Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Rewind and Search

Rewind and Search: Conversations with the Makers and Decision-Makers of CBC Television Drama

Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 472
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Rewind and Search
    Book Description:

    The first half of Rewind and Search looks at the makers -- the producers, directors, writers, story editors, and actors -- while the second half deals with the decision-makers, issues, policy, and ethos that affect the making of CBC television, including drama. Miller pays particular attention to the ways in which programs were influenced by evolving audience expectations, technological advances, and changes in policy, personnel, and the corporate structure of the CBC.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6573-9
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. ix-2)

    When I began formal work on CBC television drama eleven years ago, I was drawn to two questions: Was there a golden age of television drama? And where did contemporary television drama stand in relation to that rumoured golden age?Turn Up the Contrast: CBC Television Drama since1952 charted that unknown country and came up with some answers - now open to revision as we continue to explore the cultural memory and broadcasting heritage in greater depth. Since the processes that shaped those materials are not generally found in books or periodicals, or even in the CBC collection of...

  5. 1 Directing
    (pp. 3-42)

    Television is a collective art, but what we see on our living-room sets, no matter how edited and rearranged, is, frame by frame, what the director chose to show us. That was true in 1952 when the CBC first went on air. It is still true. Thus we start our probe into the process of making television with the role of the director. The director’s sensibility controls the vision of and often mediates between the writer and the designer, the director of photography and the sound and lighting people, and the thirty or forty others who work on the show....

  6. 2 Producing
    (pp. 43-75)

    Passion - and adventure - often ran high in the 1950s and 1960s as directors, who were also producers, put out a vast quantity of both popular and prestige drama “live” or “live to tape.” However, by the late 1960s, for reasons outlined below, the two functions were split, as they had been in Britain and the United States. When the functions split, some producer/directors decided to concentrate on producing, which in most contemporary television provides the controlling vision. Others (Harvey Hart, Daryl Duke, and most notably Eric Till) chose to stay with the essence of the enterprise - directing...

  7. 3 Writing
    (pp. 76-118)

    Lack of money is one of the reasons that the CBC has been chronically short of good writers. Not all the blame, however, rests on parsimony, misplaced priorities, and underfunding, three favourite ways of explaining a situation that stretches back to the golden age of CBC radio. Nevertheless, throughout its history, too many of the decision - makers at the CBC have refused to recognize the worth of good writing, which means they do not put enough of the scarce dollars available into scripts - the most fundamental element of any good television drama. In the first fifteen years, one...

  8. 4 Acting
    (pp. 119-151)

    Before we begin to assess Newman’s words, let us have a few comments on how actors and directors interact.

    MARIO PRIZEK, producer/director [1983]: I direct different actors in different ways. Kate Reid I directed more by inadvertence than by advertence;¹ I didn’t direct her by telling her “do this, do that” or “what’s your motivation here” in front of the other people. After we were in a coffee break, I’d take her to the side and quietly speak to her. I’d say: “Why did you do that? You don’t feel comfortable with that ‘sit’ at that point, do you? Don’t...

  9. 5 Other Roles behind the Camera
    (pp. 152-191)

    As with most large corporate cultures, including those that blend the industrial and the artistic to produce what some practitioners call “programs” and others call “product,” the CBC has had seasons of harvest, seasons of fallow, and seasons of drought. Through every season, those off-camera work to keep the machinery running, the workers fed and paid, the communication lines open, and the plans on paper ready for photographing, recording, editing, and play on the air.

    The chief facilitator behind the camera is the unit manager.Writer/producer David Barlow started as a unit manager (as did head of TV drama, then head...

  10. 6 Technology
    (pp. 192-223)

    The story of television technology, of how it has shaped television drama and now fragments audiences, is rooted in radio, a technology that existed before those who had invented it had figured out what to do with it. Radio signals were available in the 1900s, but no one realized that radio’s apparent weakness of being heard by everyone was its greatest strength - that it could broadcast not just distress signals, but also songs, stories, and news that could be heard by anyone with a set.¹ Before we look at the complex story and multiple viewpoints on the evolving technology...

  11. 7 Why Do Canadian Television Drama?
    (pp. 224-254)

    Why make Canadian television drama? The answers are as varied as the individuals who make the programs or make the policy decisions. What is television drama for? What isCanadiantelevision drama for? Many people have asked themselves both questions. When I focused on Canadian television drama in my interviews, everyone admitted that “Canadian” television drama is a term whose meaning is ultimately independent of the CRTC definitions of content and the passports of a specific quota of participants.

    MJM: A nationalist thrust came to bear onFestivalin the mid to late 1960s.

    ROBERT ALLEN, producer and head of...

  12. 8 What Kinds of Programs and Why
    (pp. 255-304)

    What kinds of programs and why? Most media specialists focus on markets, trends, changing social contexts, new technologies - all valid factors that shape the choice and aesthetic of television programming. Postmodernist questions about authorship, and the conclusion that such authors do not exist, seem to be particularly relevant to the collectively made “product” of television. Yet this book demonstrates that the answer to questions about what programs and why lies with the individuals who write, direct, produce, act, design, photograph, or crew a television drama. I embrace the paradox that the “death of the author” postmodernists reject. Television drama...

  13. 9 Policy
    (pp. 305-385)

    These comments in theToronto Staron the CBC’S new English Broadcasting headquarters focus on the building and its impact on the Toronto landscape. As I rewind and search my thinking on the corporate policy and evolving ethos of the CBC, I wondered if the elements of the new “centre,” as described, would serve as a metonym for the corporation in the 1990s. Or are they ironically at variance with the current reality of the CBC.

    Often the first question I asked in these interviews was how Canadian the interior of CBC drama was during its many phases. “Canadian,” as...

  14. 10 Ethos
    (pp. 386-461)

    The Shorter Oxford English Dictionarygives the first modern usage of the term as 1851. Thus, “ethos” is a word not only associated with Aristotle and Western traditional thought, but also a term adapted to the industrial revolution 150 years ago. It is worth stressing that it is not a synonym for “corporate culture.”

    Let us begin with a quick sketch of the context within which an identifiable CBC ethos took root, flourished, changed, and ...? How that sentence ends depends on who is talking. Some say it has died, others that it has changed but still flourishes. Still others...

  15. 11 Interview with Ivan Fecan
    (pp. 462-477)

    In July 1993 I had a third interview with Ivan Fecan, at his suggestion. Both the broadcasting context and the political/social agenda are changing rapidly, so much so that the survival of the CBC, indeed of public broadcasting worldwide, is now in question. In a sense, the continuity and coherence of this narrative is also under pressure from the rapidly changing broadcasting context. Thus it seemed sensible to keep this last interview as a separate chapter and to bring the technological, regulatory, and co-production updates together, along with my summary, in a concluding chapter. The previous ten chapters could be...

  16. 12 Wrap-up: Or, This Disruption Is Not Temporary
    (pp. 478-512)

    Perrin Beatty was one of the youngest ministers in the Conservative government of 1984-93. Unlike more senior ministers born in the 1940s, he is a member of the television generation. During his lifetime, most Canadians have used television as a way to spend some of their time every day of the week - and most have taken for granted that it should be a medium controlled in Canada by “arm’s-length” boards and commissions. Yet Beatty, in his remarks as reported, predicted that the CRTC will eventually become irrelevant as new modes of delivery make it impossible to control viewer choices....

  17. Notes
    (pp. 513-546)
  18. Biographies
    (pp. 547-554)
  19. Index
    (pp. 555-562)