Filming set to boom again in Canada

Quebec tax-credit lures productions

MONTREAL Is Canada back in Hollywood’s good graces? The Great White North had fallen out of favor as a shooting location for Hollywood filmmakers in the past few years as more and more U.S. states added lucrative tax credits, using the very same ploy that turned Canada into a hot spot for American filming in the first place.

But business is booming right now in British Columbia — traditionally the province Los Angeles producers like best, since it’s so close to home — and Toronto has also begun to nab more TV work, notably wrestling quite a few pilots this spring from L.A.

Quebec was the only one of the country’s three main shooting centers that continued to languish, but it appears that’s now going to change thanks to the province’s newly beefed-up tax-credit program. On June 12, the Quebec government announced that it’s increasing its tax credit for film and TV shooting in the province from 25% of labor expenses to 25% of the overall budget for films and TV shows lensed in la belle province. This move effectively doubles the Quebec film credit and makes it the most lucrative such program in Canada.

Another sign of American good-fellowship toward its Northern neighbor was a stronger American TV exec presence at the recent Banff World Television Festival — a side effect of the sudden appearance of Canadian-made series like “Flashpoint” and “The Listener” in primetime on the U.S. networks. It may be too early to talk about Runaway Production, the Sequel, but there’s no question that there is more American film action north of the border right now than at any time in the past couple of years.

But Canada is not out of the woods yet, cautions Paul Bronfman, chairman of the board at Toronto film studio Filmport.

“Toronto has picked up a bit, but it’s not where it should be,” said Bronfman.

Part of the problem is the strength of the Canadian dollar relative to the U.S. buck, with the Canuck dollar hovering around the 90¢ range in recent weeks. But that strong dollar hasn’t put a damper on the action in Vancouver, which currently has nine Hollywood features shooting — including MGM’s “Hot Tub Time Machine” and Fox’s “Percy Jackson” — three telepics, two miniseries and seven series, including “Define Gravity,” “Fringe” and “Sanctuary.”

Vancouver has the advantages of its proximity to and shared time zone with Hollywood plus five major facilities and almost 1 million square feet of stage space. Toronto is in the midst of a major studio space crunch that’s certainly not helping the city (see separate story).

In Montreal, Michel Trudel, from Mel’s Cite du Cinema, the city’s largest studio, said he has booked seven American movies since the announcement of the new tax credit, though he wouldn’t name names. Two American productions are currently before the cameras in Montreal: the Lionsgate TV series “Blue Mountain State” and CBS Films pic “Beastly,” with Vanessa Hudgens.

 

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