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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - March 24, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta 32 - THE lETHBRIDGE HERAID - Wednwday, March 24, 1971 Renewed spirit exists among Canada's National Film Board By CAROL PASCOE MONTREAL (CP) - One year ago Canada's Natiana] Film board was at perhaps the lowest ebb of its 31-year history. The creative staff, its confidence eroded, felt its future and its art threatened by a gomTunent-imposed austerity budget. Morale took a nosedive and the cohesiveness which characterized earlier board efforts was on the verge of crumbling. Today, however, there is renewed spirit in the board's Montreal office, largely due to two new leaders whose presence seems to have the exhilarating effect of a salt-sea breeze. By tbedr own admission, Commissioner Sydney Newman and Assistant Commif-sioner Andre Lamy are thriUed to be at the NFB. Both arrived last August, Mr. Newman from an advisory job with the Canadian Radio-Television Commission and Mr. Lamy from what his colleague calls the "jungle of the private world"-an executive position with Onyx Films Inc. Outwardly, they are a study In contrasts. Mr. Newman, 53, his propensity for plaid suits and bow ties evident in a series of photographs taken throughout the years, is direct and outspoken. Mr. Lamy, 38, is less flamboyant, his quiet observations warmed by an easy smile and a twinkle in the eye. EXCHANED VIEWS Before accepting the jobs, a primary concern for each was what it would be like to work with the other. Mr. Neivman is in charge of long-range plamniing and government liaison.. Mr. Lamy has responsibility for day-to-day operation of tWe film board. "We talked for four or five bours one day," Ui. Nevraian recalled in an interview in his office. "We knew each other's background by then, but it was a question of whether we were sympathetic to the same things. "We had to find out if we had the same attitude toward creative people, did we like them in the same way, and would we be too pimitive or harsh on their sins. "It turned out to be a pretty good shotgun weddmg." Both are still in the discovery stage of thdr jobs, although Mr. Newman worked for the NFB as an executive producer from 1941 to 1952. Their first three months were taken up with viewing 240 films, six or seven each day. It was more than an endurance test, said Mr. Lamy. Tliey were also looking for quality and cost. It is Mr. Lamy's job to keep an eye on NFB purse strings, and as Mr. Newman said: "He is so profit and efficiency conscious that lie brings a needed note to the board." Commented Mr. Lamy: "Private i n d u s t r y is concerned with profit. In government, it is called revenue or social profit." With a Gallic shrug he added: "It's all the samo thing." One priority is to make films with more mass appeal -what Mr. Newman calls "bread-and-butter stuff." But what if this doesn't sit too well with film-makers who are aiming for sophisticated, discerning audienoee? "If necessary," said Mr. Newman, "we'll hdt them over the head. Criticial success (tJi� NFB wins some 75 awards annually in initemaMonal festivals) very often dtoesn't have much to do with popular success." Mr. Lamy's approach is more subtle. "We set guidelines for the film-mBkers. Creative people can be very flexible, but they're not flexible it you're stupid with them. "We must bridge the gap between distribution and production. Why, people here used to make three-hour fibns without any possibility of ever marketing them." PLAN MORE EXPOSURE There'll be no more of that around the NFB. Distribution mellhods are being closely examined and techniques of giving films more public exposure are being explored. As a former head of drama for CBC (1954-58) and BBC (1963-68), Mr. Newman is probably more television-than film-oriented, so it's natural he would look first to the electronic media. At the moment, relatively few of the 200 films produced annually by the film board ever appear on En^h-lan-guage television. But at Ra-dio