May 21, 2018
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The Hot Docs Survival Guide: A Broadcaster Profile of CBC

By TO411 Daily staff writer Daisy Maclean

The 2012 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is ramping up with just under two weeks to go till it starts, tickets have been on sale at the newly located box office at 783 Bathurst Street and some screenings have already started to go rush. As a filmmaker it’s a great idea to start focusing on what you want to achieve long before you get to the festival in order to maximize your experience. We here at TO411 Daily are making your job a little easier by profiling three Canadian national broadcasters who will be in attendance at HotDocs 2012. The previously published profile of Shaw Media is available here.

Bruce Cowley was the man responsible for launching Discovery Channel at CTV in 1994 and is now the creative head of Digital Channels at CBC. As such he is responsible for running both Bold and Documentary Channels. Documentary is Canada’s only English-language television service dedicated exclusively to the genre. The channel acquires both Canadian and international documentaries and with regard to the latter, Cowley’s team looks for award winning festival films, those that have done very well at festivals and those that have won awards. If the film has had some kind of theatrical run in Canada, that can also be a good thing because often there is some buzz. Of these domestic and international acquisitions, the team acquires about 20-25 films per year.

“One international acquisition last year was Bombay Beach, a beautifully executed documentary that takes us back to an area in the southwestern united states where in the 1930’s they built a human-made lake and they thought of this place as a tourist destination and as it turns out, it never quite worked. But there are still locals, very poverty stricken families that live in this area called Bombay Beach and it’s sort of an island of misfits in this strangely contrived landscape.” explains Cowley.

“We took something recently called The Brain A Secret History, and its a 3-parter from Britain. Its a very solidly done journalistic approach to an examination of the brain and how we think and how we perceive. What effects surgery on the brain had in the 1950s and how our understanding of the brain and how it works is different today than it was. And this is not just a scientific documentary, which is fascinating enough, but it also explores the whole human element of why we behave like we do.”

Cowleys team doesn’t look for a specific topic, instead they look for a story that will resonate with their audiences. Not only does a documentary need to have challenges, a strong character and a good sense of story, but these things must be apparent within the first ten minutes in order the hook audiences in an increasingly competitive television landscape. 75% of the programming in primetime has to be Canadian and those at the channel really like to work with the independent filmmaking community. One of the things that makes the channel distinct is that they do commission one-off documentaries and there aren’t a lot of broadcasters in Canada that do that.

Theatrical length documentaries definitely have a home on CBC Documentary channel, but there is also a documentary slot on Bold as well. Often the difference on Bold is that the documentaries often deal with the arts in one way or another, with stories tending to be about musicians, artists or dance.

“Documentary channel runs off the revenues that we make every year. We are managed and run by the CBC but we have a completely different business model here. The operation that we run and the programming that we offer is directly proportional to how successful we are in the market place. We use all the money that we get from our subscriber base and advertising and our conditions of license demand that we spend x amount of dollars on documentaries and Canadian productions every year.”

Cowley continues, “We commission probably in the neighborhood of 10-12 films a year, both feature length and one-hour docs. As far as a license fee is concerned we do have a modest CMF (Canadian Media Fund) envelope, so we are able to tap into that and we combine some of those amounts with our license fees. If we have CMF money in that budget then that obliges us to spend so much money in relation to the overall budget. If the budget is 400k or more then we have to put down 150k on license fee. For one-hour, our license fees generally fit into the 70-80k range. There’s no hard and fast rule because as I say most of these production companies do apply for all these extra funds but they might not get them. And then we have to decide if we can put more money down or affect the budget and bring the budget down. You know Canada has a terrific legacy in documentary filmmaking. All the big festivals there’s always Canadians there that have a great voice in the documentary world and I think on a smaller scale, we’re trying to do that in the country. “

CBC is a presenting partner at HotDocs and will also be doing a panel, so keep an eye out in your program for that.

