Claude Joli-Coeur. Photo: Stephan Ballard for the NFB.
STATEMENT FROM CLAUDE JOLI-COEUR, COMMISSIONER OF THE NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA (NFB)
November 23, 2022
This week, I’ve come to the end of my term as Commissioner of the NFB, an organization that may be small but no less extraordinary for that.
Over the last eight years, we’ve accomplished a great many things.
There have been highs and lows, obstacles and successes, and, above all, the drive to go farther, to provide opportunities to hear the voices of creators from all generations and all backgrounds telling stories—our stories—so that, at the end of the day, our society becomes more open to change and moves towards values that are more just, more equitable and more inclusive.
With the support of our expert staff and the talents of hundreds of artists and craftspeople, we have produced and distributed nearly 900 film and digital projects, which have won more than 1,200 awards in Canada and internationally. I salute the filmmakers and all the craftspeople who, over these years, have created influential and vital works so important to our changing and uncertain world.
NEW HEAD OFFICE: A CREATIVE HUB
Another notable fact: our move to downtown Montreal.
In 2019, after more than 60 years on Côte-de-Liesse Road, we left our former premises and moved to the heart of the cultural district in Quebec’s largest city. Our new headquarters also houses the technological facilities for our productions and our distribution platforms, while welcoming and bringing together teams from across the country, forming a unique creative hub. With the opening of the NFB Public Space, we are also giving the public a new window onto our works.
BUT THE NFB’S INFLUENCE EXTENDS FAR BEYOND ITS MANDATE OF PRODUCTION, DISTRIBUTION, AND CONSERVATION: IT ALSO ENSURES LEADERSHIP IN MANY SECTORS
In 2016, I made a historic commitment to gender parity. Today, the NFB continues to meet its objectives in terms of the number of works directed by women (at least 50%) as well as the percentage of production budgets devoted to projects led by female creators (at least 50%). Furthermore, we have attained or surpassed our targets for representation of women as screenwriters, editors and original music composers, and have seen significant improvement in the percentage of female directors of photography.
This commitment has led the way for many other actions within the industry, and to new commitments from the NFB—notably with respect to Indigenous communities and under-represented groups. This work continues, of course.
RENEWED RELATIONSHIPS WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
In June 2017, I announced a three-year action plan aiming to redefine the NFB’s relationships with Indigenous people.
At the heart of our reflection was the recognition that, while many of our productions have promoted increased understanding between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, others have contributed to shaping racist and colonial perceptions.
Inspired by the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the NFB’s Indigenous Advisory Group, the plan makes 33 commitments, including dedicating at least 15% of overall production budgets to projects by Indigenous artists; this goal was reached in the second year of the plan’s implementation. The action plan also includes a broader scope, including areas such as stock shots, filming protocols and education. This is an evolving plan that will continue to guide us in the transformation of our organizational culture.
SUPPORT FOR OFFICIAL-LANGUAGE MINORITY COMMUNITIES
At the same time, we are continuing to support minority Francophone communities throughout Canada, particularly through the activities of our studio devoted to Canada’s Francophone communities, as a well as through partnerships established in 2018 with the Government of Canada, the Fédération culturelle canadienne-française and other organizations. In 2015, we signed a historic agreement—renewed in 2019—with the Quebec English-language Production Council (QEPC) and the English-Language Arts Network (ELAN) to strengthen English-language culture in Quebec and its audiovisual sector. No other public institution has taken such an initiative.
THE ROLE OF CREATORS WITHIN THE NFB
Last September, I announced a major restructuring, which prioritizes the relationship between the artistic vision of creators and our commitment to our audiences. We wanted the creative teams to work more closely with the marketing and distribution teams. This was the next logical step coming out of the reflections and discussions we undertook with creator communities during my tour in early 2020, which strongly influenced our programming approach and defining the NFB Experience, as presented in our 2020–2023 Strategic Plan.
In addition to establishing a national programming forum (whose second edition takes place in the next few days, with the participation of creators), the Programming, Creation, Distribution and Marketing Division has adopted concrete measures to ensure that artists feel welcomed at the heart of the NFB, from idea to screen.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE AUDIENCE?
Over the course of my term, total screenings increased from 25.6 million in 2011–2012 to nearly 73 million in 2020–2021, while the NFB greatly developed its online presence. The collection of films available online has continued to grow richer; it currently consists of 5,740 titles in English, French and a growing number of Indigenous languages.
NEXT STEP: CONTINUING TO PURSUE OUR 23 COMMITMENTS IN THE AREAS OF EQUITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION, AND SETTING SPECIFIC TARGETS FOR RACIALIZED GROUPS IN 2023
On the eve of passing the torch to the next Commissioner, I would like to restate our commitment to true leadership in racial equity.
Since the launch of our 2020–2023 Strategic Plan and the adoption in 2021 of our equity, diversity and inclusion plan, with its 23 commitments, significant and lasting changes have been made. Production teams, as well as other sectors at the NFB, are fully committed to the plan.
Starting next fiscal year, the NFB will implement a respectful and confidential data-collection mechanism, accompanied by specific targets and goals with respect to racial equity.
This commitment goes beyond managers and individuals; it is rooted at the heart of the NFB, and is the subject of discussion among many organizations concerned with issues of racial equity.
During an era in which Canada, like all democracies, faces divisions and polarization, I firmly believe the NFB will continue to be a driver of change. I would like to tip my hat to all of our skilled and dedicated staff, without whom none of this would be possible.
In addition to the support of our expert staff, it is through the works of creators and through our leadership that we will continue to tell stories that promote mutual understanding, bring people together and promote dialogue.
Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson
National Film Board of Canada
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French version here | Version française ici.