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Wednesday, 21 December 2011 18:07

Eastern Canada: Above-the-Borderline Benefits

Written by  Nathan Hoturoa Gray
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nunavik-national-park_2Exploiting an exciting array of locations and landscapes, great tax incentives and 3D technology, Eastern Canada has become a world leader in attracting films to its provinces. And with a deep crew base that’s hungry for work in this economically pivotal period, the region offers a cinematic playground that makes for scintillating reading and so much more. P3 Update reports on the progress of Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011. 

NOVA SCOTIA

With some of the most diverse scenery in Canada, an awe-inspiring coastline, rural villages and modern urban centers, Nova Scotia is the ultimate filming destination.  Continually building up new cinematographic talent to help bolster the wealth of actors and six world-class crews that sustain the roost, Nova Scotia continues to fuel its impressive cinematic record by averaging over $100 million annually over the past decade.

noviascotia_call-me-fitzThe Nova Scotia Film Industry Tax Credit entails a labor-based tax credit consisting of 50 percent of eligible Nova Scotia labor expenditures that occur in the Halifax region, or 60 percent if most of the filming takes place outside at least a 30-kilometer radius from the City of Halifax. (If less than 50 percent of the principal photography days are shot outside Metro Halifax, the Regional bonus is prorated based on the number of days principal photography is shot outside the Halifax Region.) With strict residency requirements for eligible employees that the corporate tax credit affects, the labor-based credit encourages the development, training and hiring of Nova Scotia film personnel in all disciplines. In addition, there’s the possible addition of a 5-percent tax credit under the Frequent Filming Bonus, if three eligible films are shot within a two-year period. Thus, a mind-boggling maximum of 65 percent can be claimed overall. With no production-budget caps, many films and TV series have recently shot in the province, including The Disappeared, “Titanic: The Aftermath,” “Call Me Fitz” (Season 3), “Bag of Bones,” “Mr. D,” “Artzooka!” and “Monster Math Squad.”

Nova Scotia is equipped with state-of-the-art video and audio postproduction facilities. Tour Tech in Halifax features two stages with a combined space of 12,000 square feet, while a studio in the historic town of Shelburne comprises three stages with over 20,000 square feet of space. In addition to supporting award-winning local productions, Film Nova Scotia attracts studios like Disney, Sony and 20th Century Fox, as well as internationally renowned filmmakers and actors, such as Harrison Ford, Kevin Spacey and Tom Selleck. Norman Stevens, Executive Producer of National Geographic’s “I, Darwin,” is full of praise for Nova Scotia’s crew base, great incentives and ongoing help from the film board’s one-stop shop. Don Carmody, co-producer of Amelia (starring Hilary Swank) and executive producer of Outlander (a Viking-styled sci-fi film), praises the province’s outstanding locations and experienced crews, particularly their skills in futuristic filmmaking.

QUEBEC/MONTREAL

“Quebec has always been at the forefront of innovating bold, new production mechanisms in the film industry,” says Hans Fraikin of the Quebec Film and TV Council. The province offers 25-percent cash back on all expenses, the first Canadian province to establish an “All-Spend” tax-credit regime. There’s another 16 percent available from the federal government on eligible local labor under the Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit (PSTC) Program. Add to this an additional 25-percent labor incentive for projects where VFX and green screen or digital animation are involved — all making it possible to secure a mouth-watering 44 percent of cash back! “They’re one of the most competitive in all North America,” reports Fraikin. The province has attracted important, big-budget flicks, such as Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, The Aviator, The Day After Tomorrow and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. “It’s one of the reasons why we’re so busy, despite the dollar at par,” notes Fraikin, whose aim is to continue building Quebec’s worldwide rep as a leader in special effects and animation.

quebec_mtl---nightFraikin has also made great locations easily available by exploiting Quebec’s remarkably diverse landscapes, in particular its urban and pastoral settings and modern and historical settlements, which mirror both North America and Europe. “Last month we had Bradley Cooper in a pre-war Paris setting and this month we have Olivia Wilde in modern New York,” he notes. “And next month, Summit Entertainment, [the company behind the Twilight franchise], will be filming their next feature film in an empty airport just 25 minutes north of Montreal. … You can’t beat that for variety!” With no minimum spend or a prescribed cap, Hollywood and global executives race to utilize Quebec’s generous tax incentives. Recent shoots include the Jack Kerouac classic On the Road, Source Code, Immortals, Upside Down, 300 and location-based films like The Words (starring Bradley Cooper, Olivia Wilde, Zoe Saldana and Jeremy Irons). 

