the performance gene. We don’t need to have people jump on a stage and say ‘thank you.’ This new administration with Maria on board is such a blessing for us. We’re so proud to have her.’

For Topalovich, a member of Playback’s Canadian Film and Television Hall of Fame for her work, first as spokesperson and eventually as executive director of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, the GCFC represents a return to her roots. Topalovich is a musician and a passionate supporter of composers.

‘We want to work on the advocacy side,’ she states. ‘The guild represents a huge proportion of SOCAN’s [Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada] membership in terms of the revenue we generate. But the amount of money we get from our members doesn’t drive this organization.

‘For us,’ she continues, ‘professional development is primary because that’s the future of the craft. So is advocacy, and now that we’re at the table with the other guilds, we can affect policy.’