New Brunswick doubles production incentive to stabilize local film industry

Race Against the Tide producer and N.B. native Mark Bishop says the investment is the "beginning of the next chapter" for the province's screen sector.

New Brunswick’s local screen industry is the latest region in Canada to get a financial boost from its provincial government.

The Government of New Brunswick has doubled the budget for its Film, Television and New Media Incentive Program, up to $5 million for fiscal 2022/23 from $2.5 million in the previous fiscal year. The government plans to increase the annual budget to $20 million by 2026.

The production incentive covers either up to 40% of eligible labour costs or an all-spend incentive, with up to 30% of eligible expenditures for domestic productions and coproductions and 25% for service and variety productions. The maximum amount varies per project type, with drama series (six or more episodes) and feature films capped at $800,000.

The increase is intended to “foster the stability and success of the industry, to improve access to development and production incentives, and to contribute positively to New Brunswick’s cultural and artistic image… [and] recognize the economic value of this industry, ” government spokesperson Adam Bowie told Playback Daily. It is also expected to create economic spinoffs for other sectors in the province, including tourism and accommodations, catering, and equipment and space rentals.

Mark Bishop, co-founder and executive producer at marblemedia, says the investment is the “beginning of the next chapter” for the local industry in New Brunswick, which was severely impacted by the loss of its tax credit in 2011.

While currently based in Toronto, Bishop grew up in New Brunswick, and has been working with the provincial government on how to better support the local sector since setting the Bay of Fundy as the location for marblemedia unscripted competition series Race Against the Tide (pictured).

Bishop says the series, which sets expert sand sculptors in a race against the clock with the rising tide, received significant support from several government levels in New Brunswick, including an investment from the tourism department.

“It started a conversation with our coproducers Hemmings House, which is probably one of the largest production companies in New Brunswick, [about] how you move the province to make more investments,” says Bishop.

One of the sector’s largest supporters has been Deputy Minister of Tourism, Heritage and Culture Yennah Hurley, according to Bishop, who says Hurley brought several ministers and Premier Blaine Higgs to the Race Against the Tide set during production, as well as personally advocated for the investment increase.

Bishop says the government’s focus on stabilizing the industry will allow the province to show “they’re open for business” and can compete with other Atlantic provinces such as Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, which have both increased their investment in the local industry within the last year. Bishop adds that the next focus must be on the growth of talent and infrastructure.

“A lot of these provinces are looking at youth jobs and saying, ‘how do we keep youth in the province?’ I’m case in point, right? I left New Brunswick when I was 17 and I didn’t come back. I have two younger brothers who both did the same thing,” he says. “If you want to retain young people there have to be jobs and opportunities, and I think [the screen] industry is definitely one that can train [young people], and retrain as well too.”