Netflix partners with Indigenous cultural groups to develop talent in Canada

TORONTO — Netflix has announced new partnerships with three Indigenous cultural organizations in Canada to help foster and develop screen talent.

The partnerships with imagineNATIVE, the Indigenous Screen Office, and Wapikoni Mobile were revealed Tuesday night at the Banff World Media Festival.

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The initiative is part of a $25-million commitment Netflix made in September 2017 to invest in market development activities aimed at supporting the next generation of Canadian creators over five years.

These new agreements bring to 14 the total number of partnerships that have been inked as part of that commitment, which focuses on underserved communities, including Indigenous, women and francophone creators.

In a phone interview, Netflix's public policy director for Canada, Stephane Cardin, wouldn't reveal the financial details of the agreements. He said the company works with each partner to ensure the amount of funding they receive is sufficient for them to accomplish their objectives.

In a statement, imagineNATIVE executive director Jason Ryle said the partnership with Netflix "marks one of the largest sponsorships in imagineNATIVE's history."

Cardin said while Netflix would want to hear about any projects that might come out of the partnerships, the company doesn't have anything built into the contracts concerning so-called "first-look" or "right of first refusal" deals that would give the company an exclusive on productions.

The partnerships with the Indigenous organizations complement each other and will support Indigenous creators across Canada, he said.

"For us it really is a testament to two things: One, that we have a long-term view and commitment to Canada and recognizing the strength of its creative community. We want to help foster some emerging talent," Cardin said.

"And the second is really the fact that we believe that not just our company and our workforce, but also our service and our content are better and stronger when they reflect the diversity of our membership, and I think that is reflected in all the partnerships that we've signed."

The agreement with imagineNATIVE — an organization that has its own institute and holds an annual film festival in Toronto — will involve six distinct activities aimed at Indigenous screenwriters, directors and producers.

Those activities will include Indigenous producers' and directors' labs.

The agreement with the Indigenous Screen Office will provide "second-phase support" for Indigenous projects, including key creative apprenticeships and cultural mentorships for directors, producers, screenwriters and showrunners.

Under the deal with Montreal-based Wapikoni Mobile — an organization that travels to Indigenous communities across Canada to offer filmmaking tools for youth — mentoring and coaching will also be provided.

Cardin said talent wishing to partake in any of the initiatives under the partnerships should inquire through the respective organizations.

"Our role in that is to facilitate and to make sure that things are as complementary as possible but our partners are very autonomous and they're the ones who run the show."

On Sunday, Netflix announced a partnership with the Alliance of Francophone Producers of Canada as part of the same funding commitment.

That partnership also involves Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund, and includes the launch of a professional development program for francophone producers and creators outside of Quebec.

Other organizations Netflix has partnered with since 2017 under the $25-million market development fund include RIDM (the Montreal International Documentary Festival), Inside Out, Quebec Cinema, and the Canadian Film Centre.

The market development fund is an arrangement specific to Canada and is on top of the commitment Netflix made in 2017 to invest $500 million in Canadian productions over five years, a number it recently said it will exceed.

"For us, it reflects the fact that in our culture at Netflix, diversity and inclusion are key to our success," Cardin said.

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