More U.S. production helps B.C. film business bounce back

Canadian Press, March 22, 2015

VANCOUVER ­— Superheroes and sci-fi adventurers are coming to the rescue of British Columbia’s film and TV industry despite dire predictions that it was heading for an unhappy ending.


Business has bounced back without further government tax credits, even though some industry insiders said tax breaks were the only way to stop production from leaving the province.


Shooting for Deadpool, the eighth instalment in the X-Men franchise starring Vancouver-born Ryan Reynolds, has begun and is expected to spend $37.5 million in B.C. and employ 1,100 people.


It’s one in a string of Hollywood features shooting in the province, including Star Trek 3 and The B.F.G. (big friendly giant), Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s book.


The productions, and many others, have prompted one industry insider to predict that 2015 will be one of B.C.’s most lucrative years ever.


“I think we’re pretty much at our capacity right now this year,” said Crawford Hawkins, executive director of the Directors Guild of Canada’s British Columbia district council.


Hawkins said the production is likely to remain around that level for the next four to five years.


In 2013, a group called Save B.C. Film made production tax credits an issue in the provincial election, saying a 33 per cent rebate on labour spending wasn’t enough and needed to be closer to Ontario’s 25 per cent rebate on total production spending.


Between 2010 and 2013, B.C.’s industry dipped while Ontario’s spiked.


Even so, spending in B.C. stayed more than twice that in Ontario through that period.


Save B.C. Film’s campaign was not successful. The newly elected Liberal government said the added tax credits weren’t necessary.


Since then, high-profile movies such as Fifty Shades of Grey, in which Vancouver played Seattle, and Seth Rogen’s The Interview, were shot in B.C.


“That’s the icing on the cake,” Hawkins said, referring to the movies. “Our money here is made in television.”


Once Upon A Time, Supernatural and Arrow are among the 13 TV shows shot in the province. Hawkins said this year’s pilot season — February through to April — also saw nine new shows that could become series.


B.C. gets the lion’s share of foreign movie and TV production in Canada, with 59 per cent in 2013-2014. Ontario was next with 28 per cent, eight per cent went to Quebec and five per cent to Alberta.


While a cheaper Canadian dollar helps draw production north, Richard Brownsey, president of Creative BC, a group that includes the B.C. Film Commission, said experienced crews, versatile studios and dependable infrastructure keep production coming back.


“We’ve competed well when the dollar was at par and we’ve competed when the dollar was over par,” said Brownsey. “We’re in the same time zone, we’re two and a half hours out of Los Angeles and we have a climate that allows you to shoot outside year round.”


Ontario film commissioner Donna Zuchlinski agreed with Brownsey that there is little competition between the two provinces because each does different kinds of projects.


“We’re very strong in episodic series,” Zuchlinski said. “We’re about two-thirds domestic and one-third foreign.”


The Canadian total for foreign location and service production — meaning anything not made by a Canadian production company — grew by almost five per cent to more than $1.8 billion in 2013-14, according to numbers compiled by the Canadian Media Production Association industry group.


Comparatively, little television production occurs in Quebec, where feature films dominate.


Quebec, Ontario and B.C. all benefit from increasing visual effects work as it becomes more important in movies and television.


More than 30 feature projects in B.C. in 2012-2013 were exclusively visual effects work, including Iron Man 3 and Edge of Tomorrow, while visual effects for The Host and Hunger Games: Catching Fire contributed to Quebec production spending.