Laugh and cry when art and money step into the ring and slug it out in the Canadian film business.
Laugh and cry when art and money step into the ring and slug it out in the Canadian film business. Read more
What is this about?
“The Envelope” is the story of Michael Moretti, a successful Canadian playwright/director, who at 50 years old is still searching for his break in the film business. Michael is in the middle of rehearsals for his new play entitled “Romeo’s Rise” which he has also adapted into a screenplay. Michael has an agreement with a Los Angeles based Indie American Producer to shoot the script low budget, when in comes Michael’s old friend Jake Henry Smith, a successful local film producer who comes to offer Michael a far more attractive deal for the rights to his screenplay. Jake has secured an “envelope” with the Canadian National Film Fund, which is a system of film funding paid for by the public’s tax paying dollars. Michael now has a decision to make: with the American Indie Producer, Michael will have full and total artistic control of the project as screenwriter and director, with Jake, he risks losing that control but for a far greater financial return. Michael must decide what is important in his career at this moment. Does he go with the dynamic risk taking of the American producer, or does he play it safe and make some good money with the Canadian producer?
Okay, Vittorio, we get the idea of the story. But can you explain what the envelope of the title means?
In our Canadian system of film financing an envelope refers to funds for film development and/or production going to established producers just based on the fact that they’ve already produced regardless of whether the film had any box office success or critical acclaim.
Hold on, Vittorio, you know as well as I do that Canadian produced films in English have no box office.
That’s my point. We have no Hollywood, we here in Canada don’t even have a system or a culture of independently financed film production. The whole point of a film funding system paid for by the public trust (your tax dollars), is to nurture talent, young talent, while at the same time helping to promote our Canadian culture. The Italians, the Mexicans, the Australians, the Germans, the French, the Asians, etc. have been doing this for decades. Those countries also don't have Hollywood. They use their public funds to nurture talent in the hopes that the real live people-driven market will discover them.
Vittorio, you’re starting to sound angry.
I’m not. I’m actually eating an apple right now. Look, I feel strongly about this. We already know of the great talent in Hollywood, people who are actually Canadian: James Cameron, Jason Reitman, Paul Haggis, but let’s be truthful, the films that put them on the map, on the international stage, were films that got made in the Hollywood system. We can claim them as Canadians by virtue of being born here, but they are not making Canadian films.
But, Vittorio . . .
Hold on, don’t take my word for it. Read what the great Ivan Reitman had to say about our Canadian Film Funding System. This was the quote that helped to inspire me to write “The Envelope” in the first place.
“The Canadian producer has been trained and encouraged to focus on qualifying for a range of content rules and points set by an ever-changing platoon of politicians and bureaucrats. Unfortunately, this intense focus on technical criteria sometimes means that creating films for the real world is ignored. The audience is forgotten. Navigating the minutiae of this hermetically sealed world of institutionalized filmmaking genetically selects Canadian producers for failure.” - Ivan Reitman
You can read the quote here on ACTRA’s Newsletter dated Spring 2003 on page 10.
Wow! Ivan Reitman said that?
Yes he did. And the only reason why I supplied this quote here was to show you that men far greater than I have criticized the way Canadian films are produced. Read what Louis Di Bianco, a successful writer, actor and teacher with over 40 years in the profession, has to say on the subject.
Champions of Excellence Enrich The World
I’m Louis Di Bianco. I have made my living and built a career as a professional actor, writer, and teacher. I wear other hats as well, but these three are relevant to our conversation.
I’ve read Vittorio Rossi’s “The Envelope.” It speaks to me deeply. You see, I’m an American born artist. I lived in New York City for the first twenty seven years of my life. I’m telling you this because I recognize universal themes in “The Envelope.”
Vittorio writes about the seriously ailing Canadian film business. The sickness may originate in an antiquated Canadian bureaucracy, but, like a dangerous virus, it spreads freely throughout the world.
