Evolution of the Board

NFB continues to adapt to expand its audience, despite its meager funding

Melody Morrissette

The Carillon

REGINA (CUP) – While the National Film Board of Canada has escaped recent budget cuts, it also hasn’t seen any increase in funding in the past 10 years.

To balance the meager funding with the need to develop new expertise in digital production, its offices are going through serious changes.

The main Prairies branch in Winnipeg, for instance, will lose four positions, while two new producers specializing in multi-platform digital production will be hired to open a new office in Saskatchewan. (“Multi-platform digital production,” in this case, means dealing with all the avenues presented by Web 2.0 culture.)

The NFB, established in 1939, focuses on distributing and producing non-mainstream Canadian films.

With inflation and the rise in the cost of living, the amount put into production and fulfilling the company’s mandate had decreased. Based on the current economic situation, it does not appear more funding will be coming any time soon.

“As the country deals with a difficult deficit situation, we need to be smarter about how we use our resources to serve all Canadians better,” said Tom Perlmutter, government film commissioner and NFB chair, in a press release.

By cutting positions and moving responsibility, more money will be put towards production.

“We think it’s a good idea to commit to the community of Saskatchewan,” said Lily Roberts, head of communications at the main NFB office in Montreal, and “to have somebody there to make sure we engage and communicate and work with the Saskatchewan cinematic community.

“We think it will probably be more efficient, even if we’re small, to have a base there, because we really want to work in collaboration with the community. We think it will be more efficient in that sense.”

In recent years, the NFB has developed many initiatives in digital development. Last October, it debuted an iPhone app, giving folks the chance to watch NFB films from the palm of their hand. They’ve also launched a national online screening room where visitors have access to their entire film library once uploaded. So far, they’ve already totalled over 3.7 million film views.

The NFB also already have multi-platform digital producers employed in other regions.

“We have one person in (Quebec), and one person in (the Pacific region), and as time passes, digital production will become more present, so we do not want the Prairie community to miss that opportunity,” said Roberts.

“We have to develop that expertise and we are sure that we have plenty of talented people from both (Manitoba and Saskatchewan) that can work with the NFB and produce some kind of multi-platform digital production.”

This will make room for more traditional filmmaking to be the focus of the Alberta offices.

Both new positions have yet to be filled and the location of the Saskatchewan office is yet to be determined, but Roberts hopes to announce those decisions sometime this spring. However, this does not mean that one decision is affecting the other.

“With the technology, it’s very easy to be present in many places without being there necessarily, so (the location of the office) is not necessarily linked to the person we hire, but it will be analyzed at the same time.”

Published in Volume 64, Number 23 of The Uniter (March 18, 2010)

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