Canadians in Hollywood subject of documentary



Canadians didn’t invent Hollywood so much as infiltrate it.

According to David Foster, and there’s hard evidence to back him up, there is a “disproportionate” number of Canadian artists helping to shape American pop culture, particularly in comedy — and getting paid very well for it. The Sultan of Schmaltz is just one of a number of celebrity subjects in the documentary Gone South: How Canada Invented Hollywood, making its Canadian premiere Monday, Sept. 29 as part of the Edmonton International Film Festival. The film is directed by former Edmontonians Leslie Bland and Ian Ferguson.

Foster, a Victoria native who’s lived in Los Angeles for the last 40 years, doesn’t quite buy the “Canada-invented” premise of the film. “Hollywood was going strong before Canada got there,” he says in a recent phone interview, while adding on the other hand that Canadians seem to get more than their fair share of Hollywood wealth and attention. With one-tenth the population, it should be one-tenth the talent, but the numbers don’t add up.

“As Canadians we had to work twice as hard to be taken half as serious,” Foster says. “The list is endless. And think about the singers just from the West Coast, think about the ladies, from Sarah McLachlan to Celine Dion to k.d. lang to Joni Mitchell, it’s an endless list, Avril Lavigne. These are big ladies of pop.”

Not to mention Bieber, Buble and Bryan Adams, and those are just the B’s of the boys from B.C. — the new California of American entertainment. “It’s going to be the next state,” Foster jokes. Hope he’s joking.

While the British that invaded Hollywood since there were talkies are celebrated for their delightful Britishness, Canadians have largely been assimilated. You can’t often tell the stars apart from their American peers. They become “Americanized.”

It happened to Foster no matter how emphatically he expresses Canadian pride. He says the only reason he became an American citizen 10 years ago is because he wanted to vote, to “participate,” and he has: he helped organize fundraisers for Mitt Romney in 2012.‘In Canada, he’s been recently campaigning for automatic organ donation – a proposal that you only sign the back of your driver’s license if you don’t want to donate your organs – through the 27-year-old David Foster Foundation.’

Foster says, “I’m the biggest Canadian flag waver on the planet, and that’s no secret. Watch any interview. My eyes light up when they say, ‘So, you’re Canadian.’”

Foster honed his chops in Edmonton. In 1969, he was hired to play piano for Tommy Banks at the Embers nightclub, because the future senator wanted more time for other projects. “It was an amazing band,” Foster recalls, naming a who’s who of the local jazz scene. “For the first time in my life I felt like playing with world class players. It elevated my game a lot. And I felt like I was in the hub of the Edmonton music scene. Then Tommy used me to do jingles. I made a good living there and I loved it.”

On leaving home, he says, “I feel bad that I had to move away. I felt like I couldn’t get a shot in Victoria or Vancouver or Edmonton, that I had to come to Los Angeles. I wanted to be a studio musician. I wanted to be rubbing shoulders with all the musicians that were playing on all the hit records that I loved. I would not have minded at all staying at home if I could’ve still had this career, but I don’t think I could have. I just don’t.”

From Edmonton, Foster took his band Skylark to L.A. to record, and stayed because he saw how far he could go. His career really took off after he composed the St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack in 1985. He has since won 16 Grammys, with producer credits ranging from Barbra Streisand to Josh Groban; Foster is now chairman of the Verve Music Group and guest judge on shows like American Idol and Nashville Star.

To the 19-year-old contestants crushed in tearful defeat because they “tried so hard,” Foster offers tough love, “What have you tried exactly? Did you play in a club for 10 years, hone your craft, learn your instrument? They’re literally coming from their bedroom to the stage. Yes, they have great voices, but a great voice alone is not enough.”

Foster is still a hands-on producer. His latest project is Diana Krall’s new album of classic rock covers, Wallflower. He explains, “If I’m not on the charts for six months or so I feel like a loser, so I guess that’s what drives me. I don’t know why I’m so driven. Do you know why I’m so driven?”

Maybe it’s because he’s a Canadian in Hollywood.

Source: Canadians in Hollywood subject of documentary | Columnists | Opinion | Edmonton.

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