Canuck prod’n building

Publicity fueling spurt

VANCOUVER — U.S. protests over runaway pic and TV production haven’t hurt Canada — in fact, they may be giving it a boost. Producers in Hollywood and Europe are making significantly more inquiries into shooting projects here. “Interest is at an all-time high,” a jubilant Peter Mitchell, director of the British Columbia Film Commission, told Daily Variety. Mitchell said the sudden appearance of the Europeans is a surprise benefit from the controversy. “With all the attention we’re getting from the Americans, they think we must have something going for us.” Mitchell said generous tax incentives, expanding production facilities and the low dollar are luring producers here. He projects healthy growth in the industry over the next five years, with total spending reaching almost $700 million this year.

“There’s no doubt interest is up,” Sacha McLean, general manager of Vancouver Film Studios, told Daily Variety. “And summer is notoriously the slow season for us, with everyone away shooting on location.”

“All the publicity in the United States has made producers realize that, because of Vancouver’s popularity, they have to call earlier to book for prime studio space and to reserve crews,” said Susan Croome, general manager of the Bridge Studios.

“We’re already getting calls for next spring and summer, and that doesn’t normally happen until October.”

Interest is also up in Ontario and Quebec, Canada’s other major production centers. As a result, political support is growing across the country for provincial funding to support development and production financing.

Manitoba and Ontario are expected to substantially increase funding allocations this year, while the financially stressed government of British Columbia is likely to maintain its annual grant despite making severe spending cutbacks elsewhere.

Bridge Studios’ Croome worries that the high overall demand for facilities and crews, especially for TV series and commercials, may hinder growth in the high-budget feature film segment of the industry in British Columbia.

“We need more large-effect-size facilities,” she said. “We’ve had a very steep growth curve, and obviously it’s not leveling off.”

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