Thousands of film workers gather in North Vancouver to discuss future of industry

Thousands of B.C. film workers filled North Shore Studios Tuesday evening to discuss plans to help save the industry that representatives say is facing rising unemployment.

At the centre of the town hall meeting in North Vancouver was a call for B.C. to entice more film and television productions back to the province as higher tax incentives increasingly draw studios to Ontario and Quebec.

“Unfortunately, one of the reasons we are gathered tonight is that it’s been pretty quiet here in B.C. lately—uncomfortably quiet,” Jackson Davies, the vice-president of the Union of B.C. Performers, told a standing-room only crowd at Stage 7, and an overflow crowd watching by live feed from Stage 1.

A social media campaign was launched this month to give film workers an avenue to share their views on the state of the local motion picture industry. A Facebook page called Save B.C. Film has drawn more than 4,800 likes, and a petition calling for B.C. to change its tax incentives has surpassed 24,000 signatures.

Wayne Bennett, a film producer and organizer of the social media campaign, said the site was set up after close to 800 posts on Premier Christy Clark’s Facebook page from unemployed B.C. film workers disappeared.

“That 24,000 on that petition is a number large enough to show that we cannot be ignored, and we’re not going to be ignored, and the politicians need to hear us and need to recognize that we matter,” said Bennett to cheers from the crowd.

Peter Leitch, the chair of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of British Columbia, which organized the town hall meeting, said the industry is faced with “what looks like a pretty scary 2013”.

He noted that Ontario and Quebec have both seen an increase in production and employment, while B.C. has faced “empty sound stages [and] growing unemployment”.

Cheryl Nex, the vice-chair of the MPPIA and president of Entertainment Partners Canada, said she’s predicting employment rates will be down at least 40 percent from last year in the first quarter of 2013.

The MPPIA is calling for increased tax incentives to allow B.C.'s production industry to be competitive with Ontario and Quebec, and for a manufacturing exemption on the provincial sales tax, which will return in April.

“Ontario and Quebec have taken advantage of their larger incentives to build more infrastructure and to build on their human capital,” said Leitch. “This additional capacity is now a real threat we are facing in 2013, and that is why it is essential that we had this meeting now and are becoming vocal now. If we lose production, we will lose infrastructure. It will not return.”

Leitch said the organization has a report in the works to outline the economic benefits generated from the production industry in B.C. It also launched a social media campaign Tuesday night intended to highlight the value and contributions of the industry, and the stories of people who work in the creative sector.

“We need to tell our story,” said Garin Josey, an organizer of the new Facebook and Twitter campaign We Create BC. “The richer our story, the more voices that support it, the more we can demonstrate what is truly at stake here, and the better understood our contribution and future potential will be.”

According to Nex, 25,000 people are employed in B.C.’s production industry, and collectively contribute $1.8 billion to the annual economy in B.C.  About 85,000 people are employed in the province’s creative industries.

Nex noted that in Ontario, production companies receive a 25 percent tax incentive on every dollar spent, compared to a 33 percent tax credit offered in B.C. for each dollar spent on local labour. She indicated once the PST returns to B.C., that difference will translate to a 12 to 13 percent gap.

“That is a very powerful number and a very meaningful number when you look at the U.S. studio decision-makers and they say where am I going to take this production?” she said in an interview. “And when they can take it to Ontario and have a 12 to 13 percent savings effectively over coming to British Columbia, it’s meaningful.”

Producer and production manager Warren Carr said last year translated to a “four-month year” for him.

“I had one picture go to Toronto, two pictures go to Louisiana, and one to North Carolina—like, $265 million worth of production, because it was just a better price for them over there,” he told the Straight.

He added the industry generates “a stunning amount” of revenue for local businesses.

“I did a movie not that long ago where we did a vendor count—1,100 vendors we did business with, on one movie,” he noted. “That’s in everything from fiberglass to food.”

B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix told reporters outside the town hall meeting that he is meeting with producers at film studios in Los Angeles this week to hear their perspectives on what’s required to sustain the sector.

“We cannot allow short-term considerations in other provinces to permanently damage an industry that’s so valuable to British Columbia,” he said. “That would not happen in other industries. It would not happen in forestry, it would not happen in mining, it cannot happen in film and television and the creative industries.”

Leitch noted that industry representatives met with Bill Bennett, the B.C. minister responsible for film, just before the town hall meeting, and have also met with B.C.’s premier and finance minister on the issue.

