The executive director of Telefilm Canada says Canada's international co-production treaties are antiquated and need to be updated to conform to the digital era. Wayne Clarkson made the comments at a panel discussion on day one of the annual convention of the Canadian Film and Television Production Association (CFTPA) in Ottawa, where he also called for the creation of a separate co-production fund. His comments come in the wake of a widespread concern in the film and television industry that Canada's 53 co-production treaties, most of which were signed in the 1980s, need updating to attract foreign investment. With film distribution moving onto online formats, there's a need to incorporate digital into co-production agreements that have already been signed. "That's a whole burgeoning industry that's somehow been exempt from it," he said in an interview following the panel discussion. In addition to making the treaties compatible to the digital age, Clarkson said there's a need to update the tax credit system so Canadian and foreign producers can maximize the benefits of the treaties. Currently, officials at Telefilm Canada are in the process of reviewing the treaties, but Clarkson warned that the process is complex and that re-opening discussions with foreign treaty partners could drag on for a long time. But while there's always room for improving co-production, it's not the only way, says Martin Katz, president of Prospero Pictures, who told CFTPA delegates there are ways to take advantage of joint productions, such as through twinning agreements and other joint ventures with foreign producers. Treaties, he says, should be viewed "as one of the tools in the box." In an interview, Katz says treaties have given Canadians a mindset that is adaptable to doing co-productions whether they are under the treaties or not. "I think we need to be doing more and more of this." Any new framework on co-production treaties needs to be flexible, adds Katz, noting that there's also room for quick negotiations with some countries. Clarkson points to Australia as an example, which is currently top on Canada's list of countries for joint productions. In reforming the tax credit system, Katz says the Canada Revenue Authority should enact rules that don't complicate issues for producers wishing to engage in joint productions. He also calls on Canada to incorporate co-production ventures in upcoming trade negotiations with the European Union. As for what the industry should do to revise the antiquated co-production treaties, Clarkson recommends speaking out about he importance of these treaties. "It's not just a cultural activity, it's also compatible with our industrial priorities as a nation," he says. Globally, Canada has led the world in international co-production treaties, but panelists at the convention decried the fact that Canada has since been overtaken by other countries. A CFTPA report on the industry released today points out that activity on the international co-production scene has dropped by 48%, garnering about $298 million for the 2007-2008 fiscal year. Protectionist measures, taken by some of Canada's co-production partners in Europe as a result of laws that limit joint ventures among EU members, have also contributed to dwindling co-productions with Canadian producers. Last year, 58 joint productions were produced in Canada, the majority of them being with partners from European countries. About 17 joint productions were carried out with partners from France, followed by Britain (16) and Australia (7), while Switzerland, Romania and Luxumbourg each had 2, according to Telefilm figures. Looking ahead, Katz says the sector should do well if authorities in Canada grasp the importance of re-energizing co-production. "The future is ours and I think we are going to see more and more, the importance of international cooperation and co-production financing and I think we need to be particularly flexible in the way we apply the rules we have."