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Canadian Cooperation Project (1948–1958)

An initiative of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Canadian Cooperation Project was approved by the Canadian government in 1948. It was designed to ensure that the government did not block the flow of film-rental revenues (estimated to be worth about $17 million annually at the time) to the American studios, nor stimulate feature film production in Canada. In return, the MPAA agreed that Hollywood producers would film some of their features on location in Canada, that favourable references to Canada would be inserted in Hollywood scripts in order to promote tourism and that the theatrical distribution of NFB short films in the United States would be encouraged. As then NFB Commissioner, Ross McLean, had doubts about the viability of the project, Archibald Newman was appointed to represent the Minister of Trade and Commerce (C.D. Howe) as liaison to the Canadian Cooperation Project. Newman’s job was to help the Canadian Cooperation Project move smoothly and to promote the (mostly intangible) results.

In fact, the Canadian Cooperation Project provided few practical benefits to Canada. It resulted in some Hollywood shorts on Canada as a tourist playground and several (usually irrelevant) mentions of Canada in other films – such as, a criminal being caught on “his way to Canada,” rather than “in Detroit.” A few features were shot in Canada (such as Canadian Pacific and Saskatchewan) that would probably have been shot here anyway. Distribution of NFB films in the USA did not increase. The project was hypocritically sold to the public as a boost for film production in Canada, when in fact its impact was precisely the opposite. It was a blatant – and thoroughly successful – attempt to prevent the growth of the Canadian film industry and ensure that the Canadian market remained completely subservient to American interests. The project was quietly terminated in 1958; the facts regarding its origins and the negotiations involved only came to light in the late seventies.

By: Peter Morris