B.C. filmmakers say new tax breaks not enough

Tax breaks announced Wednesday for film and digital media producers aren't sitting well with some British Columbia filmmakers.

Tax breaks announced Wednesday for  film and digital media producers aren't sitting well with some British Columbia filmmakers.

The credits benefit big Hollywood firms, but offer little to the indigenous local industry, said Shawn Williamson of Brightlight Pictures in Vancouver.

"What they've announced is the increase for video games, which will put money into the pockets of the Pixars and Electronic Arts and large video game companies which are based primarily in Los Angeles," Williamson told CBC News.

"Those companies are likely to invest and be happy. Companies like ours who produce and finance our own productions that keeps the wealth effectively in the province didn't get a bump on the tax credit."

Colin Hansen, B.C.'s finance minister, and Kevin Krueger, B.C.'s culture minister, proposed the new tax credit for video game developers and increased tax credits for foreign TV and film production and animation in an announcement on Wednesday.

"This is actually a packet of tax credits that supports the industry as it is about to become, which is a conversion of the film, the digital, the animation, the digital effects and I think most importantly now the electronic gaming," Hansen told CBC News.

The film industry in B.C. has been lobbying for improved credits since Ontario and Quebec upped their tax incentives in June 2009.

Williamson said he was disappointed by what he heard from Krueger on Wednesday.

There was nothing to keep Brightlight Pictures, which has plans to move its operations to Ontario, in the province, he said. The Vancouver-based company has worked recently on Slither, Gunless and Fifty Dead Men Walking.

Although the tax credit for labour on B.C. shoots was increased, it doesn't come near to the Ontario incentive, he said.

Ontario filmmakers get a tax credit on virtually all the costs of production, including lighting equipment, trucks and trailers and cameras, while the B.C. credit is only on labour.

Since labour is typically half the cost of production, the Ontario tax credit has doubled the impact for producers.

The new credits seem aimed primarily at video game production, Williamson said.

He said Brightlight has already opened an office in Toronto, and plans to move the majority of its production there.

About half of B.C.'s 25,000 skilled movie industry workers are reported to be out of work.

With files from Ben Hadaway