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Shant Joshi started Fae Pictures in 2017, when societal division in North America began to grow deeper. “I felt we needed stories that brought us together,” he says in a recent conversation. By creating content for, by and about queer, trans and BIPOC people, Joshi aims to build connection and empathy.
Having started the company just out of film school, Joshi hit the ground running – he had produced 15 short films as a student and he and his team at Fae quickly added to a robust library of work. “When we connected and realized we were after the same thing, it has contributed to the volume of projects. We are also a very young company with a desire for growth — my team and I coalesced around the idea of Fae, which has helped bolster our respective careers.”
The company really began scaling up in 2020 — and while the pandemic was a challenging time for the film industry, the relief funding available enabled Fae to access early-stage financing and grow as a result. Today, in the midst of an inflationary and recessionary environment – with growing overhead costs and decreasing revenues across the industry – growth is a little more challenging. But Joshi has a plan.
Avenues for growth
Fae Pictures generates revenue in a few different ways. Many of their short films have been sold to CBC Gem, and they’re always looking for ways to monetize their films through the festival circuit. “Festival distribution has netted the highest returns for us so far,” says Joshi, explaining that because many of the festivals are financed through grants, donor support and sponsorship, that revenue stream hasn’t dried up.
“The quantity of bookings is still pretty decent, especially if you’re releasing a top tier festival release,” he says. “Our film Framing Agnes premiered at Sundance and won two awards. Our next film, In Flames, is premiering at the Directors Fortnight section at Cannes, and our short form series premiered at Canneseries.” Other revenue streams include Pay TV and educational content. “It’s a matter of figuring out how to distribute across multiple channels without losing money on any one of those channels,” explains Joshi.
The current economic climate and the increase in risk averseness in the industry at this time have conspired to spur Joshi and his team to move into distribution. “Producing is always an endeavour to convince people in positions of power not only that your story is worth it, but that it will be appreciated, seen and paid for by audiences.”
While there has been a growing appetite for content produced by and about underserved populations, Fae Pictures still faces barriers in some rooms. “Everyone is afraid to be a tastemaker right now,” says Joshi. “It’s safer for decision makers to follow other people’s tastes than to make the wrong taste. One of our goals in getting into distribution is to be a tastemaker and create new ways of understanding cinema and television.”
The lower acquisition prices contribute to this being a good time for the move into distribution. “It could be a mode by which we generate alternate revenue and have a more direct relationship with audiences,” says Joshi.
Leveraging the BIPOC Emerging Producers Lending Program
The BIPOC Emerging Producers Lending Program at RBC is designed to provide access to financing and other crucial support to non-established producers in the BIPOC community – producers like Shant Joshi.
Joshi and his team have leveraged the program to develop their latest film, Queen Tut — a feature film about a newly-arrived Egyptian immigrant who befriends a trans drag mother and explores his own queer identity as the pair fight to save a struggling drag nightclub.
“The BIPOC Emerging Producers Lending Program is our first bank loan,” explains Joshi. “As a growing company, we don’t have much in the way of assets and our profits aren’t that impressive. The program allows for those criteria to be suspended in favour of supporting the community, supporting the project and empowering it for success. If we didn’t go through the program, it may have been more expensive for us to borrow, we may have had to go through alternative routes or otherwise knock on doors of friends and family.”
Margaret Lewis, Commercial Account Manager in RBC’s Media & Entertainment team and one of the creators of the BIPOC Emerging Producers Lending Program, approached Joshi about the program.
“I had originally reached out to connect with Shant in 2021 to learn more about him and Fae because the company’s mandate to decolonize Hollywood, backed by their slate of high-quality projects, really stood out to me,” she explains. “It was clear to me then, as it is now, that Shant and his team are going to be the creative leaders of the near future in Canada. So, I knew when we launched the program, I could propose that we not only be an option to cash flow his upcoming production, but also that we could leverage our Commercial Banking resources and networks to assist with the company’s continued growth.”
Queen Tut is nearing the end of production — it has been picked up internationally, and it was screened at the Cannes market to attract buyers. In the meantime, Fae Pictures continues to produce short and feature films, educational content and TV series in pursuit of their mission to build empathy and tolerance, connect people and improve representation of trans, queer and BIPOC individuals in the film industry — in Hollywood, Canada and beyond.
*Throughout this article you will see the term “BIPOC,” which stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. This term recognizes the unique histories of racism Black and Indigenous people have lived through. The term BIPOC is not intended to be a catch-all as RBC recognizes that not all people experience racism in the same way.
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