Canada’s Film Industry: A New Name?

Hollywood North, that’s what we’re known as. At least that’s what we’ve been known as for years. And that’s what it was known as for a few years of its first run and what it was always known as during its long period of inactivity. But lately, people have said it’s time for a name change. As someone who only bought this website 8 years ago, I occasionally wonder whether or not I should change the name, among other ideas. But those ideas probably won’t be implanted until 2 years later. Or less then 2 years later. Continuing on, Hollywood North is clearly an overused and dated and obsolete name for the Canadian film industry according to a survey from Toronto Film School. On this year’s National Canadian Film Day, the survey was taken by a numerous amount of students, faculty and alumni who all gave their two cents on the name and how things should be done in the industry. But why the need for a name change is the big question. The answer is because of the future of film in Canada. It used to be one had to drive to LA or New York to start any work in film. I remember years ago somebody telling me I should’ve started out in one of those. Things are different, we have lots of productions coming to Canada now. We have productions in Toronto, Vancouver, and some other places. With the changes in the industry, it’s only fitting the name gets a change as only 17% so far think Hollywood North is perfect. To those 17%, thank you. Everyone else had other ideas though and there have been some new suggestions to keep in mind. 

Now that Canadian producers and Canadian productions are taking the country and even the world by storm, what does that mean for the industry besides change? A lot more, a way lot more. I spoked to Andrew Barnsley, the president of TFS. He gave me an insightful view on the survey results and what the future holds, maybe even the next name that will be agreed on.


HNMAG: With Hollywood North becoming a dated name, what do you feel that will mean for Canada’s film industry in general?

Andrew Barnsley: I think kind of the point of that comment is we’ve kind of outgrown that moniker and the reasoning being is our industry has really kind of come into its own and we’re no longer an industry in its infancy. We’re no longer necessarily beholden to or measured by another industry outside of our country. We’ve really earned the right to celebrate who we are and kind of identify and be recognized as our own industry. It’s sort of a coming-of-age point that we’re here, we’re legitimate, we’re our own thing. That’s really the point of wondering if we should change the moniker of Hollywood North.


HNMAG: I also have to wonder what this will mean for any businesses that use Hollywood North in the name, such as my own.

Andrew Barnsley: Yeah, no kidding. That’s interesting.


HNMAG: And now that we’re expanding, does this mean we’ll have less or more projects from the United States coming or will things be the same?

Andrew Barnsley: That’s a good question. I almost argue that there is a rebalance coming with all that’s happening and I think service production that shows the films ordered out of the US and brought here. That will obviously always remain a big part of our industry, but what we’re seeing too is that Canadian shows/films/talent are really proving to the world that we’re world class. Not just talent, our facilities, crews, this is an industry that has become recognized not only as a destination for high quality through labour facilities but also for world-class talents as well. Being defined by just being sort of a branch plant of Hollywood isn’t necessarily reflective of who and what we are today. We’re continuing to grow and move forward.


HNMAG: Do you feel we will get a lot more notice because of that?

Andrew Barnsley: I think one of the missions of National Canadian Film Day is to shine a light on what Canadians do and what productions come out of Canada. I actually feel there tends to be a lack of awareness of what our achievements are and what our successes are and the momentum we’ve built as an industry. The level of pride isn’t necessarily there and I think that’s a function of just awareness. On top of that, these are booming industries. Speaking as someone who is president of a film school, we feel the industry demand all the time for trained labour and to be feeding the industry with qualified crew. This is an industry with longevity to stay.


HNMAG: According to the survey, some people think the name is fine the way it should be. Do you agree or disagree with them?

Andrew Barnsley: How I feel about that, is it needs a bit of a refresh. When I was going to film school, over 20 years ago that was a label that was thrown around back then you think about how far this industry has come. In terms of infrastructure and financial support, and labour and onscreen/offscreen talent, it just feels that when you’re tying an industry’s identity to something that isn’t your own, it just feels outdated and it’s time for a refresh.


Andrew definitely believes we should look at a better and newer name. He made some really valid points about Canada’s film industry. But I had to ask a little more about TFS and the survey before we could go into the next name for the industry. So that’s what I did. 


