I mentioned before how there was a HUGE scandal that hit the animation industry in Quebec (most specifically Montreal) called the "CINAR Scandal".
Imagine my surprise one Saturday morning when I checked the newspaper and saw in HUGE bold lettering on the front page how CINAR (one of the 3 biggest animation studio in Canada, and one of the 10 biggest in the world…. Not sure about that last part…. But so I have been told) was involved in some sort of financial scandal.
The timing was pretty strange since the following Monday morning I was coming back to work at CINAR on the Arthur Christmas Special.
What was the CINAR scandal?
I don’t pretend to know all the details… and heck I might be mistaken about a detail or two. But this is as best as I came to understand about what happened. I got my info from various newspapers, but also from the inside since I was back working at CINAR when the scandal broke out. From the various company meetings we had during the crisis itself, but also from many discussions that I had with various people in the company while I was there (producers, directors, accountants, lawyers, heck even the receptionist or various office clerks).
From what I came to understand…. It started with somebody who submitted a project to CINAR and was turned down. And some time later, CINAR had a project on TV that was strangely not unlike the project that was submitted to them and rejected. Heck even the name of the project was wayyyyy too similar for it to me some sort of coincidences.
No that was not the scandal itself…. It was just the first step leading to the scandal.
So of course, the creator who was not a happy guy sued CINAR for stealing his project.
So while the authorities were investigating CINAR over this…. They realized that something was wrong at CINAR.
CINAR were getting some sort of tax break/subventions for giving some work to people living in Quebec. It is one of the ways to keep all the jobs from being sent overseas. By offering some sort of tax break/subvention for hiring a certain quota of local people.
But apparently…. CINAR had a tough time finding enough good writers to work on their projects.
Or I should say enough good English speaking writers.
Here in Quebec, there is a big part of the population that is French speaking. Not French…. French speaking. There is a difference. A French speaking Canadian is as different from a French person from France, as an English speaking American is from an English person from England.
Although at CINAR, we were working using mostly the English language. So the scripts were written in English.
It seems that CINAR had a tough time finding enough good English speaking writers here in Quebec and had no choice…. Or so it was said…. But to hire some writers in the United States.
But to still get their tax break/subventions, they would pretend that they were still using some writers from Quebec. So they would hire a US writer, but they would use the name of someone from Quebec to pretend that they were hiring someone from Quebec.
The shockwave when that news came out was pretty devastating in the animation industry in Montreal.
Once the CINAR scandal broke out…. Not only CINAR, but every animation studios in Montreal were investigated, in case some other studios were using the same trick as CINAR.
So what happened is that pretty much every private investors took their money out of the animation industry for fear of having some problems not unlike what was happening at CINAR…. Although nothing wrong was ever found in other studios…. Still the investors did not want to invest anymore in animation just in case.
Also there was no way to get any public financing anymore since in the political arena…. Some politicians tried to use the CINAR scandals to gain some points in the political arena.
So the ENTIRE animation industry in Montreal... not just CINAR… was soiled by this whole affair. Animation became something “very dirty” that no one wanted to invest in anymore.
So no private investors wanted to put a single red cent in animation…. And it was extremely difficult to get some public funding for any animation studio in Montreal.
I was pretty pissed about this.
Well first….. It made no sense to me.
Because ONE studio did something wrong….. EVERY studios were penalized??
A lot of people lost their job who had nothing to do with the CINAR scandal. Heck a lot of them never even worked at CINAR. But still…. They lost their job because most studios did not have any financing to make new projects after the CINAR scandal. They still had the financing for the projects they were already making while the scandal broke out. But after that… many could not get any more financing.
A lot of people who had a good job in animation ended up with very crappy jobs. Some earning minimum wages…. And heck some even ended up collecting welfare checks.
But most studios went out of business. Some moved out of the province…. Since they could no longer get any financing in Montreal or in Quebec, some moved lets say to Ottawa or Toronto since there was no problem getting any financing over there.
Although some studios… for example Cine-Groupe… are now little more then the owner of the company alone in his basement trying to rebuild the studio…. Or so I heard.
Also all my career plans were pretty much out the window.
Most if not all the contacts I had made, all the networking I had done, all that ended up being almost for nothing.
I will discuss life after the CINAR scandal in another blog.
Until next time.