For the last few months film workers in British Columbia formed a group called #SaveBCFilm which protested the film industry’s exodus to Ontario and Quebec which offer significantly larger subsidies.
This week events culminated with a delivery of 30,000 signatures from #savebcfilm asking for larger subsidies and a meeting where BC’s Finance Minister basically asking Ontario to stop the race to the bottom:
“Calling these things ‘tax credits’ is a bit misleading … they are subsidized incentives,” B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong told the Star on Tuesday.
“They’re playing the taxpayers off one against the other,” de Jong said after a meeting with Ontario Finance Minister Charles Sousa in Toronto.
“The first step is to stop being whipsawed for one another because that’s just crazy.”
That statement by Mike de Jong is a stunning endorsement of the argument this blog as made for quite a while. The money offered to studios are not tax credits, they are subsidies costing over $300 million dollars a year which US studios look to game against other locations in a race to the bottom.
What’s surprising in all of this is that while #SaveBCFilm is claiming a steep drop in production, recently released BC government figures show production up.
So who is right? Well they both are. Take a look at this graph taken from this years BC Film Annual Report:
What the graph above shows is film production spending is the highest it’s been in 3 years and the number of productions in BC at an all time high.
Unfortunately for #SaveBCFilm, the larger amount of those productions dollars are for visual effects. The reason why is because BC offers significantly larger subsidies for them. For every $100 paid to a BC film worker, the government subsidizes $45 back to the studio, for VFX it’s $60.
#SaveBCFilm has taken an “ends justify the means” strategy in which they are only for subsidies that benefit themselves. They want to curtail the subsidies for Ontario and Quebec, they are against subsidies for the Bollywood and Energy industries. With VFX getting larger subsidies than physical production in BC, it makes them an unlikely foe.
However with more VFX companies opening up shop in BC and Ontario it’s only a matter of time until others realize the deal is much better there and the next cycle of VFX displacement will occur.