Less than 20% of new Nova Scotia film and television fund in use

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Nova Scotia Premier defends film and tv incentive fund despite slow uptake
WATCH ABOVE: Less than $2 million of the $10 million set aside for the new film and tv incentive fund has been used so far. Global’s Marieke Walsh reports – Feb 10, 2016

Seven months after the new film and television incentive fund was launched in Nova Scotia, less than 20 per cent of it has been doled out for productions in the province.

As of February, $1.67 million of the possible $10 million has been assigned to nine productions. Pilot Light Productions Executive Producer Geoff D’Eon says the numbers are evidence that the new fund doesn’t work.

“Clearly its not working very well because very few people have applied to it,” he said.

READ MORE: Replacement for Nova Scotia film tax credit officially launches

The industry says the new fund is too complicated and when compared to the easily accessible funds and tax credits in other provinces, there’s no question where companies will go.

D’Eon’s company is one of the nine companies that got funding under the new model, but he says it only works for certain types of projects, specifically the smaller projects that don’t have as big of an impact on the province’s economy.

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So far the productions drawing on money from the new fund, will spend an estimated $5.6 million in the province, according to Nova Scotia Business Inc. spokesperson Mel Rusinak. While that only represents roughly half a year it’s well below the governments own number for previous years. For example, in 2013-14, TV and film productions spent $66.8 million in Nova Scotia under the former tax credit.

However, the government says the tax credit also cost taxpayers more. In 2014-15 the government spent $29.7 million on the tax credit, finance department spokesperson Marla MacInnis said. The amount the fund cost in 2013-14 wasn’t made available before publication, so Global News could not calculate the cost/benefit of the 2013-14 year to the last seven months under the new fund.

Premier Stephen McNeil attributes the low uptake in part to a rush to apply for funding under the tax credit before it expired in July. Speaking to reporters in Fredericton on Wednesday, McNeil said he stands by the changes.

“We believe its one that’s fair not only to the sector…but its also fair to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia,” McNeil said.

The maximum amount that a production can have refunded is 32 per cent of eligible Nova Scotia costs. NSBI says labour, goods, and services bought in Nova Scotia are eligible for the refund. The eligibility list includes everything from a makeup artist to a public relations firm, NSBI spokesperson Mek Rusinak said.

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READ MORE: Debate still raging after Liberals cut film tax credit

The government’s $10 million cap on the fund is another deterrent for production companies who are concerned there won’t be any money left in the fund by the time they lay the groundwork for a Nova Scotia shoot, D’Eon said. For example, Alberta also uses a fund model but doesn’t have a cap, he said. Alberta’s fund also allows for a maximum spend of $5 million per production compared to Nova Scotia’s $4 million.

“Why go through the rigmarole of planning a major shoot in Nova Scotia, which is labour intensive to plan a shoot, apply to the fund, and then find out that the money is not going to be available available,” D’Eon said. “We can’t compete on that stage because the investors will simply go to another jurisdiction where they know the money is available.”

Industry group Screen Nova Scotia says it has a meeting with the government at the end of the month to propose changes to the fund.

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