'This is an incredible watershed moment for our industry': Province opens up film and television tax credits to lure large productions
Robin Wright directed and starred in Land, which was shot in Kananaskis country in 2019. (Credit: Daniel Power, Focus Features)
CALGARY -- The province adjusted its rules on its film and television tax credit Friday, in an effort to lure the big dogs to shoot in Alberta.
With production percolating thus far in 2021, the Alberta government announced it's removing the $10 million per project cap with the hope of making Alberta even more attractive to large budget productions.
“This change also creates more flexibility for the province to respond to future growth in this sector and encourages the development of production studios here in Alberta,” officials said, in a release.
The announcement came only days after the opening of Fortress, a new 100,000 square foot studio space in southeast Calgary, with a second, 70,000 square foot studio on the way from William F. White Ltd.
Production has been strong throughout the first three months of 2021, with a number of series, including Tribal (APTN), Jann (Bellmedia), Joe Pickett (Paramount), Fraggle Rock (Apple +) and Guilty Party (CBS) all shooting in the city.
With studio space at a premium in Vancouver, and Calgary well-stocked with talented crews, and convenient to both Los Angeles and Vancouver, productions are increasingly choosing to opt in to shooting in southern Alberta.
Luke Azevedo, Calgary Economic Development’s film commissioner, estimated that production space in the city has grown exponentially in 2021, from around 50, 000 square feet to around 500,000 in the span of a little less than three months.
The province estimates that every dollar in film production credits produces approximately four dollars that is invested in the Alberta economy, in multiple sectors, said Doug Schweitzer, the minister of jobs, economy and innovation.
The province said it was topping up its film and television tax credit budget, adding $19.5 million to make it a total of $50 million for 2021-22.
Since launching its film and television credit system in 2020, the province said it's approved 31 medium-to-large productions, with an anticipated spend of $177.6 million, creating 3,300 jobs for Albertans in the process.
“These changes to the film and television tax credit are going to attract hundreds of millions of dollars in productions which leads to the development of film studios and creates hundreds of jobs ranging from carpenters to lighting technicians,” Schweitzer said in a release. “Productions will fill hotels, drive diversification and provide customers to small businesses across Alberta.”
NDP culture critic Nicole Goehring praised the move, but said the province didn’t go far enough by removing the overall budget cap.
“When this credit was created, the film and television industry told the UCP that a cap on the overall budget would hinder Alberta’s ability to be competitive in the market,” Goehring said in a statement. “The juried system that the UCP has with this credit will pick winners and losers during a time that we should be opening our doors to all productions, big and small, to help in our economic recovery.”
“The UCP must make this program a true tax credit, and remove the overall budget cap so Alberta can have a competitive advantage on the world stage.”
LIFELINE FOR CITY'S CREATIVE CLASS
For Calgary’s creative class, which has been battered by the shutdown of the performing arts for over a year, the thriving film and television sector is a lifeline and an opportunity, said, Leela Sharon Aheer, the minister of culture, multiculturalism and the status of women.
“Supporting Alberta’s emerging film and television talent is essential to a strong and thriving screen-based sector,” Aheer said. “This industry is resilient and has stepped up to the challenge of working safely. It was an honour to work with JEI and stakeholders on the tax credit enhancements, and I am thrilled to see made-in-Alberta productions filming again and creating jobs for artists.”
(Jasmine Road, shot in Calgary and Bragg Creek, had its world premiere at the 2020 Calgary International Film Festival)
IATSE 212 President and CEO Damian Petti, the union that represents film and television crews, not only endorsed the province’s move, but put out a job call.
“This is an incredible watershed moment for our industry,” Petti said, in an email to CTV News. “We are seeing major studios and streamers investing hundreds of millions of dollars into producing large scale projects in this province.
“The impact on our economy will be immediate,” he added, “with hundreds of millions of dollars of new money coming in to our beleaguered economy. Hundreds of thousands of square feet of studio and support space are being developed to support massive growth.”
“Skilled workers such as carpenters, painters and riggers will be engaged as these projects ramp up. People with skills in those specific crafts should go to the website www.iatse212.comand scroll down to Motion Picture and click on how to apply to get information which will help them get onto reserve lists for work in those departments.”
Warner Bros. senior vice-president of public affairs Barry Ziehl said, “Alberta is poised to become the next major production centre in Canada and with the changes to their production incentive they have made themselves competitive with many jurisdictions both inside and outside the country. We appreciate the steps the government, and especially Minister Schweitzer, have made to make Alberta more attractive for film and television production.”