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Prairie provinces double for U.S. West

Manitoba, Saskatchewan offer enticing incentives

“A seedy hotel room is a seedy hotel room, no matter where you go,” says Susanne Bell, CEO of Saskfilm, the entity set up to bring production to the prairie province of Saskatchewan and its urban centers of Saskatoon and Regina.

Of course, Saskatchewan has a lot more than seedy hotel rooms to offer. In addition to lots of countryside, urban locations and experienced crews, the province lures productions with “an extremely competitive tax incentive program,” says Bell, “and an amazing studio complex,” with exteriors able to cover for a wide variety of locales — but especially the U.S. Midwest and small American cities.

And, apparently, parts of Las Vegas. Bell notes that one recent production was able to use not only prairie exteriors to pass for Nevada, but created a Vegas hotel room on soundstages as well.

The province has become a favorite of indie producer Christine Vachon, and the budget relief includes a base tax credit of 45% on all above- and below-the-line labor — a credit that can run as high as 55% if additional bonuses (including an extra 5% for using rural locales and smaller towns) are followed. 

Bell’s neighbor to the east is Carole Vivier, CEO of Manitoba Film & Sound, which provides incentives not just for film and TV but also music projects, since Winnipeg boasts a combo cinema and tune scene analogous to the one in Austin, some 1,500 miles to the south.

Vivier boasts of an amped-up infrastructure to rival anything found on Canada’s coasts. She also notes the province is now “about four deep in crew.” 

Manitoba’s own tax breaks can run as high as 65% on all labor. The base is similar to Saskatchewan’s 45%, with other bonuses, including a “frequent filming” bonus of 10%, for which it is possible to qualify by working with a Manitoba-based production company. 

Noteworthy productions have included “Capote” and “The Haunting in Connecticut,” both indicating that — as with Saskatchewan’s doubling for Vegas — the production incentives in Canada’s own midwest can stand in a for a wide swath of other locales, especially if the price is right.