Relativity Media Co-President Tucker Tooley (currently shooting the Snow White film Mirror Mirror) and Source Code Producer Mark Gordon were both drawn to Quebec partly because of the generous tax incentives, and both are very complimentary of the province’s state-of-the-art facilities open to the production of all kinds. Montreal has more than 50 soundstages (including one offering 36,500 square feet), 500 broadcasting and production companies (including visual and animation studios), and a crew base of well over 35,000 technicians. “I’ve shot [in Montreal] three times in the past eight years, and I’d go back in a shot,” Gordon says. “The facilities and crews are terrific. Montreal also offers great hotels and restaurants, and there’s a good local acting pool. And if you need to bring anyone in, it’s very close to New York or Toronto. It just has everything going for it.”

ONTARIO AND TORONTO

Supporting a cluster of almost 300,000 entertainment employees, Ontario is the third-biggest creative and entertainment sector in North America (after California and New York) and offers the whole package when it comes to enticing filmmakers. With diverse locations, top-notch facilities, theatres, restaurants, clubs, attractions and 5-star hotels, Ontario also offers some of the best technical and creative players in the industry underpinned by the solid work of the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC).

tr-d4_1268_2In 2010, almost a billion dollars in production activity took place in Ontario, including Dream House (starring Daniel Craig), The Thing and the TV miniseries “The Kennedys.” Many film projects are currently in production, such as Sony Pictures’ Total Recall, Director Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim and Resident Evil: Retribution, as well as numerous TV series, including “Warehouse 13,” “Nikita” and “Rookie Blue.” “I love shooting in Toronto, as evidenced by the fact I’ve been involved with four films here: three as a producer, [The Hurricane, Dawn of the Dead and The Thing], and one as director, [Flash of Genius],” says Producer/Director Marc Abraham about his experiences in Toronto. “It’s a city that welcomes filmmakers and has truly nurtured an artistic climate. The talent base, especially in terms of crew, is as good as it gets.”

Ontario offers several tax incentives for film and television production. The Ontario Production Services Tax Credit (OPSTC) entails a 25-percent tax credit on all eligible production expenditure, which includes Ontario below-the-line labor, as well as costs related to locations, facilities and studios, equipment, computer software, set construction, wardrobe, props, editing and post. Also available is the Ontario Computer Animation & Special Effects Tax Credit (OCASE), which is calculated at 20 percent of eligible Ontario labor expenditures for animation and special effects in film and TV productions. All of these tax incentives can be combined with the Federal Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit of up to 16 percent on labor, and there are no per-project or per-company caps or limits on the number of productions supported.

newfoundland_westernbrook2NEWFOUNDLAND  AND  LABRADOR

The Newfoundland and Labrador Film and Video Tax Credit is a fully refundable corporate tax credit limited to the lesser of 25 percent of the total eligible budget, or 40 percent of the total eligible labor expenditures. In order to qualify, at least 25 percent of the total salaries and wages must be paid to eligible employees in the province, and there is a $3 million cap per annum. The eligibility criteria are designed to ensure maximum employment and growth for the local industry while helping to ensure that the Newfoundland Independent Filmmakers Cooperative (NIFCO) thrives as a high-tech postproduction and training facility.

“In 2010 to 11, the province reached approximately $30 million in annual total production activity, the highest level in the NLFDC’s history,” reports Chris Bonnell, film commissioner and executive director of the Newfoundland and Labrador Film Development Corporation (NLFDC). “Two of our feature films were recently released to critical acclaim.” These films are Crackie, which screened at the prestigious Cannes and Toronto film festivals, and Grown Up Movie Star, a Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize winner and the first-ever Atlantic Canadian feature in the Festival’s international competition. The second season of the dramatic TV series “The Republic of Doyle” was also highly successful with an average of over 1,000,000 viewers per episode, and the show has recently been renewed for a third season. Documentary and reality TV production also continues to flourish, especially through shows like “Mickey: Everyone’s Best Friend” and the new series “Pet ER.”

NEW BRUNSWICK   
 
The smaller province of New Brunswick, right on the spectacular eastern seaside coast of Canada, is a vibrant setting packed with striking rural landscapes, quaint fishing villages, bustling cities and captivating historical settlements. And it has a highly respected community of well-seasoned film and television industry professionals ready to contribute to all forms of production.

Following the Minister for the Department of Wellness, Culture and Sport’s presentation of the 2011–12 budget, the Provincial Government made the decision to eliminate the Development Loan and Equity Investment programs for the New Brunswick film industry. It was also announced last March that the 40-percent New Brunswick Film Tax Credit would be phased out, thereby preventing any new applications. However, the Provincial Government stated that it is interested in developing a new digital-media tax credit and will be looking into it with the input from industry stakeholders throughout the ensuing year.
2011 has been a busy year for most of Eastern Canada despite the ongoing challenges the global financial meltdown continues to provide the film industry worldwide. Until the right balance of supply and demand can be found, Eastern Canadian provinces may feature cost-cutting and a realistic realignment of governmental policies underpinning their film tax-incentive regimes more regularly in 2012.

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