The movie industry pumped almost $250 million into Alberta’s economy last year but insiders say it could be double that if the government updated its grant program for productions.

The province recently changed the way the Screen-Based Production Grant is run and has capped it at $7.5 million per production.

The number is lower than it is in B.C. and Quebec, where endowments are not capped and are based on the amount productions spend hiring crews.

The province introduced the grant in October and says it reflects Alberta’s current fiscal climate.

The minister of culture was unavailable for comment but released a statement saying…

“It is a more effective, responsible and sustainable approach to government support for the industry. At this time, with a finite budget, a grant program is the best way to continue to provide support.”

Alberta-based Seven24 Films says the province’s system works well for midsized productions but it discourages large budget Hollywood style productions.

“The kind of shows we do can be, this may be the best incentive in the country for us, but there are a lot of examples where in a bigger budget show, a lot of American style production, it does require a larger cap in order to be competitive with the rest of the country so I think what we want is to see the existing frame work support the shows it does but have a higher cap so we can attract bigger budget production to Alberta,” said Jordy Randall, from Seven24 Films.

Alberta producers can apply for a production credit three times per year and some critics say it takes too long for the approval process and by the time a decision is made, many have moved on to start shooting somewhere else.

“Productions who usually want to get a fast answer may have to wait months and in a competitive market place like this that's not going to do well at all for us,” said Damian Petti, president IATSE Local 212.

The CEO of Calgary Economic Development says Calgary is missing out on some productions because red tape slows down grant approval.

“An example that we had recently is, that a film that we wanted to come into the jurisdiction but because of the intake process, it was taking too long and they opted to go to Quebec even though the offer wasn’t any different from Quebec to Calgary,” said Mary Moran, CEO Calgary Economic Development.

Calgary's film commissioner maintains Alberta’s scenery and talent is a big draw but says a streamlined tax credit could double productions here.

“There needs to be a process in place that allows us to create surety in the minds of those that are coming here and put ourselves in a position where we can be competitive and not be hindered by the process time frame that it takes to get it done,”  said Luke Azevedo, Calgary Film Commissioner.

Azevedo says a better process could boost Alberta productions from the current $243 million to over half a billion dollars per year.

(With files from Kevin Green)