Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. bets big on film industry with new $10M CNA campus

The Newfoundland and Labrador government included new measures in budget 2022 aimed at attracting more productions like Son of a Critch as well as international productions like Disney’s Peter Pan & Wendy, which filmed on the Bonavista Peninsula in August.

School will fill gap labour gap in provincial film industry, says executive producer

A new College of the North Atlantic campus in St. John's will be located in the building that currently houses the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District conference centre. College president and CEO Liz Kidd, right, says this room will hold two sound stages where students will develop their skills. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government and members of the provincial film industry say a new film and television production campus will allow more residents to enter the movie and television business — and help convince more companies to bring their productions to the province.

The provincial government has allocated about $10 million in the 2022 budget to create the new College of the North Atlantic campus in St. John's. The campus will be located in the building that currently houses the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District conference centre. 

The programs housed at the campus will include TV and film technical production, creation, post-production, production management and visual effects. 

CNA president Liz Kidd said she expects about 100 students to enrol for the first semester, which is set to begin in September. She said the new campus, which is undergoing renovations, won't actually open until January, so the school is relying on film industry partners to help facilitate the first semester in "swing space."

"Industry is extremely supportive of the College of the North Atlantic and the initiative we've undertaken," she said.

Kidd said some courses will eventually be offered by distance for students who aren't in St. John's, and "micro-credentials" in some skills — like hair styling — could be offered at other CNA campuses.

She said CNA has also signed agreements with other Canadian film schools so students will be able to transfer credits.

Kidd said enrolment is set to begin on Monday.

New programs will help fill industry labour gap

The announcement follows what members of the film industry say was a banner year for production in Newfoundland and Labrador, which included Canadian productions like Son of a Critch and Hudson & Rex as well as international productions like Disney's Peter Pan & Wendy.

Premier Andrew Furey said Pope Productions, Take the Shot Productions, and CNA approached the government with the idea for the new campus last year. Furey said he hopes the new campus will encourage more people to enter the film industry.

"To have a sustainable career where they can raise a family here, generating income and generating opportunities.… I think it's incredibly rewarding." 

John Vatcher, Take the Shot Productions executive producer, says a new film and television tax credit could help encourage bigger studios, like Disney, to come to the province. (Darrell Roberts/CBC)

John Vatcher, executive producer with Take the Shot Productions, said the school will help fill a long-standing gap in demand for trained labour in the local film industry. 

"You can have a great location, you can have a wonderful story to tell, you can even have the money, but if you don't have the labour they ain't coming," he said.

In the 2022 budget the province also added a new 30 per cent tax credit that will apply to total qualified production costs with a maximum credit of $10 million. The credit comes in addition to the existing film and TV equity program. Furey said the film industry was worth $100 million last year alone.

Vatcher said the new credit will incentivize bigger companies, like Disney, to bring productions to the province.

"It's a huge missing piece that other jurisdictions have that we have not," he said.

Son of a Critch wraps up first season

During a party celebrating the season finale of Son of a Critch, which aired Tuesday night, the people behind the show took time to reflect.

Son of a Critch executive producer Andrew Barnsley and star Mark Critch attended a party to celebrate the first season finale on Tuesday. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

"You like to think that all the pieces are there but you don't know until an audience sees it, an audience connects with it and there's never a guarantee," said executive producer Andrew Barnsley. "This show connected from coast to coast."

The show is loosely based on Newfoundland comedian Mark Critch's memoir, which has the same title. Critch, who has been part of productions ranging from The Grand Seduction to This Hour Has 22 Minutes, told CBC News this project was the most personal — a quality he believes helped it resonate with audiences.

"What I'm learning is you think these stories are bizarre or very unique to your life and then you see that people see the episodes and they're like, 'Oh, I can relate to that,'" he said.

The show has been renewed for a second season, with filming set to start in the province this summer. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Henrike Wilhelm and Meg Roberts

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