B.C. aims for bigger film load

British Columbia remains one of the largest production centers on the continent after Los Angeles and New York. Direct spending in 1993 increased by more than a third to $ C285 million ($ 213.75 million) compared with the previous year. A total of 73 film and TV projects were shot in the province — up from 61 the year before. Of those, 46 were American, 14 Canadian and all but two of the rest were U.S./Canada co-productions.

Provincial plans

B.C. Film Commission director Diane Neufeld says the province is ideally situated for further growth because years of servicing U.S. producers has developed a work force that can handle just about anything.

“The talent in the middle of the process, cast and crew, is strong,” she said. “And we’re seeing development on the front end in development and writing, and at the other end in areas like post-production, animation and music. But there needs to be further advancement in financial and business skills so that this place is putting the deals together, not just receiving the deals.”

Neufeld is hoping 1994 will see a diversification of the foreign production sector via Canada’s co-production treaties, especially a pending one with Japan.

It remains to be seen if Asian investors will be attracted to Canada’s practice of mixing private and public support for homegrown productions, a confusing jigsaw puzzle of agencies, policies and interprovincial competition. B.C. has studied ways to consolitate for two years.

The new minister of small business, tourism and culture expects to introduce something of that sort in the next few months. Bill Barlee predicts it will include a provincial film investment plan along the lines of tax schemes available in Ontario and Quebec.

“I know the U.S. is taking dead aim at our cultural community,” he said, “so we have to protect our industry. Right now, B.C. funding is at about one-quarter of the Canadian average, and that’s way too low. We know that a million dollars invested in film goes further than anywhere else.”

The success of his arguments won’t be known until the provincial budget is presented, probably in March.

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