The number of film and television industry jobs is sinking in B.C. and spiking in Ontario, according to a new report — proof, industry insiders say, that tax credits are luring work east.
B.C. lost 3,500 direct and spinoff film and television production jobs during the year ended March 31, 2012, with the total number falling from 39,500 to 36,000, according to the Canadian Media Production Association report. In the same period, Ontario’s industry gained nearly 8,000 jobs, jumping from 43,400 to 51,300.
Anxious B.C. industry workers organized a rally at The ACT in Maple Ridge Wednesday night to press their case for more provincial government tax relief to attract more productions to the province. A rally at North Shore Studios in North Vancouver last month drew about 4,000 concerned workers.
Industry officials say B.C. is clearly losing business to Ontario and Quebec, which both offer a 25-per-cent tax credit on all production costs. B.C. offers a 33-per-cent tax credit on labour costs only.
The province’s decline comes as the total value of film and television production nationally rose by 5.6 per cent to $5.89 billion in the 2011/2012 fiscal year, according to the CMPA report.
Maple Ridge’s Garry Brook is the human face of the numbers.
The 19-year veteran of the B.C. film and television production industry rarely sees a first-run movie anymore — a strange reality given what he does for a living.
Brook, 47, a grip on film and television projects, said he doesn’t work enough these days to pay for luxuries like going to a movie or going out for dinner.
“I own a house and still pay a mortgage on it but if things continue this way, everything I’ve worked for all these years could be in jeopardy,” he said.
Brook said he gets about half the work he used to when the B.C. film sector was thriving. When he does get a job, it’s often for far less than he used to make.
He and his wife, who have three children, cashed in $5,000 worth of RRSPs to help get them through this lean period, and their son took out a student loan to pay for his final year at the University of B.C.
“Had I been working, he would not have had to do that at all,” Brook said.
B.C.’s share of Canadian film and television production fell by eight per cent to $1.58 billion as the value of foreign productions in the province fell by about $260 million — from $1.36 billion to $1.1 billion.
Freelance film and television production manager Wayne Bennett, an organizer of the Save B.C. Film movement, said workers plan another rally soon as they try to make the industry’s health an election issue.
Bennett met last week with Community, Sport and Cultural Development minister Bill Bennett and four Liberal MLAs and was told there’s little the province can do right now, given the tight budget situation.
“It’s frustrating that they haven’t been able to quantify the value of this industry in the many, many years of its operation,” Wayne Bennett said. “They’ve built an industry with more than 25,000 jobs and over $1 billion worth of infrastructure yet they can’t measure the economic impact of that investment.”
He said B.C. needs to change its tax structure to make the province more competitive but it doesn’t have to match the breaks offered by Quebec and Ontario, because B.C. offers other advantages such as highly skilled crews and better proximity to Los Angeles.
Brook also wants the film and television sector to become a provincial election issue this year but he doesn’t care which party wins.
“Ultimately, whoever wins will still need to deal with thousands of people who no longer have steady careers,” he said.
The CMPA report said the 2004/2005 fiscal year was the worst year for industry employment in B.C. in recent memory, as the number of direct and spinoff jobs fell to 24,900 from 42,500 a year earlier.
Several reasons have been given for that drop — including an absence of big-budget U.S. feature films, tax credits in other provinces, a rising Canadian dollar and the prominence of cheaply made reality TV shows.
- Bruce Constantineau is with The Vancouver Sun