Sure is tough to find a current article on this topic and they never discuss actual dollars spent by taxpayers. A total ripoff!!
Dollar's rise a threat, but B.C. film industry hangs tough | Vancouver, Canada | Straight.com (external - login to view)
Dollar's rise a threat, but B.C. film industry hangs tough
By Travis Lupick (external - login to view)
Moviemakers in Vancouver are facing unprecedented financial challenges. Yet despite the strong Canadian dollar pushing up costs, Mary Anne Waterhouse sounded a rallying cry last week, saying the industry is here to stay.
Waterhouse, a producer of the award-winning B.C. feature Fido, has overseen the production of numerous U.S.–financed television programs in this province.
"A show has to make the decision to come here in order for me to be attached, and that's definitely been on the decline," Waterhouse told the Georgia Straight in a telephone interview. "But Vancouver has an infrastructure and has a crew base. It's right here, and that counts for something."
Waterhouse has been working in Vancouver's film industry for almost 20 years and is presently a producer for Anagram Pictures, a Vancouer-based production company. Addressing rumours that some local producers are considering leaving Vancouver, she said, "Truth is, we could all leave.…But me and my company aren't interested in that. We're interested in trying to build an industry here."
According to the B.C. Film Commission, $1.2 billion was spent on production in Vancouver in 2006, making B.C. the third-largest production centre in North America, behind California and New York state. Vancouver-made blockbusters from that period include I, Robot; X-Men: The Last Stand; and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Peter Leitch, chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of B.C., told the Straight in a telephone interview that there are approximately 20,000 people employed in Vancouver's film industry, plus another 10,000 who are indirectly employed by it. "Those people want to be working, so we need to find a way to meet the budgets that are coming up here and make it work," he said.
Leitch claimed that with a high Canadian dollar, North America's film industry is going to get more competitive. He noted that some states, such as New Mexico, Louisiana, and Illinois, have developed "very aggressive" incentive programs.
"When the dollar is at 70 cents, it's a no-brainer to come up to British Columbia," Leitch said. "When we're getting closer to 95 cents, then it gets a little more competitive."
Over the past decade, the strength of the Canadian dollar has increased dramatically, from 70 cents U.S. in the late 1990s to 96 cents in July.
When the Canadian dollar was at 70 cents, it was significantly cheaper for a U.S. production company to shoot in Canada. For example, a movie that would cost $10 million to shoot in California would only cost $7 million to shoot in Canada. But today, with the Canadian dollar hovering at around 95 cents, that same film would cost $9.5 million to shoot in Canada–a 36 percent increase on the cost 10 years ago.
Helmut Pastrick, chief economist for Credit Union Central of B.C., explained that as the U.S. dollar has depreciated, U.S. states are able to compete with the once significantly cheaper Canadian market. Some states are now offering tax incentives and subsidy-related benefits that offset the higher cost of doing business in the U.S.
The B.C. film and television tax-credit program entitles production companies filming in the province to an annual tax credit based on a percentage of their qualified B.C. labour expenditures. In 2005, the B.C. Ministry of Small Business and Revenue raised that incentive from 20 percent to 30. According to Pastrick, that was probably to offset a depreciating U.S. dollar and to counter rising subsidies offered to film companies shooting in the U.S. In 2008, B.C.'s tax-credit program is up for review. According to Pastrick, the rate of 30 percent is likely to increase again.
Some leaders in Vancouver's film industry, such as B.C. film commissioner Susan Croome, claim that while the Canadian dollar is important in bringing U.S. film companies to B.C., there are other equally significant factors to be taken into account.
Croome argued that the real benefits of filming in Vancouver are its experienced actors and crews, developed infrastructure, and diverse locations. "So you're getting a very high-quality, world-class production centre in British Columbia," she said. "I think that B.C. has proven that it is the best value for a producer's dollar."
Don Ramsden, business agent for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 669, told the Straight by phone that Vancouver's film industry is presently at a point of saturation. "I would be hard-pressed to put another show in this town," he said.
Many local actors are not so optimistic. Tasha Simms has been a part of Vancouver's film industry since the mid 1980s and has worked on such television series as The X-Files and Da Vinci's Inquest. In a telephone interview with the Straight, she claimed that a higher Canadian dollar has put local actors out of work.
Simms said that while American production companies operating in Vancouver once hired local actors for lucrative roles, it is now economically viable–and common practice–for American actors to be flown up from the States to sets in Vancouver and put up in hotels.
"Any actor who has been working for a long period of time in this country is suffering," she said. "If you work at something for 20, 30 years, you are supposed to be making more than you did 20 years ago, and I'm not." Still passionate about the business, Simms has diversified her career and now focuses more on writing. In 2005, she obtained a master's degree in psychotherapy. Actors in Vancouver cannot rely on acting to make a living, Simms said.
Waterhouse said she is concerned for the future of Vancouver's film industry. She argued that with such a significant change in the Canadian dollar, prices will have to be adjusted. However, she said there was no need to "get dramatic about leaving the city".