Living/Working February 12, 2021

Living/Working

February 12, 2021

Resurgent film industry shifts its focus to talent

Training expands, employment up as rising tide of productions flows into B.C.

Vancouver Film Studios has enjoyed seemingly pandemic-proof business, with B.C. setting a record for the number of simultaneous productions being filmed in the province | Rob Kruyt

Steve Rosenberg had spent at least a year ahead of the pandemic eyeing a potential second campus in downtown Vancouver for InFocus Film School.

But when B.C.’s film sector went into stasis mode in the immediate wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Rosenberg, the film school’s executive director, was nervous about what that meant for the future of his students.

“March, April, May, June – we weren’t getting that many people signing up. But right now it’s still very hot,” he said, referring to enrolment numbers. “And it has been since, I would say, late September.”

September also marked a milestone for B.C.’s film industry.

After suspending all productions in March and then deploying a reopening strategy in June, the province was home to 70 productions running simultaneously the week of September 20, 2020, according to data from the Directors Guild of Canada’s B.C. chapter.

That pandemic resurgence beat out the previous record of 57 simultaneous productions set in September 2016.

Meanwhile, last month alone the province added 10,200 jobs within the information, culture and recreation category.

But Ken Peacock, chief economist at the Business Council of British Columbia, said most of January’s job gains documented by Statistics Canada in that category would have come from the province’s film and TV sector.

For Rosenberg, the resurgent film sector has given him enough confidence to secure that second campus for InFocus Film School.

The new facility sits along a stretch of Seymour Street known for international language schools. But with COVID-19 putting a pause on immigration, many of those facilities have been sitting empty.

The new campus will remain empty for a few months as British Columbians await mass COVID-19 vaccinations. But when students make the full transition from online to classroom learning, they’ll be greeted by larger rooms to make physical distancing easier.

International students typically represent about 30% of enrolment, but the school has been marketing only to domestic students during the pandemic.

It remains unclear, though, how much the industry’s 2020 resurgence has been worth to the provincial GDP.

Film and TV production volume in B.C. reached $3.4 billion in the 2018-19 fiscal year, according to the Canadian Media Producers Association’s (CMPA) Profile 2019 report released in April 2020.

Most of the activity in B.C.’s film industry – $2.82 billion – was service work for foreign productions.

Big gains were made that year in Canadian TV productions in B.C., which grew 9.3% year-over-year to $482 million.

However, all the data was compiled for a fiscal year that ran from April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2019.

The next annual report would presumably not reflect the full effect of the pandemic if it were to cover the fiscal year running from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.

“The three things that constrain the industry are facilities, people and locations,” said Pete Mitchell, president and chief operating officer of Vancouver Film Studios Inc.

“We’re going to need a lot of people in this film industry over the next 10 years as it grows substantially. And I think there’s opportunity for people to come from some sunset industries around B.C. and Western Canada that could easily fit into the film industry.”

The full-service production facility straddling the Vancouver-Burnaby border features 12 sound stages that have long been in high demand for big foreign productions.

Mitchell said activity has been sizzling after the industry began to reopen over the summer.

“Our principal competition is Toronto and Georgia right now, and they just haven’t been able to come back the way we have.”

But he recalled “a few dicey moments” last spring wondering if Vancouver Film Studio’s customers would honour their rental agreements when productions across the province were suspended.

“They knew that if they bailed on us that when the industry did come back, they would be out of space and unable to continue,” Mitchell said. “I’ve got to give them credit for standing behind us.” •

 
Leading

Nothing funny about replacing local sports talk with comedy filler

The TSN 1040 we have known broke from its morning show around 9:30 last Tuesday. That TSN 1040 never returned.

A monotone corporate message announced the station’s sport talk format was no more, that it was “unavoidable.” What it didn’t say was that its employees were that moment in shock, many packing their personal effects to leave the building ASAP.

Someone, somewhere had thought it was apt to tag the corporate message with a song, which turned out to be titled Good Riddance.

