Canadian film industry still reeling from Saskatchewan tax credit cut

Critics of premier Brad Wall insist any new subsidy that is not bankable like a film credit will not fly in today's foreign locations business.
Rufus in Sask-small

Saskatchewan’s decision to cut its film tax credit has been followed by head-scratching over what premier Brad Wall will do next.

“It seems politics and ideology are trumping economic sense,” Norm Bolen, president and CEO of the Canadian Media Production Association, told Playback Daily after meeting on Monday with Wall.

The provincial government on Tuesday extended the deadline for filmmakers to apply to tap the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit to June 30, 2012, from March 31.

But even with the three-month extension, Bolen echoed others in the industry as he questioned why Saskatchewan is exiting the film tax credit game when it brought far more inward investment to the province than the claimed $8 million annual cost saving to the province.

“Saskatchewan will forfeit its fair share of the spoils,” Bolen added.

Ferne Downey, president of ACTRA National, in a March 27 letter to premier Wall, also questioned the economic sense in cancelling Saskatchewan’s film tax credit, and urged that it be restored.

“Given the gravity of the situation and the economic fallout that will occur as a result of the Saskatchewan government’s ill-considered decision, I encourage you to extend your film and television production tax credit and preserve the financial integrity of our shared creative economy,” Downey wrote.

Wall on Monday hinted at a possible “alternative” subsidy for the provincial film and TV production sector to follow the cancellation of the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit from April 1.

But talk of new support has been met with skepticism because any new incentive that is not bankable, just like tax credits are, will not fly in today’s competitive locations business.

“It’s challenging. If you open your mind and imagine some structural investment in this growing industry, I wish them well,” ACTRA’s Downey told Playback Daily about the challenge of matching the predictability and bankability of a film tax credit, now the currency of the realm in foreign location shooting.

Besides ACTRA, individual Canadian actors are also doing their part to stir the pot in Saskatchewan to help resolve the standoff with premier Wall over the cancelled film tax credit.

“I’d like to believe that Brad Wall has just been given some bad advice, and some bad untruths,” Saskatoon-born actor Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy) told Playback Daily.

“That province right now is the most profitable province in the country. The farmers have had a good couple of years. Saskatoon has taken off,” he added, painting a picture of fiscal health into which the province has now undercut the future of its film and TV production sector.

“The fact is, ending the SFETC will severely damage the film and television industry in Saskatchewan,” The Hunger Games star Wes Bentley, who starred in the Saskatchewan-shot 2009 film Dolan’s Cadillac, echoed in his own statement issued on Tuesday.

Photo: Vampire movie Rufus is being filmed in Dundurn, Saskatchewan.