New $800k fund aims to boost development for B.C.’s doc, factual TV sector

Vancouver-founded Paperny Entertainment was the original producer behind TV series such as Yukon Gold, which focuses on four Yukon mining crews | Submitted

What happened: New fund for West Coast TV industry will be aimed at early stage development for documentary and factual TV series

Why it matters: The local sector has faced uncertain in recent years following prominent acquisitions

B.C. filmmakers focused on documentary series and factual TV series will be getting a little extra cash to kick off the New Year.

Creative BC and the Rogers Group of Funds announced November 2 the launch of a $800,000 fund aimed at supporting projects during the early development phase, before they’re given the green light.

Each organization is contributing an equal share to the Rogers + Creative BC Documentary and Factual Development Fund, which will be parsed out over two years beginning in January 2020.

The Rogers Group of Funds is supported by Rogers Communications Inc., while Creative BC serves as a non-profit agency charged with promoting the province’s various entertainment sectors.

The announcement coincided with the FactualWest conference, an annual skills development summit that brought in local and global industry professionals to Vancouver November 1-2.

In a release, Creative BC and the Rogers Group of Funds said the new fund would allow for “a unique opportunity” for partnerships with B.C.-based Knowledge Network and the National Film Board — Pacific Region (NFB).

More details about the fund is expected to be posted on Creative BC’s website by December.

The West Coast documentary and factual TV industry has faced uncertainty in recent years following Entertainment One Ltd.’s (LSE:ETO) (eOne) 2014 acquisitions of Paperny Entertainment and Force Four Entertainment.

The two production houses were mainstays in Vancouver, producing notable series such as Food Network’s Chopped Canada, History channel’s Yukon Gold and National Geographic channel’s Border Security: Canada’s Front Line.

However, by 2017 eOne had folded those companies under its own television banner based in Toronto.

“On the original production side it’s more challenging than it’s ever been because of globalization,” Field and Post Vancouver president John Ritchie, whose industry organization facilitated the FactualWest conference, told Business in Vancouver ahead of the funding announcement.

“Once upon a time it was a pretty protected industry where you could produce just for Canadian television networks and have a very viable business. Now you need to make those connection with those streaming companies, which are usually L.A.-based.”

He said these big shifts in Canadians’ viewing habits have pushed the local industry to get more creative in forming relationships and collaborations in recent years.

"Having the opportunity to do this work at an early stage, with the market trigger waived for part of the program, will lead to more comprehensive, polished and creative pitches," Shirley Vercruysse, executive producer at the NFB’s B.C. and Yukon studio, said in a statement.