Thursday, January 13, 2005

Vancouver's movie business?

So Hollywood North is crying fowl because the BC government won't match Ontario's tax incentives up to 18% for making movies there. Well, there comes a certain point where you must look at an overall picture of what we are getting from our movie industry and what we have to offer. There were years when the industry brought in over 1 billion dollars to BC. This money was spread around to film crews, extras, assistants of all kinds and set builders, for instance.
But was there anything in that mix to promote the talent and expertise we have here in BC to make Canadian movies? Little if anything at all. Hollywood South, L.A., brings with it all their 'important' people when they arrive. The shows are produced and directed by Americans, written by Americans, acted in the principal and secondary roles by Americans, photographed by Americans. In some cases even the wardrobe people and extras wranglers are brought up from California. They pay minimum wage, by the way, to extras in the industry, (They are not allowed to pay less by BC law) usually $9.57 per hour because that figure works down to minimum wage after someone pays their agent's fee of 15%. Not much different from WalMart Greeters if you've seen one screen star already. (they're told not to make eye contact with little Sylvester Stallone) And the movies from America are now starting to demand that temporary background performers give them all their private information regarding their tax status, personal numbers etc. Intrusive?
So we are simply workers as expendable as sewing machine operators in Taiwan. Or computer assemblers in Singapore. The bottom line is way too important to the studious little men in dark rooms working out the budgets in their cigar smoke. And besides, the stars of these movies are getting upwards of 20 millions dollars these days, there's nothing left for the workers.
So what do we offer the film industry to come here to make movies and TV?
We currently have an 11% tax break.
We have a 12 month shooting schedule. You can film summer movies in and around Vancouver all year. Ontario has winter after September until May.
We are in the same time zone as Los Angeles. Actors love having a 3 hour flight and no jet lag. Some stars work until Friday noon here and are home for dinner in the Hollywood hills by 7 pm, then leave LA on Monday morning are are back here by noon. Try that in Ontario. And the big stars love the fact that they can actually walk our streets safely!
We have film crews here with unparalleled expertise. They can go anywhere and do anything flawlessly and be ready to shoot when the director yells 'Action'. Our set builders, camera people, electricians, and workers behind the camera are second to none. Anywhere. And they have work ethic. Try that in Hollywood South.
We have talent. Vancouver is brimming with talented actors who can bring fresh views to any role, however small or large. Do they get much chance to show their stuff? Little if any. Tossed a one liner every so often. We have set designers and artistic people who can surpass anything Hollywood can do, and for a reasonable dollar. They SAVE production costs greater than 11% because of their 'get it done' ideals.
We have more creative writers in BC with excellent movie and TV projects than anywhere, yet they need a break to get their ideas heard and their scripts read.
We have the locations. BC can match almost anywhere in the world with little effort. We can be the New York East Side one minute and Shanghai the next. We can ride off into the Western sunset in Williams Lake cattle country or lust around the pool in the wilds of West Vancouver. We can be yachting at sea in the morning and skiing the Alps in the afternoon.
So even without matching frozen Ontario and Quebec, snow-laden Manitoba and Alberta, we are a better place to make films. Those provinces are asking Hollywood production companies to make sacfrifices to shoot in their areas. We are offering perks to film in ours. Money talks but the 7% difference in BC is negligible in overall costs. How much is lost in other provinces because of cancelled shooting days?
Last but not least, we have that marvellous Vancouver light, which is unrivalled by any other city in North America and so sought after by film makers around the world.
What the BC government SHOULD do with that 7% difference, is put the money into LOCAL British Columbia talent. They should be encouraging the building of our own film making skills. Quebec has a thriving home grown movie industry, and Quebeckers don't hesitate to pay to see their own films.
BC should be doing the same with the core of talent we have to allow them to show off their work. There could be a time when Hollywood North is heralded as the best there is in film making. It only needs nurturing.

UPDATE - Jan 20: Late this week the BC Government went along with Carole James of the NDP and raised the tax credits.

UPdate - Jan 23: Toronto. Power was shut down in the city's core today as a water main burst, probably due to the freezing conditions. Business was not allowed to function normally. Snow caused delays all over town. The airports were shut down and planes grounded. Shooting movies was out of the question. Actors were stranded from leaving and productions were not able to arrive. Blizzards were forecast. Most people were crying.
Jan 23: Vancouver. Record high temperatures were recorded today. 14C (57.2f) Former high was 13C. Most people went walking. Many played tennis or admired the arrival of the daffodils. Production of movie and TV projects went on as scheduled. Everyone was smiling.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:26 am

    You are right on with what you are writing! But what does it all mean? Will they try to cut the pay of extras farther down? They can't pay for the damned industry on the backs of background people. They should start by cutting the pay of the stars first.


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