'It can all be reversed': Petition calls for reinstatement of Sask. film tax credit
Published Wednesday, June 17, 2020 6:09PM CST Last Updated Wednesday, June 17, 2020 7:15PM CST
REGINA -- An aspiring Saskatchewan filmmaker is using a petition to try and revitalize the declining film industry in the province.
The Government of Saskatchewan cut its film tax credit in 2012 incentivizing production companies to work in the province. Since then, the industry has dwindled.
Petition author Alyson Ford is calling for the credit to be reinstated. The filmmaker from Milestone hopes to see a resurgence of the film industry in Saskatchewan.
“A film employs so many people, it doesn’t just employ the actors,” said Ford. “You keep going down [the credits] and you start to see the caterers, the hotels that were involved. Right now this is the perfect time to restart Saskatchewan and the economy. This is probably the easiest thing you can do. Have the tax credit, lure these companies back.”
“We saw production companies pulling out and it was just a domino effect after that… but, I’m positive because I think it can all be reversed - I don’t see how it couldn’t be.”
Productions like ‘Corner Gas’ benefitted greatly from the tax credit before its removal. The town of Rouleau was put on the map and ‘Dog River’ became a tourist town.
“When the tax credit was taken away, it basically spelled the end of the industry,” said Saskatchewan filmmaker Layton Burton.
Tax credits are a lure for production companies. It allows them to save on some costs if local services were used during the production – including food, accommodations, equipment or labour. A company would receive a credit from the provincial government as a way to limit production costs.
Since the removal in Saskatchewan, both Alberta and Manitoba have increased the investment into media production and have seen huge economic booms as a result.
The provincial government responded to the petition, saying the future is up in the air.
“We're always reviewing programs every year - normally through the budget cycle. As proposals come forward or as budgets evolve, you're always looking for programs and we'll see what the future has to hold.”
The Government of Saskatchewan also said that it supports Creative Sask by providing $7.3 million. The hope is the investment will continue to grow the economy in Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili said the party would reinstate the credit.
“The evidence is clear. Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario – tons of filming going on – nothing happening here,” said Meili. “When we cancelled our [tax credit], those other provinces brought in theirs and took so much business away from Saskatchewan.
“It was a huge loss of an industry, so many people left the province to work. We just don’t have those people here to tell our stories – it’s a real step backwards and it’s something we would definitely overturn.”
The Saskatchewan Media Production Industry Association (SMPIA) works with local production companies and trains people to get a start in the business. SMPIA works with Creative Saskatchewan and has advocated for the tax credit in the past. Ford got her inspiration to start her own production company by taking a SMPIA workshop.
Executive director of SMPIA Ken Alecxe believes the reinstatement of the tax credit would be good for all of Saskatchewan.
“We are taking a very collegial approach with the provincial government through Creative Saskatchewan, trying to work with them as closely as we can,” said Alecxe. “The Creative Sask people are also working very hard in trying to develop potential and alternatives behind the scenes.”
Creative Sask says that 36 feature films have been either entirely or partially produced in the province since 2013. In that same time, there was 56 television projects.
“If the production is only partially connected to Saskatchewan, our investment is directly proportionate to the actual spending in Saskatchewan and on Saskatchewan-resident crew.”
In the last fiscal year, Creative Sask invested $1.26 million into television projects and only $700 thousand into feature films.
“We’re very hopeful – we’ve been doing a lot of work on assembling the business case for the screen-based media production industry as a value-driven opportunity for the province and for the communities of Saskatchewan,” said Alecxe.
SMPIA, Ford and Burton believe the market is right for a media boom in Saskatchewan. With the recent pandemic, there is an increased demand for new content by major companies like NETFLIX.
“What this petition gives me is some hope that someone will listen and a tax incentive will come back to Saskatchewan,” said Burton. “So that we can continue to make film here, we can continue to make jobs and we can continue to be good for Saskatchewan - all of Saskatchewan.”