B.C. loses film industry jobs
VANCOUVER—Film crews are sitting idle and studio space is near-empty in British Columbia as higher tax rebates lure productions to competitors in Ontario and Quebec, says an industry insider who’s lobbying for change.
Peter Leitch, president of North Shore Studios, said more people have gone without work in B.C.’s film and television industry in the last six months even as Premier Christy Clark has touted job creation in the western province.
“Part of it is seasonal, but certainly part of it is that our tax credits are not at the level playing field that they used to be historically,” he remarked.
An online petition has garnered thousands of signatures on a petition to save the B.C. film industry, and that’s a sign of desperation from people without work, said Leitch, who also is chairman of the Motion Picture Production Association.
Even a temporary increase in tax credits would remedy the “devastating situation,” he argued.
“In terms of studio space availability, I’ve never seen this much studio space available in Vancouver in my 25 years, and that’s a real barometer of employment,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, Montreal and Toronto are continuing to build stages as business grows.
“This will be our worst quarter I can remember,” Leitch said of his 23-year-old studio in the province that earned the moniker “Hollywood North” in its heyday during production of TV hits such as “Stargate,” “X-Files,” and “Smallville.”
B.C. offers the film industry a 33-percent tax rebate on labour costs, as compared to 25 percent in credits on all costs involved in productions in Ontario and Quebec, Leitch said.
That represents only a 10 percent savings in the end for made-in-B-C projects, he noted.
“And they get bigger federal tax credits because of the all-spend [incentives],” Leitch added.
Clark said the government shells out $285 million in tax credits to the film industry and more money won’t be available as the province aims to balance its budget.
“I’ve been talking to leading members of the film industry and I understand the pressure, the race to the bottom we’ve seen in economies that are really struggling,” she said.
“But in British Columbia, we’re also going to balance our budget,” Clark stressed.
“We don’t have a bottomless pit of decisions to be able to make.”
Leitch said customers from California, for example, are more likely to do business in B.C. because of the similar time zone and proximity, but the bigger bang-for-the buck in the eastern provinces is a huge draw.
The B.C. industry has invested more than $1 billion in infrastructure and benefited the province’s economy in spin-off business from production crews.