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Front Page, Industry News

The Hot Docs Survival Guide: A Broadcaster Profile of CBC

By TO411 Daily staff writer Daisy Maclean

The 2012 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is ramping up with just under two weeks to go till it starts, tickets have been on sale at the newly located box office at 783 Bathurst Street and some screenings have already started to go rush. As a filmmaker it’s a great idea to start focusing on what you want to achieve long before you get to the festival in order to maximize your experience. We here at TO411 Daily are making your job a little easier by profiling three Canadian national broadcasters who will be in attendance at HotDocs 2012. The previously published profile of Shaw Media is available here.

Bruce Cowley was the man responsible for launching Discovery Channel at CTV in 1994 and is now the creative head of Digital Channels at CBC. As such he is responsible for running both Bold and Documentary Channels. Documentary is Canada’s only English-language television service dedicated exclusively to the genre. The channel acquires both Canadian and international documentaries and with regard to the latter, Cowley’s team looks for award winning festival films, those that have done very well at festivals and those that have won awards. If the film has had some kind of theatrical run in Canada, that can also be a good thing because often there is some buzz. Of these domestic and international acquisitions, the team acquires about 20-25 films per year.

“One international acquisition last year was Bombay Beach, a beautifully executed documentary that takes us back to an area in the southwestern united states where in the 1930’s they built a human-made lake and they thought of this place as a tourist destination and as it turns out, it never quite worked. But there are still locals, very poverty stricken families that live in this area called Bombay Beach and it’s sort of an island of misfits in this strangely contrived landscape.” explains Cowley.

“We took something recently called The Brain A Secret History, and its a 3-parter from Britain. Its a very solidly done journalistic approach to an examination of the brain and how we think and how we perceive. What effects surgery on the brain had in the 1950s and how our understanding of the brain and how it works is different today than it was. And this is not just a scientific documentary, which is fascinating enough, but it also explores the whole human element of why we behave like we do.”

Cowleys team doesn’t look for a specific topic, instead they look for a story that will resonate with their audiences. Not only does a documentary need to have challenges, a strong character and a good sense of story, but these things must be apparent within the first ten minutes in order the hook audiences in an increasingly competitive television landscape. 75% of the programming in primetime has to be Canadian and those at the channel really like to work with the independent filmmaking community. One of the things that makes the channel distinct is that they do commission one-off documentaries and there aren’t a lot of broadcasters in Canada that do that.

Theatrical length documentaries definitely have a home on CBC Documentary channel, but there is also a documentary slot on Bold as well. Often the difference on Bold is that the documentaries often deal with the arts in one way or another, with stories tending to be about musicians, artists or dance.

“Documentary channel runs off the revenues that we make every year. We are managed and run by the CBC but we have a completely different business model here. The operation that we run and the programming that we offer is directly proportional to how successful we are in the market place. We use all the money that we get from our subscriber base and advertising and our conditions of license demand that we spend x amount of dollars on documentaries and Canadian productions every year.”

Cowley continues, “We commission probably in the neighborhood of 10-12 films a year, both feature length and one-hour docs. As far as a license fee is concerned we do have a modest CMF (Canadian Media Fund) envelope, so we are able to tap into that and we combine some of those amounts with our license fees. If we have CMF money in that budget then that obliges us to spend so much money in relation to the overall budget. If the budget is 400k or more then we have to put down 150k on license fee. For one-hour, our license fees generally fit into the 70-80k range. There’s no hard and fast rule because as I say most of these production companies do apply for all these extra funds but they might not get them. And then we have to decide if we can put more money down or affect the budget and bring the budget down. You know Canada has a terrific legacy in documentary filmmaking. All the big festivals there’s always Canadians there that have a great voice in the documentary world and I think on a smaller scale, we’re trying to do that in the country. “

CBC is a presenting partner at HotDocs and will also be doing a panel, so keep an eye out in your program for that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Front Page, Industry News

