Life Before Digital

If you like photography of any kind, or especially if you have a bit of dark room culture or curiosity, you will love this exhibit at the McCord Musem by Michel Campeau. Its on until May 6th. Go see it!

“The power to record things and reproduce them is exciting.”


To tax or not to tax – no simple question.

Quebec finance minister Carlos Leitao says the provincial government is prepared to impose a sales tax on SVODs in 2018 (with or without the feds). I used to (naively) be for “the tax” until I realized its a tax for consumers. I’ve always dreamed of a tax (contribution, quota – Flora MacDonald style) based on sales that would come out of Netflix’s (or any major players’) profits – not OUR pockets. Maybe that’s what the 500 million / 5 years pledge announced by Netflix a few weeks ago was all about.  One way or another, (quota or pledge) I think it would be fair – say beneficial – for all concerned that, those who stand to make great profits from Canadian consumers be much obliged thank you, to channel funds back into original Québecois and Canadian content production. If that’s what Netflix is really doing, hats off to them – Bravo! Now its high time the US Majors stepped up to repent their greedy ways.

Here are two very informative articles by Michael Geist that helped clarify the issue for me.

Netflix Canada and the Misleading Claims About “Level Playing Fields”

Think There Should be a Netflix Tax?: Why There is Nothing Stopping Canadian Subscribers From Paying Today

New distribution opportunities at home

Demand.Film launches in Canada

The Australia-based company is looking to tap under-served audiences and under-used cinema space with its crowdsourced screenings.

Le Ride 2Demand.Film, an Australia-based firm that organizes one-night screenings of niche films, has launched in Canada through a partnership with Cineplex.

The company’s goal is to set up one-night cinema screenings for feature films (typically documentaries) on evenings when theatre attendance is low (usually Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday). Since it was founded four years ago, the company has expanded to the U.S, U.K., Ireland, Singapore and Germany and has now launched in all the provinces across Canada. Director of operations, Toronto-based Paul Rotz, is overseeing Demand.Film’s Canadian expansion. Rotz is a former director of theatrical sales at eOne.

Demand.Film’s model is designed to give filmmakers and producers a way of getting projects that appeal to niche audiences into cinemas. In order for a screening to take place, a person must first request a film (from Demand.Film’s catalogue of titles) to be screened in their own market. Once tickets go on sale, the number of tickets sold must reach a certain threshold for a screening to go ahead. In Canada, 50 tickets is the threshold in order to make a one-off screening profitable. If less than 50 tickets are sold for a particular theatre, the screening does not go ahead and ticket-buyers aren’t charged. If a screening is locked in, Demand.Film typically confirms four or five weeks in advance.

Promotion for the screenings is handled by Demand.Film, which creates a web page once a film has been requested. The host can then share this page with their community. Demand.Film also promotes the screenings to its database of past ticket holders, as well as using paid promotion through Facebook advertising campaigns.

The first screenings took place on Aug. 23 in 26 Cineplex theatres across the country. The documentary in question, a cycling doc called Le Ride (New Zealand), was chosen based on an insight gleaned from Cineplex that cyclists are an underserved market in Canada. Le Ride stars cycling enthusiast and The Amazing Race (U.S.) host Phil Keoghan as he recreates the 1928 Tour de France race. The project is produced by his wife Louis Keoghan.

The screenings sold a total of 3,200 tickets (including around 400 in Vancouver’s Cineplex Park Theatre), equating to a box office of around $44,000  an impressive one-night haul for any documentary in Canada, and even more so considering it is New Zealand cycling film. In terms of revenue split (once tax has been deducted), the content owner takes 25%, Demand.Film takes 25% and the exhibitor takes the remainder.

Company founder Andrew Hazelton, EVP of global business development, is bullish on the need for documentaries and other indie films to find their audiences, and insists that it can be done in this alternative theatrical model. “We’re just using under-utilized cinema space with films that wouldn’t otherwise be seen, and have an audience that would never be found in a traditional theatrical campaign,” he told Playback Daily.

During this year’s Hot Docs, Hazelton said he met with a number of Canadian documentary filmmakers that expressed to him the difficulty in getting their docs seen in a big-screen setting. “These filmmakers aren’t making a film to be seen on a phone or the back of an airplane seat. They want their films to make an impact, especially in the doc space. And I always says, you can’t start a movement on iTunes, you need 100 people in a cinema together around this particular issue to really make a difference,” he said.

Another upside for filmmakers is that they also have access to the email addresses for each of the ticket buyers, which can be valuable when it comes to promoting or crowdfunding subsequent projects.

While Demand.Film is establishing itself in the Canadian market, the company will select the films that screen in Cineplex theatres, said Hazelton. As such, it is sticking with the cycling theme for its next release, which will take place in the coming months, once it has analyzed data from all 26 of last week’s screenings. The company does intend to branch out with the types of film is programs, Hazelton said, adding that Demand.Film is open to working with all sorts of filmmakers from pre-production through to completion.


Endearing video of Frank Sanna’s and Emily Pelstring’s Communication Studies students at Concordia University (2014-15) learning to use the Bolex film camera (basically, filming themselves with rigour and abandon in the courtyard at Loyola Campus). Edited and set to music by Grace Duern.

This film brings back very fond memories of the eclectic, smart, talented and inspiring people I had the pleasure of teaching while at COMS from 2012 to 2015.
The COMS Year End Screening – bearing the latest fruit of their creative souls – is coming up soon. Go and check it out!

Thursday, April 20th
De Seve Cinema, 1st Floor, Webster Library, Concordia University, 1400 de Maisonneuve W, Montreal
5:30 pm – 7 pm – Video 3/Animation – Tim Schwab’s class
7 pm to 8 pm – Video 2 – Federico Hidalgo’s class
8 pm to 9 pm – Video 2 – Liz Miller’s class

Traditional Costume

Valentino Mannias and Roberta Lanave in traditional costume of Illorai. Day 5 of 5 of our shoot this summer in Sardinia on Go Ahead Turn.

Special thanks to Denise Nieddu and Maria Rosa Betti for their very generous support of this project!

Special thanks to Antonietta Lai and Demy Paletta for making it happen!


Angel in Pink

What you see on the screen is always just the tiny tip of an enormous planning iceberg. I still find it amazing, how much work actually goes into getting a few simple shots “in the can.” Alas, its the details that matter and there are plenty of them, even if its a “simple” independent shoot like ours. My mom’s cousin, Maria (or as everyone affectionately called her Zia Mari) was our home base and guardian angel in Illorai – feeding and lodging us, telling us stories; with humour and love, she was a very big and invaluable chunk of the making-of iceberg. Grazie Zia Mari!
















In The Beginning

Back in 2011 when this project began, I was lucky enough to trip around with my dad (and some new friends!) while they were all there, back in the old country, on a government sponsored trip. If you’re in this picture or if you know someone who is, please get in touch!