#StorytellingMatters Interview with... Christa Dickenson, Executive Director and CEO of Telefilm Canada

Sunny Side of the Doc 2021 aims at helping bring to light talents and stories which question, engage and impact.Through a series of #StorytellingMatters interviews, discover the vision of our most influential partners in the international documentary ecosystem.

Be together! Please introduce yourself and tell us briefly what your company’s main objective at Sunny Side of the Doc.

Christa Dickenson, Executive Director and CEO of Telefilm Canada. We work to promote, develop and finance the Canadian audiovisual industry of today and tomorrow. Showcasing Canadian creativity to the world is our priority, which is why at Sunny Side of the Doc we are leading the Canadian presence, in collaboration with our partners, and fostering business development, notably through matchmaking sessions that will take place a week before the event.

Be positive! Sunny Side of the Doc supports the international documentary community who remains stubbornly insistent on pursuing facts through a mode of seeing, investigating and creating that no other art form provides. What has been your greatest professional accomplishment over the last 12 months? What lead to this success, despite the pandemic?

We've spent the last year advocating for our entire industry so that creative life can resume as soon as the pandemic is under control. Our work has been about supporting creators and protecting businesses. With movie theatres closed, and confinement and distancing rules making filming difficult, the shock was major. Telefilm's mission has never been so essential. Through emergency assistance programs and special funds to support filming, our industry has regained its vitality. We are very proud to have supported a large number of projects in development this year. The next few years are going to be exciting! 


Be inventive! With the rapid audience shift from television to digital, staying relevant in broadcast media is challenging but necessary for long-term viability and serving audiences no matter where they are. What new [media/commissioning/acquisitions/distribution] strategies are you looking to develop in order to attract international partners as well as provide engaging content in 2021/2022?  

For nearly 50 years, we have managed co-production agreements on behalf of the Canadian government with close to 60 partners from all regions of the world. Our collaborations with more than 24 distributors, 6 streaming services and exhibitors across Canada have enabled Telefilm to increase the discoverability of Canadian films on home viewing platforms and to partner on major promotional campaigns (MADE | NOUS and SEEK MORE) to showcase Canadian content. In addition, "return to cinema" initiatives will be developed in collaboration with exhibitors and festivals. Telefilm also administers programs on behalf of the Canada Media Fund, which allows our institution to have an overview of the Canadian audiovisual industry.    

Be aware! This year’s marketplace event aims at helping bring to light talents and stories which question, engage and impact. To that extent, what will make a good documentary pitch/encounter for your organisation this June? What’s the best way to reach out and start co-creating?

Our mission to promote and showcase the stories of Canadians from all walks of life, especially those from underrepresented communities, is more relevant than ever. At Telefilm, creating a more representative screen industry remains one of our top priorities, and we are increasing our efforts to do so. To hear stories or meet storytellers who bring forward the diversity that surrounds them would be very inspiring.   

Be inclusive! A challenged world calls for a well-informed global citizen. In this collective endeavour, the documentary genre has an important role to play, in all its diversity of stories, forms and points of view. How is your organisation stepping up to the challenge of fulfilling a mandate for a diversity of voices and a more inclusive pipeline of upcoming storytellers across the entire production process ?

As a Partner of Choice, we are committed to fostering an industry that reflects a culture of mutual respect, dignity and inclusion. We recognize that it is more difficult for creators of underrepresented identities to obtain funding, and we are strongly committed to implementing concrete steps to improve their access to financial support. In addition to engaging in an ongoing dialogue with underrepresented communities, we have reviewed our decision-making processes and expanded the scope of our funding programs, including a dedicated stream for creators that identify as Black and People of Colour.    

Be inspired! ​Let’s revive our community spirit! Who would you want to put on the spotlight at Sunny Side of the Doc 2021, for some well-earned recognition? And why?

I want to acknowledge the fantastic work of Sunny Side of the Doc 2021 for its resilience and the creativity with which the festival has found new ways to showcase and celebrate talent in the current environment. While we can't travel, our work can. Our national festivals, as well as our regular international festivals, will have done much to ensure that our creators shine and our industries unite.     

#SSD21  |  Storytelling Matters  |  Sunny side of the Doc 2021



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