Arts Reporter Rohit Joseph spoke via email to Executive Director Anita Adams, about the 10th anniversary of the Canadian Film booster organization, The First Weekend Club.
Rohit: Seeing as how it has lasted ten years, what are the main factors you attribute to First Weekend Club’s longevity?
Anita: I think the biggest thing that attributes to our longevity is the staff. We all look at the work we do as more of a passion project than a job. It’s fun and rewarding and incredibly satisfying when we successfully pack a house for a film’s opening. We have a lot of industry support as well – which makes the work we do possible. Telefilm Canada has been an important financial partner from the early days, as has the Directors Guild of Canada BC and BC Film + Media. Over the years we’ve attracted many more sponsors that have continued to support our cause. I think they see the impact we have and that our work is making a difference in keeping more Canadian films in theatres longer and are proud to continue to support our efforts.
Rohit: How would you evaluate First Weekend Club’s success in attracting more international attention towards Canadian films?
Anita: That’s a hard one to evaluate and to say with any certainty that FWC is the reason Canadian films are attracting more international attention. If a film does well at the box office it will attract attention from both exhibitors domestically and internationally. Often however, Canadian films will get more attention and praise from international film festivals before they open theatrically than they do at home. Audiences around the world love Canadian films – we just need to see a bit more love for them here.
Rohit: How has Cineplex, a company regarded as Canada’s largest movie theatre chain, helped achieve First Weekend Club’s goals? Is there a conflict of interest with such a big corporate entity getting involved in promoting low-budget, independent Canadian films?
Anita: I don’t think there is any conflict of interest at all. Cineplex, as you noted, is the largest movie theatre chaining, dominating over 80% of the market place in Canada. They absolutely should be supportive of an organization like ours – and they are. The Executive Vice President of Cineplex Michael Kennedy sits on our board of directors and Cineplex is a generous sponsor of our activities. More and more Canadian films seem to be opening in their chains and whenever we host an event at their theatre they are very accommodating. They have been a very supportive partner of First Weekend Club’s for the past 5 years. We have recently started discussing new ways to collaborate as well – but I can’t share anything about that yet …
Rohit: At the moment, what do you believe to be the biggest hurdle that is yet to be overcome for Canadian filmmakers?
Anita: Lack of access is the biggest hurdle. Most Canadian films only open in three major cities – Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal. A few of those films may go on to open in a few other markets IF they do well on the opening weekend, but even with the expanded release the number of theatres that play Canadian films is still relatively low (compared to the US studio releases). That coupled with the extremely limited financial resources available for marketing Canadian films, most Canadian films go unnoticed by the general public and disappear all too quickly.
Rohit: The idea of CanadaScreens.ca as a Video On Demand service seems to be a smart move considering that the Netflix-era is upon us. Do you think that this streaming service will help expand the exposure to Canadian film?
Anita: Yes, CanadaScreens.ca will absolutely expand the exposure to Canadian film. It all comes back to that lack of access I mention above. With a video-on-demand service exclusively dedicated to Canadian film, finally there is a platform for more Canadian films to gain access to Canadian content anytime anywhere – no matter where you live. Our challenge will be to find the resources to help market the service so people know about it. Needless-to-say, I’m spending a lot of my time and energy right now fundraising.
Rohit: Are there any particular up and coming Canadian filmmakers or actors that our listeners should pay close attention to?
Anita: Yeah, there are a couple of filmmakers that I am watching with great interest, including local writer/director Katrin Bowen. She has a new film that I believe is hitting the festival circuit this fall called Random Acts of Romance. I’m also really excited about the Soska Sisters who wrote and directed American Mary. Talk about a couple of very talented filmmakers – also from Vancouver.
First Weekend Club website: https://firstweekendclub.ca/site12/