Quebec, Ontario luring TV, film projects

VANCOUVER — Industryites in British Columbia are warning of the imminent collapse of the production business in Vancouver, once so busy it was dubbed Hollywood North.

The city is losing film and TV projects and jobs to Quebec and Ontario, lured by the more generous all-spend tax credit offered by the Eastern provinces.

Currently, there aren’t any films shooting in B.C. and only a handful of TV shows, including “Once Upon a Time,” “Arrow” and “Bates Motel.” Not so long ago, the province hosted tentpole properties including “The Twilight Saga,” “Man of Steel,” and “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.”

North Shore Studios prexy Peter Leitch said: “B.C. has many natural advantages and is one of the best places to grow the film and TV industry. We don’t have to match the credits in Ontario and Quebec — just get a little bit closer.”

B.C.’s tax incentives are set at 33% of labor costs while Ontario and Quebec offer a 25% tax credit on all production costs. Additionally, the harmonized sales tax, which combines the 7% provincial sales tax with the 5% goods and services sales tax levied by federal government, is being phased out and, as of April 1, the provincial portion will no longer be refundable to film and TV productions.

Premier Christy Clark, a Liberal, has indicated that she has no intention of engaging in a “race to the bottom” to increase tax credits, which she says cost the province’s taxpayers $285 million in 2012.

The premier’s comments and perceived indifference to the industry’s plight have raised a lot of heat, with over 4,000 people rallying at North Shore Studios on Jan. 22 and an active Save BC Film campaign underway on all social media. A petition is close to collecting 30,000 signatures.

They argue the film and TV incentives represent a rebate on funds brought into the province, not a handout.

Film and TV in B.C. is a $1.19 billion industry that employs over 25,000 people.

Throwing fuel on the fire, Clark has announced $11 million in funding for the first Times of India Film Awards, to take place in Vancouver April 4-6, before the start of the election campaign — irritating filmmakers who would prefer the money be used to support tax incentives.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson is backing the industry and aims to introduce a resolution at the next city council meeting that will call for “a national approach that would see a level playing field across Canada in the film and TV industry.”

There are, however, concerns that increased film subsidies are not sustainable and lead to artificial short-term gains, with Hollywood execs perpetually moving to wherever they can find lower prices, increasing volatility in the film industry.

But with largely unemployed crews and studio space sitting empty in what was once one of the most thriving film production centers in the world, a solution is needed.

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