Tax Credit for the Nova Scotia Film Industry

The Halifax Regional Municipality, the fourth largest film and television production centre in Canada, is set to get a boost from the new tax credit the Nova Scotia government announced during the Atlantic Film Festival in September.

Sally Christie, the HRM film co-ordinator, says a large community of “indigenous” film makers in the HRM will benefit from the new tax credit.

The number of films shot in Halifax varies from year to year, but Christie says that on average eight miniseries or movies-of-the-week and one or two feature films shot in Halifax in a year.

HRM does not keep records of exactly how much money the local film industry brings to the city’s economy, she adds, last year the industry generated $136 million in revenue for the province. This is a major increase from $121 million in 2005.

There has also been an increase in the money brought to the province by film crews Halifax from other parts of Canada and the United States. These accounted for just $5.4 million out of the $97 million spent in the province in 1997. In comparison, the $121 million generated in 2005 was split almost exactly evenly between local and out-of-town productions.

Christie says that this is because the tax credit is meant to make Halifax more competitive against other major film production centers. The 15 per cent tax credit is meant to make Halifax a more attractive location for filmmakers.

“Halifax has great environments,” she says. The new tax credit, it is hoped, will lure filmmakers away from other locations to shoot their movies and TV shows in Halifax.

Craig Cameron, an independent producer and director with the Halifax-based Chronicle Pictures, is hopeful but cautious. Cameron says the while the tax credit announced by the Nova Scotia Film Development Corporation is the highest in the country, that alone won’t help.

In the past decade a large number of TV series, such as CBC’s Black Harbour, that had been ordered by large networks were cancelled and production of those shows ceased. When that happened, a large number of people had been put out of work and several studios closed.

Cameron says that the new tax credit will be beneficial to directors and producers because it will lower the cost of labour, as well as make it easier to get funding for joint productions.

The real problem, Cameron says is the lack of foreign investment in the Nova Scotia film industry, but he believes this is not necessarily a bad thing. Cameron hopes that the lowered cost of production and the lack of foreign directors taking up studio space could lead to a resurgence of films produced by local directors.

The problem has been further complicated by the fact that Nova Scotia Power Inc. has closed down Electropolis Studios. Over the past few years, Nova Scotia Power has been raising the rent on the spaces that it leases to Electropolis, Halifax Films and other local production companies, some of whom have found that they can no longer afford to pay their leases and have either had to move elsewhere or close their doors.

This is the real problem for the film industry in the HRM-the lack of studio space. It will be difficult to attract film makers to the city, if there is not enough production space to go around.

Further complicating things is the high value of the dollar. Cameron concedes that this may erode the positive effects of the tax credit, particularly for American filmmakers, who may decide that it is cheaper to shoot their movies at home, rather than in Nova Scotia.

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