Coalition of industry leaders propose new fund for BPOC creators

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Under a proposal submitted to Canadian Heritage, the Canadian Independent Screen Fund has requested $10 million annually over five years to support BPOC (Black and People of Colour) creators.

A  coalition of industry leaders are collaborating to revive the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund (CIFVF), a development and production fund that ran from 1991 until 2008.

Under the new name of The Canadian Independent Screen Fund (CISF), the repurposed and rebranded fund – which is still at the proposal stage – would provide development and production funding for industry professionals at the emerging, mid-career and established level.

Key leaders from BIPOC TV & Film, Racial Equity Media Collective, IMPACT, Black Screen Office Group, the Indigenous Screen Office (ISO), the National Screen Institute (NSI), BlackWomenFilm! Canada, Being Black in Halifax and Reelworld Screen Institute have all put their names to the proposal, which has been submitted to Minister of Canadian Heritage Steven Guilbeault.

CISF has proposed that the federal government contribute $10 million annually to the fund for the next five fiscal years.

The ISO was part of the consultation process and “is in full solidarity with the intent and direction of this fund,” according to a statement issued by CISF.

Under the proposal, CISF, which is headed up by board co-chairs Lalita Krishna and Jennifer Holness, would: support projects submitted by BPOC owned companies or productions where BPOC creatives own 60% of the copyright; provide support for the development and production of both scripted and unscripted; have an independent jury of media professionals assess projects based on criteria developed and approved by the board; see 50% of the funding will go to Black applicants, with additional points of intersectionality from equity-seeking groups being prioritized; and be evaluated in three separate tiers – emerging, intermediate and experienced.

“Filmmakers from BPOC communities have historically faced systemic barriers which prevent storytellers from getting our projects greenlit by gatekeepers”, said in a statement. “Strategic and targeted investments lead to increased job opportunities and this will in turn have a positive economic ripple effect among racialized communities.”

While the original CIFVF ceased operations in 2008 after a series of cuts made by the Conservative government, a group of its board members continued to operate the fund as a charity with the goal of relaunching it one day.

In addition to Holness, who is also heading up the formation of the Black Screen Office, and Krishna, the board consists of: Adeline Bird (BIPOC TV & FILM), Jennifer Holness (Black Screen Office Group), Samantha Kaine (IMPACT, Quebec), Joy Loewen (National Screen Institute), Lea Marin (BlackWomenFilm!), Tony Merzetti (Film Coop, Fredericton), Erica Meus-Saunders (Being Black in Halifax), Mahalia Verna (Quebec), Nathalie Younglai (BIPOC TV & FILM), Amar Wala (Racial Equity Media Collective) and independent producers Sobaz Benjamin, Tendisai Cromwell, Sarah Spring and Haydn Wazelle.

“The time is now. The clarion call for accountability led by the Black Lives Matter movement has been amplified by various organizations and groups concerned with media production in Canada. We have all come together under this banner as artistic creators and producers from Black and People of Colour communities. We need a program that responds to our needs,” said Krishna.

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