NFB and Brazil shoot for the ‘unimaginable’

The National Film Board’s new co-operative agreement with Brazil’s Ministry of Culture is a bold step into the tumultuous zone of digital media.

‘There’s no point in trying to replicate the kind of traditional coproduction agreements that are done so well by the private sector,’ says Tom Perlmutter, NFB chair and government film commissioner. ‘I want us to do something different, not just pitch projects to each other.’

Perlmutter has been systematically transforming the NFB into ‘a creative laboratory,’ so this is right in step with his passion to see the institution revitalized as ‘a place where we can take risks and do things differently.’

Working with Silvio Da-Rin, audiovisual secretary of Brazil’s Ministry of Culture, with whom Perlmutter has a ‘strong relationship,’ he has developed a partnership that is intent on exploring new methods of creation for documentary and animation in the digital age.

At the heart of the co-op arrangement will be the assembling of two creative teams – one from the NFB, one from Brazil – to think through what it means to make something new. ‘We want to work from the ground up, based on today’s digital realities. And have it be driven by creators, not producers,’ says Perlmutter.

‘It’s anchored in a concrete project: to conceive of something that doesn’t already exist – to do the unimaginable,’ he continues. ‘What we’ll find could have a documentary seed to it, but it will be ensconced in the digital universe we live in now.’

The plan is for the teams to meet in Brazil in February for four days to come up with an idea, then spend six months developing it before meeting in Montreal. After this second face-to-face session, the project will either go into production or be shelved.

Perlmutter believes that this innovative collaboration with Brazil will address key questions facing Canada’s producers.

‘How do you structure deals when digital formats make productions so radically different?’ Perlmutter wonders aloud. ‘What will happen to our creative partnerships? Can we create a template that the industry can use in the future?’

One thing is certain. Perlmutter wants the NFB to be ‘nimble and responsive and nonlinear.’