TAYLOR: Film industry still reeling over rules


Nova Scotia Business Inc. has finally started accepting applications for a new incentive program for the film industry, but it is already too late for several lucrative productions.

Marc Almon, who represents Nova Scotia film, television and digital media as chairman of Screen Nova Scotia, said producers of a 47-year-old screenplay by the late Jim Henson, founder of the Muppets, are filming in British Columbia instead of Nova Scotia.

The show, produced by Halifax’s Magic Rock Productions and Jim Henson Co., would have spent millions of dollars in Nova Scotia, Almon said in a phone interview Friday, but producers were forced to film elsewhere because of the confusion created by Nova Scotia’s tax credit decision in April.

One producer had three projects on the go before the program cuts, he said, and delays in getting the new program going have meant that years of work are gone, costing the province even more money.

Despite the confusion over the loss of the tax credit and the shuttering of the Film & Creative Industries Nova Scotia office, there are still some determined local filmmakers willing to attempt to work with the new Nova Scotia Film and Television Production Incentive Fund, said Almon.

He knows of at least one Nova Scotia producer who has already made a submission to Nova Scotia Business Inc., responsible for managing the new incentive fund, even though NSBI only started accepting applications Thursday.

In truth, it is too early to tell how successful the new program will be in developing the same level of film and video production in the province, said Almon.

There had been indications that 2015 was going to be a record year for film and video production in the province, he said, but that optimism went by the wayside when the tax credit was gutted in April’s provincial budget.

“It’s a complicated (new) system, and we don’t fully know the implications of this shift to an all-spend model,” Almon said, adding that the old tax credit system was focused on the amount spent on labour.

The new rules posted on nova-scotiabusiness.com state that funding is available for film or video productions that have spent at least $25,000, before HST, in Nova Scotia. The maximum funding available to any project is $4 million.

It is good the government has responded with a new system, which is better than what it proposed April 9 — something that would have resulted in the collapse of the industry, Almon said.

“But we are still in a very precarious situation without our own agency like the Film & Creative Industries Nova Scotia,” he said.

“There is no longer any support in terms of location scouting services, there’s no professional call-in programs, there’s no development and equity investment programs like they have in most other provinces.”

Another filmmaker, who asked me not to use his name because he is concerned his criticism might jeopardize being able to deal with NSBI, told me Friday there was less government interference under the old system and now an application has to be submitted and approved by NSBI before he can go to the bank and ask for a loan.

He said the new system will take some getting used to. For instance, the incentive is on total spending rather than the amount spent on wages.

“I have a hard time equating what is being spent on salaries as being the same as renting a hotel room,” the producer said. “That’s a backwards equation, as far as I’m concerned.”

Meanwhile, Almon said, the government has agreed to sit down with Screen Nova Scotia to review the new system in October. He’s hopeful any necessary changes will be made then.


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