Someone else, somewhere else, had thought it was apt for the mass, undignified, mid-program firings to be scheduled days after its annual Let’s Talk effort that sheds light on mental health.

Bell Media chose not to walk that talk. The firings shed quite the light.

Its new president emailed the surviving staff that “there’s never a right time to make these kinds of changes,” but did not add there are more wrong times than others.

Three times in the last month, Bell Media has shed salaries in its executive suite and television and radio ranks, more than 210 in all – shuttering talk shows from the once-invincible CFRB Toronto and CJAD Montreal, even thinking the unthinkable at TSN by keeping Jay and severing Dan.

Beyond the top-level cuts, it is clear Bell has lost faith generally in talk radio, which in news or sports is a labour-intensive and star-driven business model more affordably replaced with formats like the all-comedy one that replaced TSN Friday.

It did not matter that 1040 was clobbering Sportsnet 650 in the Numeris radio ratings, or that its valuable morning show was nicely on the rise in the market. The ratings just weren’t strong enough to attract sufficient advertising to float the boat.

Now 1040 will run its Funny Format, recorded standups that could come from anywhere instead of live local sit-downs that could only come from here. For the comedy, it pays royalties; for the talk hosts, it pays royally.

Someone else, somewhere else again seemed to have thought this unavoidable change was inevitable last October when the URL was registered for funny1040.ca.

Even if there are fewer listeners, even if there is no interaction or topicality or local focus, it will be much cheaper and more viable for Bell – which, like many businesses, accepted wage subsidies to support jobs in the pandemic, but unlike many businesses, increased its most recent shareholder dividend in announcing sizable year-over-year Q4 profit gains.

Still, Bell wasn’t wrong in deciding on the basis of what was before it as data. Even profitable businesses are reworking their fundamental premises because the firm ground has turned into an open-pit mine when it isn’t merely an open manhole. In radio’s case, people aren’t in their cars to listen as much, particularly in the pandemic. Digital disruption is only now truly kicking in for audio as apps rupture the local broadcast monopoly of listenership in offering access to stations and sources anywhere and as podcasting proliferates and relentlessly atomizes the advertising market.

Over at television, live sports remain about the only non-time-shifted appointments we still make in large numbers to deliver us to advertisers. Even then, conventional broadcasters dependent on that revenue are slowly but surely losing event rights to streaming services underwritten by subscriptions. It won’t be long before broadcasters are returning the licences of over-the-air, advertising-only stations.

The federal regulator has been a forgiving regulator in recent times, holding haplessly to domestic content requirements in a borderless digital world and aligning its licensing with what broadcasters believe in their version of magical thinking will survive in the following seven years. If their plans don’t work, they are free to abandon them – to trade sporty for funny, in 1040’s case.

Journalism is a business, and the first role of any business is to make a profit. But journalism is also a business with a soul, with a distinct purpose in defining and strengthening a community’s identity. Sport talk is journalism, in that it chronicles human achievement, struggle, purpose, competition and social justice. It is also vicarious and delicious escape like little else. Journalism has made macro-mistakes that played out in microcosm at 1040, including systemic exclusion of voices and insufficient reflection and validation of the audience it can serve.

Quality sells, and people will pay for it if they are treated respectfully, but quality is an investment that costs long before they will read, watch or listen. In these circumstances it has been common for many media to harvest instead of plant, to outrace the revenue decline with operating cuts.

TSN will be a sad loss in our market, as is any loss of competitive local media. Many of its hosts had something to say about our profound escape hatch from the pandemic and its intersection with the integrity of our systems, quite starkly evident as its competitor thoughtfully explores Black History Month with a sports lens. It was obviously its own community, albeit too small to produce a practical business model.

But Bell Media wasn’t wrong in walking away from what would have been a 20th anniversary of the format in April. Someone, somewhere was wrong in deciding this was how to go about it. •

Kirk LaPointe is publisher and editor-in-chief of BIV and vice-president, editorial, of Glacier Media.

