Film tax credit changes force workers to find jobs out of Nova Scotia

Sarah Dunsworth, costume designer and actress, moving to Sudbury for summer work

By Allison Devereaux, CBC News

A number of people employed by the film and television industry say they are pulling up stakes and leaving Nova Scotia for summer work because of changes to the film tax credit.

Sarah Dunsworth, a costume designer and actress who has played the character of the same name on Trailer Park Boys for 15 years, is leaving for Sudbury, Ont.

She says she’s found work as a costume designer for a new TV series.   “I’ve never left Nova Scotia in the height of busy season to go work,” said Dunsworth.

In the past, summer months in Nova Scotia have been the busiest because of long sunlight hours and better weather.

Dunsworth estimates about 20 of her friends in the industry have moved, either for permanent or short-term work.

“The effect is exponential. When films stop coming here, it stops being a film hub and people can’t afford to be here.”

‘Long-term effects are scary’

“This has been a very, very slow summer for us,” said Gary Vermeir, who represents film technicians in the Atlantic region.

Vermeir, whose union also represents makeup technicians and set builders, said only 45 of his 350 members are working under contract in Halifax, all on the same television series — Mr. D.  He said others may have found non-unionized or out-of-province work, but this summer is remarkably different from previous years.

“Even last year we were scrambling to find people,” Vermeir said, listing off productions filmed in the province — including Sex and Violence, Book of Negroes, Haven, and The Moblees.  Last summer, he said they even had to permit non-union members to fill crews.

Vermier attributes the slowdown to the transition period between the tax credit and new incentive fund. The change came into effect on July 1.

“It’s a period of transition which is understandable, but unfortunately is costing my members a lot of work for the summer.”

He said it takes a long time to plan a TV series or feature fim, and people decided they couldn’t risk shooting this summer until the rules and regulations were laid out.

Vermier said that his union knows of no new productions on the book for July or August, at least yet. He says he’s optimistic about some projects rumoured to be coming into production in late August.

Dunsworth hopes the province doesn’t lose its best and brightest, adding she also hopes to return to Halifax after her time in Sudbury.

“The long-term effects are scary,” she said.

“We know how to be a broke province. We’re hard workers. I do think we’ll get through this.”

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