How to get into TV & Film in Canada

Jwithpuppetback

  • My advice is twofold:

1.  Look for a day job in film.

Anyone interested in film and TV should work in it even for a short time – in any capacity!  Look for ways to get onto a film union list, starting as a PA maybe even? There are many jobs, too, not all of them on shoots.  This  includes the behind-the-scenes stuff or animation, distribution, etcetera.  That way you really get a feel for your field & make contacts.  I’m not a hugely successful TV writer, but I’ve sold over 15 scripts and all of them due to personal contacts – not the 2 agents (!).

2.  Sell what scripts you have in the best way possible.  I often use a real estate metaphor, because it is the same, believe it or not.  As I learned the hard way, a local agent here like Integral or Characters won’t ‘sell’ your big script or new TV series idea.  They’ll offer the ‘houses’ they have at their level – think Surrey.  If you have a Shaughnessy mansion of a script, go to an LA agent.  Many of them will look at new stuff from young writers. I will say that even a Vancouver agent would be good to start your talks with any producer though.

In this light, check out the Writers Guild of Canada. You can’t join until you have a credit, but they sometimes have open events and checking the website for good materials and references is good. WGC is the Canadian version of the WGA, in fact we have sharing $$ agreements with them.

So, for example, if you are ready to look for an agent, look at the public list on the WGC site: http://www.wgc.ca/resources/agents.html

It’s usually possible to meet with Canadian agents if you have a project.  I’m currently not agented, due to the fact that I had to turn down the last 3 offers in a row (for bad reality shows that pay poorly).

All my work’s sold solely due to industry contacts but having an agent may have gotten me ‘in the door’.  I have had 2 agents, both Canadian and neither earned me a cent I didn’t find myself.  However, if you have a fantastic script, ready to go, for a movie, for example, you should try to get an agent to help you sell it.

I usually write TV episodes, so my work’s differently focused. If it’s a huge script – the Hollywood style ones have to be agented in the USA – our agents just don’t have the contacts to sell huge scripts.  Check out the Hollywood Screenwriting Directory for ‘who to send it to’. https://www.writersstore.com/hollywood-screenwriting-directory  It costs $29 US but is worth it.

Links:

TO film list – good for applying to current films. These are often updated: https://www1.toronto.ca/static_files/economic_development_and_culture/docs/currently_filming.pdf

BC file list – from the DGC site

https://www.dgc.ca/bc/production_list/Production%20List.pdf

Unions to check out:

Vancouver: ACFC is the easiest to get into. They don’t have ‘all’ the productions but they usually have something and are more willing to train.  See http://www.acfcwest.com/become.html

ACFC also has a list of great links for beginners in film: http://www.acfcwest.com/industry.html  They have a Production Office area and it’s good if he wants to get some local experience.  Pay rates are lower than IATSE and hours sometimes longer but it’s a way in. Most ACFC members eventually join IATSE.

IATSE:  This I’d recommend only if he’s going the ‘office’ route first.  https://www.iatse.com/ Local 891 is Vancouver.  It’s more or less a route to get into an office and see production and work from there.

DGC: This is where locations starts, also directors.  But I never have seen Locations lead to writing gigs, they’re too far from the office and the writers.  If directing is your interest, though, it’s good.  They have offices in Vancouver and TO.

http://www.dgc.ca/en/index.cfm

The TV and film world can look like a jungle, but I’ve had some great experiences and earned a lot out there at times!

Cat

p.s. Below is from http://thecollectortv.com/36.html  and is the listing for 1 of my Collector tv series episodes.  Producers: Larry Sugar, Showrunners: Jon Cooksey and Ali Marie Matheson. The Collector is a wonderful show – a dark fantasy & I thoroughly enjoyed writing two episodes for it!

Collector website Ufologist

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About screenscribe

Writer - tv shows, online sites, newspapers, magazines...
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