Comments (13) Add New Comment
Emily Cat
What is the NDP's policy here? I heard that Adrian Dix was at last night's town hall - anybody speak with him? It's patently obvious that the BC Liberals are not interested in supporting BC's creative sector (but is willing to support loggers, and now weirdly enough Indian film awards to the tune of $11-million???), so I urge people reading this forum to make Saving BC Film an election issue in May!
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Steven Harper 3rd
Deluxe is presenting a 40% increase in production tevenue in the shareholder proc over 2012. Vote NDP , raise personal tax in BC , and send the money to shareholders in the USA.
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carey williams
The 33% in labour is for the union shows in Tv and Film. They certainly do not apply at all to commercials, editorial, or anyone else.
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Xtina

Ontario has a dedicated government office to facilitate and liason with all t.v. and film productions.
The current B.C. government appears to not want good paying employment for it's populace.
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Steven Harper 3rd
What more do you want ? "Nex noted that in Ontario, production companies receive a 25 percent tax incentive on every dollar spent, compared to a 33 percent tax credit offered in B.C. " ....... Ontario also has HST.
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Barry W.
People tend to forget that the only reason BC has a Film Industry is because of these Tax Credits. 20 Years ago BC was giving better rates to Film producers and Ontario went from #1 to #2 for productions in Canada. What happened to all these workers in Toronto when they lost that business? Did we feel sorry for them? No we were happy to take their jobs. In fact many of thoes workers moved to BC. And now if the BC Goverment matches or goes below the Ont. rate does Ont. go even lower. The film industry is raking in the profits on the backs of BC tax payers. There comes a time when too much is too much. In a time when many jobs are being lost. Teachers, Nurses and other industries are having wage freezes and roll backs should not this industry do the same. What are these Unions, Producers and business that rely on this industry doing to make themselves more competive?
Remember the Film industry is big business, should the goverment give money to big business? And big American business at that.
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Sandra Latreille
funny thing Adrian Dix was there when he stated on 1130 radio that the NDP wouldn't be able to help either unless the books were balanced, when has that ever happened and yet it is the new government propaganda coming from both sides of the floor. when we are losing thousands of jobs and 1.8 billion dollars into the provincial economy someone in Victoria better be listening. promising one Bollywood film made in Vancouver as a trade off for 12 million dollars worth of our money to sponsor the Award Show in Vancouver was a strange Christy Clark excuse going to use BC workers. What percentage of 25 thousand unemployed will that help and for how long?
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Steven Harper 3rd
The Big Players in BC Production are American owned. Best place for government in any Private business is to stay out, and let market condition select. Think future as well, any new Production company, looking at the cost of living in Vancouver would never set up shop in BC.
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BC Freeze Entreprise Party
When it comes to the BC Liberals, money talks. Otherwise your just a "lobby group" as Crusty once described parents who petitioned her.

The wealth of corporations is what BC Liberals respond to. A liaison with the film industry sounds too much like supporting unions and certainly that would never do.

Sorry but you are out of luck. Please just vote them out.
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Sandra M
Barry W. you state "Teachers, Nurses and other industries are having wage freezes and roll backs should not this industry do the same. "

We have. We have taken huge wage cuts. I have personally had my rate go down over 33% and what was a good living has become not enough to live on. Keep in mind, we only work part of the year. We have weeks between shows where we are either looking for the next show to work on or waiting for it to start. When you average out my income now over the year... I am making far less than the average wage. My lifestyle, which was not lavish by any stretch of the imagination before, has been drastically reduced and I live very frugally. We aren't talkind about rich producers here. We're talking about BC taxpayers and that includes the myriad businesses that rely on film for a huge part of their bottom line. Look at it this way... I bake you a pie. I tell you I will bring you one regularly andall i ask for is 1/8 of it back... just a small slice. You agree and we do that once a week for years. Then, one week I bring you a pie and ask for you to increase it to 1/6 of it back to me from now. You refuse telling me I am being too greedy. What do I do? I take my pie away with me to someone who is willing to give me back a slightly bigger portion than you are. Now you have no pies coming to you once a week. Simplistic but basically that is EXACTLY what this scenario is.
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T.E. Williams
Isn't it more profitable for the government to have employed British Columbians paying income tax than unemployed residents unable to feed and house themselves? Yes, American companies get a break for hiring local crews. What we have in the province right now is well trained crews who have no place to turn except perhaps to retrain. Maybe they can work in the underground coal mines up north, eh?
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Exxie
Something that nobody is looking at is the fact that film workers are more creative, more resourceful, and much more hard-working than average employees. So that means that if they are going to be absorbed into the general economy through retraining, etc, they will be replacing a lot of people in ordinary jobs, and adding a huge crowd of formerly employed workers to the welfare line.
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F
The industry is wasting time asking others to bail them out. They need to find a way to bail themselves out. Maybe set up a BC Film Grants Charity, to provide grants that would narrow the gap in tax incentives. With 25000 people in production and the thousands more employed as vendors, you could probably find 100,000 people to contribute to the charity (and get a tax receipt to lower their tax payable at year end). The prov. says matching Ont. tax incentives would cost BC $100 million/year. So that is like $1000 * 100,000 people. After the tax reduction $1000 is like $720 which is like $2/day.o teach everybody to make coffee at home and save $2 a day from buying at Starbucks, and viola the BC Film Industry Lives.
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