“I guess what we’re saying is, ‘Don’t vote Conservative.’”
That was just one of the many sentiments expressed by a panel of filmmakers and industry professionals after a Saturday evening screening of Young People Fucking (YPF) presented by the First Weekend Club at Scotiabank Theatre in Toronto.
Speakers consisted of YPF director/co-writer Martin Gero, YPF co-writer/producer/star Aaron Abrams, co-president of Maple Pictures and YPF distributor Brad Pelman, Telefilm Canada’s feature film executive for Ontario and Nunavut Dan Lyon, and entertainment lawyer David Zitzerman. The discussion was moderated by film critic and Reel to Real co-host Richard Crouse.
“We always expected a grown-up to tell us that’s not the title,” said Abrams. Gero agreed, imagining the name would have been changed to something less raw, like “Bedtime Stories.” Even the folks at Telefilm thought the title would take care of itself and become something more “socially acceptable,” according to Lyon.
But the title stuck and put the film at the centre of a national debate regarding government tax credits for Canadian productions.
The issue surrounds one-and-a-half pages in a 600-page omnibus bill amending the Income Tax Act. If passed as is, Bill C-10 will give the Heritage Minister power to deny tax credits to film products deemed offensive or contrary to public policy, even after government agencies have invested.
The Conservatives have made voting against the bill a question of confidence in the reigning administration; in other words, the government could fall apart if opposition parties vote against passing the legislation.
However, Gero thinks the pundits have made a mistake selecting his film as the poster child for the bill. YPF is the “perfect film to be in the middle of controversy because it’s not controversial.”
Furthermore, it generated a lot of publicity for the film before its release. The attention is “good for the film, bad for the bill,” said Gero.
Prior to YPF’s theatrical release, it was shown at a special screening in Ottawa. While the screening of government-funded films in Ottawa is not unusual, this one was special. However, despite the fact most proponents of the bill have admitted to never seeing the film, no Conservatives attended the presentation. When asked what their expectations for the screening had been, Pelman said, “We hoped they would see the film for the film and not judge it by its title.”
Despite the Conservative boycott, young parliamentary aides and assistants packed the theatre.
“The industry has been galvanized by how wrong this is,” said Pelman, as made evident by the numerous actors and filmmakers who have spoken out against Bill C-10. He goes on to say, “without security, producers will be left only to make…Anne of Green Gables pictures and the minister will be fine with that.
“It’s Draconian and absolutely ridiculous.”
One of the primary concerns is the effect the legislation will have on the 127,000 people employed in the Canadian film industry. If Canadian productions are forced to shoot outside the country, these people will be virtually jobless. According to Pelman, Canadian productions invest $3 billion in the Canadian economy.
Additionally, Gero notes the amendment is “very directly going after Canadian production” because it does not apply to foreign productions.
During the discussion, Zitzerman reiterated a point made by several others: “Canada’s famous for its edgy films.” But after seeing the movie, it’s difficult not to agree with Gero when he said YPF is actually “more commercial than most Canadian films.”
The entertainment industry has, however, proposed a simple solution to the debate, said Zitzerman: change “contrary to public policy” to “contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada.” This revision would remove the dependence on the minister’s and her successors’ discretion and whims and establish a more acceptable (and already employed) criterion.
The entertainment industry is determined not to allow “backdoor censorship.”