Business

B.C. movie business feeling squeeze

Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman star in the X-Men movies, a series that started production in Vancouver and moved to Montreal. - 20th Century Fox
Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman star in the X-Men movies, a series that started production in Vancouver and moved to Montreal.
— image credit: 20th Century Fox

VICTORIA – The B.C. government is working on ways to hold onto movie, TV and video game production, as Hollywood shifts work to other provinces and countries that give attract them with generous subsidies and tax breaks.

But that won't involve matching generous tax credits offered by Ontario and Quebec, said Bill Bennett, B.C.'s minister of community, sport and cultural development.

"I understand why the film and TV and digital media industries are concerned," Bennett said in an interview Monday. "What the film industry seems to want mainly is for us to match the tax credits that are available in Ontario, and we can't do that."

Bennett said he is working on a new policy that will "clean up and simplify" the business environment for the industry, which is looking at further costs as B.C. prepares to phase out the harmonized sales tax in March.

Movie industry insiders say most of B.C.'s movie crews are out of work as 2013 begins. One of those is Lee Cleary, assistant director on such B.C.-made movies as The Hurt Locker, Fantastic 4 and two of the first X-Men movies.

"The last project that I worked on in B.C. was in 2009, on The 'A' Team," Cleary said from his home in Vancouver, where he has lived for 10 years. "Since then the blockbuster films have not been coming here."

In 2009, Ontario stepped up its tax credit for film and TV production to 25 per cent of all spending by foreign companies in the province. Since then, Ontario has passed B.C. as the third largest entertainment production centre in North America, after California and New York.

B.C. gives the industry a 33-per-cent refundable tax credit on labour spending only.

Quebec has also stepped up its incentives, resulting in 20th Century Fox moving later movies in the X-Men series to Montreal.

Bennett said the B.C. government provided $1.2 million last year to BC Film + Media, a non-profit society that offers financing, marketing and skills development.

Another $947,000 went to the BC Film Commission, a provincial government office that helps producers secure permits, crews and shooting locations around the province. Another $235,000 was provided to regional film commissions last year.

Cleary said the rise of computer image techniques reduce the appeal of B.C. scenery to filmmakers. B.C.'s spectacular mountains can be added to a scene "with a brushstroke," and Hollywood studios are shopping the world for the best deal, he said.

B.C. still has a reputation for quality crews, beautiful locations and easy access to Los Angeles, but those things alone aren't keeping big studio projects coming. Cleary said B.C. residents are still finding work, but leaving the province to get it.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

Room to Live campaign launched
 
First snowfall at Whitewater
 
Hammers swinging in Studio 80 renovation
Election 2014: Mayoralty hopefuls face off
 
Election 2014: Candidates square off
 
Gun amnesty declared in June
First snow fall of the year
 
Phase two
 
District of Sparwood shuts down Well #3 due to selenium levels