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Rapid technological advances are challenging many of our traditional approaches. At the same time, they provide unprecedented access to our culture and heritage. By encouraging innovation, equality, linguistic duality and cultural diversity, the Canadian Heritage Portfolio will meet the challenges of the 21st century and contribute to building a country in which all Canadians can express and share their diverse cultural experiences with each other and the world.
As a member of the Canadian Heritage Portfolio, the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) plays a vital role in the cultural life of Canadians.
The NFB encourages citizen participation through its productions and various activities, all of which capture the spirit of our times. In a world where cultural exchanges are increasingly common and where new technologies are altering everyday life, the NFB provides a forum for cinematic creativity and talent, producing and distributing audiovisual works made by Canadians, and for Canadians.
The Report on Plans and Priorities for 2006-2007 details the National Film Board of Canada's vision and goals for the year. It demonstrates the important role the NFB plays with other members of the Canadian Heritage Portfolio to ensure the development and promotion of Canadian culture, heritage and inclusion.
Beverley J. Oda
Minister of Canadian Heritage
and Status of Women
After four years as Government Film Commissioner at the NFB, I am proud of the enormous strides we have made in implementing the 2002-2006 Strategic Plan. The NFB has successfully taken up a host of challenges, becoming an essential and incontrovertible part of Canada's film and television industry, while maintaining the highest standards of transparency, good governance and accountability. Canadians expect nothing less.
Our achievements have been remarkable, and we take great pride in our success. However, there are still challenges ahead and further goals to attain. We are at a crossroads, and the time has come for the NFB to think carefully about its next strategic plan and to present Canadians with a new vision for the future. The process of reflection my team and I have been engaged in with the support of our Board of Trustees has confirmed that the NFB's vision for the future must be focused on three major axes.
First, we wish to confirm the NFB's excellence in producing and distributing documentaries and animation. The NFB's goal has always been to make films that are engaged, reflect issues that concern Canadians and encourage people to think. It will continue to focus on those strengths and promote them.
Second, the NFB has facilities accessible to everyone in all parts of Canada. It has outposts in Halifax, Moncton, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver, enabling the organization to reach Canadians in all the major cities, and helping them discover a unique film heritage that attests to an impressive past yet has its face turned firmly to the future. Connected to all communities in Canada through high-performance, high-speed networks, the NFB will belong to each and every Canadian, whether they hail from Inuvik, Point Pelee, St. John's or Victoria. The myriad possibilities opened up by digital formats have also aroused considerable interest at the screening end of the industry. E-cinema is growing apace in many countries, particularly the United Kingdom and Brazil. It provides access to films in non-traditional venues, particularly in remote regions; it provides a practical, proven means of increasing the representation of specialty non-Hollywood productions; and it provides a way to make screening copies much more cheaply than current industry rates. E-cinema is bringing a wealth of extraordinary opportunities to the Canadian film industry. The NFB is positioning itself to foster its growth and will continue to do, so for the benefit of all Canadians.
Third, we must ensure that the NFB, in co-operation with private-sector partners, once again becomes an incubator of innovation in technology and filmmaking. Keeping to its traditions, the NFB has always been a pioneer organization, exploring the frontiers of cinematography. It must maintain that role and continue to push back the boundaries of digital applications in filmmaking. We are already committed to exploring the new digital formats and the new supports they require, and have even produced a number of very short films for cellular telephones. In future, we will find that digital productions, particularly in High Definition, will be consistently demanded by national and international broadcasters, and if our films are to find their audience and contribute to society's process of reflection, we must initiate and maintain the digital shift. We are already doing so with a number of productions, including War Hospital and Arctic Mission, and more recently with our work on Antarctic Mission. The digital shift - a necessity for the industry's and the NFB's future - naturally requires considerable investment, and stakeholders in the film and television industry must have the financial resources they need to make the transition. We should never forget that the NFB has often led the way, breaking new ground with Cinéma Vérité and IMAX technology, all examples that attest to the NFB's extraordinary qualifications in technology and filmmaking and that hold tremendous promise for an innovative future.
Our new vision is based on strong partnerships with the industry. We have entered into co-operation agreements with CFTPA and APFTQ, Canada's two major producer associations, and our production and distribution activities contribute to the success of our partner producers and broadcasters in Canada and abroad. In 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, over 30% of NFB works - 57 in the last year - were co-productions, and the NFB returned $755,000 to its partners through its co-production and distribution activities. In many cases, the co-productions would never have been made without the NFB's participation. Our plans and priorities for 2006-2007 are designed to strengthen our drive to forge rewarding ties with a variety of stakeholders in the Canadian and international film and television industry.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate how important an organization like the National Film Board of Canada is in this globalized world, where cultural borders are blurring and fading. With Canadian society constantly evolving and becoming increasingly complex, the NFB plays an indispensable role in promoting a culture of citizen engagement, and an understanding of the social issues of our time. We contribute to producing a strong and recognizable Canadian voice, and I believe our new vision will benefit all Canadians.
