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Ontario pledges incentives to lure filmmakers

TORONTO — Ontario has heard the beleaguered production industry’s message loud and clear, and help is on the way: So says the province’s Minister of Finance, Greg Sorbara, who met filmmakers in Toronto on Wednesday.

“I reiterated our support and committed to a timely response given the urgent nature of the situation,” he said.

Reps from lobby group FilmOntario said the government was receptive to requests for an increase in domestic TV tax credit incentives to 33%, film incentives to 40% and a rise in foreign service incentives for film and TV from 11% to 16% to lure work back to the province.

“We walked out of there optimistic that not only do they understand the problem but also the urgency of it,” said Mark Prior, prexy of Comweb Group and a board member of FilmOntario.

Industryites expect 2004 production in Canada to be down about 25%. The drop in Ontario is less, since 2003 was a catastrophic year in the province due to the SARS scare, which was centered in Toronto.

Prior said Comweb Group is a typical example of how the industry’s faring.

Comweb Group, which includes William F. White, Entertainment Partners Canada and Protocol Entertainment, has laid off more than 100 people in the past two years, about a third of its staff.

Before they were elected in October 2003, the provincial Liberals promised to boost the province’s indigenous film and TV tax credit from 20% to 33% and to introduce a feature film component that would increase the tax credit from 20% to 40% of eligible expenditures.

A provincial government spokesman declined to provide a timeline or specify whether the government is looking beyond its previous commitments.

“We want to be able to look at the proposals that the film industry brought to us, look at some data and get back to them,” said Ministry of Finance spokesman Sean Hamilton. “The new currency of the film and TV industry is tax credits,” Prior said. “That’s the language we all speak.”

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