Disagreement persists on state of Nova Scotia film industry

Halifax-based camera operator Andrew Stretch, right in blue jacket, and other crew on the set of Haven, a supernatural drama filmed in Nova Scotia.
Halifax-based camera operator Andrew Stretch, right in blue jacket, and other crew on the set of Haven, a supernatural drama filmed in Nova Scotia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Michael Tompkins

The government says a “positive” story is coming out of the Nova Scotia film industry, but at least one long-time producer disagrees.

Based on anecdotal information, the film industry is “growing” in Nova Scotia, according to Deputy Minister of Communities Culture and Heritage, Tracey Taweel.

READ MORE: IATSE accuses Premier’s Office of scuttling changes to film fund

“Anecdotally we’re hearing that the film industry, along with the culture sector, the creative sector writ large is doing well,” Taweel said Wednesday.

Last year, the government abruptly changed the funding for the industry, sending it into a tailspin. Salaries dropped dramatically and production within the province declined.

Citing a relatively steady stream of new productions and investments under the new Film and Television Incentive Fund, Taweel said the industry is adjusting to last year’s changes.

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“What I see at present is an industry that is rebounding from a period of change,” she said.

But long-time producer, and progressive conservative candidate in Halifax, John Wesley Chisholm says the industry is only doing well if you compare it to last year’s record.

“If it’s rebounding, it’s rebounding only from a self-inflicted wound,” Chisholm said.

READ MORE: NS film incentive fund cap has some flexibility, government says

Calling the new fund a “fiasco,” Chisholm said before last year’s changes Nova Scotia, was on its way to claiming two per cent of the film and television industry in Canada. He says that growth has been hampered since then.

He also disputes the government’s position that the new fund is a more progressive approach to government aid for industries.

He says the new fund is a “rats nest, corn maze” of bureaucracy, and that the government is back to picking winners and losers in the film industry, because it chooses who receives money as opposed to the tax credit that was automatic as long as productions met certain criteria.

“I see a creative industry limited by the creativity and imagination of mid-level bureaucrats and that’s terrible,” he said.

In response to Chisholm’s statements, Nova Scotia Business Inc. said in an emailed statement that “qualified productions are provided funding on a first-in, first out basis.”

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CEO Laurel Broten said she is “encouraged by the recent activity” in the film industry and the corporation is “optimistic” about its growth. However, it doesn’t yet have a full picture of how the industry has fared since last year’s changes.

NSBI says statistics for industry activity in the past year will be released next year.


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