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Great Writing in Canadian TV

Hi all, I know it’s been a long time since I’ve posted but I came across this little nugget from a Canadian Film and TV industry writer and it just blew my head clean off with it’s insight and depth.

Jim Henshaw is the writer’s name, and that handle is damn near butch enough to be a great cowboy name. His post tackles a lot of pertinent issues in our industry and after I circulated it around my closest industry pals it generated a lot of discussion. Enjoy and please feel free to spark a discussion here on C.A.R.

Thanks! ~Mark


  1. Yan Bardock Yan Bardock July 20, 2010

    Thanks for pointing us to Jim Henshaw’s blog. I liked that article very much, and I’ll be sure to follow his blog in the future.

    I just want to draw attention to one thing he says:

    “Early in my writing career, I worked on an American pilot that went horrendously over budget. Bean counters from the studio arrived intent on firing the producer, line producer and production manager for so badly exceeding what the studio felt the show should cost. But the Executive Producer countered with a simple argument. ‘Maybe the studio’s wrong. Maybe this is what the show really costs.'”

    This remark by Mr. Henshaw is very similar to something I was saying last week, about how artists can’t let themselves be pushed around by the money people. The contexts were different, but the underlying message is the same. Here, basically, a writer is telling these people, “You do your job, and I’ll do mine.” Counting the beans and doing the creative work are two different realms. As such, an artist is within his/her rights to follow whatever path he/she knows is appropriate for the work at hand, and then let the dollars and cents figure themselves out later.

    Mr. Henshaw goes on to say that we, as Canadian artists, are letting ourselves get pushed around way too easily. And I wholeheartedly agree with that. Certainly, some of the posts I’ve seen here lead me to think that many of us are willing to work for peanuts just to be a part of something we enjoy. While I’m happy that some people are making money doing what they love, I’m led to conclude that, as a whole, Canadian artists are just being trampled on.

    If we were to look at music, for example, and consider how much world-class talent comes out of Canada, we would see how important it is to have some self-respect. Are we an “arts colony on the Planet of the Apes,” as Mr. Henshaw puts it, or are we a strong, vibrant community of talented artists, who have a strong enough voice to step up and make our own rules?

    I’m not just stoking the flames here, it’s a serious question. Hand in hand with that question goes another one: is the population in Canada deep enough and broad enough to support such a community?

    In Mr. Kenshaw’s article, he mentions how other countries have artists who are “feared,” because their voices are so strong. But those countries also have a stronger identity within the public sphere. Artists need an audience, after all. Canadian artists, being sweet and polite as we are, might be tempted to blame ourselves for our failings, but it takes two to tango, so to speak. If we’re failing to build momentum and strength as a community, it is at least partially due to a lazy, inattentive, indifferent population. A lot of Canadians are just plain ignorant. I say that with respect but also with a sense of exasperation. In some ways, Canadians are wonderful… in many other ways, we are just plain generic. Any artist trying to make a living here has to come to terms with that reality. Either we have to find a way to communicate the importance of art (and self-reflection in general) to the masses, or we have to learn to sidestep the ignorance and create a special niche in which we can flourish without mainstream support.

    Either way, I think we should take steps toward building a community. Reading in between the lines of Mr. Henshaw’s article, all of the bureaucracies in Canada right now got to where they are today because they organized and became so entrenched that they were able to start making the rules. There’s nothing saying the artists themselves can’t do the same thing. If there has to be red tape, let’s at least make sure we’re spooling some of it out too!

  2. Mark C. Mark C. Post author | July 20, 2010

    I hear what you’re saying Yan, and you’re not wrong. We seem to have no ability to add a bit of grit or sandpaper to the process and in turn we end up being completely pliable and at the whim of our bureaucratic overlords (something I bet the producers above us would attest to as well).

    The message I got from reading between the lines in this article was that in order to build a stronger industry identity we are going to need to find ways around the bureaucratic entities that dominate the industry.

    I truly believe in this ideal, but it is a very prohibitive path to take. Nothing within our system is very supportive of independent production and every avenue we could take to get our stories out there is not exactly monetized in a way that could financially support an independent initiative. The frustrating thing about that is that if you are successful in creating an independent brand it is only a matter of time before you get an opportunity to ‘sell out’ back into the very system you were avoiding in the first place. Very few of us would stick to principle and turn down a sweet offer from ‘the man’ that could take our property to the next level, inevitably driving the product back into the broken and mediocre bureaucracy that exists. As the creator/driver you would make out okay, but everyone else would still be grist for the mill.

  3. Jim Henshaw Jim Henshaw July 21, 2010

    hey Mark,
    Thanks for the link and the kind words. It’s a pleasure to have so much input and commentary from the animation wing of the business.

    Just tell your readers not to call me “Mr.” it’ll go to my head.


  4. Barx Barx July 22, 2010

    ..well said Mark. It’s a catch22 that most people in animation have faced at one time or another.

  5. Ron Doucet Ron Doucet July 22, 2010

    Mark, the ease in which you deliver your metaphors and euphemisms always astound me, awesome job.

  6. Yan Bardock Yan Bardock July 23, 2010

    “Very few of us would stick to principle and turn down a sweet offer from ‘the man’ that could take our property to the next level, inevitably driving the product back into the broken and mediocre bureaucracy that exists.”

    … Then I guess we’re getting exactly the system we deserve.

  7. Mark C. Mark C. Post author | July 23, 2010

    Hey Yan,

    As depressing as it sounds I believe we are both the victims and supporters of the system we deserve.

    However, if your goal is to create art and tell stories, then you will likely not need anyone’s ‘system’ of feudal control. The INTERNET has become the great emancipator (right after Darwin and Lincoln) for those artists who have a compulsion to create independent pieces of film art.

    That particular point is not depressing at all. In fact it has never been easier to create, produce, realize, and distribute your message. The animation artists and film makers that came before us would consider us pretty privileged seeing as how they themselves struggled under ‘the system’ (arguably a more unfair and draconian one than we have) with very few options to vent their creative spleen. The work was much more laborious, and you had few outlets to showcase your art.

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