Government Film Commissioner
and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada
I submit, for tabling in Parliament, the 2006-2007 Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) for the National Film Board of Canada.
This document is based on the accountability principles contained in the Guide to the preparation of Part III of the Estimates: Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Rapports
Mandate - The National Film Board of Canada's mandate is “to initiate and promote the production and distribution of films in the national interest and, in particular,
Mission - The National Film Board of Canada's mission, as stated in the 2002-2006 Strategic Plan, is “to produce and distribute distinctive, culturally diverse, challenging and relevant audiovisual works that provide Canada and the world a unique Canadian perspective.”
The NFB is an integrated production and distribution organization with an extensive film collection, a conservation laboratory, and postproduction and research and development facilities located at its operational headquarters in Montreal. Its Government Relations service operates from Ottawa, while its Marketing and Communications, Distribution, Business Affairs and Legal Services, Planning, Evaluation and Audit, Human Resources, and Administration branches are principally located in Montreal.
The NFB is a unique centre for the creation of audiovisual works. NFB films are produced in both official languages. The NFB maintains production facilities in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Moncton and Halifax, a production office in Quebec City and two viewing centres, one in Montreal and the other in Toronto.
Benefits to Canadians and to the World
Since its inception, the NFB has fostered the exchange of ideas and dialogues among Canadians by making films that are creative, challenging and relevant. It provides an authentically Canadian perspective that conveys our fundamental values in a borderless globalized world. In contributing to the process of reflection on major issues in Canada and elsewhere, the NFB encourages citizen participation in all its forms. It portrays Canada's cultural identity, giving emerging talent from cultural communities a voice that can be heard by Canadians and by people of all nations. The NFB is also involved in the ongoing acquisition of knowledge, providing engaged content and demonstrating boundless technical creativity. As in the past, the NFB continues to be a pioneer and leader in the application of new audiovisual technologies. It makes its assets available by providing maximum access to the collection, be it online, in Canadian schools or in its mediatheques. In the Canadian film and television industry, it is keenly sought after as a partner for its skills and professionalism. Thus, the NFB contributes to the industry's continuing success.
In the Speech from the Throne read on April 4, 2006, the Government outlined its priorities for Canada. The NFB supports those priorities and through its activities will contribute to their advancement. The table below highlights the Throne Speech priorities with which the NFB has aligned its own PAA priorities, as set out in the table on Page 8.
|Government Priorities (Speech from the Throne, April 2006)|
Building a Stronger Canada
A Canada that Works for All of Us
Canada - Strong, United, Independent and Free
Bringing Accountability Back to Government
|Activity||Priorities||Type||Planned spending||Indicators||Outcomes Sought|
|Production of Audiovisual Works||
Maintain overall programming slate of distinctive, challenging and relevant audiovisual works
Strengthen feature documentary production and develop a consistent approach to making short films
Strengthen the NFB's ability to identify and to work with leading talent, championing emerging, culturally diverse and Aboriginal talent
Encourage partnerships through co-productions
Strengthen innovation in content, form and technology
Maintain the development of international co-productions
Diversity of genres and subject matter in NFB productions
Level of audience reach and interest in films (television and non-television audiences, and Web site traffic)
Recognition in the form of awards won at home and at foreign festivals
Number of innovative applications
Engagement of Canadians
Diversity on screen and behind the screen
Evolution of co-productions
|Activity||Priorities||Type||Planned spending||Indicators||Outcomes Sought|
|Distribution of Audiovisual Works||
Increase revenue from the NFB's collection and optimize pre-sales and sales
Offer expert knowledge and NFB distribution networks to private and public sectors
Quarterly sales, pre-sales and revenue
Quarterly number of audiovisual production acquisitions and their economic benefits
Progress in developing new online tools for clients in the consumer market
|Activity||Priorities||Type||Planned spending||Indicators||Outcomes Sought|
|Accessibility and Outreach||
Enhance, promote and increase the conservation of and equitable access to the NFB collection, in new emerging digital formats
Achieve greater reach across Canada and into communities
Increase NFB visibility in communities, on television and in learning channels
Increase branding opportunities in Canada and abroad
Use of NFB titles by the organization's partners, particularly the number of films lent out by partner libraries
Audience indicators for NFB productions
Social impact of NFB productions, case by case
Attendance at NFB screenings and retrospectives
|Activity||Priorities||Type||Planned spending||Indicators||Outcomes Sought|
|Research and Advisory Services||
Maintain, promote and enhance R&D initiatives to reposition the NFB as a leader in the Canadian film industry, along with its partners
Conduct and participate in research and other projects
Collaborate further with the government and other organizations
Development and implementation of an annual research plan
Number of joint research projects and partnerships as a pilot site and incubator of research and development
Evaluation of the significance of requests
Dissemination and use of NFB research results
Number of nature of joint ventures with the public sector, and their impact
The purpose of this overview is to provide a context for the NFB's plans and priorities for 2006-2007, which are based directly on the 2002-2006 Strategic Plan. In the past four years, all NFB activities have been aimed at repositioning the organization in a constantly shifting national and international environment. The NFB has made considerable changes to ensure efficient, effective management that promotes accountability in the administration of public funds. Following the review of its Strategic Plan in 2004, the NFB is staying on a clear track, remaining relevant in Canada's broader film and television production and distribution industry, and maintaining its position at the leading edge of technology.
