N.S. film fund now richer than tax credit Liberals killed
'I'm really trying to repair relationships,' says Business Minister Geoff MacLellan
The McNeil government has added $6 million to the fund available to filmmakers and TV producers who want to shoot in the province, making the incentive program $2 million richer than the tax credit the Liberals killed in 2015 for being "unsustainable."
Business Minister Geoff MacLellan said increasing the film and television production fund to $26 million is an attempt to mend fences with an industry still recovering from the disappearance of the film tax credit.
"I'm really trying to repair relationships," he said.
In the days following the introduction of the 2015 budget, thousands of people descended on Province House in Halifax to take part in one of the largest protests ever staged outside the legislature.
The elimination of the $24-million tax credit spurred industry workers, many of them young and skilled, to leave the province for greener pastures. Although production activity has increased since then, as producers have adapted to the requirements of the new fund, large-scale Hollywood productions have, by and large, stayed away.
According to Nova Scotia Business Inc., the Crown corporation in charge of administering the film fund, $21,238,659 has been committed from the $26 million available this year.
Laura MacKenzie, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia, said the increase to the fund is a sign the government has listened to the industry.
"We feel like the trust-building stage is gathering momentum and that we would like to see this continue to go forward, exponentially, if possible," said MacKenzie, whose organization is the main film and television industry lobby group in the province.
A new fiscal reality
On Wednesday, MacLellan stood by the original decision to eliminate the tax credit, and said the new investment reflects Nova Scotia's current fiscal situation.
"It was never entirely about the cost, specifically," he said of the defunct tax credit. "Obviously where we were from a fiscal perspective was a very tough spot then.
"Over the past couple of years because of other decisions, quite frankly tough decisions, we've got our fiscal house in order and that has allowed us to look at investments like the film sector to see where we could expand."
MacLellan said he hoped the additional investment in the fund would be viewed as a vote of confidence in the industry by the province.
"That is an indication, despite some of the past, that we are committed to working with film to make sure that we continue to keep those numbers high," he said.
"I think they feel that there's a positive energy.... That we're trying to make this work."
No hard cap on investment
Asked if $26 million was the maximum the Liberals were ready to invest, the minister responded there's "certainly not" a hard cap in place.
"We want to make sure that those players in the industry, from those who are in front of the camera, behind the camera and all the critical jobs in between, that we are supporting them," said MacLellan.
"We want to keep them here in the province and that's what it's all about for me."
MacKenzie said producers will likely be inspired to look for ways to tap into the extra funds.
"Now with ... $6 million added to it, it just opens up more opportunity for producers to think bigger or just about potentially finding more new projects for their slate," she said.