The television and movie industry has been fleeing Greater Victoria, lured away by sweet tax incentives in other jurisdictions.
But Kathleen Gilbert, head of the Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commission, hopes things will turn around. On Thursday, she was hosting a career fair at Victoria High School where she touted the benefits of working in B.C.’s film and television production industry.
She said she’s hoping the B.C. government will improve its incentives and producers will recognize the benefits of shooting here. Despite financial enticements dangled by Ontario and Quebec, TV and movie work is still happening here because Victoria has talented crew people, temperate weather and locations with different looks in a compact area.
The industry has been lobbying the province to match incentives such as tax credits that give back 25 per cent of total spending, available in Ontario and Quebec. B.C. offers 33 per cent solely on labour.
Premier Christy Clark has said that more money isn’t available to boost incentives as the province aims for a balanced budget.
B.C. film workers, many of them idled by the shift of work to other places, have started an online petition called Save B.C. Film. They were roused to action after learning that the province has excluded their industry from its job-building plan.
Greater Victoria has been hit hard since 2008, when the province implemented its six per cent distant location regional tax credit to encourage production outside the Lower Mainland, but not in Greater Victoria.
“Everyone’s hurting but we’re at the bottom of the barrel,” said Gilbert, noting producers have relocated shoots north of the Malahat to qualify. “We’ve been fighting this for four years, and Ontario’s increased tax credits have made it worse.”
Bruce Carter, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said Victoria production has been as high as $30 million annually.
It’s currently closer to $15 million.
Carter said he’s uncomfortable with tax credit-driven competition because it’s unsustainable. “You could become only as good as your next increase in tax credits,” he said.
He said Victoria should promote its assets and pursue spinoffs such as the film tourism New Zealand experienced with Lord of the Rings.
Many of Victoria’s core crew of full-time film workers — such as script supervisor Alison Hunter — are weathering the slump by taking other jobs or working on productions elsewhere.
“I used to stay home [for work] until the distant location tax credit loss,” said Hunter, 50, who worked on Chaos and Continuum in Vancouver. “I’m lucky I have a place to stay so I’m not out of pocket.”
© Copyright 2013