HNMAG: With the survey, why do you think people feel the term Hollywood North is a dated term?

Andrew Barnsley: I think for the same reasons, by defining it as something else, part of it is marginalizing it and it’s saying your whole identity is wrapped up in somebody else’s identity. I believe the major production hubs like Toronto, Vancouver, Manitoba, Calgary, and more-so Northern Ontario. These are just industries that are worthy of their own identity and have earned it. I think other people recognize that, they walk down the street and see the white production trucks and it has a real presence. I think there’s a sense of ownership of that. We don’t necessarily think about it in terms of being an offshoot of Hollywood, this is Canada’s industry.


HNMAG: Toronto Film School has really helped out film students in getting into the industry, especially with all the major studios and productions. How have you found the right resources to help get students on their way?

Andrew Barnsley: I’ve been at TFS in 2 capacities. In 2017, I was starting there as a creative producer and residence, I was brought in during the 3rd season of Schitt’s Creek which I was a producer on. I was in that position for 4 years then asked to come on as the president of TFS The real mission in this role has been to create connectivity between the industry and Toronto Film School. Not only are we making our students set-ready, we are making sure that they’re equipped with a strong professional network. Their experiences have benefited from the connectivity the school has with relationships involving studios, production companies, and the other thing that TFS offers is that none of our faculty are full time. That might sound like it’s not a good thing but all of our instructors are part-time and the reason for that is that we want to be hiring instructors that are professional and actively working, coming from a professional environment during the day to a classroom or studio in the afternoon. It’s really making sure that everything our film school is doing, it’s doing with an eye to building and strengthening community to the film and television industries and the creative industries in Canada.


HNMAG: How has that been working out for students?

Andrew Barnsley: The feedback that I get and the school gets from industry stakeholders is that Toronto film students transition seamlessly from the classroom to professional sets. It really does feel like we’re onto something and the industry is taking notice, and the stakeholders are taking notice of Toronto Film School and what our grads are up to.


HNMAG: In regards to the new name change, there have been a lot of name suggestions. Which would be your favourite?

Andrew Barnsley: It’s a fun thing to think about, my team has been pushing the idea of Maplewood, I don’t know about that. We could take a signal maybe from the raptors with “We the North” and we could really lean into something like “Reel North”, or “Northern Lights” or something like that. For me, when I think about it, I kind of like the idea of “Northern Lights”. I was trying to find a way to connect it to India’s Bollywood and Nigeria’s Nollywood. I don’t think there is an equivalent, I’ve been wracking my brain on that one, so maybe it is Maplewood. 


HNMAG: And with the survey feedback, what changes will be made to improve both TFS and the film industry?

Andrew Barnsley: One thing that is not necessarily changes but more cause for celebration, I think what sets us apart is really the diversity and representation at Toronto Film School. When I first came there as residence, I just loved going into the classrooms and speaking to the students because I would go from a film set that truthfully was pretty homogenous (predominantly white males) and I would go into a TFS classroom and just be so happy to see the voices and backgrounds represented and it really just looked and felt like Toronto and Canada to me. I just think it’s moving in that direction. It’s celebrating who we are and it’s just still pushing in that direction. It’s taking pride in representation both on-screen and off-screen.

So, the industry is looking to improve for the better, but the question is, will the name change? Will it be the same? What will become of a term like Hollywood North? Especially for businesses that have that in the name? Will we still be relevant? I should sure hope so, otherwise my days are numbered. However, the new name is still going to cause a lot of discussion. If I’m completely honest, I don’t think Maplewood is the right type of name, since I already know a business that has the name. But more importantly, TFS is doing its part in helping students be ready for the film work, and with so many major studios and productions in Canada, the industry is looking to get better as it increases. Progress is amazing, and there’s great hope ahead for everyone and everything involved with Canadian film. At least I hope this website still becomes bigger and bigger despite the name change, if one ever happens.

Here’s a few names that are out there. If you had to give our industry a new name, what would you choose? Take a vote, or come up with your own and post in the comments below. 

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