Canadian producers must raise public awareness of the threat posed to their industry by the potential withdrawal of tax credits, the president of a provincial film body has warned.
Ron Goetz, president of the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association, says the recent elimination of the tax credit in the prairie province happened in part because lobby efforts there were too focused on the government.
“We spent way too much time trying to convince the politicians that [the tax credit] was good for the province,” and too little reaching out to the public, Goetz told C21.
The provincial government shocked the industry earlier this year with the sudden cancellation of its long-standing 45% break on labour costs, replacing it with a 25% non-refundable subsidy to be phased in by 2014.
Saskatchewan is expected to form a new agency that will oversee the music, TV, film, publishing and other media industries. It is not known if it will offer any funding.
Likewise, the eastern province of New Brunswick last year reworked its 40% tax credit into a 30% distribution-based hybrid.
The changes have sent a chill through the Canuck industry, which relies heavily on tax credits to bankroll its own projects and to attract both coproductions and service work. Producers worry they could face similar policy changes in their own provinces, even as companies and crew arrive from Saskatchewan in search of greener pastures.
The remaining tax credits are safe “for now” but the future is less certain, said Goetz.
“I don’t think there’s any question, the industry has to be worried that other finance ministers and other governments could start looking at this,” he warned.
“All the associations and organisations should get together and do a really good national public campaign, because I believe there is a threat. It’s time to get the public onside.”
Some have already come to the same conclusion. During the recent Banff World Media Festival, the Canada Media Fund (CMF) unveiled a new website aimed at promoting its efforts to the public. A similar site, meant to recycle and promote older and hard-to-find Canadian shows, is also in the works with CMF and funder Telefilm Canada.
The changes in both Saskatchewan and New Brunswick were preceded by election results in favour of the centre-right Conservative Party – the same party that, at the federal level, recently imposed heavy cuts on CBC, Telefilm Canada and The National Film Board.
Also during Banff, it emerged that the Canadian Media Production Association, under new leader Michael Hennessy, is rewriting its lobby efforts to be more in line with the fiscally conservative Tories. It is dropping its long-held and high-minded lines about culture in favour of economic value and entrepreneurship.
A wave of provincial and federal elections is due in 2015. Production-heavy British Columbia goes to the polls next year.