Vancouver gets down to biz

The standing-room-only Trade Forum (Oct. 2-4) at the Vancouver Intl. film festival (Oct. 2-18) has set a precedent. Rather than being a mundane how-to sesh for budding writers, some 15 panels addressed finance, the North American Free Trade Agreement and a budding West Coast industry caught between Los Angeles-style competition and Canada’s government incentives.

The wealth of Canadian bankers and lawyers in attendance was testimony that the emerging British Columbia industry is distinct from its cultural bank of Canadian eastern industryites.

Government officials in B.C. are currently examining an Ontario tax shelter model (dubbed OFIP) which has fewer cultural restrictions than its sister funder (the Ontario Film Development Corp.) and isn’t costing the average Ontario taxpayer a cent, per OFDC topper Paul Gratton.

The OFIP tax shelter is up for government renewal (in March) so Gratton revealed profitable numbers off the record (in the presence of 200 industryites) , and plans to use those new stats to lobby government officials.

Gratton also revealed that Ontario’s tax shelter is more useful to TV producers than film producers, who have to play the cultural game with the OFDC to get cash from the province.

The Trade Forum revealed that B.C.’s mixed game is a wheel of fortune with many gamblers.

Ultimately, Gratton said that the marriage of the provinces’ two separate provincial programs (one designed for culture and one geared for private investment) is “the ideal hybrid.”

Telefilm Canada topper Pierre DesRoches revealed that the federal funding agency is near completion in negotiations with its department of communications to greenlight a program whereby producers could secure 65% of their banks loans via a new guarantee.

“It’s a Special Production Fund which requires a guarantee of 65% return,” DesRoches revealed, adding any loans will have to meet strict federal regulations about Canadian content.

DesRoches theoretically secured bank notes by adding that Telefilm would have to absorb occasional defaults, but said Telefilm would soon announce “an established plan of loan guarantee,” with a federal backing of some $ 50 million to $ 75 million.

Earlier in the trade forum, “Fried Green Tomatoes” exec producer Andy Meyers kicked off the lively event’s weekend sesh with an inspired speech advising Canucks to “Just Do It.” He advocated the “idea” as king and said the script is crucial.

Washington-based Meyers told Canadians they don’t have to live in L.A. to play the studio game. “Use Hollywood for what you need it for,” he advised.

Vet producer, formerly prez of both A&M Films and Robert Redford’s Wildwood Prods., recently launched his own Port Townsend Film Co. and inked a two-year first-look production pact with Warner Bros. (Daily Variety, Aug. 18). Start-up company’s first project is based on Norman Maclean’s “Young Men and Fire” and Meyers convinced Warners to buy the rights (Daily Variety, Aug. 31), although no production dates have been announced.

Meyers–an “outsider” link between the L.A. and Vancouver communities–told Daily Variety, “If you can produce (for Hollywood) in Port Townsend, Wash., you can produce in Vancouver.”

He doesn’t think the boundaries matter much: “I think it’s a simple question of creativity,” he said. “I just don’t think people need to be obsessed with the migration to L.A. You need to be obsessed with the work.”

Meyers also predicts that Canucks and Northwestern Yanks have a growing shot at producing with the big guys: “There’s a lot of creative people up here.”

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