The Banff World Media Festival kicked off with a major funding announcement as the Canadian government unveiled a US$1.5M fund to bolster female-fronted TV businesses.
The fund has been designed to help a range of media businesses, including TV production companies, with a focus on helping women finance larger budget projects.
Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism and Member of Parliament for Halifax, revealed that it will be funding the Banff Television Festival Foundation to deliver the Banff Accelerator for Women in the Business of Media.
The investment is designed to help empower and train female entrepreneurs to build and grow their own TV businesses and is expected to help at least 50 woman grow their business and support 16 new businesses.
The money is part of the Canadian government’s Women Entrepreneurship Strategy, which is investing $2B to double the number of woman-owned businesses by 2025.
Jenn Kuzmyk, Executive Director, Banff World Media Festival, speaking at the festival’s opening remarks, said the scheme was designed to “fill a systemic and sizeable gap in our industry – a gap at the very top – a gap in ownership and control of independent Canadian media companies”.
She added, “Our program will empower and train women entrepreneurs to build and grow their own businesses within the screen based industries — be it production, post production, visual effects, animation or other specialties. Diversity is at the very core of this program. Its sole mandate is to advance gender equality in the media sector, bolstering the economic success of all women. Women of colour, Indigenous women, women with disabilities and LGBTQ women. Studies show the biggest obstacles that women face in the media business are: difficulty financing larger budget projects; not being able to advance past middle management; pay inequity; and difficulty accessing capital.”
The move comes on the first day of the event, which takes place in the Canadian mountain resort. Dreamworks founder Jeffrey Katzenberg is in town to talk up Quibi, while Deadline is moderating panels with talent including Bodyguard creator Jed Mercurio and the team behind David Attenborough’s forthcoming BBC natural history series Seven Worlds, One Planet.
Earlier today, there were kick off sessions featuring Patrick Connolly, Senior Vice President of Programming, AMC / SundanceTV Global and Netflix’s Director, Original Series Content Acquisition Chris Regina.
Connolly, who oversees acquisitions, planning, global strategy and scheduling for AMC and SundanceTV’s Global channels, revealed that it is looking to co-produce series for these networks for the first time. While AMC, and to a larger extent SundanceTV in the U.S. have previously co-production scripted projects, the AMC global channel has largely aired series from its U.S. parent network and Sundance has acquired programming.
“We’re just dipping our big toe internationally with co-production partnerships,” he said. “We’re open to the idea of other likeminded series for the channels, looking into maybe doing co-productions. We’ve never done that before, but interested to have that conversation.”
Regina, who has worked on series including Nomadic Pictures Entertainment and Flame Ventures’ forthcoming martial arts drama Wu Assassins and Halfire Entertainment’s Selma Blair-fronted drama Another Life, said that the Banff event offers “unparalleled opportunities” for creators. “Canada is home to some of the world’s most talent storytellers and Banff gives us the chance to discover the stories they have to offer, first-hand. We love working with creators from diverse communities across Canada, and there is no better place to have these conversations than in Banff with its picturesque backdrop,” he noted in a statement ahead of his panel.