Friday, March 7, 2008

We are family...I got all my writers with me

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a former writing colleague of mine. She had mass e-mailed most former students from the Professional Writing program at the University of Toronto. I learned that another one of our former classmates had just suffered the loss of her home caused by a fire and that her mother and brother were in the hospital.

People responded to that e-mail with such warm words in an effort to show our friend support. That e-mail restored my love for that program and its students. From the first day of my first professional writing class, I felt a strong connection with everyone. Yes, everyone. My favourite professor assured us all that long after graduation, we would always be there for one another. "The writing world is one of community," he would always say. Gone are the days of the "hermit" writer. On the contrary, powerful writers know and value the need for human connection. After all, it is this connection with humanity--all its beauty and flaws--that shines in our writing.

Even after graduation, we care. We care about the milestones in our former classmates' lives: promotions, weddings, babies. And misfortunes. We can all relate to that drastic change--the one that swoops into our comfortable lives and replaces it with temporary turmoil.

And even in the midst of chaos and misfortune, I smile when I think of the writers--that special group of people in my university days that can always offer sincerity and support.

Their words count. A lot.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Heritage Minister is a "no show"

The Canadian federal government has decided to deny tax credits to film and television productions that are deemed "too edgy," containing graphic sex, violence, and homosexuality. Thanks to Charles McVety, president of the Canada Family Action Coalition, his part in discusssions with Public Safety Minister, Stockwell Day and Justice Minister, Rob Nicholson in the Prime Minister's Office, contributed to the Conservative changes.

Conservative MP, Dave Batters persuaded the new president of Telefilm Canada, Michel Roy, to prohibit federal funding for edgy films. He used the film Young People Fucking as an example.

Director David Cronenberg warns that low-budget, edgy Canadian films are at risk. Cronenberg says the changes proposed by the federal government are an "assault" on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "The irony is that it is the Canadian films that have given us an international reputation that would be most at risk because they are edgy, low-budget films made by people like me and others that will be targeted by this panel."

Martin Gero, director of Young People Fucking (opening in theatres in Canada this April) could also be scrutinized by the panel. Gero shot his feature film with support from Telefilm. "It seems ill-conceived from beginning to end, and is less about censorship than destroying the economic foundation of our entire industry," Gero says. "It's old people fucking with the Canadian film industry." At the Genie Awards last week, the Heritage Minister, Josee Verner was a “no show,” but her office claimed it had nothing to do with the government’s plans to deny tax credits.

Sandra Oh, Grey’s Anatomy star and the show’s host, stated “censorship has had a little work done and is trying to make a comeback. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound very Canadian to me.”

Film critics and producers warn that changes to the Income Tax Act would cripple the Canadian film industry, as they suggested Ms. Verner’s absence from the Genie Awards was because she may face fury from the crowd. However, Verner states she was out of the country last week, claiming the “changes have nothing to do with censorship and everything to do with the integrity of the tax system.”

Many art groups are speaking out, claiming these changes deviate from the promises of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Susan Swan, chair of the Writers' Union of Canada has protested, "we're not going to sit back and accept this. We don't like being told what kind of art we can make by the federal government."