September 25, 2015

VIFF pushes digital filmmakers to ‘discover’ commercial success

Film festival launching its first marketplace for digital content 

Actor Ryan Robbins plays Henry Foss on Sanctuary, a Canadian web series picked up for the American Syfy channel | submitted 

Filmgoers will no doubt be tossing back popcorn and Milk Duds throughout the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) this fall.

But Jacqueline Dupuis figures filmmakers will be tossing around a new buzzword throughout industry meetings hitting the annual festival September 29 to October 3.

VIFF’s executive director says “discoverability” is the latest term to capture the attention of filmmakers trying to make their projects commercially viable.

Digital equipment has made it cheaper to create digital content while online platforms like YouTube and Vimeo make it easier for those creations to be viewed.

“With so much content out there these days, how do you ensure that your content’s going to find an audience?” Dupuis said.

Organizers are tackling that challenge with the introduction of the VIFF Industry Exchange (VIE) during the festival’s industry conference.

Local producers behind film and web series meant for online consumption will be meeting with distributors to get their content out to the masses – or at least the right niche audiences.

Executives from YouTube, Yahoo (Nasdaq:YHOO), Vice Media and Vancouver’s BroadbandTV, among others, will be descending upon Vancity Theatre to meet with local producers trying sell their content.

“There’s a huge explosion of growth on platforms for online,” said Nancy Mott, the Vancouver Economic Commission’s digital entertainment and  interactive manager.

“Vancouver’s always had content creators, and we’re on the leading edge of web episodes and creation, and we thought this was a perfect opportunity to bring our content creators and buyers together for online.”

Mott, who is facilitating the industry exchange September 30 to October 1, pointed to locally shot web series Sanctuary as one of the models for Vancouver’s success in this realm. After originally running as a web series, the science-fiction show was picked up for broadcast on the American Syfy channel.

But Mott said the goal is to expand VIE from an exchange between local content creators and big online distributors into an international marketplace that would draw global producers.

A June report from PwC estimates Canadian entertainment and media revenue will rise 5% from $47.9 billion in 2014 to $61.2 billion by 2019, just a point behind the global average of 5.1% growth.

“Overall, what’s emerging is an environment where consumers regard any distinction between ‘digital’ and ‘non-digital’ as irrelevant,” said PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook.

“Instead of favouring one or the other, they’ve taken on board the proliferation of content and access options enabled by digital and are exploiting it to seek more flexibility, freedom and choice in what, when and how they consume.”

But the report forecasts non-digital media – such as live concerts or trips to the cinema – will account for 88% of Canadian consumer entertainment revenue in 2019, notably higher than the 80% expected from global peers.

That puts a greater burden on Canadian filmmakers to get their projects distributed to and discovered by global audiences more friendly toward digital consumption if these homegrown projects are to be economically viable.

“The Internet now is the great equalizer,” Mott said. “You don’t have to be a big studio now to create really high-level content and get it out there.”

But if the Internet is the new Wild West, then discoverability is like drawing attention to a specific saloon on the frontier, according to VIE creative director Amy Davies.

“Change is afoot in the broadcast industry. There are a million more players coming to the forefront alongside some of the well-known players like the Netflixes,” she said. “That has opened opportunities for the production community to get their content funded, commissioned and developed not by just the traditional broadcast system.”

But Davies added that too few producers are developing a discoverability strategy early in production.

“You now have to think about who your audience is right from the onset, and if you can engage with that fan base up front, then of course you’re building advocates who are going to set you up for discoverability further down the line,” she said, adding that producers have to begin leveraging social media to get an early buzz going for projects.

“If you’re not on Twitter or Face­book or YouTube, of course, then you’re really missing [out].”




This one’s for the nerds: The top 10 Star Wars accessories for your vehicle

Use the force of these themed accessories to show your devotion to the series

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (also known as Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens) is scheduled to hit theatres December 18, which means you’ll want to order these great themed automotive accessories now in order to have them under the tree by December 25. The Star Wars fan in your life will love you forever. We found these great Star Wars accessories at, where the force seems exceptionally strong within its employees.

