What defines a Canadian film? Make-up, special effects and set design team should count, says Parliament

Guillaume Laurin and Marie-Évelyne Lessard star in Netflix’s Until Decline, which was filmed and shot in Quebec with a Canadian cast and crew. It doesn’t count as Canadian because Netflix funded it and owns the intellectual property rights.Bertrand Calmeau/Netflix

Canadian film crew – including make-up and special effects, sound and lighting technicians – should be taken into account when deciding whether a film or TV show qualifies as Canadian, Parliament says .

The head of the union representing people working on films in Canada said the current criteria for defining what counts as a Canadian production are elitist and outdated. They exclude the team that builds and directs sets as well as creative roles often filled by women, including costume, hair and makeup designers and script editors.

John Lewis, international vice president of the Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, says crucial roles in modern productions, such as those working on digital effects and with green screens, should be considered alongside roles more traditional ones, such as the screenwriter and the cinematographer.

“It’s a definition that’s been around for decades,” he told The Globe and Mail on Wednesday. “There are creative positions that tend to be filled by women, but they don’t have any weight or credibility. And there are shows with hundreds of Canadian crews and they don’t count.

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The definition of films and programs considered Canadian is at the heart of the streaming bill currently before Parliament. Bill C-11 would subject streaming platforms such as Netflix and Disney+ to Canadian broadcasting laws and require them, alongside traditional broadcasters, to promote Canadian productions and support them financially.

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says he is considering asking the broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, to modernize the definition.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr Lewis said the definition must recognize behind-the-scenes roles and key jobs in the 21st century film industry.

“It’s exclusive and elitist and harks back to the days when the only voices that matter are the writer, producer and director,” he said. “But my members are winning Canadian screen awards and Emmys, BAFTAs and Oscars. All shine the spotlight on Canada and deserve recognition. We need a fair system to determine which productions should be considered Canadian.

Internationally acclaimed Canadian women in makeup include Gail Kennedy, who won an Emmy Award for Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, a series filmed in Alberta focusing on the Sioux driven from their land after the defeat of the American army at the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Wendy Partridge, who was born in Britain but has lived in Canada since the 1970s, won a Canadian Screen Award for Best Costume Design for the film Pompeii and Genie Award for Passchendaele and Loyalties.

Linda Dowds won an Oscar and a BAFTA for best makeup and hair on Tammy Faye’s eyes. She also won Emmys for the series real detective and The Kennedys.

The 10-point checklist of who matters to define a Canadian production recognizes actors in the two main roles, director, writer, production designer, composer, editor and cinematographer. It also requires that intellectual property be owned by a Canadian company and a Canadian producer.

Britain has a broader 35-point test, including whether the subject of the film or TV show is British-themed, such as the life of Shakespeare. The Netherlands uses a 200 point system to define a Dutch production.

Lewis told a Senate committee examining Bill C-11 on Tuesday that the points system should be expanded, as the current definition excludes productions employing hundreds of Canadians, written by Canadians and featuring actors Canadians.

They include the hit Quebec survival film Until the decline, which was filmed and shot in Quebec with a Canadian cast and crew, and has been dubbed into 31 languages. It doesn’t count as Canadian because Netflix funded it and owns the intellectual property rights.

“This was Netflix’s first original feature film in Canada. It’s a Canadian story, created by Canadians and shot in Canada with Canadian crews. It is also a story in French written by French Canadians and featuring actors from Quebec. It was watched by audiences around the world, with 95% of viewers outside of Canada. It is a huge achievement in promoting Canada to the world. As The Handmaid’s Tale, he’s not considered Canadian,” Lewis said.

Last month, Walt Disney Co. also called on the federal government to redefine what counts as a Canadian film, saying some of its productions made in Canada with a Canadian cast and crew — and telling a Canadian story — are not eligible under the current rules. .

Mr. Lewis said The last of us, a series based on the popular video game, is the biggest production in Canadian history, but may not be considered Canadian. He said the show, which will air on HBO Max next year, has been touring Alberta for more than a year and employs more than 1,000 Canadians.