This is a sickness that threatens the universal creative spirit. It threatens the health of robust culture everywhere. “The Envelope” presents the tragicomic battle between art and bureaucratic commerce. It represents the timeless war between mediocrity and excellence.
Any society where mediocrity triumphs is diminished in stature. The light of hope and growth is dimmed in that society. A society that nurtures its artists and champions excellence is a life affirming society.
The stakes are high in “The Envelope.” It’s a story that will empower all those who see and hear it. This film must be made. (See Mr. Di Bianco's bio below)
Talk to us about the play, Vittorio.
The stage version of “The Envelope” grew out of my 30 years of experience in the profession, as a playwright, director, and actor. I started to see early on that the English language films that were being produced here went essentially unnoticed and unsupported. During that time I was hired a few times by local producers to write screenplays. I went through the system in both funding systems, Federal and Provincial. Though I found the Provincial one far more palatable, they both suffer essentially from a similar mind-set, a mind-set based on deal making and not nurturing talent. The French-Canadians have had far greater recent success in finding exciting new fresh voices such as Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, Wild, C.R.A.Z.Y.), and Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners, Incendies) We can’t say the same on the English side. There are reasons for this. And that’s why I wrote the play.
How did the play do?
Read the reviews for yourself. Here are the links:
Do other people share the same opinions as you do?
Of course. Here is the most recent article from The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper, dated September 4, 2015.
As you can see, I'm not the only one who thinks there is something wrong with the Canadian Film Industry. You can check out more articles. Here are the links:https://canadamn.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/the-national-film-bored-of-canada-why-canadian-movies-are-bad/
This was your landmark 10th production at the Centaur Theatre.
Yes it was, and I am grateful to the entire company.
During the run of the play, I was going to see the show a few times a week so I could note the things I didn’t need for the film version. I also noted where I can open up the story from a visual standpoint. As a result a few more characters were added to the screenplay to enhance the overall effect and impact of the story.
Vittorio Rossi (The Director)
After years of playing the game with the funding system to no avail, I decided to produce and direct my own film, and in 2003 I turned my first one-act play entitled "Little Blood Brother" into a short live action film. The film was screened at the Toronto Italian Film Festival in 2004.
The Envelope - The Movie
The staged version of "The Envelope" did its part in reaching an audience. I believe the story and the ideas behind the screenplay need a wider audience that only a film can reach. The questions that "The Envelope" raises cut to the core of what I believe is a massive problem in how films are produced in Canada. I remember as a student in the 80’s when Australia emerged as a major provider of great films such as "Picnic At Hanging Rock", "Gallipoli", "Mad Max", "The Road Warrior", "Breaker Morant", "Dead Calm", "The Year Of Living Dangerously", etc., I remember being filled with so much hope for my future as a storyteller, our future in becoming a major film producing country. Remember, Australia is half the population of Canada's, and they took the world by storm. Then slowly I started to see that the local films I was acting in had nothing to do with great storytelling, nor did they do anything to enhance our culture as Canadians. Most of those straight-to-video films of the 80’s and 90’s never even identified what the setting of the film was. We were shooting in Montreal or Toronto, but we never identified those cities as the locations. How does that help our culture? On the other hand, the French-Canadians proudly set their films where they actually take place, whether it was Montreal, Quebec City, or Trois-Rivieres. Let’s face it, we have all at some point or another discussed and even argued at how or why we don’t watch filmed entertainment from Canada, and the general public definitely has an opinion on the matter, but what they may not know is why the state of the industry is what it is. And that’s why I believe the need for making this film is urgent and important. If things are to improve, then the system needs a major overhaul and a major re-boot. That will not happen if we keep hiding from what is discussed in the screenplay. In the end, it’s very simple: Let’s have the conversation. Let’s start somewhere. Let’s start with "The Envelope".
