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Open this photo in gallery:CRIMES OF THE FUTURE (2022). Viggo Mortensen. Courtesy of Serendipity Point Films / Sphere Films

Viggo Mortensen in Crimes of the Future.Photo Credit: Nikos Nikolopoulos/Courtesy of Serendipity Point Films / Sphere Films

This year’s annual National Canadian Film Day (NCFD) arrives Wednesday at an anxious time, even for the perpetually stressed-out Canadian film industry. Between C-11, the streaming wars and a looming recession, it might be asking a lot of audiences to rally around a “massive one-day coast-to-coast-to-coast celebration of Canadian cinema” organized by the non-profit organization Reel Canada.

But if we don’t stop and pause to celebrate the genuinely excellent things going on in Canadian film, then we risk taking the entire culture for granted. On this 10th edition of NCFD, The Globe and Mail presents 10 (relatively) easy ways to fix what ails the English-language Canadian film industry.

1. Boost marketing budgets

The biggest problem getting Canadian butts into Canadian theatres to watch Canadian movies is that audiences simply aren’t aware that the films exist. Telefilm is taking steps to build interest at the box-office level by contributing financing to buzz-building events and red-carpet premieres. But the federal agency could also put any money it and the Canada Media Fund (and 30 other industry partners) are kicking into the underwhelming MADE | NOUS campaign (whose most recent initiative highlighted Canadians working on Hollywood productions) and pump it into domestic media blitzes instead.

2. Eliminate ‘zones’

An archaic and seemingly arbitrary system enforcing which cinemas can play which movies in a certain geographical area, “zones” have outlasted their purpose in protecting one major exhibitor from the other. As the Network of Independent Canadian Exhibitors put it last week, zones “limit independent cinemas’ ability to succeed by slowing down when they can open a film, the selection available and the cost incurred.”

3. Reserve trailer space

What harm would it do if theatres were incentivized to showcase at least one Canadian movie trailer in their already endless pre-show packages? Revive Telefilm’s Theatrical Exhibition Program – designed to support theatre-owners emerging from the worst of the pandemic – and make participation contingent on supporting Canadian productions within the actual walls of cinemas.

4. Overhaul the Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office

Okay, I lied – this step won’t be remotely easy. But it’s time to take a hard look at how CAVCO co-administers two federal tax-credit programs with the Canada Revenue Agency. The requirements as they stand rely on a points system that sometimes makes sense (the producer and director must be Canadian) and sometimes needlessly hamstrings productions (at least one of the two lead performers must be Canadian). Fix CAVCO, and watch Canadian movies suddenly gain that much more market interest.

5. Pay careful attention to the WGA negotiations

If Canadian directors want to film great Canadian screenplays, then they (and everyone else) should look at what’s going on with the Writers Guild of America, which appears on the verge of a strike. Just as Hollywood needs to ensure that its storytellers earn a living wage, so, too, does Canada’s screens sector.

6. Reboot the Canadian Screen Awards

I’m still too trauma-scarred from Sunday’s Canadian Screen Awards broadcast to revisit the gory details. But this year’s pre-recorded, Hollywood-stuffed CSAs were an embarrassment to artists actually living and working in Canada. A top-to-bottom retooling should be the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television’s top priority.

7. Report the box office

Currently, the studio-reported gross that a film earns in theatrical release is combined into a “North American” total – and Hollywood studios are not eager to carve the Canadian number out. Canadian distributors, meanwhile, rarely talk about how homegrown films perform here – unless there is a surprise success story to boast about. If we want to understand exactly how Canadian films affect audiences, then the public should have easy access to the data.

8. Overhaul CBC Gem

As much fuss as is being kicked up over C-11′s potential to compel streaming giants such as Netflix and Disney+ to promote Canadian film on their home-screens, an equal amount of attention should be paid to fixing Canada’s very own national streamer. Right now, the user-experience of CBC Gem is messy, the programming uninspiring. And the fact that our public broadcaster has a two-tier streaming system – one with ads, a premium one without – continues to be mind-boggling.

9. Support the Indigenous Screen Office

Here is part of the response from the office of Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez when asked why the Indigenous Screen Office, a vital player in this country’s film sector, did not receive funding in the latest federal budget: “Tech giants will have to pay their fair share towards our culture – including towards Indigenous artists and creators.” That seems like both wishful thinking and a backtrack from the federal government’s initial mandate.

10. Sponsor the Vancouver Film Critics Circle

It is hard to counter the argument that Toronto media coverage sucks up all the oxygen in this country when the Toronto Film Critics Association awards Canada’s richest film prize – the $100,000 Rogers Best Canadian Film Award – every year. Perhaps one of Canada’s other giant telcos should step up to support a similar award given out on the other side of the country by the VFCC. Currently, its three “Best B.C.” awards come with a tiny cash prize of $500 each. Spread the wealth, and spread the awareness.

For information on National Canadian Film Day screenings, programming and events, visit canfilmday.ca