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Film industry warns of ‘war’

Competing film industries across Canada are “declaring war” onVancouver, and “Hollywood North” could collapse if the provincialgovernment doesn’t react soon.

Competing film industries across Canada are “declaring war” on Vancouver, and “Hollywood North” could collapse if the provincial government doesn’t react soon.

That’s the warning coming from members of B.C.’s film industry after Quebec and Ontario both doubled their film tax credits to 25 per cent — matching B.C.’s — in efforts to woo foreign producers.

Alberta announced on Wednesday it’s increasing the maximum handout from $3 million to $5 million.

The tax credits in Quebec and Ontario, however, cover not just labour but other related costs such as the purchase and rental of studios and equipment — a hefty sum amounting to up to half of total costs that B.C.’s tax credit does not cover.

“Without matching their tax credits, we’re basically finished,” said Chris Helcermanas-Benge, a local still photographer who recently sent a letter detailing the industry’s plight to Premier Gordon Campbell and all MLAs.

Shawn Williamson, producer and partner at Vancouver’s Brightlight Pictures, has faced the problem first-hand.

“We ran the numbers on a $10.6-million movie,” he said.

“The tax credit here was $950,000; in Ontario it was $1.7 million. I don’t want to move, but from a business point of view, I can’t ignore it.”

Additionally, the predicament could potentially be worsened by the implementation of next year’s harmonized sales tax. Certain expenses that are currently exempt from PST — food, equipment rental, clothing and props, for example — will be subject to the additional seven per cent tax, Helcermanas-Benge said.

Kevin Milligan, an economics professor at the University of B.C., is skeptical of the cries to invest more into the local film industry.

“The tax credits aren’t free,” he said. “Every dollar taxed away in order to pay for the movie industry guy’s tax credit deprives some other business of money that could be used to employ people or some other family of money that could be used to buy their children a bicycle or school books.”

Helcermanas-Benge countered by saying the industry contributes upwards of $1.2 billion to the local economy each year.

Kevin Kreuger, minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, was not available for comment.