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New incentives aim to boost domestic film, TV productions in B.C.

Industry stakeholders want West Coast producers to be more competitive
A film crew in Vancouver working on a U.S. production. New grant program aims to incentivize more domestic productions

B.C. film and TV producers may soon be adapting your favourite podcast or comic book into a domestic production destined for screens with an assist from a new pilot program.

Industry stakeholders are set to award grants of up to $25,000 to West Coast producers looking to turn pre-existing intellectual property (IP) into a movie or TV show.

The B.C. Producers Branch of the Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) is partnering on the $200,000 pilot program with Creative BC, the non-profit charged with promoting the province’s film and TV sector.

The organizations say the goal is to boost the competitiveness of local producers when it comes to developing Canadian-owned content for the screens.

The film industry was worth $3.3 billion to the B.C. economy in the 2020-21 fiscal year – up 13 per cent from the previous year’s $2.9 billion, according to the CMPA’s Profile 2021 report released earlier this year.

But most of B.C.’s production activity was concentrated on foreign-service work for Hollywood features and TV shows, generating $2.7 billion. That’s 52 per cent of all foreign-service work done in Canada this past year.

B.C. accounted for eight per cent of all Canadian theatrical film productions made in the country during the 2021 fiscal year, while Ontario accounted for 58 per cent of domestic films and Quebec accounted for 33 per cent.

“There's a lot of really hardworking and talented producers and independent people in Vancouver. There's also a nice, supportive sort of web within the industry,” B.C. indie film producer Matt Clarke told BIV earlier this month.

But he said it’s often challenging to get financial support to help get domestic productions off the ground.

His company, Tilt9 Entertainment Inc., produced the made-in-B.C. black comedy Corner Office starring Jon Hamm, which is set to be distributed to wider audiences next year. Although it has a big American name attached as the star, and it was both written and directed by Americans, Corner Office is a Canadian feature that was funded and produced locally.

“We had some really awesome and kind of courageous investors that had the guts to put some money into a story like this, which is not a straight-ahead commercial film,” Clarke said. “There needs to probably be some more incentives from a funding perspective. There's not a lot of equity financing in Canada. You need to find these people that are what I called ‘courageous’ before … willing to take a risk and really willing to take a bet.”

Creative BC and the CMPA’s B.C. branch will launch an advisory panel to evaluate grant applications from local producers who have until Jan. 31, 2023, to submit.

If B.C. producers come across pre-existing IP like a novel, play or video game that they think has screen potential, they can tap the pilot program to help cover up to 80 per cent of the costs of optioning the material from the rightsholder.

If the IP originates from B.C. creators, grant recipients can get help covering up to 90 per cent of those costs. The grants max out at $25,000.

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