Copros, foreign service drive growth in Manitoba

The industry has seen sustained growth over the past five years, and just posted its best production year on record.

The Manitoba film and TV production industry grew by more than 26% over a five-year period, according to a newly released report by Nordicity. The province saw production volume of $137 million in 2012/13 grow to $173 million in 2016/17, the industry’s best year on record.

The “Western AudioVisual Economic Strategy (WAVES)” report, commissioned by On Screen Manitoba, found that coproduction and foreign service production accounted for the highest proportion of production volume in the province throughout the period, representing about 30% and 26% of total volume on average each year, respectively.

Nearly all those surveyed for the report indicated that they anticipate the province’s industry to continue to expand, with domestic coproductions (39%) and foreign service productions (24%) expected to drive that growth. In 2012/13, the local industry saw $3 million in Canadian production and $23 million in foreign production. That jumped to $21 million and $67 million, respectively, in 2016/17. Coproductions, meanwhile, have consistently represented the highest proportion of production volume in the province, representing 30% of total production volume on average every year.

Over the five-year period, foreign service productions in Manitoba had an average budget of $5.3 million, while coproductions had an average budget of $5.1 million. Locally owned productions, on the other hand, had average budgets of $361,000, over the period.

But as the local industry sees more activity, those surveyed see the province’s supply of skilled labour as a challenge going forward. Of the survey respondents, only 1% said they did not see the province’s skilled labour pool as a limitation. The majority (48%) believed labour was a key limitation, with 39% saying it is a main limitation on growth.

Nicole Matiation, executive director of On Screen Manitoba, told Playback Daily that the sustained growth in production in the province has led to an increased demand for skilled labour and expanded job opportunities. She added that the province is seeing growth in its union membership.

Overall, the province has seen an increase in direct and indirect full-time equivalent positions in the five-year period. In 2012/13 the industry created 990 direct and 630 indirect FTEs, which increased to 1,060 direct and 670 indirect FTEs in 2016/17. 

About half of the participants (52%) also said access to affordable capital was a main limitation.

In total, 346 productions filmed in the prairie province over the five-year period – an increase of 10 projects from On Screen Manitoba’s previous report for 2008 to 2013 with 336 projects.

Looking at the composition of the Manitoba industry, the report found that more than 40% of production company owners identify as women and 18% are from an Indigenous community, making both of these groups “nearly on par with the broader provincial workforce and population.”

It was also highlighted that during the 2016/17 year, the industry outperformed its five-year average in productions filmed during the typically slower December to February months. The report authors suggested that this change indicated that the industry is becoming “somewhat less seasonal.”

Data for the report was collected from an online survey of companies, secondary research, statistics provided by Manitoba Film and Music, and consultations with industry stakeholders.

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