Back from Banff. The question, as my mother often phrases it; “so, did you accomplish anything?” – The implication is that unless you walk away with a series order, a signed deal or lots of cash then the week was a bust. Actually, the 2015 edition was quite satisfying I have to say. The Banff Media Festival, for those who don’t know, is not really a Festival like others.
There are no screenings, no galas, no public participation. No celebrity actors, no limos, no exclusive parties or publicists. There are awards but almost no one attends them except the newbies and the stakeholders of the nominated shows. There used to be flamboyant programming, clever panels, big pitch contests, public winners and astounding feature interviews but those have been dropped over the past 3 years. What’s left are some perfunctory panels of media leaders and a few great case studies. It’s a thin program. Fortunately the true value proposition at Banff lies elsewhere. It’s about real people, in awe of nature, secluded at one of the most beautiful old hotels in the world (Fairmont Banff Springs). Banff is about connecting and then reconnecting again and again over the years with old friends, colleagues, competitors and clients as well as future colleagues, competitors and clients. It’s a key 4 days for the Canadian industry to take its collective temperature and then as a group, get drunk, eat great food and complain, brag and predict what’s next.
Bottom line is that for non-fiction TV in 2015, pitching America is the best way to go right now. Every producer I speak to knows that.
My impression of Banff 2015 collectively was of an uncertain but positive future. The word on Canadian domestic factual TV is bleak for now. No-one wants to commission much until they see who is left standing after the ‘pick and pay’ cable packages come out. Why commission for channels that are gonna disappear? Who will live and who will die is discussed by many, my guess is Shaw, Bell and Corus will drop almost all of those extra channels that were piled on over the past 5 years and retreat to the big ones we all know. Maybe 10 channels gone between them is my prediction. Other smaller companies (Zoomermedia, Stornoway etc.) must be bracing for a do or die situation. Bottom line is that for non-fiction TV in 2015, pitching America is the best way to go right now. Every producer I speak to knows that.
On the drama side, U.S. and international partnership is key and there is a lot of activity on that front. We thank our successive governments for continued support for CMF, Telefilm, tax credits and treaties that make us such a desirable partner. Now with a crap dollar, we’re irresistible!
But for me, the good news is that the future of media is exciting and bright… But different. Branded entertainment wants to move centre stage.
I’m talking to ad agencies and branded companies about new forms of entertainment and bringing my skill sets to their international creative briefs. They are very interested.
Digital is mainstream. There is no longer a language or cultural divide between TV and web, we get it. I love digital innovation and particularly Virtual Reality – 360 video which I’ve been lucky to work with this year. I am pitching and developing VR experiences. Don’t worry, everyone will know what I’m talking about 12 months from now.
CBC is coming back. After the scandals and the new executives, CBC is stepping up with some new initiatives and opportunities. I believe the new smart people at the top are going to take some chances. The first few years of a new mandate is always exciting. I’ll be offering some things to them soon.
Digital is mainstream. There is no longer a language or cultural divide between TV and web, we get it.
And because this festival is about relationships and friendships, I sat by the mountains and shared my continuing personal story many times. Divorce. Fallow time. New relationship. New house. New beginnings. Yay! Also my business story – my partner Barri and I continue to work together (negotiating a U.S. deal now with a big partner- stay tuned) but we also are open to partnerships with others together and individually. Nimble. Agile. Able to follow our hearts together and apart on new projects and people as they arise. All bets are off right now… A great time to have a low overhead and lots of skills and relationships.
As often the case, I was energized by Banff, I came away with a list of almost 10 amazing opportunities with friends and colleagues here, and new interested contacts in several countries and cities. Multiple channels, platforms and countries. That’s always what I aspired to.
So Mom…did I accomplish anything?
Allan Novak is a well-respected Toronto-based storyteller, media creator, consultant and entrepreneur with over 25 years’ experience in TV creatively shaping many of the top shows created in Canada and exported internationally. He is an award-winning creator, writer, director, editor, producer ( “show runner”) and executive producer of numerous documentary, reality factual and comedy series and formats.
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