Nova Scotia

N.S. announces millions for sound stage, creator fund to grow film industry

The province will contribute $8M toward a sound stage and create a five-year, $15M fund dedicated to helping support Nova Scotia-led productions.

Premier Tim Houston will travel to Los Angeles next week to promote the province

Willem Dafoe, left, and Robert Pattinson on the set of The Lighthouse in Yarmouth, N.S. Dafoe appears in a new promotional video for Screen Nova Scotia intended to showcase the province as a shooting destination. (Screen Nova Scotia/Eric Chakeen)

Laura MacKenzie believes Nova Scotia's film and television production industry is ready for its close-up.

MacKenzie, the executive director of Screen Nova Scotia, said an announcement Tuesday by the provincial government has the potential to supercharge the industry.

The province announced $8 million toward a sound stage and a five-year, $15-million fund dedicated to helping support Nova Scotia-led productions.

"It's really about creating that ecosystem that is going to help the tide rise and create that base for our industry," MacKenzie told reporters during the announcement in Halifax.

"We need a local filmmaker base in order to have a successful ecosystem."

Mike Volpe, Screen Nova Scotia's board chair, said the new Nova Scotia Content Creator Fund replaces a gap left when the former Liberal government altered the way support was provided for the industry. 

Screen Nova Scotia executive director Laura MacKenzie, centre, and board chair Mike Volpe, right, joined Premier Tim Houston for Tuesday's funding announcement. (Robert Short/CBC)

While the industry has largely rebounded, aided by the fact it kept going during the COVID-19 pandemic when productions in other jurisdictions were shut down or delayed, Volpe said emerging and mid-level productions still needed help financing projects.

Without that equity help, small productions often struggled to get the last bit of financing they needed to make their project a reality, had to self-finance or were forced to leave the province. That shouldn't happen anymore, he said.

The money for the sound stage is perhaps the biggest part of the announcement.

The 50,000-square-foot facility, which will be constructed in the Halifax Regional Municipality, will transform the industry from a nine-month operation to one that runs year-round, said MacKenzie. It also has the potential to create up to 500 jobs and increase production volumes by $100 million.

Screen Nova Scotia is in talks with several private investors to complete financing and will soon issue a request for proposals. MacKenzie said the site could be up and running within two years.

At a time when demand for new production is skyrocketing, MacKenzie said Nova Scotia could see a major boost even if its market share remains the same.

"If we have the infrastructure and the crew and the performers and the incentive, there will be production to come here," she said.

Houston says a strong film and television production industry is good for tourism in the province. (Robert Short/CBC)

Volpe and MacKenzie heaped praise on Premier Tim Houston for supporting the industry, not only once his party formed government last summer, but dating back to 2015 while in opposition when the Liberals cancelled the province's film tax credit.

Houston said it was clear to him as he learned more about the industry that it can be a major economic driver for the province. The industry doubled its volume last year and created $180 million in economic activity while shining a spotlight on various parts of the province.

"We're not going to walk away and let this momentum dissipate," Houston told reporters. "We're going to send a strong message."

Film industry good for tourism

Houston plans to deliver that message to the industry personally when he travels to Los Angeles next week with officials from Screen Nova Scotia to meet with representatives for studios such as Disney, Netflix and NBC Universal.

The premier equated support for the industry as support for the tourism sector, which in turn works toward the Tories' stated goal of doubling Nova Scotia's population. Tuesday's announcement included a promotional video including movie stars and directors who have worked here, extolling the virtues of the province as a shooting destination.

"We need to put Nova Scotia in front of people," said Houston. "They need to understand what Nova Scotia is all about and get interested in it, and we do that through tourism, we do that through the film industry."

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