NFB Reports Steady Flow of Production and Distribution to Support Filmmakers

Ariel Nasr’s The Forbidden Reel is one of several NFB productions selected for Hot Docs this year.


By Pat Mullen

Business continues at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). The NFB shared an update on the status of its productions today, noting that few projects have been substantially affected by COVID-19, which has shuttered film productions worldwide. As of April 24, the NFB has 214 projects on the go.15 films entered the development stage since mid-March, thus maintaining the production line. 95% of NFB staff are working remotely to maintain the flow of production and distribution. The results are an encouraging sign of the industry moving forward as filmmakers innovate with new ways to produce and create while social distancing.

Moreover, NFB staff is working hard to ensure that films in the release and festival stages get the spotlight their filmmakers deserve. Impacted productions include Wintopia, The Forbidden Reel, Stateless, and Borealis, all of which were announced as selections for this year’s Hot Docs, among other festivals. Online viewership at NFB.ca draws 25,000 viewers daily with a steady stream of releases keeping Canadians occupied under quarantine. New releases on NFB.ca include True North, 24 Davids, and First Stripes.

Additionally, NFB chairperson and government film commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur shared the following the statement to provide an update to readers, filmmakers, and film lovers about the state of the Board’s productions during this uncertain time:

I’m writing to bring you up to date on our response to this historic crisis that’s affecting the industry and our artists and freelancers. Several weeks ago, we introduced measures and initiatives to minimize the impact of the crisis on creators as much as possible, and to continue production activity when it is safe and feasible for our directors, crews and participants.

Here is an overview of the situation:

Production:

-We currently have 214 projects in the investigate, development, production, post-production and recent release as of April 24

-The majority of our current projects have not been substantially affected by this emergency period, although in some instances we have made adjustments to the production schedules and deliverables in consultation with directors and production teams.

-During the crisis it is our intention to produce a number of works that can be created while physically distancing and working in isolation. We continue to put films into development and production: between March 13 and April 28, we have put 15 films in development, and 15 films have entered the production phase. These projects are being produced and led by studios covering all regions of the country, in both official languages.

-We contacted all filmmakers, especially those working on projects that have been suspended or delayed.

-Even though the COVID-19 pandemic represents a force majeure, we made sure that we honoured all contracts—regardless of whether work was cancelled or delayed from March 13 to April 3 in accordance with public health directives.

-A number of filmmakers are continuing to work remotely from home on their project, when possible, respecting the public health directives regarding physical distancing.

-In some cases, we have transferred technical equipment to their homes to allow them to continue production work. In other cases, technical services are being provided at a distance.

-As the crisis evolves, we will continue to adapt, to ensure that many of our productions continue and that post-production workflows can be performed remotely. Based on Public Health and Safety regulations, we will begin to gradually offer our complete suite of post-production services as well as our animation production spaces.

Distribution:

We made sure that audiences in Canada and abroad who are self-isolating have access to our rich online collection, with recent works added every week to NFB.ca. We are pleased to see the popularity of NFB.ca—which has experienced a marked increase in traffic, up to 25,000 views per day, three times our usual rate—and to know that we’re helping to make a difference for people at this difficult time.

-Our marketing, communication and distribution teams are busy rescheduling the launch of some forty productions to this fall—completed or soon-to-be-completed works that have been delayed by the cancellation or postponement of festivals and the closure of cinemas. Our marketing team is developing new ways of doing things, particularly with regard to launches at festivals, in new virtual cinemas and online. The filmmaker-audience connection is very important to us and we’re working to create new ways for filmmakers to connect and engage with their public, despite this situation.

As Commissioner, I continue to advocate for greater resources for audiovisual creation during this difficult moment in our history. We at the NFB believe that Canada’s creators and storytellers are going to play a key role in helping us to get through this, together, and the work that we do benefits all Canadians. Don’t hesitate to reach out to executive producers and consult our production section to get an overview of the latest developments.

On behalf of the entire NFB, stay safe, and stay tuned.

Claude Joli-Coeur
Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson
National Film Board of Canada