Thanks to high-level productions such as Lighthouse, the creation of a provincial incentive fund that has recently doubled in size and the miraculously low number of COVID-19 cases in the province, leaders are choosing Nova Scotia for their film and television productions. It is a reality that, until recently, would have been unimaginable for the Nova Scotia film community, which says that the elimination of the tax credit has decimated the industry.
“In Nova Scotia, especially when the tax credit disappeared, there was a real fear that there would be an influx… of young people who wanted to work in the film industry and who were looking for their fortunes elsewhere, ”said David Hardy, vice president of sustainability and stakeholder relations at Toronto-based William F. White International, the largest distributor of film equipment in Canada.
“And slowly but surely the industry has come back very strong here. And we look forward to working with the new government on this industry and seeing it develop further. “
Financial incentives complement the beauty of the province
Incorporated into the province’s 1995 budget by then Finance Minister Bernie Boudreau, the tax credit contributed to the modest success of the film industry, making careers of creative staff or teamwork not only possible but stable.
It all seemed to fall apart in 2015, when the province’s Liberal government, led by Stephen McNeil, announced the credit was no longer. Instead, it was to be replaced by the Nova Scotia Film and Television Production Incentive Fund, which offered a 25 percent rebate for foreign productions and a 26 percent rebate for local productions made in the province.
The community erupted in protest and the government listened to their concerns. But the damage was done: the incentive fund was not as attractive to international productions as the tax credit had been, and local film workers left the province in droves.
The fund, favored by the government for its transparency, is footing the bill for some 61 Nova Scotia productions this year. On June 23, the outgoing Liberal administration announced it would contribute $ 46.8 million for fiscal year 2021-2022, a whopping 194.4% increase from the previous fiscal year.
At William F. White International in Halifax, the growth of the industry has resulted in increased demand for production supplies -om lighting and handles to cameras and other equipment. The company’s Halifax office has expanded its footprint by approximately 2,500 square feet and doubled its workforce, said Trevor Sutherland, company director for Atlantic Canada.
“We are constantly bringing different lines of business to meet the needs,” he said.
The province is an attractive production location for reasons other than these financial incentives, said Laura Mackenzie, managing director of Screen Nova Scotia, the province’s film authority.
When speaking to Hollywood executives unfamiliar with Nova Scotia’s charm, Mackenzie said she points to the province’s unspoiled coastline, local vineyards and golf courses, major campuses academics (which can pass as Ivy League schools in the United States) and the Cape Breton Hills.
“The diversity of places in Nova Scotia is spectacular, and it’s small enough that you can get there, you know, in five hours,” she said.
Hardy said streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney +, and HBO Max have made the digital landscape more competitive than ever. This demand for original content has made Halifax a serious player in the market, able to respond to the glut.
“The need for new content has never been greater than it is now,” said Hardy, “and we expect that to continue. “
High-profile productions fuel growth
Nova Scotia veteran producer Hank White, who has been in the industry since he was 10 years old, said the province’s film industry has made it an attractive destination for tourists.
“We were bringing in millions of dollars for tourism. People wanted to see where Titanic was shot, people wanted to see where Dolores Claiborne was shot. They wanted to see [where] Mist was shot, ”he said. “The investment the province gave us – we paid it back [through] tourism. “
Among Nova Scotia’s most recent high-profile productions is the 2019 film Lighthouse, which starred Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as two sailors whose sanity falters as they get stuck in an isolated lighthouse.
Mackenzie said the local industry grew “exponentially” after the film was made.
” After Lighthouse came, it was almost as if it had somehow triggered the confidence of the international community that our team was still there and our on-screen camera was working here – and that we were in fact actively engaged in the film industry, ”she said.
But it is not only international productions that are leading the charge. Filmed in Dartmouth, CBC legal drama series Diggstown Part of the credit for the industry’s prosperity, its star Vinessa Antoine said.
When Diggstown started production in 2018, Antoine took to social media to make it known that jobs were available for Nova Scotia-based film workers, believing the industry needed a boost.
“Now I feel like everyone I know is moving to Halifax,” Antoine said. “And there are so many shows coming to Halifax. “
Crew members and sound stage are required
Diggstown Creator Floyd Kane said while there is an abundance of local creative talent in Nova Scotia – actors, directors and writers – the province lacks technical teams.
“Regarding the question ‘Is it more difficult to have a crew? ” Absoutely. Absolutely, it’s harder to have a team, ”said Kane, estimating that the province currently has three work teams.
This is due to an exodus that occurred after the tax credit was eliminated, said White, who started a parallel program to train Indigenous youth for crew roles.
“Our film industry was decimated and the teams were leaving because they couldn’t survive here; they couldn’t survive on nothing, ”he said. “The producers couldn’t keep their team because we were digging into our own pockets. “
Mackenzie agreed. “One of the biggest obstacles to our growth right now, of course, is the development of our crew. “
Another challenge for the community is the lack of a sound stage, a soundproof space for theatrical productions to be shot on a large scale. At present, there is not a single one in Nova Scotia.
White said it would attract even more productions to the province.
“We have been fighting for years and asking for a soundstage to be built in Halifax, telling the government that the former Field of dreams thing: ‘If you build it, they will come,’ ”he said.
“These are real jobs that pay real and solid wages”
With the departure of local workers and foreign productions after the 2015 “tax crash”, as Mackenzie called it, the province’s film community is now trying to make it known that it is open for business.
Hardy, who was among those protesting against the elimination of the tax credit in 2015, said the industry should not be seen as an indispensable part of the province’s economy.
“We always want, at the same time, to convey the idea that this is real work and that these are real jobs that pay real and solid wages and that they create opportunities where they would not otherwise exist” , did he declare.
While “Halifornia” is booming, having narrowly avoided a calamity, the industry is still reeling from the talent it lost to Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal in 2015. Mackenzie has a message for those who are seeking to return to the Atlantic Province.
“If there are individuals who work in the film industry [who] would like to come and make Nova Scotia their home, there will be work for you. “