Atlantic Canada: Film biz recovering nicely

‘If half of what is rumored to be [coming] here happens, we’ll be in pretty good shape,’ says Kris Gilbert, general manager at William F. White in Nova Scotia. Cautious optimism seems to be the flavor of the day – not atypical for Atlantic Canada.

Even though 2007/08 was the worst year in a decade for Nova Scotia – the industry brought in just $76 million, far lower than the over $100 million average of previous years – fiscal 2008/09 saw a great recovery.

‘We did very well,’ says Ann MacKenzie, president and CEO of Film Nova Scotia. ‘We haven’t officially released the numbers yet, but it’s around $150 million’ in service and domestic productions combined, she says.

MacKenzie credits the 2007 increase in the Nova Scotia tax credit – from 35% to 50% on labor, with a further bonus for ‘frequent flier’ productions and those working outside the zone – as a primary reason for the upswing. ‘A lot of things were able to move forward in our direction,’ she notes.

The last 12 months have seen the remake of Ice Castles shoot in Halifax, and I, Darwin (the first docudrama produced by the National Geographic Channel), both of which were anchored locally by Michael Mahoney’s Magic Rock Productions. And in what has become an annual ritual, fingers are crossed for the possible return of Tom Selleck this fall to make another Jesse Stone MOW for CBS.

Tim Storey, business agent for the Directors Guild of Canada in Atlantic Canada notes that last year’s big copro miniseries Sea Wolf (from Germany’s Tele Munchen and Chester, NS-based Big Motion Pictures’ David MacLeod) kept people busy. A new version of Moby Dick from the same production companies is still pending. ‘Right now it’s an issue of locations, funding and boats,’ says Storey. ‘We’re all standing by on that one.’

Storey expects the ratification of the Screen Actors Guild agreement to bring in more business from the U.S., but meanwhile: ‘We seem to be doing okay by the Germans.’

Studio Hamburg is now shooting two German-language MOW adaptations of Joanna Trollope novels, Two Sisters and Second Honeymoon. Chris Zimmer of Halifax-based imX communications is the local producer.

In the local indie pipeline, Cloudburst, a new feature from Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden) is crewing for U.S. indie producer Sidney Kimmel Entertainment. There’s also a new feature project on deck from Chaz Thorne (Just Buried), with tentative plans to shoot later this summer. The feature-length Hobo with a Shotgun is still on track for this year as well, with Toronto producer Niv Fichman (Blindness) attached.

In Newfoundland, the Pierre Films series Republic of Doyle will shoot through to November for CBC, with co-creator and star Allan Hawco, John Vatcher and Michael Levine exec producing and Rob Blackie and Ray Sager in producer roles.

In New Brunswick, the non-union feature American Sunset, starring Corey Haim, was recently completed under the aegis of Global Entertainment Holdings, directed by Michael Masucci.