Q&A: Don Carmody on why the future of Canadian film isn’t in theatres
February 27, 2015
Consider the producer. No, really consider him, because few do. Actors, directors and even those lowly writers get their share of press, but little is ever said about a producer unless a) they screw up magnificently or b) they’re Harvey Weinstein. One producer who should get at least a fraction of Weinstein’s ink, though, is Don Carmody. He may not be a household name, but Carmody is responsible for almost every (financially) successful Canadian film of the past few decades, from Porky’s to the Resident Evil franchise. As he prepares for the release of his latest project, the fashion-industry comedy After the Ball, Carmody spoke with the Post’s Barry Hertz about the future of CanCon.
Q: You’ve recently begun investing in TV programs and miniseries. Why the shift from film?
A: Frankly, I never watched television. Then, a few years ago I started watching things like Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, and I said, I get it. These are just big, long movies, and I loved the idea of being able to binge-watch, to keep the audience interested. Now we’re doing a Netflix original series, a Marilyn Monroe miniseries, and a thing with CBC and the History Channel. It’s a natural fit. Netflix is like, “What else you got?”
Q: They’re hungry for content?
A: Very. They know they can’t keep buying it from others. It’s like HBO, in their early days they just bought movies, and they were going to go broke. They realized they could make movies cheaper than what they were paying. Netflix has found the same thing.
Q: Are you worried about the future of such streaming services going forward, the fragmentation of it with such new players as shomi and Crave TV?
A: Well, all these shomis and Craves, what they have is just these VOD rights, because they were just thrown in to the original licensing. That doesn’t happen anymore. They’re going to reach a certain point where they can’t buy those VOD rights without paying astonishing amounts of money. Quite frankly Crave is a joke, too. Only available to Bell subscribers? I have three kids, and they’re not young, late twenties, and none of them have cable. None have satellite. Two don’t even have televisions, and that’s Netflix right there. It’s a different paradigm in the industry right now. Netflix doesn’t care about ratings — they just want new subscribers. They’re more like cellphone companies than broadcasters. They want eyeballs to the service, because that’s where they make their money. It’s not individual eyes on an ad.
Q: Do you see Canadian production leaning more toward TV and VOD vs. film?
A: Once VOD matures. The actual VOD, you pay for the particular project. I think that’s the sweet spot for Canadian films, because a lot of films can’t sustain the Canadian theatrical release. Cas and Dylan, for instance, that was a nice little movie, but I wouldn’t make it because you can’t make your money back. You can narrow-cast it to a specific audience, like fans of Tatiana Maslany. You used to be able to do that in the video store, but those are gone. You can do it on VOD, but VOD in Canada is terrible.
Q: There seems to be a real lack of awareness and marketing that these products exist.
A: Here at home, I have Bell’s Fibe, and I turn on the TV and up comes the program guide or whatever. But at my place in the U.S., I have DirecTV, and when I turn it on immediately there’s an ad for VOD, and every second line in the program guide is an ad. Here, it’s an afterthought.
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Q: What’s your take on Cineplex’s stance against showing movies that have a same-day-and-date VOD release?
A: It’s the same in the United States. AMC and other big chains, they won’t touch you if you’re releasing the same day on VOD. Only the major studios can step in and negotiate that down. Eventually the theatre owners are going to have to back down, to maybe something like three months, but they’ll never agree to same day and date.
Q: Do you see then the erosion of certain films heading to theatres?
A: That’s what it is now. It’s so hard to get multiple screens of something unless you’re a big event movie. We’re running out of Resident Evils, and I don’t have another franchise blockbuster just sitting on the shelf. But it’s not like theatres are going to go away. They’re been predicting the demise of the movie theatre since the radio. People will still need that communal experience, sitting around the campfire, so to speak.
Q: It seems like there’s a lot of potential for films to be ignored.
A: I had my own concerns about After the Ball. We’re tied up with a Le Château promotion and we can push it a certain amount, but will that eventize the film? I don’t know.
Q: Going back to the beginning of your career: Do you ever get sick of talking about Meatballs or Porky’s?
A: [Porky‘s] is still a funny movie. But people often just talk about that one scene, and critics jump on it for being a dirty movie. But no one mentions the anti-Semitism addressed in the movie. I haven’t watched it in a bit, though. We had the 35th anniversary of Meatballs last year, and it was was the first time I’ve seen it in like 32 years. S–t, it’s still funny.