The Documentary - The State of Canadian Cinema
This is very exciting to me. I have budgeted for a second camera man to shoot the filmmaking process: from pre-production, to production and including post-production. I don’t only want to show my supporters and backers a film, I also want to show them the hard work that went into making the film. More to the point, the subject matter of the documentary will be “The State of Canadian Cinema”, and backers who have pledged money at the documentary level will be given their chance, their opportunity to voice their opinion on the subject. Again, let’s have this conversation, let’s hear your voice, because it counts.
The Team I Have So Far
In my 25 years as a writer and actor, I have met some very wonderful and talented people in the profession. These are people whose work I admire and respect, and they are committed to working on this film with me.
Mark Camacho (Actor)
Mark Camacho launched his career alongside Vittorio Rossi when the two were still students at Concordia University’s Theatre Department. Appearing in Mr. Rossi’s award winning plays enabled him to land his first agent and consequently jump started his film career.
In the past 25 years Mark has appeared in over 200 feature films and television shows. This year he was awarded the ACTRA Montreal Award for Outstanding Performance as President Richard Nixon in the block buster film, "X-Men: Days of Future Past" which has grossed over $800 million dollars worldwide. He can next be seen in the Robert Zemeckis film: “The Walk” as well as the Roland Emmerich triumph: “Stonewall”, which has been gathering much Oscar buzz.
Other films you would recognize him from are “I’m Not There” starring alongside Cate Blanchette for her Oscar nominated performance as Bob Dylan, “The Score”, “The Heist”, “Punisher: War Zone”, “The Whole Nine Yards”, “Wicker Park”, “Affliction” to name a few.
In the past year Mark has found time to shoot 4 TV series between films, appearing as a series regular and in recurring roles in “Ascension”, for Scify, “19-2” for Bravo, “This Life” for CBC and this November he can be seen in the new series “The Art Of More” for Crackle in which he stars alongside Dennis Quaid.
Directors Mark has worked with include, Brian DePalma, Todd Haynes, David Mamet, Frank Oz, Ron Underwood, Robert Altman, Alan Rudolph, Paul Schrader, Jonathan Lynn, and Bryan Singer.
Howard Rosenstein (Actor)
Howard Rosenstein has recently returned from playing Redpeter in Kafka’s Ape at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this past August 2015 for Infinitheatre, performed with Scapegoat Carnivale as Bar Kapra the Squirrel Hunter, with Centaur in Triplex Nervosa, as well as playing Ben in his Esperance Theatre’s inaugural production of The Dumb Waiter at Mainline this past March. Other productions of note include Unseamly, Cornered, Elizabeth Rex, The Leisure Society, A View from the Bridge, Father Land & Rabbit, Rabbit. He has appeared in over one hundred professional film, television and theatre productions across Canada, the United States, Germany and Scotland, and is looking to tour Kafka’s Ape -given a welcoming invitation- almost anywhere. In his downtime he helps produce and act in the comic-book-based live action web series heroesofthenorth.com. Please visit howardrosenstein.com for more.
Brett Watson (Actor)
A professional actor for the past 20 years, Brett has extensive film, television, theatre and voice credits. He has worked with some of the film industry's most important directors including Ed Zwick (Pawn Sacrifice), Roland Emmerich (White House Down), and Todd Haynes (I'm Not There ). An accomplished stage actor as well, his theatre credits include Ricky Roma in Glengarry Glen Ross, Ned in Elizabeth Rex, and Pentheus in The Bacchae. Brett is a graduate of the Ryerson Theatre School.
Guido Cocomello (Actor)
Born and raised in Montreal, Guido Cocomello is a professional stand-up comedian and actor who performs regularly across the country. In 2013, he presented his Italian one-man show "Crisi d'Identita" in Rome and has been featured at the 2014 ZooFest Festival with his show “My First Time,” the 2014 Boston Comedy Festival and XM Radio Canada's Next Top Comic competition. In 2015, he was invited to the Just For Laughs Festival, Cracking Up the Capital Comedy Festival in Ottawa and he also returned to ZooFest with his own show “Playdate: Dads of Comedy”.