The NFB reports to the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is responsible for administering the National Film Act governing the organization as a public production and distribution agency. It is funded primarily through parliamentary appropriations and revenue from the sale of its products and royalties.
A Changing Environment for Documentaries
In Canada and around the globe, documentary production, funding and distribution are under considerable pressure in spite of the documentary's upsurge in popularity, particularly in theatres. According to Profile 20051, documentaries account for 14% of all CAVCO-certified productions ($247 million), a decline of 8% over the previous year.
Point-of-view documentaries tackle important social issues. Unfortunately, public funding is increasingly becoming their sole source of support, and a greater percentage of producers are therefore seeking public financial assistance, particularly for documentaries. The average fluctuates around 35%2.
Given the challenges of funding documentaries, independent producers are moving away from the genre or working in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada so that an authentic, bold and relevant voice can be heard beyond the dictates of the bottom line. In today's business environment, the NFB plays an important stabilizing role. The Government of Canada's second response to the Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage states that “the NFB has been a key agency for the production and distribution of films and other audio-visual works that reflect the cultural and social realities of Canada.”3 For the industry, the NFB provides a unique brand of expertise that combines creativity and technological innovation. In recent years, joining forces with other organizations, the NFB has helped and continues to help fund hundreds of documentary and animation co-productions. In addition to its role as co-producer, the NFB distributes the audiovisual products of several private-sector producers, thereby generating revenue both for its partners and for the organization. Last year, the organization returned over $755,000 to distribution partners.
As pointed out in the last report of the Standing Committee of Canadian Heritage, which examined the film industry, new avenues are emerging for documentary films, particularly “Canadian [long-length] documentary films [that] have achieved a high level of success both within Canada and internationally, and have long been a strength of the Canadian film industry.”4 However, sources of funding for feature-length documentaries are limited, making them difficult to produce.
Point-of-view documentaries are a priority at the NFB, because Canadians want films that help them gain a better understanding of the issues from a variety of perspectives. The films must be in formats likely to reach their audiences.
Challenges and Risks for the NFB in Today's Business Environment
A Changing Technological Environment
The digital revolution shaking up the audiovisual production industry provides extraordinary opportunities for documentary and animation producers and distributors. The very high quality that digital formats can deliver at reasonable cost allows both emerging and established filmmakers to invest their talent in documentaries and proffer new and innovative points of view. Theatre distribution will also benefit from the digital revolution, particularly with the relentless advance of E-cinema, a new distribution system that delivers the needed counterweight to Hollywood's supremacy on the silver screen and allows a broader diversity of films to be shown not only in major cities but also in remote communities. Digital formats provide new distribution flexibility, enabling Canadians to access films in the format of their choice, be it DVD, MPEG-4, QuickTime or other formats.
These new opportunities also comprise significant risks of obsolescence, and the NFB will have to quickly adapt new technologies to ensure that its production, distribution and access capacity does not become increasingly less relevant to its partners and to all Canadians. The organization has already initiated the shift towards greater use of new technologies; however, that shift requires substantial capital investment and the NFB may be faced with difficult choices in adjusting to the digital environment.
Reaching Audiences in the Format of their Choice: an Ongoing Challenge
In spite of the fragmentation and competition the National Film Board of Canada faces, documentaries continue to draw viewers, and some - though they are the exception rather than the rule - have been seen by over a million people5. These figures show that the NFB must continue to make the documentaries that strike a chord with Canadians. Non-duplicated coverage of NFB productions broadcast on Canadian TV in 2004-2005 topped 8.5 million viewers, a slight drop over the previous year. In a high-competition business environment, NFB productions and co-productions have successfully carved out a place in Canada's film and television landscape.
