Canadian arts and culture is serious business

Over the years, I’ve heard people disregard the Canadian arts scene as a “true business”; one that doesn’t “pull in the bucks” or contribute to a strong economy. It might be seen as an industry in which a handful of people paint, sculpt, perform magic, or sing and dance to loved ones and a moderate YouTube following.

This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Canadian arts and culture serves as an entryway to a prosperous economy securing people financially — and providing them with an outlet to unwind.

But what counts as arts and culture, specifically?

It’s not just influential singers dominating the airwaves, dancers gracing a stage, or big-time comedy festival performers; it’s the exhibitions and recitals you gaze at and listen to in libraries, of which artists have dedicated their lives to the creation and staging.

Culture is the heritage resources, archives and historical organizations, independent film festivals, and exquisite artwork which has defined our the high culture of our generation.

According to Statistics Canada, $7.7 billion was invested collectively from the municipal, provincial and federal governments in 2010. This employed 600,000 people in the arts and culture sector, producing $40 billion for the Canadian economy — a 500 per cent return on investment.

In reality, Canadian’s cultural sector in monumental. It employ as many people as the agriculture, forestry, fishing, mining, oil and gas industries combined.

Todd Hirsch, chief economist at ATB Financial in Calgary and author of The Boiling Frog Dilemma: Saving Canada’s Economy, concluded that, next to New York and California, the province of Ontario houses the third largest entertainment economy in the world.

Canadian tourists who partook in arts-related activities in 2009 — watching a production in a village, attending a concert, or exploring heritage buildings — generated $3 billion for the Canadian economy alone.

Believe it or not, investing in the arts helped Canada to climb out of the 2008 recession.

Simon Brault, senior director of the Canadian Council for the Arts and former president of Culture Montreal, vocalized that the gross domestic product share in 2007 catapulted by 4.4 per cent, when $400 million was spent on arts and cultural activities: namely sidewalk show, plays and music festivals.

Even though people weren’t spending money on anything during that time, the sector produces domestic products and services, rather than relying on international trading.

By purchasing a ticket to the Stratford Festival or Big Music Fest, a season pass to a theatre, or pottery from an artist-in-residence, you’re contributing to the growth and stability of the Canadian economy by investing in a very profitable sector. If one year of regular arts engagement can produce $40 billion, imagine what five or 10 years of investment can do!

Music artists must establish a brand

Published on FAME Canada: March 1, 2015

We see thousands of music industry hopefuls covering top 40 hits on popular video and social media websites, and performing on streets and in our local pubs. They endeavour to create a reputable name for themselves and be recognized for their talents. 

It’s by no means an easy feat. Music – and entertainment, in general – is a rigorous business requiring tenacity, confidence and determination. It can take people years to even get discovered by a record label or artist manager, with no guarantee of a successful career.

Those who stand out from the crowd possess raw talent, an unforgettable aura, and most importantly, something by which people remember them.

Technical ability is half the battle. To truly shine in the music world and encourage ongoing discussions among consumers, an artist must think about their “personal brand.” They must ask themselves, “When I finish performing a song, what would a fan associate with me? What is my secret sauce?”

A personal brand is similar to that of a corporation’s. It’s the way someone markets themselves and their careers. It’s a way of conveying your “secret sauce” or a special quality that pokes through thick competition.

Let’s take a look at a couple influential artists who have established a strong brand.

Taylor Swift has taken the industry by storm this past year. Her transformation from country star to pop sensation has been well-received by music consumers. She’s known for being communicative to her fans, appreciating their support, and giving back to them. She’s positive, quirky, and an inspiration to people, especially since the release of “Shake It Off” from her 2014 album “1989.”

When Lady Gaga performs, you never what’s going to happen. What colour makeup or wig will she wear? What outlandish outfit will she sport (her “faux-meat dress” has its own Wikipedia page, and there are written chronologies of her Video Music Award outfits)? When she releases her next single, what’s its theme going to be? When people watch her on television or listen to her music, they discuss her fashion choices and musical style. Her popularity goes beyond her vocal ability.

For an artist to create a brand, they should conduct some self-reflection by writing a list of their inner core values and beliefs, and deciding how you want your fans to think of you. A personal brand is built on the thoughts and opinions of others, so how you present yourself to the public is paramount.

Once you’ve outlined these things, you should integrate your core values and style of music, which essentially creates your public image. In Taylor Swift’s case, her core values include giving back to people, so she makes a point of doing so at certain times of the year. It’s not necessarily related to her music. 

You might be someone who wants to be noticed in music, and who wants to be favourably discussed by people who will become your fans.

When you’re writing a song or performing at a venue, think about your “secret sauce” or “ingredient.” What sets you apart from the crowd and the competition? Of what quality will someone think when they hear your name?

What are the best James Bond movies?

In the James Bond franchise, each movie is vastly different from the last. There will always be a whole new host of characters, locations, villains, and sometimes even weapons and vehicles. The series has no story arcs or continuity, which is what makes it unique. Usually when you watch a movie that is a direct sequel to another, you find yourself immediately comparing storylines, acting, music, action scenes, etc. With James Bond it’s a different story. No two movies focus on the same plot, so it’s harder to make comparisons, because there are always fresh ideas. There hasn’t been a Bond movie to date that has failed to impress, but some of them brought on some defining moments and set standards in the franchise.