As an actor, Guido trained with the late Mike Nichols in his Master Class at The New Actors Workshop in New York City. Theatre credits at the Centaur Theatre include: Vittorio Rossi's Carmela's Table, The Carpenter, Paradise by the River and The Envelope; Steve Gallucio's In Piazza San Domenico and The Saint Leonard Chronicles. He was also in last summer's hit Wife Begins at 40 at the Hudson Village Theatre. Onscreen, some of his credits include Being Human for Syfy, the Lifetime television movie False Pretenses and the Discovery Channel docudrama Fatal Vows.
Patrizia Pino (Producer)
Simon Webb (Film Editor)
Simon Webb is an award-winning film editor. His most recent feature film work includes Serena for director Susanne Bier (starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper), and the romantic comedy Hit By Lightning for writer/director Ricky Blitt (starring Jon Cryer, Will Sasso, and Stephanie Szostak). His recent television work includes the hit series Being Human for Syfy, Ascension for Syfy, and Missing for ABC (starring Ashley Judd and Sean Bean). Currently, Simon is editing The Art of More for Sony, a series starring Dennis Quaid and Kate Bosworth. Simon is also very fond of potatoes!”
Vladimir Philogene (Cinematographer)
I recently met Vladimir and was immediately sold on his talent. He graduated in Cinema and Media in 2008 at O’Sillivan College. He started his own production company and developed his skills as a cinematographer in short films, commercials, and documentaries. He has a very sharp eye and his technical knowledge is impressive. We have already started to talk about my approach to the filmmaking, and how we are going to adapt the filming based on the reality of the budget. If we get more than we asked for, then we could do more with the shots. Either way, Vladimir and I are already at work concerning the visuals of the film.
Gabor Vadnay (Sound Recordist)
Gabor is an award winning Production Sound Mixer with 32 years of recording experience including: 48 feature films, 4 mini-series, 22 TV series, and more than 50 TV programs that include documentary films, videos and 200 commercials. Gabor did the sound recording on my short Little Blood Brother and I am thrilled to have him back on The Envelope.
Quentin Delcourt (1st Assistant Director)
Born in France, Quentin Delcourt arrived in Montreal in 2010 to study cinema at Universite de Montreal. Right after graduating, he started producing and directing his own movies and music videos. Nowadays, this driven and passionate artist works in the cinema and music industries as a director and artistic director. He is currently preparing his first personal feature film while participating in other projects in order to develop strong links with his peers. Thrilled by The Envelope screenplay, Quentin Delcourt is proud and happy to be part of Vittorio Rossi's first feature film production this year as the Director's First Assistant.
Louis Di Bianco (Consigliere)
I’ve known Louis Di Bianco for more than 30 years. Originally from The Bronx, Louis lives in Toronto. As an actor, he has more than 40 years of experience performing in films, TV movies and series, and on international stages.
He has written three plays and one screenplay and has taught acting, directing, and script analysis in two major Canadian universities, including Concordia. I was a student who enrolled in Concordia’s acting program when I was inspired by a student production of Lanford Wilson’s The Hot’l Baltimore that Louis directed. He also taught acting-for-camera to professionals in Toronto and Los Angeles.
Louis Di Bianco owes much of his success as an actor to his many strong mobster portrayals. Appropriately, he has become my consiglieri, or trusted advisor, on acting, the filmmaking process, and story editing. His insights on how to craft a crystal clear laser focused story line are spot on. He always challenges me to raise the level of my game.
Kickstarter - Be My Partners In This Exciting Venture!
People often ask why I don’t turn to the government funding agencies for money to create my film. I’ll be blunt. Creativity and government funding are more often than not, at war.
We’ve all heard of production horror stories coming from Hollywood, but do not ever forget, that Hollywood filmmaking is a business that does not rely on tax-payers’ money. When a Hollywood film project fails, someone’s private money is lost.
