Films losing status as Canadian projects

Several Canuck producers have sent letters to Toronto-based film distributor ThinkFilm demanding that the company allow them to take back rights to their pics.

With ThinkFilm now American-owned, the films will lose their official status as Canadian projects if released by ThinkFilm, which could force the producers to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax credits.

Previously Canadian-owned, ThinkFilm was acquired in October by Los Angeles entrepreneur David Bergstein, who also owns U.K.-based foreign sales agent Capitol Films.

Toronto lawyer David Steinberg, who reps three Canadian producers who are in dispute with ThinkFilm, said the company is refusing to negotiate with the filmmakers.

“I’ve sent letters to demand that the films be given to a Canadian distributor,” said Steinberg, a partner at Toronto law firm Heenan Blaikie, one of the main legal players in the Canuck film biz. Bergstein has not “responded to the letters. So we don’t know what his intentions are.

“We thought this would’ve been taken care of a long time ago. This seems irrational. Why would they be putting Canadian producers in this position?”

A ThinkFilm spokesman would say only that the company is in negotiations with some of the Canadian producers whose films are in limbo.

Under Canadian law, a Canadian film can access tax credits only if it is released by a Canadian-owned distributor. Producers normally obtain loans from banks based on the presumption that they will be repaid once the producers receive the tax credits after shooting wraps.

The lack of a Canadian-owned distrib also will affect the producers’ deals with TV networks, because the Canuck webs buy pics specifically to fill Canadian-content quotas. If the films are no longer officially Canadian, the nets may not want to air them.

An estimated 20 pics are affected by the dispute.

Steinberg represents Darius Films, producer of Slamdance opener “Weirdsville” and “Hank and Mike,” and Alchemist Entertainment, producer of “King of Sorrow.” All three pics were meant to be distributed in Canada by ThinkFilm. Steinberg also reps a third Canadian producer whom he would not name.

Another pic in ThinkFilm limbo is helmer Paul Fox’s comedy “Everything’s Gone Green,” penned by novelist Douglas Coupland. First Independent Pictures plans to release the film in the U.S. in late March, and the original plan was to launch the pic in Canada at the same time. That now looks unlikely to happen.

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