Dr. No was the very first Bond movie ever produced. It starred Sean Connery, the first actor to ever take on the role of the fictional double agent. This movie wasn’t just brilliant because of its remarkable adaption of the novel, but because it was one of the movies in the series (if not the only one) carrying the most defining moments, which made Bond’s adventures what they are today. For one thing, this film included the very first time James Bond introduced himself as, “Bond… James Bond.” This became one of the most famous phrases in the history of movies. That in itself is enough to make Dr. No a masterpiece. The film was well-structured, and was cutting edge for its time. We also saw Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress), the very first Bond girl to ever be shown on screen, and the first death-defying stunts that would soon become traditional.

The mysterious Dr. No was the first villain in the James Bond franchise.

1995 marked the fourth “new beginning” in the Bond universe, with Pierce Brosnan taking over Timothy Dalton as Bond in GoldenEye. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the film altered the way the franchise was perceived. It just did something to the series that made it different (in a positive way of course). It may have been because the film inspired a video game many believe to be the “standard of the first-person shooter,” or because it featured an agent who betrayed MI6, a concept that’s rarely seen in the series. Either way, GoldenEye was packed with excitement and suspense. You didn’t know what would happen from one moment to the next. It remains one of the best Bond films of all time.

From Russia With Love was the second Bond movie released, and the second to star Sean Connery. In this adventure, Bond finds himself to be part of an assassination ploy, all to retrieve a stolen Soviet encryption device. What makes this movie special is that it “solidified” the Bond franchise, and what the “norms” are for the franchise. Any flaws present in Dr. No were patched up, and the road for Bond was finally paved. On top of that, From Russia With Love introduced the “newness” to the series. It had little to no reference to the previous film, and started fresh, as if it was another franchise completely. It had more characters, each with their own diverse backgrounds, and an equal amount of action scenes. One of Connery’s best performances in his entire career was in this movie as well.

As the years go on, it’s inevitable that we’ll see more defining moments in the James Bond series. It’ll be exciting to witness the performances of future actors after Daniel Craig, and the adventures after Skyfall. Throughout the 50 years our favourite double agent has been on the big screen, we’ve already seen a number of events that will stand the test of time. It’s been rumoured that the next James Bond movie comes out in 2014. Where will the series go from here? What will the future bring?

Who are the best James Bond actors?

What started out in the early 1950s as a series of novels and short stories became a full-fledged movie franchise. And now, 23 films later, we’ve witnessed the work of over 13 actors who have taken on the role of the fictional double agent. Unfortunately, not of them did their very best, with just a select few standing out from the crowd. I know James Bond is the type of character that’s meant to be versatile in terms of portrayal, but when someone comes up to you and mentions his name, you know you’re quick to visualize only one or two of the actors in your mind. Why is that exactly? Because as an actor, they did what they were supposed to do. They made an impact on you, and you saw them as if they were the “true James Bond”, or the only one who ever played him. It wasn’t just the storyline, music, or even the special effects that impressed you the most, it was the actor(s). The only question now, is which ones were they?

Pierce Brosnan always sticks out in my mind as being one of the “true Bonds.” I was brought into the Bond world at a young age, and then, Brosnan played the double agent. The first movie I ever saw with him was Goldeneye, released in 1995. It was about Bond attempting to stop the hijacking of a nuclear space weapon, ran by a fellow agent who betrayed MI6. Throughout the entire film, Brosnan had this disposition about him that made you feel like James Bond’s soul was inside of him. His demeanour was right for the role. It didn’t matter what he did, whether it was cocking his head a certain way, raising his gun at an enemy, or even sitting and speaking with someone. There was a vibe he gave off that really brought the Bond franchise to life.

Sean Connery played the role of Bond in seven films, including Dr. No, From Russia With Love, and Goldfinger. What I liked about Connery was that he had this stern way about him. He had the best “no nonsense” attitude, which is vital for a good Bond movie. He brought out out much of his personality in all his films. The distaste he had for his enemies was felt quite easily, and the feeling of adreneline and determination was mutual among him and moviegoers. Also interesting to note is that the infamous introduction, “The name’s Bond… James Bond,” was spoken first by Connery. Overall, Sean Connery will always be one of the greatest James Bond actors. Not only because he was the first, but because he made the role his own, and defined what kind of onscreen character James Bond should be.

Currently, Daniel Craig plays the role of Bond, taking it on for the first time in Casino Royale, released in 2006. Many people were hesitant of Craig at first. Partly because he would be the first “blond Bond,” and partly because fans were unsure how he would succeed Pierce Brosnan, whose last Bond movie was Die Another Day in 2002. He attracted much criticism, until his first movie came out. Craig ended up winning the Empire Award for Best Actor, the Evening Standard British Film Awards Award for Best Actor, and the Sant Jordi Award for Best Foreign Actor. He was also nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and the Saturn Award for Best Actor. I’ll admit I was hesitant of Craig at first, but I’ve discovered that was because I was so used to Pierce Brosnan, and didn’t want to accept the change. Here we are, six years later, and Daniel Craig is doing a terrific job at playing Bond. It doesn’t matter what colour his hair is, it matters how well he follows in the footsteps of former actors such as Pierce Brosnan, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, etc.

Craig has appeared in Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall, the latest movie in the franchise. With him, it’s all about the delivery. The delivery of his words, and the delivery of his body language. The way he expressed his words at the end of Casino Royale was one of the best times for him so far. It should give naysayers hope that he will be a really good Bond actor now and in the future.

It’s very difficult (and for some perhaps impossible) to put your finger on one Bond actor and call him “the best.” When it comes to the Bond franchise, it’s not black and white. There’s always a road in between. It’s not always the actor themselves that are better or worse than others, it’s specific qualities about them. As the James Bond franchise continues, we will most likely see more actors emerge. What will they be like? Maybe they’ll create the next defining moment in the world of James Bond.