Posts tagged artist
Starting-up in Canadian Art & Film

Below is a transcript of a conversation I've had with Mr. Levitan, a Toronto-based media-lawyer, film and television producer, on the topic of the peculiarities of the Canadian film industry.

A conversation with Steven Levitan, founder of Protocol Entertainment.

A conversation with Steven Levitan, founder of Protocol Entertainment.

So you are both a lawyer and a television producer. That seems like an unusual path to tread, can you please tell me about the relationship between media law and film production here in Canada?

It isn’t unusual at all, once you understand the nature of the Canadian film industry. See, no other developed nation in the world, that I can think of, spends as much tax-dollars on cultural production, on a per-capita basis, than Canada. And we have so little to show for it.

Of course, one could point out to the roaring success of the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) and the record-breaking sales, year after year, at Art Toronto.

Of course. And there is plenty of talent here, no doubt. And if you look at the fact that most Canadian talent has to travel south of the border in order to gain notoriety and reach, you’ll start to see what I’m talking about.

How so?

Well, any creative project requires, first and foremost, start-up funding. And every creative project is, in many ways, a gamble.  

As Canadians, we share a border with the single largest machine of cultural imperialism in the world. And this, of course, makes the Canadian government quite uneasy, to the point that we pour untold amounts of money into creating and sustaining cultural industries of our own.

This sounds like good news.... ?

Well it is for Quebec, where these subsidies have given rise to a distinctly unique flavor of french-Quebecois culture in art and film.

The same does not hold true for English Canada, where we seem, by and large, more than happy to consume American entertainment. We ultimately do not see the same cultural threat as the Quebecois.

So English Canadian productions have to compete with American ones?

Basically, when you take cultural identity out of the equation, cultural works become popular because they are good. There is no formula for success. Something is good if it is good.

Now, in the funding scheme that we spoke about, the government is basically the main patron for the arts. Much like the Medici family in Venice during the Renaissance.

The problem with having a governmental body acting as a private patron, however, is the distribution of limited resources among many applicants. Issues of equality and fairness come into play. Because funding is awarded by government officials and government employees, objective guidelines have to be put in place to determine who gets funding and who does not. And objectivity in the arts is poison.

Objectivity in art is poison. May I quote you on that?

Please do. Because funding for the arts is awarded by people ultimately not involved in the arts, and because the criteria have to be objective. The official stance of the Canadian government is to fund projects that uphold Canadian values.

And in English Canada, these distinct cultural values are...

Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps expect a few more hockey movies. 

Thank you very much for this conversation.

Based in Toronto, Steve Levitan is a Canadian Media & Entertainment Lawyer and the President of Protocol Entertainment.  has produced 4 feature films, over 675 episodes of TV drama, and 5 TV movies which have enjoyed widespread success all over the world.

Artist Profile with Zarah Nguyen

I sit down with animation artist Zarah Nguyen shortly after the main-exhibition event of the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF).

... a celebration of comics and graphic novels and their creators, which culminates in a two-day exhibition and vendor fair featuring hundreds of comics creators from around the world.
Vietnam born, Oakville Artist Zarah Nguyen. Black and white artist profile portrait.

Vietnam born, Oakville Artist Zarah Nguyen. Black and white artist profile portrait.

Born in Vietnam, currently in the final year of animation at Sheridan Collage and bound for Los Angeles to intern with animation studio Six Points Harness, we discuss Zarah's impressions of Toronto, the themes of her work, and her thoughts on year's main TCAF event.



For those who might not be familiar, can you please tell me a bit about TCAF

TCAF is a place where independent coming book artists and illustrators gather to present their work, sell original art and to network.

It is a place particularly for young and emerging artists to develop an audience while expanding their own voice, to present journeys, explorations and themes which might not be spoken about elsewhere.

Not Safe for Work, in other words....

Definitely Not Safe For Work

Did you see anything that stood out to you in particular this year?

Absolutely. One graphic novel I ended picking up during the show is Canopy, by Karine Bernadou.

It’s an unconventional work dealing with tales of cruelty and growth, and the way the two are intertwined. A person growing up, who sees the people around her die and she herself betrayed in turn, all happening for no apparent reason.
Of course.

In your work so far, and in previous mentions, the theme of gender fluidity comes up more than once. Surely that must be relevant to a society which seems to increasingly acknowledge by name various gender-related identities.

It’s more nuanced than that, and I prefer to focus on gender fluidity rather than gender identity.

Gender fluidity, I conceive as a state of mind and body, a state of social and personal preference of body consciousness, given by anything at any time. It is an individual’s attitude towards the environment, those within it and themselves.

In that sense, labels or distinct identities become flags with which we may adorn ourselves...

But your work seeks to address something more profound than that?

Who is your work relevant to, or who do you hope to reach?

Millennials, naturally, is a common niche for me and for those attending TCAF. But really, I hope my work can reach out to anyone who can relate to experiences or some form or uncertainty or doubts.

Doubts with regards to what?

Their own identity. Their own society and those around them, versus their own unfiltered selves.

Tell me about Darling Martyr.

Darling talks about NSFW things, those gritty things that people tend to forget about; or feel embarrassed about that they hide them underneath a social persona.

When riding a wave of adrenaline it is easy to forget the moments of past experience, moments of doubts and of vulnerability which make us fully human.

A successful or initiated person gains a label, or many, and all the strings and expectations that come with that. I seek to show more than that, to reconnect or to show for the first time, the full range of human experience.

Darling Martyr is a first person account of "life as a foul minded squishy."
Fans, and those interested, can find new installments of the Darling Martyr series on Instagram, Facebook and tumblr

Until next time