Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Those Gala People and Their Fancy Clothes

You can tell when Steven Harper is speaking to western Conservatives. He loses the sweater, and doesn't even bother to hide his contempt for those arugala munching, champagne quaffing elites who work in the arts and culture industry.

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up - I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people."

Excuse me? Ordinary working people?!? As opposed to all those non-working weirdos like, say, my husband and my sister and a large number of our friends?

I've got news for you, Mr. Harper. The vast majority of people who work in film and television in this country aren't the Sarah Polleys and the Paul Grosses you see on the red carpet at TIFF. They're writers, and carpenters, and computer programmers, and electricians, and seamstresses, and tens of thousands of other ordinary, hard working people performing all the myriad functions behind the scenes that have made Canada one of the major film production centres of the world. Or at least it was before you and your ilk decided that it really wasn't important enough to "ordinary Canadians" to warrant your support. Now, most of those carpenters and prop makers and electricians are out of work.

I won't even get into the constant repetition of the lie that the Conservatives have increased funding for "the arts" (I'm sorry, but Olympic hockey isn't art, and you'd be hard pressed to call it culture). I've dealt with that nonsense before, and Impolitical does so again quite eloquently today. Go read.

Oh, and about those galas. Funny story. My sister does film compositing and digital effects, and was part of the team that made Shawn Ashmore's leg disappear in "The Terry Fox Story". They were nominated for a Gemini for their efforts, so my sister bought a fancy dress, got her hair done, and went down to the awards gala. And they won!

The thing is, in Canada, when you win an award like that as part of a team, you only get one statue for the whole team. If you want one of your own, you have to pay for it. I think it was around $300. And the reception after the awards ceremony? CASH BAR.

Nice. But hey, at least she got to be serenaded by Walter Gretsky as they lined up to get into the room.


  1. Great post Jennifer.

    Harper's so called increases to Canadian Heritage's budget is a shell game. He cuts arts and culture and then shifts money to pet causes like the P3 portrait gallery and human rights museum as well as create bolster Canadian identity and multicultural budgets to create programs targeted to assimilating new Canadians who might otherwise become "radicalized".

    Harper is a control freak and fake. He has set his sights on the film and television industry in particular because they caught him in an outright Rovian lie with his censorship clause in the omnibus tax bill (C-10). His government purposely buried that clause so that it actually made it through the HoC.

  2. . . . a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala . . .

    Harper is angry that he isn't invited to any of these "rich galas". He doesn't attract them and they don't appeal to him.

    I'm still trying trying to find someone successful who came from Leaside, Ontario. Harper maintains the tradition of also-ran worn-out losers from middle-suburbia.

  3. Thanks for posting this. His comment today made me so angry. You have it re galas. And awards and all that... what? Artists just fleet around gleely from one rich gala to another, snacking on free smoked salmon or something, rather than working. Heck, work your butt off evenings and weekends when everyone is off, for a pittance, and then maybe, maybe, you will one day get invited to be feted by the elite, walk up on stage and people clap, and then you go back to working day in and day out behind the scenes so other people can enjoy your production on their evenings and weekends OFF. Sorry, this made me so angry today. I'm a children's illustrator with a BFA, and lived under the poverty level for years. I am so glad when someone can actually get some recognition in the arts. Now if they'd stop putting money into galas for politicians to chair ("His wife Laureen is the honorary chair of the National Arts Centre's gala next month in Ottawa." Canadian Press) and put it into artists paying their studio rent... and their carpenters, electricians...
    Leanne Franson, illustrator

  4. if folks are interested, there's an "Ordinary Canadians DO SUPPORT the Arts, Mr. Harper. You are dead wrong" facebook group here:

    http://www.new.facebook.com/ grou...gid=41692823152


  5. Picture yourself for a moment as a GM worker facing a pending lay-off after 25 years watching the Arts Gala. Or a forestry or construction worker facing a downturn in their industries for at least the next 18 months and they turn on the news and catch the ACTRA spokespeople holding their protest against the cutbacks to the arts and claiming the industry brings in 85 billion a year in Canada. What do you think they see and feel when they hear that? One of the first thoughts is going to be if the industry makes so much why does it need government sponsorship? Harper’s point is the government purse is a finite resource and just as the GM, forester, construction workers or miners have to make drastic changes to their budget so do government sponsored artists.

  6. kateland -

    I understand the headspace because that is precisely what people like Stephen Harper want the attitude to be. Now, my experience is largely with the film and television industry, so my points relate largely to that:

    1) 'Famous' Canadian actors stood up and did that news conference in the hopes that people would recognize them and relate the pleasure of seeing the films and shows they have appeared in over the years to what they were saying. But they are NOT typical of either the wages earned or the jobs involved in arts & culture.

    2) Most film & television workers are union members. Most are trades people and common labourers. Most make less than the average GM worker, and all only work when there are projects shooting, which these days isn't very often. My husband counts himself lucky if he has work six months out of the year.

    3) The government does NOT give money to Gordon Pinsent or Feist or Paul Gross. The government gives tax incentives to production companies who are therefore encouraged to shoot there movie here instead of, say, New York (which has a much better tax set-up right now). And then they hire all the actors and electricians and wardrobe people and carpenters, etc. That's how it works here, and, believe it or not, that's how it works everywhere else, including the U.S.

    There are other types of government programs, to be sure, but they all work on pretty much the same basis as every other government program designed to encourage industry and trade, except they generally result in the hiring of a lot more workers with a small investment than, say, just handing money over to GM or Ford. The fact that the average auto or forestry worker doesn`t understand that merely proves that the Conservative propaganda is working.

    Wake up.