B.C. biz seeks thaw

Canuck org wants more U.S. prod'n

VANCOUVER — A new organization representing the British Columbia film industry is going after a bigger share of funding from the federal government, and is demanding more competitive tax incentives to attract foreign productions.

The org’s plans, sure to enrage Hollywood, which is already hurt by runaway production, are listed in the Motion Picture Production Industry Assn. of B.C.’s first report, issued Thursday. Outlining an aggressive new strategy for growth, the report is a result of the B.C. Film summit held here in October. At that time, the B.C. government called on the industry to double its revenues over the next three years. Total production revs were about $693 million last year.

Since that lofty target was announced, production has slowed dramatically, unemployment in the industry has soared, and 2002 revenues are expected to decline sharply.

The dismal picture has focused attention on the MPPIA, whose directors largely downplay the collapse as a cyclical correction after more than a decade of rapid expansion. The 26-member org has emerged as the dominant voice for the firms and unions that make up B.C.’s industry, which employs 32,300.

B.C.’s film and TV production revenues have increased by 190% over the past six years, and foreign production reached a record high of C$856.8 million ($545.34 million) last year.

“We want more efficient tax incentives,” MPPIA board member Arthur Evrensel told Daily Variety. “We want to ensure a level playing field with other countries, such as Australia.”

Evrensel, head of the entertainment practice at Vancouver law firm Heenan Blaikie, said the org wants the provincial sales tax on production expenditures removed and is not asking for film subsidies. “That’s not something we’re debating. The goal is positive cash flow. The bottom line is we’ve really got to be competitive costwise, and to do that we have to work really closely with the stakeholders — the labor force, the government and the public.”

The MPPIA will be pushing for faster immigration processing for cross-border productions, a benefit for Americans and Canadian production workers.

It also intends to shore up the local film and television industry by lobbying for a bigger share of Telefilm and other federal funding, by working to maintain the B.C. Film Fund and by supporting the B.C. Film Commission.

The org wants a new B.C. Film Commission formed promptly. The previous commissioner, Mark Derochers, was suspended for undisclosed reasons in the winter and the government in Victoria has dragged its feet in replacing him.

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