 
Spending

Watch the Paris Opera Ballet perform this Vancouver choreographer's work— without having to travel to France

Body and Soul, choreographed by Order of Canada-appointee Crystal Pite is available for streaming through Digidance this month

Paris Opera Ballet dancer Hugo Marchand, pictured during a performance of Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite's Body and Soul at the Palais Garnier in 2019. The performance will be available for Canadian audiences to stream this February | Photo: Julien Benhamou, courtesy of DanceHouse

When acclaimed Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite's Body and Soul was first brought to the stage by the Paris Opera Ballet in November 2019, Vancouver dance fans would have had to hop on a flight to the French capital in order to take in the performance, which, at the time, was reserved solely for in-person audiences at the famed Palais Garnier. 

That's set to change this month. Canadians will soon be able to take in the captivating performance without having to leave their couches, let alone board a plane. 

Body and Soul will be available for online viewing from Feb. 17 to 23 courtesy of the brand-new streaming platform Digidance, Vancouver non-profit DanceHouse announced this week. The online release marks the Canadian film premiere of Pite's latest work with the Paris Opera Ballet, while Canadians will become the first international audience to experience Body and Soul since its world premiere in Paris. 

Digidance is a new initiative formed in response to COVID-19 by four of the country's most prominent dance presenters: Vancouver's DanceHouse, Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and Montreal's Danse Danse. It aims to deliver "exceptional, full-length Canadian and international dance content online" to audiences from coast-to-coast. 

“Dance, perhaps more than other disciplines, faces an uphill battle with the challenges presented by COVID-19. Yet despite the hurdles, the pandemic has also acted as a powerful catalyst for change born out of necessity. Digidance was formed out of such a need — to contribute to the sustainability and longevity of dance in Canada,” said Jim Smith, Digidance partner and artistic and executive director of DanceHouse.

“We’re immensely grateful and proud to be officially launching Digidance with Crystal’s extraordinary work, Body and Soul. We look forward to sharing many more presentations with our audiences, while building a rich legacy of dance in Canada — and internationally — for future generations.” 

'[E]pic protest, profound personal struggle, and collective survival'

Body and Soul is Pite’s second full-length creation for the renowned French company, following 2016’s highly-praised The Seasons’ Canon. Filmed live during Body and Soul's 2019 world premiere performance at Palais Garnier, the Canadian film premiere represents another major notch in Pite's belt within recent months. The choreographer behind Vancouver's Kidd Pivot company was appointed to the Order of Canada in November 2020. Pite is a former company member of Ballet British Columbia and William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt, who made her professional choreographic debut with Ballet BC in 1990. 

In the release, Pite acknowledged that while COVID-19 "has brought deep challenges to artists, it has also encouraged all kinds of innovation and creativity in our industry."

She continued, “I’m heartened to know that Digidance is providing an opportunity for people to experience dance on screen. The creation of Body and Soul was a significant chapter in my creative life. It was an honour to work with the sublime dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, and a thrilling challenge to face the history and possibility of the institution itself. I’m so happy to be able to share Body and Soul with my fellow Canadians.”

Pite's Body and Soul features 36 dancers, and is presented in three distinct parts. It begins with voice-over text that describes, "in purely physical terms, a scene of conflict between two individuals," according to the release. "The work articulates Pite’s ongoing fascination with conflict, connectedness, and the embodiment of the human spirit." 

Throughout the performance, the piece's meaning morphs and deepens, as the perceived conflict generates tension between individuals, between groups and even between species. "The Paris Opera Ballet’s mastery as an ensemble is evident in Pite’s complex choreographic swarms; individual dancers are virtuosic in breathtaking solos and duets," reads the release. "The dancers evoke scenes of epic protest, profound personal struggle, and collective survival.

"Body and Soul is a portrait of the human condition that is timeless, vast and heartbreakingly intimate."

The full-length, 85-minute film was produced by the Paris Opera Ballet, directed by Tommy Pascal, and is presented with both English and French subtitles. Prior to the streamed performance, viewers will be treated to a 15-minute pre-recorded interview with Pite and her Kidd Pivot creative team, all of whom are credited with artistic contributions to Body and Soul. 

