Saskatchewan film industry 4 years later

A Saskatchewan woman who conducted a survey of people working in the film industry in 2012 when the Sask Film Tax Credit was cut has now done another survey to create a snapshot of what people are doing four years later.

35 per cent of people who worked in Sask film industry 4 years ago left province

About 100 film industry supporters packed the rotunda at the Saskatchewan legislature. (Adam Hunter/CBC)
Annelise Larson has conducted a survey of people who used to work in the Saskatchewan film industry, four years after the Saskatchewan film tax credit was cut. (Rosalie Woloski/ CBC)

On March 21, 2012 the Saskatchewan Party government cancelled the film tax credit.

At the time there were protests and demonstrations outside the legislature from people in the industry who feared the death of the film tax credit would mean the death of the film industry in Saskatchewan. 

Three months after the announcement, Annelise Larson was working with SMPIA (Saskatchewan Media Production Industry Association) when she conducted a survey of people in the film industry to find out what their plans were. 

Now four years later, she no longer works in the industry, but she was interested in checking back in with those people to see where they actually ended up and what they are doing now. 

Rosie and the Riveters have been playing music together in Saskatchewan since 2011. (Rosieandtheriveters.com)

"I was hearing words coming out of our government like the industry was 'fine' and 'booming' and I thought I felt like it would be good to take another snapshot like I did four years ago," explained Larson.

"It's important to plan for the future but it's also important to understand where we come from and the impact of our decisions in the past."

Then vs now 

Larson said in 2012, 73 per cent of her survey respondents were making a living working full-time in the province. 

Out of the more than 170 people who filled out her most recent survey she found 65 per cent of people stayed and about 41 per cent of those people are still trying to make a go of it in media in Saskatchewan. 

Larson said she found that a lot of the respondents have had to diversify, and was surprised to learn that although their home base is Saskatchewan they are doing a lot of work outside the province. 

Larson said there were some success stories, such as a person who went from being a crew member to being a producer himself. However, 35 per cent of the people who answered the survey left the province. 

"Most of those people people are still working in the media industry and most of those people say their careers have improved despite having to start over in junior positions," said Larson. 

Of the people that left 42 per cent went to BC and about 20 per cent moved to Ontario. 

Larson said the producers who left estimated Saskatchewan has lost about $275 million over the last four years in their projects alone. 

Stay or go

Larson said she read a lot of stories of "heart ache, heart break and devastation" from people whose sick or dying elderly parents and grandparents led them to stay in Saskatchewan, or people trying to start over again in a new province. 

She also heard from people who stayed and saw an opportunity. 

"To make it an industry instead of just a back-drop for a film, we need much different and better support in place." - Annelise Larson. 

CBC's Morning Edition host Sheila Coles spoke to the finance minister recently and asked him if, now that oil prices are low, he had any regrets that other industries such as the film industry hadn't been developed and nurtured.

Minister Kevin Doherty responded.

"I think in that sector, the complete arts sector of creative industries, we do have a vehicle there now called Creative Saskatchewan that supports all of our creative industries whether it's the publishing industry or the film industry and we've seen some films being produced here over the last couple of years that have accessed funds through Creative Saskatchewan," he said.

Larson said her survey showed that the new model of funding films through Creative Saskatchewan is working for some people, and with some tweaks would work for even more.

However, she said from her anecdotal experience she knows a lot of local people were volunteering to work on some of the movies shot in Saskatchewan. 

"I wonder how many full-time equivalent Saskatchewan jobs actually were generated?" questioned Larson, "To make it an industry instead of just a back-drop for a film, we need much different and better support in place."

Larson is sharing some of the results of her survey on a Facebook page Saskatchewan Film Stories. 

Other creative sectors benefiting from provincial funding

Alexis Normand is a member of the Saskatoon band Rosie and the Riveters, and it's been a big year for those women.

"We released a new record in October, we've been doing a lot of touring across Canada," Normand said.

"We've been going to all kinds of different conferences in order to secure tours and opportunities and it looks like we'll be going into the United States next year."

Normand credits funding from provincially funded arts organizations for helping put the band on the map. 

"Provincial funding has helped us in every single part of our creative process," said Normand.

She said the band received money from the Saskatchewan Arts Board to help create the songs for their album and they received money from Creative Saskatchewan to help make and tour the album and go to showcases and conferences. 

"This kind of support has allowed us to do more with our music and make a meaningful investment in the longevity of our careers," said Normand.

Normand has been in the industry for five years and she said the biggest change she's seen in funding since the creation of Creative Saskatchewan is that there is now funding available for touring and marketing, which includes making music videos and working with publicists. 

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