Producers concerned about state of loonie

BANFF — A storm is brewing in the Great White North, as producers from across the country coming together over the weekend plan to raise the alarm over the Canadian dollar, now trading at a 30-year high.

The state of the loonie, currently trading at more than 94 cents U.S., promises to be a touchpoint at the annual meeting of the Canadian Film & Television Producers Assn., taking place on Saturday at the mountain resort town of Banff, Alberta, just prior to the Banff World Television Festival, kicking off Sunday.

“It’s definitely affecting things,” said producer Don Carmody (“Silent Hill,” “Chicago”) who serves on the board of the CFTPA. “The town (Toronto) looks reasonably busy now, but next year, especially if there’s a strike, it’s going to be sad.”

Studios in the Toronto area are deceptively busy at the moment because American producers committed to their summer schedule some time ago, and the potential for a strike Stateside by SAG and AFTRA makes it crucial to get as much fare in the can as possible. In addition, Toronto is especially pinched for studios space right now, with the closure in January of Cinespace’s Terminal 28 studios and blockbuster “The Incredible Hulk” taking up a lot of the best of that which remains.

There has been a great deal of buzz about the state of the loonie, and Carmody plans to agitate at the CFTPA meeting this weekend and again at a Toronto Film Board meeting in two weeks for a strong lobby to push all levels of government for increased incentives.

“The feds and the provinces have to decide, do they want to fight for this business?” he says. “Our tax credits are not as attractive as many jurisdictions. Is this an industry they want to save? I think it’s going to take another crisis before they’ll listen.”

Carmody has the federal government in particular in his sights. The feds pledged to increase tax credits when they killed a production tax shelter five years ago and again several years later when many Canadian provinces increased their tax credits, but never did.

Heritage minister Bev Oda is skedded to address delegates Sunday at the Banff World Television Festival, but her office has made no indication of what she will speak about.

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