1. Star Wars seat covers

Designed to fit most bucket seats with removable headrests (low-back) and no armrests. Available in Darth Vader or Stormtrooper versions.

2. Darth Vader Star Wars floor mat set

These rubber mats come with images of either Darth Vader (black) or Stormtrooper (white).

3. Millennium Falcon cockpit windshield shade

These would have come in handy this past summer in the city. According to, this sunshade will fit most cars and small spacecraft. Also available in a Boba Fett and Empire Strikes Back versions.

4. R2-D2 USB car charger

Plug R2 into your 12-volt vehicle power adapter (cigarette lighter) and receive 2.1 amps through each of his USB charging ports — enough to charge two tablets or smartphones.

5. Star Wars Darth Vader USB car charger

Tap into the Dark Side with this 12-volt charger.

6. Star Wars Family car decals

Show off your family's love of Star Wars with this set of 50 character decals, featuring 19 distinct images from the saga.

7. Star Wars steering wheel cover

Choose Darth Vader or a Stormtrooper to customize your car, truck, or boat ship.

8. Star Wars auto coaster sets

Choose between Darth Vader, Boba Fett, or Stormtrooper. Each set comes with two coasters (same style). Each coaster can fit one of two different cup holder sizes.

9. Star Wars Die Cutz Auto Decals

These UV and weather-resistant vinyl, self-adhesive decals are precision cut and easy to apply. Choose between Yoda and Darth Vader.

10. Flux Capacitor Car Charger: Obviously this isn’t Star Wars related, but we thought it was worthy of an honourable mention. Besides two USB ports, each capable of charging almost any USB powered device, it also performs that Flux Capacitor light sequence we all know and love from the Back to the Future series.



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Volkswagen’s rough ride; Willie Nelson’s weed; selfies’ safety warning

Managing editor Timothy Renshaw on the news he noted this week

(Image: Willie Nelson | Photo: Josh Withers, Shutterstock)

Can I interest you in a low-mileage Volkswagen? How about some bargain-basement crude oil? Better still a carton of Willie Nelson’s Willie’s Reserve premium cannabis?

Likely more takers for the latter than the former this past week after the global auto industry’s going-green road trip suffered a head-on collision with marketplace integrity following revelations that diesel-engine powered Volkswagen cars were outfitted with software that fudged emissions readings.

Staggering from the accident scene, Volkswagen bossman Martin Winterkorn said he was really sorry. However, the hurt inflicted on the automaker, which has been a highly prized global brand and was the unofficial fleet supplier to the 1960s hippie subculture, has been incalculable.

Hurt was likewise inflicted on Winterkorn’s resumé, as the German automaker’s CEO subsequently resigned, even more sorry than he was after viewing the accident scene and even though he maintained there was no wrongdoing on his part in causing the crash.

Meanwhile much hurt has also been inflicted on equity markets and what’s left of integrity in the global auto industry, especially the portion that claims to be on the road to a cleaner, less fossil-fuel-powered future.

Hopes rising for a smart carmaker. Somewhere over the rainbow:

Apple, long rumoured to be entering the predatory auto-manufacturing sector, appears to be getting closer to realizing that ambition.

According to reports in The Telegraph, the iPhone giant’s “Titan” self-driving electric vehicle project is heading from back of napkin to reality and a shipping date of 2019.

Prepare for buyer lineups starting now outside Apple stores.

Meanwhile out in fossil-fuel land:

North American crude continued its down-market flirtation with sub-US$50 per-barrel prices that a Wood Mackenzie analysis figured have derailed US$1.5 trillion previously destined for new U.S. tight oil projects.

So while the smart money might be on self-driving Apple i-mobiles, blue-collar commuters down on their luck and low on disposable e-dollars will for now likely be sticking with internal combustion mobility – just maybe not diesel-powered mobility.

Red alert for narcissists, mirror-gazers and the chronically self-absorbed:

Prior to Volkswagen’s $9 billion multi-car emissions crash, a report last week noted that there have been more deaths from selfie incidents than shark attacks.

According to the Mashable dispatch, one recent selfie death involved a Japanese tourist who fell down stairs while attempting a selfie at the Taj Mahal.