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A post shared by DanceHouse Vancouver (@dancehouse_van)

Body and Soul: Choreographed by Crystal Pite, performed by Paris Opera Ballet

When: Wednesday, Feb. 17 to Tuesday, Feb. 23

Where: Streaming at dancehouse.ca (Link available for seven days, streaming in Canada only)

Cost: From $15, plus applicable taxes

Vancouver Is Awesome

 

 
Spending

Remastered video captures what Vancouver looked like during WW2

What did Vancouver look like almost 80 years ago? Like this!

Lions Gate Bridge as it looked only a couple of years old | History in Color / YouTube

1942 saw Canadians in battle in Europe as the Second World War raged on, Japanese-Canadians being relocated to internment camps in one of the country's darker political moves, a team made up of members of the air force winning the Grey Cup and Phil Esposito’s birth.

There were also a couple of sunny days in Vancouver, which were captured in this video.

You may have seen the remastered 1907 video Vancouver Is Awesome shared last week; this time it's 1942 Vancouver that got the special treatment, with colourized footage that's been enhanced and stabilized. This time it's the YouTube channel History in Color that uploaded the clip.

This video shows a lot more of the city, notably famous sites like Lions Gate Bridge, the Hotel Vancouver and the Capilano Suspension Bridge. While they're all historic sites now, they were much newer then. At the time, the population of the City of Vancouver would have been around 300,000.

In the description of the video, the uploader notes much of the footage came from a video by Grey Line Tours.

Vancouver Is Awesome

 
Spending

New Westminster wins Biggest Leap Award for cycling initiatives

HUB Cycling recognizes Streets for People initiative

HUB Cycling partnered with the City of New Westminster on Streets for People events in 2020, including an event on and near the McInnis overpass | Photos: Contributed/New West Record File

HUB Cycling is awarding the City of New Westminster with its Biggest Leap Award for initiatives that improve local cycling.

 The 2021 HUB Cycling Bike Awards is a celebration of organizations and individuals that are making biking better across Metro Vancouver. The City of New Westminster will receive its Biggest Leap Award at the eighth annual HUB Bike Awards, which are taking place (virtually) on Monday, Feb. 22.

Lisa Leblanc, the city’s transportation manager, told the Record the city is honoured to win the award that’s in recognition of the “big leap” the city made in 2020 to support cycling and to advance cycling safety and cycling infrastructure.  She noted the work was done as part of the Streets for People transportation initiative.

In May 2020, city council adopted the Streets for People motion as a way to address the shifts in use of public space and physical distancing directives brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to accelerate the city’s commitment to sustainable transportation and road space reallocation.

“We’re committed to increasing the use of sustainable modes of transportation in New Westminster by making our streets safe and accessible for all road users,” Mayor Jonathan Cote said in a press release. “We’re honoured to be recognized for HUB’s Biggest Leap award because it shows we’re moving in the right direction towards our climate goals.”

In November 2019, city council approved Seven Bold Steps on climate action, which included efforts to create a car-light community (with the goal of seeing 60% of all trips within the city made by sustainable modes of transportation, such as walking, transit, bike an multi-occupant vehicles, by 2030). It also aims to create a quality people-centred public realm, with the goal of reallocating 10% of today’s street space for sustainable transportation or public gathering by 2030.

Moving faster

Coun. Patrick Johnstone put forward the Streets for People motion, saying COVID-19 physical distancing directives exposed the critical need for greater and more accessible pedestrian, active transportation and public gathering spaces in the city. He urged the city to be "visionary and ambitious" while the opportunity exists.

Streets for People

"We have already set a goal for 2030 to reallocate 10% of road space as one of the bold steps. In light of the current events and how we are seeing space being used, the 2030 timeline for that no longer feels as bold as it did," he said in May 2020. "I think we can really show some leadership regionally and nationally by resetting the timeline for that work, to accelerate what we have been doing with temporary measures and aggressively doing that work in 2020, with the mind that these ideas can be made permanent as capital budget and as recovery allows."

