What Netflix's $500M Canadian move could mean for Halifax

On Thursday, federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly announced the Netflix funding, as well as a revamped cultural policy that stemmed from months of public consultations last year.

'Something like this will keep me in the industry,' says longtime Halifax animator

More federal funding and a $500-million commitment from Netflix for Canadian content could have a big impact on Halifax's creative industry. (CBC)

Frank Forrestall has seen the ups and downs of Halifax's creative and film industry over the last two decades.

But thanks to more federal funding for producing and exporting Canadian culture — and $500-million from Netflix for Canadian productions over five years — Forrestall believes his field of work will stabilize for some time.

Frank Forrestall has been freelancing in visual effects and animations in Halifax for 20 years. (CBC)

"Something like this will keep me in the industry," said Forrestall, who's been freelancing in visual effects and animations for 20 years.

"From what I've seen, the industry has been changing so much and broadcasters are trying to find footing in all the streaming services that are out there. And this kind of feels like it's looking toward the future now."

'We've been waiting for this'

On Thursday, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly announced the Netflix funding, as well as a revamped cultural policy that stemmed from months of public consultations last year.

​"There's a huge demand globally for content, and I think Canadians can answer and deliver on a lot of that demand," said Paul Rigg, president of Copernicus Studios, an entertainment content development and production company based in Halifax.

"Today's announcement really underlines that the government is listening and really responding to what that means … We've been waiting for this for some time."

Copernicus Studios in Halifax has grown from eight employees to 180 in less than a decade. (CBC)

Copernicus Studios is known for creating cartoons for the hit series Teen Titans Go. The show is developed and produced by big-name studio Warner Brothers.

But now, the studio is hoping to develop its own original Canadian content for a global audience.

Rigg said the studio is already in talks with Netflix to develop a series for the online streaming service. For privacy reasons, Rigg couldn't say much more, but said people will hopefully see an announcement in the new year.

"We have our own stories to tell," Rigg said. "I'm really excited by this and that definitely, in our minds, is the future of how content will reach a global audience is through video on demand.

​"As Canadian producers, we need more opportunities to develop ideas and get them in front of people that can really have a means to buy them and the motivation to."

Halifax as a home for creativity

Over the course of 14 years, Copernicus has gone from six employees to 180 and now has two studios in Halifax.

"We couldn't really be much busier than we are ... We're constantly recruiting," said Janice Evans, business affairs manager at Copernicus.

"What's so great about Halifax is it's a really great place to live. We've brought people in from all over the world to the studio and I think they really love it here."

Paul Rigg, president of Copernicus Studios in Halifax, says he believes the city has an important role to play in the future of digital media. (CBC)

Rigg said Halifax has always had a "creative underbelly."

"So it's a natural home for animation," he said. "The opportunities in digital media in Nova Scotia and in Canada are vast. I think we haven't even really seen how big it's really going to become. It's only starting."​​

With files from Elizabeth Chiu