In The Spotlight: Avi Federgreen

Author: Katherine Brodsky | Posted on Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Avi Federgreen has one mission: to make films that affect people. 

As a producer he has worked on an assortment of projects including One Week, Score: A Hockey Musical, and Still Mine, all with director Michael McGowan. He also served as an executive producer of the first ever Canadian 3D feature titled Dead Before Dawn directed by April Mullen and the Vancouver based feature film Random Acts of Romance directed by Katrin Bowen, amongst many other films. He is a huge and vocal supporter of Canadian film and has nurtured much homegrown talent.

In November 2011, Federgreen opened his own film distribution company IndieCan Entertainment, which focuses on low budget indie films (with budgets below $1.5 million). IndieCan has also recently begun screening short films at its theatrical screenings. Federgreen hopes the move to include short films will help promote emerging Canadian short filmmakers to a wider audience.  "Canadian short filmmakers need a way to get their films seen other than in film festivals," says Federgreen, “What better way than to give them a theatrical release through pairing them with a feature of the same genre. This way, they can get the much needed exposure they deserve."

First Weekend Club got a chance to speak with Avi Federgreen:

Why did you want to work in the world of film specifically as a producer?

The story I tell is that when I was 9 years old I went downstairs to say goodnight to my Dad and he was watching a movie.  I was fascinated by what I saw on the TV ....the film was titled Vincent Price's The House of Wax.  I pointed at the televison and turned around to say to my father, "That's what I want to do when I grow up."  My Dad said "What?"  I said "Make that!".  That's how it all began for me.  

I have always been fascinated with finding the property and developing it with great, talented people and see it through to showing it to an audience. I have always said that how you know that you've made a great movie is when people go to a restaurant, bar, or coffee house after watching your film and spend hours talking about it. Conversation about your film is the BEST form of marketing there is.

What was your first gig?

I worked on a Canadian/Swiss Co-Productiion feature titled Waiting for Michael Angelo.

You've worked extensively in Canadian film, was there ever a temptation to go pursue fame and fortune in the U.S.?

I have never once wanted to move away from Canada.  I love what I do right here.  I also have two children here and of course would never want to be far away from them. We have great writers, directors, crew, cast and production and post production talent here...why would I want to leave Canada.

One Week was a big success, with over $1.2 million in the Canadian box, a #1 rental on iTunes and top 10 in DVD sales in Canada during its first week of release. And I would say that this is a very "Canadian" film, even if you just look at how prominently it's set against its landscape. Why do you think audiences embraced the movie so much?

I think that people relate to it on many levels. Many people came up to us saying thank you for reminding us about how beautiful Canada really is, or that they did that same road trip and had forgotten how great the drive across the country was. Many people who were motorcycle riders who had done that drive shared how it brought great memories of the road traveled... Then there are those you who faced cancer head on and beat it or lost someone very special to it...and the memories of that person.

My favourite story was a woman originally from London, Ontario who now lives in Los Angeles contacted me to say that her husband had cancer and that her friend had told her about ONE WEEK. Her children were coming to Los Angeles to spend time with her and their dad and to discuss his next steps of treatment.  He was unsure as to whether to go through with the treatment. She asked if I could get her a copy of the film for her and her family to watch together.  I fedexed it that next day.  She called me the following week to say they watched the film as a family and that her husband decided to fight the fight and go into treatment.  He died about a year ago but he fought it and lived approx three years longer because he gave it his all and fought to live for him and his family.  That's why I make films!

Have you seen Canadian cinema evolve at all over the years? How so?

I think we are making really great films in Canada.  We are telling great stories that are wonderfully written, beautifully shot, amazingly acted and audiences are now seeing them more so now than ever before!  We are a country of extremely talented people that are being creative about how we make films for a small amount of money. The budgets of our films are decreasing but the number of films that we are making are increasing.  We are a very resourceful film community that will do whatever it takes to get our films made...I think this evolution is incredible and I am glad I am a part of it....the NEW AGE of making films.

Where do you think Canadian film is heading?

I think that we will continue to make amazing films for a small amount of money and that we will see more emerging filmmakers making low budget films and making films through non-conventional ways...I truly believe that independent financing will be the way most films will get made moving forward and that the budgets will continue to decrease. I think we will see some new and creative ways that films are being made... at a much smaller scale.

You've launch IndieCan, a distribution company, recently. What prompted this?

I had been thinking about starting up Indeican 5 years ago as I was making films that couldn't get a distributor because the budget of the film was too small, because the distributor didn't  feel they could take on the genre of the film that I had made, or maybe they did take the film but only put it in a total of two theatres across Canada.  I also had many friends that were in the same boat as me.  The distributors can only take on so much content.  There aren't enough distributors for the amount of content we are making and only a small percentage of all the content were making in Canada is getting distribution.  I wanted to change all of that.  I want to bring great Canadian films to Canadian audiences.  Maximizing the number of eyeballs to see our films is my #1 priority by creating unique ways of reaching out to the audience through non-tradional marketing approaches.

You mentioned that you're a bit of an underdog with Indiecan Entertainment, that people didn't expect it to succeed -- How have you proven them wrong so far?

I have released four films, all of which I am proud of the results to date.  I have worked extremely hard to get all of the films I am distributing into as many theatres across the country as possible.  I have also used non-conventional means of marketing the films and have been able to maximize getting the films on as many platforms as possible...again it's all about the number of eyeballs to see our Canadian films.

You're known for really nurturing talent, not just working with industry vets, but also up-and-comers… What are some people we might not know of today, but definitely will tomorrow?

There are a number of amazing talented up and coming filmmakers that Canadians really need to watch out for.  Some of them have done short films, some of them have done one or two small features, some of them have done documentaries and are now moving into narrative features and some are up and coming documentary filmmakers.

Here is a small sampling:

Jeremy Lalonde
Sarah Goodman
John Barnard
Joel Goldberg
Emily Hunter
Gaurav Seth
Jordan Canning
Dylan Pearce
Katrin Bowen
Adnan Ahmed
Sean Cisterna
Justin McConnell
Matt Sandowski
Deanne Foley
Amy Miller
Justin Kelly

If you could choose your own budget and have access to any talent, what film would you make?

I will always prefer to shoot low budget and work with Canadian actors and crews....Homegrown through and through.

What's one thing that would surprise people to learn about you?

I make it so that people know everything about me...
I hold nothing back, I wear my heart on my sleeve and I tell it like it is...honesty is always the way to go for me .I think people appreciate the fact that I don't dance around anything and that I am forward with my opinions and my passion for what I do for a living. I have nothing to apologize for...and NO is not an option.

Last great Canadian movie you've watched?


What upcoming movie are you looking forward to seeing?

Anything J.J. Abrams makes....AND

I really love watching the films we make right here in Canada

You've been a member and supporter of First Weekend Club for a long time. Why did you decide to become part of it?

I think the initiative the FWC started right from the beginning is an important initiative: Get Canadian audiences to go and see Canadian films especially opening weekend when box office really counts...I am very supportive of this effort and hope that it continues for years to come.  The FWC's new VOD initiative is another way for eyeballs to watch Canadian Films and I really hope this initiative allows Canadian audience embrace this new opportunity to watch our indigenous content.

What's next for you?

I have a number of new films that Indiecan will be releasing in 2013 along with more short film being played in front of features in theatres across the country.

I also have over 15 projects in development and hope to shoot two indie low budget features this year and hopefully 1-2 documentaries will also start production this year.

I am also hoping that my indie record label will have a few artist signings this year with hopes for a first CD being recorded in early 2014.

To learn more about IndieCan Entertainment, visit: indiecanent.com