Movies Halifax Nova Scotia

How dead is Nova Scotia’s film biz? 

Click to enlarge The Liberal government’s anti-movie moves caused enough public outcry—like this big rally in April—a replacement incentive fund got the green light. - EMILY JEWER

  • The Liberal government’s anti-movie moves caused enough public outcry—like this big rally in April—a replacement incentive fund got the green light.

Last April's budget announcement kicked off a tumultuous time for Nova Scotia's film industry. The Liberal government slashed the film tax credit, the foundation of the film industry in many other provinces. After much backlash and a very successful PR campaign headed by Screen Nova Scotia, the previous uncapped tax credit, estimated to be worth $24 million, was replaced with a $10 million incentive fund with a separate credit available to digital animation productions.

That's not so bad, right? Maybe not in the long-term, but the NDP reported the number of film productions scheduled to shoot in Nova Scotia is down dramatically compared to this time last year. Many productions were cancelled or postponed due to the cut and uncertainty surrounding the new incentive fund. Meanwhile, hundreds of industry workers have left the province for greener pastures, many who were also contributors to a vibrant independent arts scene.

In November, local theatre company Doppler Effect staged its final production in Halifax and is setting sail to Europe. "As two full-time artists, a busy film season is crucial to making it viable for us to live and make art here through the rest of the year, " says the company's co-artistic director Annie Valentina in a press release.

Since the spring, Screen Nova Scotia has been at the forefront of the #NSFilmjobs campaign, and has been essential in communicating the industry's budget concerns both to the government and the public. "Our small industry trade organization suddenly got caught up in this grander political struggle, " says Marc Almon, chair of Screen Nova Scotia.

"What's scary to me, " Almon says, "is that a lot of people have left because there has been such a dramatic loss of confidence. But that doesn't mean we can't get a lot of them back, and it doesn't mean that we can't start rebuilding some of the critical infrastructure for our industry—and do it ourselves."

Almon believes the new incentive fund could eventually be a good thing for industry infrastructure, since production costs are eligible for the new incentive fund, rather than only labour costs, as with the previous system. Under the new spending model, equipment and space rentals are offset, meaning Nova Scotia could see a film studio pop up, or places like SIM Digital and PS Production Services opening their doors rather than closing them. The separate digital animation credit is also essential for keeping companies like DHX Media from seeking other places to lay down roots, and has likely saved hundreds of jobs.

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