Other selfie fatalities and near-fatalities have included such ill-advised and dim-witted photo opps as selfies with bears and bull runs.

Still, the selfie faithful will likely be more willing to risk a great white encounter than stop using that selfie stick to video/photo themselves driving, walking and chewing gum at the same time or otherwise doing anything and nothing.

Back on the road again:

Not with a German auto maker but with something a little more down home: Willie Nelson and Tuatara Capital’s announcement of a partnership to establish Willie's Reserve, what a PR Newswire item described as “a premium cannabis lifestyle brand."

The two, according to the report, share a “passion and vision for the cannabis category.”

Might be worth passing Nelson/Tuatara contact information along to Volkswagen dealerships and sales folk. Maybe even Mr. Winterkorn.



Real or imagined, fear everything – especially the nanny state


By Peter Ladner

When I first heard the Vancouver Canucks were introducing metal detectors at Rogers Arena, I thought they were wary of a Surrey gang shootout during a hockey game. Or a new breed of clientele when the casino opens in an adjoining building.

Then I wondered why a rational approach to stepped-up safety wouldn’t include a breathalyzer test at the gates – coming and going. Or banning pucks flying into the crowd.

The real reason was simpler: it’s National Hockey League policy, just as they do in the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and National Football League. Even though Canadian fans don’t routinely carry guns the way many Americans do, we’re sliding deeper into the North American hole of expensive, irrational, overriding “security.”

The fear of gunplay in Canadian hockey rinks comes months after the passing of Bill C-51, a bill “to protect Canadians from jihadist terrorists who seek to destroy the values Canadians hold dear” – like preventing our spy agency from taking measures to reduce perceived threats to national security without a warrant and without adequate oversight, which Bill C-51 allows. Score one for the terrorists.

In the U.S., where the threat of terrorism is greater than in Canada, 26 people have been killed by Muslim extremists since 9/11. This compares with 48 people killed by right-wing extremists during that period, 96 people killed every day by cars and one person killed every 16 minutes by a handgun.

If we were to look at data (remember data?) on the real threats to Canadians, the leading causes of deaths in Canada are cancer (30%), heart disease (20%), strokes (5.5%) and respiratory diseases (5%).

These diseases are what we should really fear – including the soaring costs of treating them. About 75% of them are linked to a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. Yet when the federal government was advised that mandating lower sodium levels in food was the single most effective measure to lower dietary risks, it refused to budge. There is similarly no political interest from any federal party in taxing sugary drinks to stem the coming onslaught of Type 2 diabetes. The fear of becoming a nanny state is bigger than the fear of becoming a big brother state.

After these big four diseases, the biggest cause of deaths is accidents, and the biggest cause of accidental deaths is motor vehicles. Yet our provincial government refuses to implement photo radar and instead raises speed limits, knowing that a quarter of all traffic fatalities involve speeding, and a 1% reduction in speed reduces the chance of a fatal collision by 5%.

While the pending costs and catastrophes from rising temperatures and ocean levels go into the denial file, the wildly expensive and irrational security measures at airports keep growing. I have had my leather belt massaged, in apparent seriousness, in search of an explosive device.

I have been through airports that make me take off my shoes, and those that don’t. I have been through some scanners that pick up the metal pins in my leg and some that don’t. The annual cost of airport security in the U.S. – just the administration, not the delays, missed flights and tossed bottled water – is US$8 billion.

Security and safety fantasies also extend to our province’s compulsory bicycle helmet laws, which raise health-care costs by reducing cycling rates. If helmet use were mandated rationally, based on the actual danger of head injuries, helmets would be compulsory for all young male car drivers and elderly pedestrians.

There is a way to achieve near-perfect safety and security. I found it last weekend at a Float House sensory deprivation tank on 4th Avenue. A sign there says: “this is your time to relax and let go of everything. There is no right or wrong, good or bad, only safety and security.”

Shut yourself in a tank, climb into the bath of Epsom salts, lower the lid, lie in the silent blackness and do nothing. Safe at last.

Peter Ladner ( is a co-founder of Business in Vancouver. He is a former Vancouver city councillor and former fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue.

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