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George’s Island: Canadian movie gone in three weeks

The Story

The Canadian children's film George's Island has been bumped from the theatres just three weeks after its premiere. Filmmaker Paul Donovan is perplexed. His film has been shunned at home but embraced abroad. But C.R. Salmon, president of Odeon Theatres, is indifferent to complaining Canadian filmmakers. "You are not being discriminated against because you're a Canadian," he says tersely in this radio excerpt. "You're being discriminated against because your film is no f***ing good." This CBC documentary explores the divergent interests of art and the almighty bottom line. 

Medium: Radio
Program: Sunday Morning
Broadcast Date: April 7, 1991
Guest(s): Paul Donovan, Andy Emilio, Manju Pendakur, C. R. Salmon
Reporter: Mary O'Connell
Duration: 14:36
Film credits George's Island: Delta, First Choice, Salter Street Films International, NFB, Téléfilm Canada
Shipwrecked: Filmkameratene A/S, Svensk Filmindustri (SF) AB, Walt Disney Pictures

Did You know?

• Paul Donovan founded Salter Street Productions with his brother Michael. Salter Street Films amalgamated with Alliance Atlantis Communications in May 2001. Donovan has also directed the science-fiction series Lexx, and the films Paint Cans and Buried on a Sunday.

George's Island was judged the best live-action film at the 1990 Chicago International Festival of Children's Films.

• In 1987, Patricia Rozema produced one of Canada's most successful feature films, the quirky comedy I've Heard the Mermaids Singing. In 1990, Rozema told Maclean's that the Canadian film industry needs to learn the art of self-promotion. "Mermaids taught me that you don't need stars or a track record to get a film out there. What you do need is money to let people know it exists. When an American film is lousy, it still gets seen. What I adore about this country is its humility, but we still need a bit of hubris -- advertising is hubris."

• Canadian films are an anomaly in how they are sold and marketed. Unlike Hollywood's star system, it's the director who is the major player in Canadian films. Producer Michael Burns explained to Maclean's in 1987, "In Canada, we can't depend on established stars. Our cinema has to be totally a director's medium. Robbie Coltrane is in my movie, and I hope he becomes a star. But this movie will be sold as an Yves Simoneau movie, not a Robbie Coltrane movie."

• As of 2004, promotional problems continued to plague the Canadian film industry. Trish Dolman, president of Siren Screen pictures, told CBC.ca that existing in the shadow of Hollywood is more than challenging. "Someone's going to be on the cover of Vanity Fair promoting their film. There's such huge crossover. We don't even have the money to go into billboards."


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