To fulfil its mandate and enhance its accessibility, the NFB must also provide audiences with films in the format of their choice. Digitizing the collection and new NFB productions was a priority for the NFB in 2005-2006, and has proved a source of infinite possibilities as well as significant logistical challenges. Yet even if the NFB stands firm on its commitment to move towards digital production, converting the Canadian broadcasting system to accept digital formats remains a challenge in itself. It is not enough for the film and television industry to make the digital transition to HD; theatres must also follow suit. E-cinema will require significant investment in viewing infrastructure, but it opens up extraordinary opportunities for access to varied and relevant films.
To reduce the risks of providing productions in formats that are losing ground among Canadians, the NFB has already digitized over 25% of the collection in digital files. These make it possible to deliver products in a wide range of formats, including MPEG-2, QuickTime, RealPlayer, Windows and Flash. Moreover, we will continue to digitize the collection, with the support of the Government of Canada's Memory Fund.
Maximizing Revenue in a Rapidly Changing Industry
The NFB has one of the world's most extensive and varied collections of audiovisual works, as well as a stock footage library. It can increase revenue by raising the number of broadcasting licences, repackaging for specific markets, customizing products for the educational sector and through other means, but it is always operating within a rapidly changing industry. For example, broadcasters are increasingly requesting significantly more than broadcasting rights alone: they also wish to obtain rights on new emerging platforms. As a content producer, the NFB must therefore carefully consider the best means or maximizing its sources of revenue.
NFB activities clearly show that current sources of revenue can be diversified by exploiting all available markets for a given production, rather than only selling rights to television broadcasting. That diversification makes it possible to show a given production to a wider audience and vary the sources of revenue, while collecting that revenue over a longer period. Thus, a given production can generate revenue above and beyond its first television broadcast window. In the coming year, the NFB will focus on producing films for emerging markets, such as mobile phones and mobile video players.
Because of its mandate, the NFB cannot simply acquire short-term rights for limited use, as with television broadcast licences. It must also buy rights to cinematographically and historically significant films to ensure that they remain accessible to Canadians. This is an NFB responsibility as a public producer. The rising cost of acquiring rights directly affects the cost of productions and the necessary cost of maintaining the collection, and represents a growing challenge.
To reduce the impact on its financial resources, the NFB has established a minimum rights purchasing strategy. It has also received assistance from the Memory Fund to renew its rights to a number of heritage titles. Nonetheless, additional financial resources may be required to ensure that the NFB's film heritage remains accessible to Canadians.
Partnerships and Co-operation on all Levels: Synergy, Creativity and Optimizing Resources
In the international documentary industry, the NFB is continuing to forge strategic partnerships with private-sector producers and distributors in Canada and with public broadcasters in order to co-produce, broadcast and distribute our films. Internationally, the NFB has been careful to forge alliances to maximize potential synergy and increase sales and revenue. The organization recently entered into a partnership agreement with Discovery Communications.
Our collaborative efforts led to 57 co-productions in 2004-2005, including the Oscar®-winning co-production Ryan and HD feature The Peacekeepers, as well as Duhamel and Adrenaline Rush, all examples of co-productions for which we and our partners pooled financial resources, technical know-how and creative knowledge.
Our partnerships with organizations abroad continued in 2004-2005. We have strengthened our collaboration with a number of broadcasters, particularly NHK in Japan and France 2. The World Documentary Fund, in co-operation with the BBC and UK Film Council, is continuing with the co-production Diameter of the Bomb. Other projects will be added at intervals when opportunities arise.
The NFB also participates in numerous festivals, submitting films and also contributing toward the events' success. The NFB was one of the organizations spearheading the first Documentary Policy Summit at Hot Docs in Toronto, in May 2004 as well as in 2005. This annual event gives industry stakeholders a chance to discuss issues, exchange ideas and identify solutions to the challenges that are specific to the documentary genre. In May 2005, the National Film Board of Canada, in collaboration with the Cannes Film Festival, introduced the Norman McLaren Award for the winner of the Palme d'or for best short film. In addition, the boxed set of remastered DVDs comprising McLaren's complete works will be released with the Cannes Festival's 2006 crop. For the occasion, there will also be a retrospective of McLaren's work, as well as a travelling exhibition of his most important films.
To guarantee the best possible distribution of the NFB's audiovisual assets in NFB markets and in territories where the organization is active, we have sought and established partnerships with National Geographic and Gaumont Pathé to commercialize our stock footage and film clip holdings. We intend to continue those efforts.
In the educational sector, the NFB promotes the development of co-operative partnerships with learning channels, teaching staff, research and teaching establishments, and libraries. In this area, the organization actively supports the school system, and has established partnerships with numerous libraries across Canada. It also provides educational materials, organizes workshops at numerous annual regional and provincial teachers' conferences, and provides training activities for teaching staff in universities. The NFB recently took part in a pilot project on closed-circuit digital broadcasting with the Alberta Ministry of Education. We intend to continue those efforts in 2006-2007.