by Greg Quill, Arts Writer
Polytechnic University’s film school as a distribution/promotion operation specializing in short films made by students and independent filmmakers.
Commercial video stores were indifferent to Lynx’s wares, which nonetheless found their way into libraries, film schools and alternative bookstores. When the company switched to distributing only non-theatrical documentaries- perhaps the narrowest of niches in the movie business- Floren noticed they fared better in bookstores than anywhere else. "Canadian films and local history books aren’t found in most bookstores, which are supplied by major distributors of best-selling titles," he says. "We thought if we could package books and videos together, and control the distribution ourselves, placing them in tourist venues and outlets in the areas in which the books and videos are set, we might be on to something." "We had to be in control of our own destiny. We’ll do anything to place and promote our books and videos- by word-of-mouth, at craft shows, via catalogue mailings. If we handed this over to a publisher, we’d get maybe 10 per cent of the profits."Doing things their own way, the Lynx partners have managed to sell 16,000 copies of the Ghosts of the Bay book/video kit (at $50 apiece) and thousands of copies of the Superior package (5,000 in December alone) and of the Georgian Bay lighthouses and Muskoka hotels kits.
American mega-chain Barnes & Noble has sold twice the number of Superior kits in the U.S. as Chapters has in Canada, convincing Floren, Gutsche and Chisholm that even their wildest expectations had been exceeded by the demands of an audience outside Canada.
The company recently signed a deal with the History Channel to produce three full-length documentaries in the next three years- on Ontario’s islands, about the history of Canada’s grand hotels and the third set in Newfoundland.
Floren is a licenced small-craft captain, which enables him to get to places (such as decommissioned lighthouses) in the Great Lakes that are off-limits to commercial boats and ferries. Sometimes, however, he and his partners end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. "We’ve been all over Lake Erie, Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and Lake Superior in all kinds of weather," says Gutsche, 34. Russell spent one whole day hanging on to the cowcatcher of the Algoma Central locomotive to shoot a track-level sequence for the Superior video. "And during the lighthouse documentary, we were moored at an island, sleeping on land, when a midnight gale snapped the boat-lines and waves about 15 feet high picked it up.We managed to jump aboard and get the motor’s out-drives down into the water, but only with seconds to spare. We thought we’d lost the boat and we’d be stranded there in a decommissioned lighthouse that no one ever visits."
LYNX IMAGES INC.
Film Production, Book Publishing and Distribution
104 Scollard St.
Toronto, Ontario M5R 1G2 Canada