Government programs need mavens to navigate mazes

Canada boasts more than 30 film offices, all of which welcome U.S. producers with open arms. In addition to the many commissions that market their regions, the nation’s provinces have set up revenue agencies that administer increasingly generous fim tax incentives.

In this competitive environment, studios and indies can turn to consultants to help them navigate and decipher the maze of federal and provincial programs — and overlapping film jurisdictions.

“We identify every last dollar of qualifying costs,” says David Carter, prexy of Toronto-based Canada Film Capital, which bills itself as a one-stop shop for managing the nuts-and-bolts — and the paperwork — of applying for, earning and collecting Canada’s various production tax credits.

Carter notes that presentations to the Canadian Revenue Agency’s tax auditors must be absolutely orderly and complete. “They’re going to want to see every receipt and drill down to all source documents,” he says.

Outfits like Carter’s have their work cut out for them as the government programs change. The big news in June was that Quebec virtually doubled its fiscal incentives, and then the province of Ontario also announced it will rebate a percentage of nonlabor spends (see main story, at right).

“Obviously we’re the flavor of the month,” says Quebec’s film commissioner, Hans Fraikin. He adds that expanding the film tax credit program to include all spends — and an extra 5% for CGI and greenscreen work — was in response to producers opting out of the province. Despite Quebec’s desirable locations and established infrastructure, they were going elsewhere in search of richer rebates.

“We realized we were missing out for the wrong reasons. Producers wanted to come here but couldn’t afford to,” Fraikin explains.

The new program gives Quebec the most competitive film tax credit in Canada, which can be combined with Canada’s federal film tax credit for eligible labor expenditures within Canada. Fraikin says that since the announcement, the Quebec film office has received hundreds of calls and two pilots have committed to lensing in Montreal.

Business appears to be good in neighboring Ontario as well. Per film commish Donna Zuchlinski, the province is hosting 31 shows in various stages of pre- to post-production — a mix of U.S. features such as “Resident Evil: Afterlife” and skeins like ABC’s “Happy Town” — along with domestic productions like CTV’s “Flashpoint,” which was picked up by CBS for its Stateside primetime sked.

Zuchlinski’s office handles “all the advance scouting and prepares location photo packages,” she says, noting the services are free. Once a show chooses Ontario, “They only call us if they need us,” she says. Day-to-day permitting is handled by the Toronto Film and TV office.

Across the country, British Columbia is also trying to make itself as film-friendly as possible. The provincial commission, headed by Susan Croome, works with projects throughout pre-production to coordinating scouts and providing vendor lists of local goods and services. On the slate for B.C. this fall: the second season of J.J. Abrams’ “Fringe” and the feature version of “The A Team,” helmed by Joe Carnahan.

B.C.’s ministry of finance in Victoria establishes the province’s film tax credit rates. Vancouver-based agency B.C. Film administers and certifies that companies are eligible for film and TV tax credits — with veep Robert Wong being the go-to guy for queries.

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