Netflix now taking pitches for Canadian film, TV series

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What happened: Netflix puts out call for Canadian content pitches

Why it matters: Vast majority of movies and series filmed in B.C. are foreign productions

Like a director calling “cut” on set, film and TV productions across Canada shut down almost instantly as the pandemic unfolded in March.

And just as some crews gradually return to work this summer, Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq:NFLX) is now turning its attention to the country’s creative community with a call for movie and series pitches.

The streaming giant is accepting proposals from July 16 to August 5 from Canadian creators ahead of a series of September virtual pitch sessions.

The call for pitches is directed at English-speaking content, with plans for French-language series in the “near future.”

Netflix is taking submissions for independent films, original series, non-fiction series and animated content.

“From these submissions, we’ll invite a number of creators to virtually meet with leaders on the Netflix content team. Additional details for the virtual sessions will be shared with the chosen participants,” the company said in a July 16 blog post.

Netflix said it wants indie movie pitches for “female-skewing adult audiences, including romance, inspirational drama, thriller and holiday” fare or family content for kids and teens between the ages of six and 16 years old.

For original series, it’s looking for genres including drama, family, young adult and comedy, ranging from half-hour to hour-long shows.

The streamer is also accepting pitches for both animated films and TV series, as well as non-fiction series with “compelling characters or ensembles with universal themes that will travel globally.”

Canada has long been a hub for American film and TV productions, with Netflix serving as one of the top international producers.

But most Canadian original series and movies appearing on Netflix’s platform are in fact licensed from local creators rather than Netflix originals.

In 2017 the California-based company committed to spending $500 million in what former heritage minister Mélanie Joly described as “original production in Canada in both official languages” over five years.

It remained unclear, however, how much of that spending would go towards foreign service productions rather than Canadian content, which has strict requirements to be classified as such.

Service work for foreign productions accounted for $2.82 billion out of the $3.4 billion of B.C. film and TV production volume generated during the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to the Canadian Media Producer Association’s (CMPA) Profile 2019 report released earlier this year.

The result is that many domestic producers find themselves challenged to compete with the big-budget Hollywood productions that can snap up local crews and studios.

The gap between domestic and foreign productions has pushed the B.C. film and TV industry to cultivate more local opportunities for original creators.

Among the initiatives being undertaken to spur growth in the domestic industry is the Pacific Screenwriting Program, a five-year program funded by the CMPA, Netflix and Creative BC.

The program’s first cohort kicked off a 10-week writers room in January 2019 under the supervision of screenwriter Sarah Dodd (Motive, Cardinal) in a bid to develop a series idea to be pitched to domestic and global buyers.

And last year the Directors Guild of Canada’s B.C. chapter (DGC) launched an initiative to get more local directors hired on productions filmed in the province.

The awareness campaign sees the DGC facilitating meetings and flights down to Los Angeles for B.C. directors to meet with producers, film showcases to raise the profile of their credits, panel discussions, career development and a new directors.ca online hiring directory.

The website allows producers to filter through results to find directors who may have special skills, such as one who can speak another language or has shot underwater.

torton@biv.com

@reporton