Individuals have a lot on the line when making films in Hollywood. They are highly motivated to avoid the pitfalls of mediocrity that lead to failure.
Our broken Canadian funding system is run by bureaucrats. Their income and comfort are safe whether a film succeeds or fails. These people have no "skin" in the game.
They can afford to drag the approval process out for two or three years. They can afford to bog down the creative process with often irrelevant meetings. They can afford to ask for endless rewrites based on a bureaucrat’s judgement, not an artist’s.
They can afford to create a catch 22 that only grants money to a filmmaker who has distribution in place before making the film. This immediately introduces compromise to the project and encourages an astronomical budget.
You see, even a brilliant first time filmmaker would need a highly recognizable lead actor to attract a distribution deal. That actor’s salary could represent one-third of the budget. Also, it closes the door to great new talent who may deliver brilliant performances and enrich the film but do not have a “name.”
This formula for making films is an antiquated blueprint for mediocrity and financial waste.
Einstein pointed out that you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. Kickstarter gives you, the film lover and viewer, and me, the filmmaker, the opportunity to forge a new way of producing films and introduce a new kind of conversation to the creation of great art and culture.
With Kickstarter, I will form a community of backers and supporters who believe in me and in the project. I will have total artistic freedom to make the choices that are pertinent to telling an important story. You will be my partners and my audience in this venture.
Without Kickstarter, the film will not be made. Kickstarter and its community of backers can give birth to a meaningful story and inspire hope for all dream makers.
When you become a backer at any level, you become an integral member of our Dream-Maker team. You will join the ranks of possibility thinkers, people who make things happen and enrich the world by challenging the naysayers and cynics.
You will help me make a very important film. If you are already familiar with my stage plays, and you like them, then you are really going to love this film.
Know this: There are no small contributions. Whatever level of backing you choose is a huge “Yes!” in the face of “No!” and “I can’t!”
To become one of our backers, click the big green button to the right of the video, and Kickstarter will ask you for your pledge, which reward you want and how to sign up. You can also sign up through Facebook.
Please remember that with Kickstarter, you risk nothing; your credit card will not be charged unless I succeed in raising all the funds I am asking for.
Thank you! Let’s make a movie. Let’s kickstart an unforgettable adventure!
Risks and challenges
As with any film no matter what size of budget, the biggest challenge is distribution. “The Envelope” does not have a distributor attached yet.
My team and I are truly doing this by ourselves. The highly talented professional actors who are excited to be in this film will get special permission from the actors’ union, ACTRA, to work at a reduced rate.
This special agreement negates distribution at the beginning of production. A distribution deal would mandate that the actors receive higher fees that would make the budget skyrocket.
Having no distribution at this point may in fact be a blessing, as I will have no interference with casting, script changes, or re-writes of any kind. The artistic freedom is all mine, because you as backers will give it to me.
Our goal is to debut the film at the Sundance Film Festival, or any of the world’s prominent festivals that will give “The Envelope” the greatest possible coverage and opportunities for selling and distribution.
When we succeed at funding the film, we will begin pre-production immediately, and shoot sometime in January or early February. This is ideal because winter is a very quiet time in Montreal for film production. What better way to begin a New Year by working on a new film?
ENSURING TRANSPARENCY & INTEGRITY (My lawyers endorse these responsible guidelines)
Some of the rewards will require paperwork: if you are appearing in the film or the documentary, you will sign a release that simply gives us permission to film you and use your footage in the final cut. This gives the entire project its transparency.
In summary, making a movie can be a wild and crazy ride with plenty of unknown factors. It all begins with a screenplay that I’m really proud of, and which the cast and crew are very excited about.
We will encounter obstacles, but my team, my crew, and my friends are well prepared to overcome them. By the end of this journey, we will have created a movie that we are all proud of. Again, I’d like to thank you in advance for helping me make this transformative journey possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (45 days)