Some of the changes that took place under the Streets for People initiative include: closing the northbound motor vehicle lane to vehicles on the McInnis overpass and designating it for walking and cycling; opening Front Street to walking and cycling every weekend throughout the summer; and installing parklets in uptown, downtown and on 12th Street. Other initiatives include placing shared lane markings, or “sharrow,” on several streets throughout the city that help alert drivers to cyclists on shared roads while guiding people as they ride along bike routes.

The city has also begun work on the interim greenway treatment as part of the Agnes Greenway project, which will include a two-way protected bicycle lane for cyclists, improved sidewalks for people walking, and new landscaping, trees and street furniture including benches.

New West Record

 
Exploring

What are we reading? February 11, 2021

Morrowlight/istock Getty Images

Kirk LaPointe, publisher and editor-in-chief:

How might we calculate potential future lives as we calculate actual ones? How do we avoid being “moral slaves” to the future? Journalist Jim Holt, one of the best essayists of our time, examines a new book on the catastrophizing and it’s a great take on whether we should worry as we do. (Requires free account registration.) - The New York Review of Books

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2021/02/25/power-catastrophic-thinking-toby-ord-precipice/

 

Arthur Brooks has been writing a lovely weekly column on happiness for some time now. Here he looks at what kind of love make us happiest. It may not be what you think. – The Atlantic

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2021/02/falling-in-love-wont-make-you-happy/617989/ 

Seahawks fans, in my experience, are still shaking their heads at this season’s sorrowful end and wondering how the team can regroup. Much is being written, this being a standout among them. – The Ringer

https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2021/2/11/22277340/russell-wilson-seattle-seahawks-offense-offseason

 

Mark Falkenberg, deputy managing editor: 

The replacement of a climate-change denier in the White House with a leader pledging to take serious action will accelerate the rise of “climate statecraft” around the world. – Foreign Policy

https://foreignpolicy.com/2021/02/08/welcome-to-the-era-of-competitive-climate-statecraft-united-states-china/

 

Wired science editor Matt Reynolds tracks the origins of the  U.K. variant of COVID-19, and how people with compromised immune systems provide a breeding ground for dangerous mutations of the virus.

But the real problem, Reynolds says, “isn’t chronic infection – it’s a situation where the pandemic is so out of control that the virus has endless opportunities to mutate into new variants.” – Wired

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/chronic-infection-uk-coronavirus-variant

 

Timothy Renshaw, managing editor:

Considering that it annually sucks up more electricity than Argentina, according to a Cambridge University research, is Bitcoin's hoggish power consumption being factored into its overall value to the economy and the environment? – Cambridge University; BBC.com

https://cbeci.org/cbeci/comparisons

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56012952

 

And while we are on the subject of economics and the environment, here is more good work from Cambridge University making the case, long overdue, for including nature in corporate and government economics and accounting. 

https://www.cam.ac.uk/stories/dasguptareview

 

Inventive metal-head guitarist puts skeleton of dead uncle to sound use. – Heavy Consequence

https://consequenceofsound.net/2021/02/guy-turned-dead-uncle-skeleton-into-guitar/

 

Hayley Woodin, reporter: 

While many of us are keen to return to a sense of normalcy, yesterday is gone. This new report from Ryerson University’s Brookfield Institute explores the future of Canada’s labour market in a post-COVID context, and the trends that will define work and labour in the years to come. – Brookfield Institute

https://brookfieldinstitute.ca/future-of-work-in-post-covid-canada

 

Glen Korstrom, reporter:

While it may not be surprising that COVID-19 could be with us for a while, this article sets out how the virus could become endemic, or here to stay – manageable, like rabies, the flu or HIV. There is no guarantee that it will become less virulent, but this would at least be the hope. Living with the virus, however, could mean an eternal change to how humans interact. – Wall Street Journal

https://www.wsj.com/articles/as-vaccines-raise-hope-cold-reality-dawns-covid-19-is-likely-here-to-stay-11612693803?st=mmza3cmgrt2tta0&reflink=article_copyURL_share