Discrimination against “on camera” Actors & Actresses; Let’s put an end to it!

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Discrimination against “on camera” actors & actresses


We, Canadian film, television and numeric media actors and actresses stand united in asking that the Canada Council for the Arts revises its eligibility criteria for its “actor” category to reflect today’s reality and times.

Did you know that, since the creation of the Canada Council of the Arts, “on camera” actors and actresses are de facto excluded from any possibility of financial aid to develop, research and hone their skills, unlike theater actors and other categories of artists in our country?

“On camera” actors and actresses are the only artists to be systematically excluded from their own category of artists for the programs offered by the Canadian and many provincial arts Councils.

In  fact, a distinction (a discrimination of sorts) is made between an actor who works on a theater stage versus an actor who works on a set.

Grants for development, enrichment, travel and residence are, indeed, available to theater actors but not to their fellow thespians performing “on camera”. This, because Film, TV and Numeric Media actors & actresses are subjected to qualifications that are strictly based on theatre criteria, which renders any grant application, by on camera actors, futile and generates a systematic disqualification for actors and actresses practicing their craft, their art, on a film or Television set.

This unfortunate gap, through which screen actors inevitably fall, appears to be the result of a system that, though created with the best intentions, did not age well and failed to take in account the evolution the the actor's craft through time.

The Canada Council for the arts was created in the fifties, when television was still a novelty and screen actors a rare breed. An actor was naturally thought of as evolving on stage.

Today, actors cross disciplines all the time: in studio, on stage, on set and/or in voice booths.

Denying screen actors equal opportunity to apply and earn, through merit and/or distinction in their field, similarly to stage actors’ eligibility guidelines for grants to its programs, the CCA creates a rift and discriminates within the actor's category itself.



Two (2) years ago, an initiative was created to signal this anomaly to the aforementioned institutions, as well as to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Quebec’s Ministry of Culture, bringing to their attention this inequity, inadvertent as it may be, towards “on camera” actors and actresses.

While the , then Canadian Heritage Minister, applauded our efforts, she informed us that millions of dollars ($550 millions between 2016 et 2021) were injected into the Canadian Council for the Arts, which is a self-regulated institution, and invited us to raise our concerns directly with the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Council for the Arts, Mr. Simon Brault.

The Canadian Arts Council administration has reiterated on two occasions that they will continue to support theater actors but not “on camera” actors. They point us in the direction of Telefilm Canada, stating they’re the ones who help Film, TV and New Media actors.

In reality, Telefilm Canada does not directly finance artists, except in the very rare case when a travel grant may be awarded (to the production company) to cover the cost of a plane ticket -so an actor/actress with a notable role in a movie that generates a lot of buzz may attend a festival or participate in a promotional and media junket. Telefilm Canada provides financial aid to corporations, i.e. production companies, not individual self-employed artists.

Understandably, Telefilm Canada sends us back to the Ministry of Canadian Heritage and the Quebec Ministry of Culture.

On a great and positive note, on Nov. 14th 2017 the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Quebec contacted us to inform us that ground breaking modifications to their programs were in effect as of October 23rd 2017 to include on camera actors in their programs.

Why should the CCA, and many provincial arts councils, continue to discriminate against actors and actresses who perform on the screen and deprive them of precious support towards the development, exploration, and mastery of their craft?

This worthy cause has garnered support from many organizations, pillars of Canadian cinema, television and new media industries, who realize the importance of including “on camera” actors and actresses amongst the categories of artists, eligible for the programs offered by the CCA and CALQ, because they see the benefits of working with professionals constantly striving to improve and push the limits of their skills.

Among the organizations supporting this cause are:

* ACTRA NATIONAL, the union representing English-speaking actors and counts 22,000 members across Canada.
* UDA, the union of French artists in Quebec with 13,000 members throughout Canada.
* The ARRQ, the directors guild of Quebec.
* The FCTMN, the women in film, television and new media guild.

All of the above organizations have submitted letters of support to put an end to this discrimination, whether deliberate or not.

As far as the CCA is concerned, the ball is currently still up in the air, leaving us perpetually deprived of support, without acceptable reason, given the significant Federal Government's contribution to the CCA and that the Canadian Council for the Arts no longer allocates it's grant monies by artistic sectors (envelopes) but now selects it's recipients on a case by case evaluation. 

When shall we get access to grants to help us in our quests for the development, exploration, and the mastery of our craft?

When shall we get a viable response and see tangible actions?

In the name of all Canadian “on camera” actors and actresses:

Should the people in power and in key positions at the federal and provincial levels clearly hear our plea, muster the will to mobilize efforts, and take measures to change this injustice, as it was recently the case with Mme Anne-Marie Jean from the CALQ, you will find us truly grateful… and likely shining even brighter on your screens.