Production spend in B.C. up 31% in 2017/18

While the province hosted more than $3.4 billion in production across the year, more spending is anticipated as Apple, Facebook Watch and Disney set up productions in Vancouver.

B.C.’s motion picture industry is continuing its rapid upward trajectory, with production spending in fiscal 2017/18 rising by 31% (or $819 million) year-over-year to a total of $3.4 billion.

According to data released by Creative BC for April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018, the province hosted 452 productions over the year, compared with 338 last year when production spending hit $2.6 billion. (In 2015/16 spending was $1.92 billion across 297 projects).

International projects such as 20th Century Fox’s War for the Planet of the Apes, Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle and a bevy of series from The CW accounted for 289 of all productions in the province, with production spending on foreign titles hitting $3.04 billion (compared to $2.31 billion a year ago). Within that, production spending on international TV series climbed to $1.9 billion, from $976 million a year ago, while investment in international films dipped to $861 million, from $1.18 billion last year.

On the domestic front, 163 Canadian projects rung up a total of $404 million in the province, representing a significant increase from $313 million the year prior. TV series were the main driver for the increase in Canadian production spending – $183 million in series work took place in 2017/18, compared with $136 million a year ago. Canadian series shot in Vancouver include Travelers, produced by Peacock Alley Entertainment.

The growth comes despite a 5% reduction to B.C.’s basic production services tax credit, which was dropped from 33% to 28% in 2016.

Creative BC’s CEO Prem Gill told Playback Daily the record-breaking growth is down to a combination of factors, including an uptick in demand for visual effects for film and TV productions, as well as an increase in the global demand for content from players such as Netflix and Amazon and the major U.S. studios.

Direct industry jobs and labour income accounted for approximately $1.78 billion towards the province’s economy in fiscal 2017/18. In its release, Creative BC also highlighted projects including Deadpool 2, which contributed over $100 million to the economy during 80 days of filming. The feature created around 3,000 local jobs, according to Creative BC.

The majority of both international and Canadian productions took advantage of B.C.’s Digital Animation, Visual Effects and Post Production Tax Credit (DAVE). Out of the 289 foreign productions in the province, 276 were issued DAVE certificates, while 144 local productions also took advantage of the animation, VFX  and post-production credit.

As well, Creative BC’s data suggests that production is continuing to spread out across the province, with 187 productions (of the 452) using B.C.’s regional tax credits and 86 using the distant location regional tax credits.

The three most popular types of production under the 152 certifications issued were series (164), MOWs (112) and feature films (110). According to Gill, the demand and success of MOWs “can never be underestimated” as they shoot across the province. She points to Lifetime’s Prince Harry-Meghan Markle movie, Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance, as an example of an MOW that has recently shot in the province, as well as Hallmark’s most-watched (and recently renewed) show Chesapeake Shores, which shoots on Vancouver Island. A $6-million studio was recently constructed on the Island to attract more production to the region.

Gill said expansions such as this, as well as Eagle Creek Studios’ expansion to the Kelowna region, is proof that the industry can grow to meet the demands of the production boom.

And while OTT players and major U.S. studios have driven a huge amount of production north of the border in recent years, Phil Klapwyk, business representative for IATSE Local 891, said it’s the influx of newer players that will see production spending increase in subsequent years.

Klapwyk said Local 891 members are currently working on large-scale production for Disney’s streaming channel, as well as a new project for Apple’s streaming service and two for Facebook Watch.

Apple is currently in pre-production in Vancouver on the Jason Momoa-starrer See, which Klapwyk said “has a massive budget and will put a lot of people to work.” As well, Facebook Watch’s Sacred Lies, produced by Blumhouse Productions, also shot in the city earlier in the year.

“None of these platforms existed a year ago. I think, as competition and the desire for original content increases, so too will the production spending in B.C.,” said Klapwyk.

In addition, Vancouver Film Commission (VFC) on Wednesday (July 18) released its own data on direct production spending in the province. VFC’s data, which covers the calendar year of 2017, indicated that production spending was $3.76 billion, with the total payroll for the film, TV, VFX and animation industry in B.C. hitting $2.06 billion in 2017. According to VFC, production investment in the province has more than doubled over the past six years, jumping from $1.6 billion in 2012 to $3.8 billion in 2017 (an increase of 135%).

Image: Shutterstock

With files from Jordan Pinto