CBC Digital Archives

The Hollywood brain drain

Filmmaker Paul Donovan once compared the difficulty of making a movie in Canada to climbing Mount Everest without oxygen. Faced with an indifferent public, harsh critics, limited funds, and foreign-owned movie houses, filmmaking in Canada is, by necessity, a labour of love. Canadian gems like The Barbarian Invasions and Nobody Waved Goodbye have succeeded because of steadfast determination. CBC Archives explores the birth and growth of Canada's film industry.

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Why have Canadian directors and producers like Ivan Reitman and Norman Jewison fled the great white north for the glitter of Hollywood? Aside from money and resources, Canadian film snobbery plays an important role, Reitman explains in this CBC documentary. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Reitman directed financially successful but critically panned Canadian movies including the cult classic Meatballs. Reitman says Canada gave up on him and eventually he went on to produce and direct successful money-makers including Ghostbusters and Old School.

Admittedly some Canadian filmmakers, like David Cronenberg, Deepa Mehta, Atom Egoyan and Denys Arcand have remained in their home country and produced stunning and critically acclaimed films. These filmmakers have cultivated a quirky and imaginative dramatic presence. But, Arcand admits, the lure of the mighty American dollar has been difficult to resist. 
• Ivan Reitman's summer camp film Meatballs was filmed in Haliburton, Ont. The comedy, starring American movie star Bill Murray, was made on a million dollar budget but eventually grossed over $70 million worldwide.
• On average, Canadian films are made with a budget of $2.1 million. By comparison, American production budgets average $45 million. (2004)

• Acclaimed filmmaker Norman Jewison is one of Canada's most famous directorial exports. The director left Canada for the United States in 1958 and went on to make the successful films In the Heat of the Night and Moonstruck among others. In 1988, Jewison opened the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto to foster and promote Canadian filmmaking talent.

• According to Geoff Pevere and Greig Dymond, authors of Mondo Canuck, Canadian producer Lorne Michaels advised David Cronenberg and his partner Norman Snider to move south. "We thought we were going to be the first generation that was going to be able to stay home," Snider recalled and added that Michaels advised them, "You're going to have to come down here and so will your kids."

Film Credit: Ghostbusters, Black Rhino Productions, Columbia Pictures Corporation. Dead Ringers, Mantle Clinic II. I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, VOS Productions. Speaking Parts, Ego Film Arts. Exotica, Alliance, Communication Corp., Ego Films, Telefilm Canada, Ontario Film Development Corp. Decline of the American empire, Malo, Natl. Film Board of Canada, Telefilm Canada, Cinema Du Quebec. Meatballs, CFDC, Famous Players, Haliburton Films, Mount Royal Entertainment, Paramount Pictures. Wayne's World, Paramount Picutres. Fire Trial By Fire Films.
Medium: Television
Program: The National Magazine
Broadcast Date: Sept. 26, 1996
Guest(s): Denys Arcand, Kirwan Cox, David Cronenberg, Billy Crystal, Atom Egoyan, Robert Lantos, Flora MacDonald, Deepa Mehta, Geoff Pevere, Ivan Reitman, John Roberts, Jack Valenti, Robin Williams
Host: Hana Gartner
Reporter: Carol Off
Duration: 26:15
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling," Lyrics: C. Olcott, G. Graff. Music: E. Ball. ASCAP.

Last updated: August 29, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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