The Hot Docs Survival Guide: A Broadcaster Profile of CBC

By TO411 Daily staff writer Daisy Maclean

The 2012 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is ramping up with just under two weeks to go till it starts, tickets have been on sale at the newly located box office at 783 Bathurst Street and some screenings have already started to go rush. As a filmmaker it’s a great idea to start focusing on what you want to achieve long before you get to the festival in order to maximize your experience. We here at TO411 Daily are making your job a little easier by profiling three Canadian national broadcasters who will be in attendance at HotDocs 2012. The previously published profile of Shaw Media is available here.

Bruce Cowley was the man responsible for launching Discovery Channel at CTV in 1994 and is now the creative head of Digital Channels at CBC. As such he is responsible for running both Bold and Documentary Channels. Documentary is Canada’s only English-language television service dedicated exclusively to the genre. The channel acquires both Canadian and international documentaries and with regard to the latter, Cowley’s team looks for award winning festival films, those that have done very well at festivals and those that have won awards. If the film has had some kind of theatrical run in Canada, that can also be a good thing because often there is some buzz. Of these domestic and international acquisitions, the team acquires about 20-25 films per year.

“One international acquisition last year was Bombay Beach, a beautifully executed documentary that takes us back to an area in the southwestern united states where in the 1930’s they built a human-made lake and they thought of this place as a tourist destination and as it turns out, it never quite worked. But there are still locals, very poverty stricken families that live in this area called Bombay Beach and it’s sort of an island of misfits in this strangely contrived landscape.” explains Cowley.

“We took something recently called The Brain A Secret History, and its a 3-parter from Britain. Its a very solidly done journalistic approach to an examination of the brain and how we think and how we perceive. What effects surgery on the brain had in the 1950s and how our understanding of the brain and how it works is different today than it was. And this is not just a scientific documentary, which is fascinating enough, but it also explores the whole human element of why we behave like we do.”

Cowleys team doesn’t look for a specific topic, instead they look for a story that will resonate with their audiences. Not only does a documentary need to have challenges, a strong character and a good sense of story, but these things must be apparent within the first ten minutes in order the hook audiences in an increasingly competitive television landscape. 75% of the programming in primetime has to be Canadian and those at the channel really like to work with the independent filmmaking community. One of the things that makes the channel distinct is that they do commission one-off documentaries and there aren’t a lot of broadcasters in Canada that do that.

Theatrical length documentaries definitely have a home on CBC Documentary channel, but there is also a documentary slot on Bold as well. Often the difference on Bold is that the documentaries often deal with the arts in one way or another, with stories tending to be about musicians, artists or dance.

“Documentary channel runs off the revenues that we make every year. We are managed and run by the CBC but we have a completely different business model here. The operation that we run and the programming that we offer is directly proportional to how successful we are in the market place. We use all the money that we get from our subscriber base and advertising and our conditions of license demand that we spend x amount of dollars on documentaries and Canadian productions every year.”

Cowley continues, “We commission probably in the neighborhood of 10-12 films a year, both feature length and one-hour docs. As far as a license fee is concerned we do have a modest CMF (Canadian Media Fund) envelope, so we are able to tap into that and we combine some of those amounts with our license fees. If we have CMF money in that budget then that obliges us to spend so much money in relation to the overall budget. If the budget is 400k or more then we have to put down 150k on license fee. For one-hour, our license fees generally fit into the 70-80k range. There’s no hard and fast rule because as I say most of these production companies do apply for all these extra funds but they might not get them. And then we have to decide if we can put more money down or affect the budget and bring the budget down. You know Canada has a terrific legacy in documentary filmmaking. All the big festivals there’s always Canadians there that have a great voice in the documentary world and I think on a smaller scale, we’re trying to do that in the country. “

CBC is a presenting partner at HotDocs and will also be doing a panel, so keep an eye out in your program for that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

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