Despite COVID downturn, film theatres still have a future, says Kim McCraw
If it’s been a few decades since Kim McCraw was a teen sitting around with friends scoffing fries at Granby’s Cantine Chez Ben, the highly successful Quebec film producer feels just as much at home now that she lives on the edge of the Rivière des Mille Îles in Fabreville/Laval.
For anyone who’s ever had the good fortune to pass through Granby in the Eastern Townships south of Montreal, Ben’s – with its giant neon sign (‘Chez Ben on s’bour la bedaine’) on the edge of old Route 112 – is a long-time landmark.
Originally from Granby
McCraw, co-founder of the Montreal-based film production company micro_scope with Luc Déry, has come a long way professionally since her days as a CEGEP student in Granby where she aspired to one day become a player in the filmmaking business.
Their company’s most notable production success was probably the 2010 film Incendies, directed by Denis Villeneuve (who also directed Blade Runner 2049), followed in 2011 by Monsieur Lazhar (directed by Philippe Falardeau). Both won Genie Awards for Best Motion Picture, as well as being nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
‘My Salinger’ is their latest
While the jury may still be out, McCraw’s latest impending success is Philippe Falardeau’s most recent film, My Salinger Year. Starring Academy Award-nominated actress Sigourney Weaver (the Alien franchise) and Margaret Qualley (seen most prominently recently in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood), the film is based on a memoir of the same name by Joanna Rakoff, documenting her time working for a powerful New York literary agent (played by Weaver in the film).
The film is also being distributed in many countries and territories (United States, South America, Japan, China, Korea, Russia, United Kingdom, and throughout Europe, among others). According to the film’s distributor (Métropole Films), My Salinger Year had a very promising first theatrical release in Australia, where it was among the top box office sellers in its first week of release.
‘Cinémas remain super important in the long chain of film production,’ says producer Kim Mccraw
Distributed in 26 theatres despite a 50 per cent reduction in capacity due to COVID-19 sanitary measures, the film grossed $160,000 AUD (roughly equivalent in Canadian currency). In the Montreal region, where many theatres remain closed, the film has been available since March 5 as VOD.
Fell in love with Laval
After living for a number of years in Montreal, McCraw decided five years ago that she was looking for a new place in the region that she could call home. However, what she was looking for was a setting that might perfectly combine some of the benefits of city living with certain other aspects more typical of the countryside. As it turned out, she found exactly what she was looking for in Laval.
While the City of Laval has been promoting a strategic vision of its future with the slogan “Urbaine de nature” (suggesting Laval is an area where rural and urban overlap into an ideal living environment), McCraw said she basically found what she and her family were looking for in Laval.
“I was looking for something that was sort of out in the country, like a little chalet,” she said in an interview earlier this week with the Laval News. “It needed to be not far from Montreal, maybe 20 minutes from my work, but with a country atmosphere. What I ended up finding is located next to the river and it’s just what I was looking for. I am very pleased with what I found.”
The producer’s role
McCraw’s and Déry’s production company is basically a one-stop-shop for major Quebec film directors when they hope to make a film that holds initial promise. With production responsibilities that include financing and legal, as well as fine tuning of creative elements, McCraw said that each film can take up to five years of her time from beginning to end in the production process.
While acknowledging that producing My Salinger Year presented unique challenges because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on film theatres, McCraw said she was confident that cinémas will continue to be an important part of the filmmaking business. “Cinémas remain super important in the long chain of film production,” she said. “We certainly aren’t interested in seeing film theatres die out. They remain a place where everyone goes to see a film together. There’s nothing better than seeing a film with other people.”