Chair and Vice-Chair's Message

Paul Hoffert

Chair
2015 was an exciting year with continuing developments in the production, distribution, and consumption of programming on many platforms. The Bell Fund assisted Canada’s production industry with funding for 48 English and 15 French independent production companies whose programs were carried on 25 English and 15 French broadcast channels. We are proud to support a diverse array of producers and broadcasters and always seek opportunities to create new partnerships.

The digital age offers an exciting, transformative time in history. We have the opportunity to embrace an era of disruptive technology, to focus on innovation that will shape exciting new interactive experiences, and to embrace new opportunities that will define our future.

During this period of change, the Bell Fund remains committed to delivering excellence through our strategic partnerships with Canada’s innovators in digital media and television cross-platform content. We are dedicated to the development and production of excellent content by providing funding to the best and brightest in the industry, encouraging risk-taking and excellence, and driving the nation’s creative economy.

We were heartened to see so many new projects on our slate in 2015. The past year offered investment in 168 new projects, totalling $16,383,579 in projects from Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Alberta. These new projects join the more than 1,700 other Bell Fund projects that have been supported by a total of $167M since the Fund’s inception in 1997.

We are strengthening Canada’s screen industries through our partnerships. It’s increasingly important for the Bell Fund to provide grants for research and knowledge sharing. Last year, we supported 30 organizations to give voice to new forms of storytelling, and share insights on emerging technologies, audience engagement and the ever-changing business model.

We support events at festivals and conferences. We also look beyond our borders to celebrate Canadian talent by providing financial support for Canadian activities at international events.

Bell Fund is driven by quality, innovation and excellence. We continue to carve out promising paths for emerging talent, business, and technologies. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our support of virtual reality (VR), 360 video and augmented reality (AR) where we proudly approved 10 projects in 2015. We are well positioned to cultivate this exciting new frontier. The possibilities are endless. VR has the potential to enhance our understanding of our world by recreating experiences like visiting the Bornean jungle and its indigenous people, taking centre stage in a whodunit murder-mystery, or even going hands-on with DIY renovations. 2016 is shaping up to be the year of VR

We look forward to hearing the results of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) review of its Let’s Talk TV proceeding that called for a review of all Certified Independent Production Funds with the ultimate goal of seeking greater flexibility in programming funding. The Bell Fund was pleased to tell its story to the CRTC. We were humbled by the thoughtful, positive and candid feedback from our many partners. Canada-wide associations, guilds, broadcasters and independent producers all weighed in and their resounding response will help to create a more robust sector and help us to create the best possible content for Canadians and the world.

Bell Fund activities are made possible by annual contributions from Bell TV (including Bell Aliant and Câblevision du Nord de Québec) and from the BCE/CTV Benefits.

Together, we can make continual improvements to the state of the industry and support a thriving digital media and television production ecosystem.
Paul Hoffert
Chair

Lori Rosenberg

Vice-Chair
As we reflect on the successes of the past year, I am struck by the incredible pace of change in the Canadian media landscape, and also the ways in which the industry remains nimble, evolving and relevant.

The past year showed us that as we encourage the creation of digital content, we must also bring our operations in step with the digital age. The Bell Fund’s goal of providing uncomplicated and nimble services was designed to respond to the industry’s needs. That’s why in early 2015, we were incredibly pleased to launch our new online portal that more efficiently and effectively processes funding applications. Producers have received this change with great enthusiasm, too. This new cost-effective system allows for quick and easy application uploads, improving the process with virtual management, agility and speed of communication. We’re also able to offer timely responses while still delivering on our promise of thorough evaluation. By moving online, we have eliminated the need for a paper-based system, streamlining the process for our stakeholders and ultimately, making sure that more independent producers can access the Bell Fund. We’re proud that the Bell Fund continues to deliver excellent service while staying within the regulated 5 per cent administration cap.

We believe in setting our partners up for success. And, we believe in finding practical solutions to industry challenges using interactive digital tools. That’s why we launched the TV Development Online Program, created in 2012 to support the production of linear pilot content for online testing. We knew that development was time-consuming, costly, high-risk, and unfortunately, a closed system with limited access to the audience. We could also see that there was a low success rate for converting creative concepts to TV productions. In a few short years since launching the program, producers and broadcasters are enhancing their digital tool kit using social media platforms, online video platforms and most importantly, analytics to engage audiences. Combined with new production models including a rapid prototyping approach, broadcasters and producers are now developing relationships with their audiences, creating broad fan bases who will keenly test content and linear broadcast concepts. In 2015, this resulted in the commissioning of tv series including Tornado Hunters for CMT, Snapshots for CBC , PaparaGilles for ARTV (now in its second season) and Lourd in Phase II of development at VRAK. Looking ahead, we’re making some changes to our application and funding policies to promote efficiency and reduced administration, as well as to allow for funding tailored to the individual project. In 2016, we will merge the production and low-budget programs so that we can welcome a broader cross-section of visions and projects, from the modest-budget to the blockbuster. We encourage emerging talent to come forward to be discovered. And we know from more than 1,700 projects to date, excellence can come with any size budget. We will be removing all budget caps and will continue to contribute up to 75% of the cost of the digital media component. In addition all projects will be eligible to receive the Bell Fund matching bonus for any Canadian Broadcaster cash contribution to a maximum of $100,000. We know that change is the new normal. The Bell Fund continues to strive to be forward-thinking, nimble and responsive to the needs of our partners in order to stay at the leading edge.

Canada has much to offer. The Bell Fund wants to tap into our great hotbed of dynamic and creative content producers, and we look forward to providing audiences with the best possible entertainment experience.
Lori Rosenberg
Vice-Chair, Board of Directors