#SaveBCFilm’s Unlikely Foe: Visual Effects?

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:

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 1.06.09 AM

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.

Soldier On.

39 Responses to #SaveBCFilm’s Unlikely Foe: Visual Effects?

  1. Aton says:

    Pffft…

  2. MW says:

    It’s funny. I remember when people here in LA were complaining about work going to BC now BC’ers are complaining about work going further into Canada? Interesting….

    • wb says:

      soon will all go to china…I know, you will say that there are no talented people out there. How many talented people you know? Very few – and the red camarades will buy them all…
      So – be prepared – no more work in states and Canada in very few years ( months)

  3. Sheetal Meshram says:

    hope productions and subsidies go good n equal in all over canada and for other countries too… untill it doesn’t affect the hard working artists…

  4. vfxinloop says:

    Disgusting Hollywood !!!!..
    We vfx artists can be just spectators and run around the world for insecured jobs and my wife still says you are in amazing n creative field and will settle in coming years so sad..so sad…so positive she is but i am not.

  5. Tom Roffman says:

    gotta love election time in BC. They are all changing positions daily. Imagine if the world was run by politicians ……..

  6. Peter R. says:

    Oh no. More Liberal Party shilling from VFX solider. Are you on the party payroll? Didn’t mention that the PST is now back in BC, which is a huge levy on the film industry. Or is that fact just too inconvenient for you?

    Nothing to see here. Keep moving along…

    • Penelope Pure Bread says:

      You are absolutely correct that PST makes it even steven. They are just up here for the wonderful city and it’s many charms.

    • “More liberal party shilling” from Soldier? This implies you have been reading for a while. Or not. Because had you read most any post or comments, you would know that Soldier is a VFX worker in the US (California to be exact). He/she is not a member of the liberal party (are they the Democrats?) nor is he/she on their payroll. That said, how much are they paying and where can I apply? Loves me free money–you know, like a refundable film credit! We have talked about the PST issue. It was/is not ignored.

      So, were you trying to be willfully ignorant or are you just retarded?

      • Peter R says:

        ““More liberal party shilling” from Soldier? This implies you have been reading for a while. Or not.”

        Long enough to remember this ringing endorsement of Bill Bennett and Christy Clark.

        https://vfxsoldier.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/bc-minister-admits-province-loses-money-on-subsidies/

        “He/she is not a member of the liberal party”

        I accused him of shilling, not membership.

        “(are they the Democrats?)”

        No, they’re the Liberals. With that being the stupidest thing I’ve ever read on the internet, how the hell did you muster the brain power to turn your computer on?

        “Loves me free money–you know, like a refundable film credit!”

        Me too.

        “We have talked about the PST issue. It was/is not ignored.”

        No, it’s not mentioned. That means it’s ignored. Saying something incorrect doesn’t make it suddenly become truth.

        “So, were you trying to be willfully ignorant or are you just retarded?”

        Considering that you just wrote a collection of the stupidest nonsense imaginable, I’ll let you mull over who might be the retarded one on this thread.

      • Sorry, pardon me for confusing being on the party payroll with being a party member.

        My parenthetical reference to the Dems was meant in jest. I meant to be sarcastic because not only is Soldier not on the party payroll, most Americans don’t know if the liberals in Canada are the equivalent of Democrats in the US. Nevertheless, if that was the stupidest thing you have ever read on the internet, congratulations. Clearly you don’t read Fox News’ site.

        As for the link to a previous post, it actually mentions the PST issue and does not contain an endorsement of Bennett or Clarke. It merely factually states what each was saying or doing.

        xoxo.

  7. Charlie, Vancouver says:

    So what is your proposal VFX soldier, who lives in a state with $4.16 Billion annual subsidies? How should BC ($200 billion GDP) and California ($1.81 Trillion GDP) deal with today’s news from Australia ($1.13 Trillion GDP), who just dropped $22.6 million to secure David Finches “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”?

    US annual state subsides:
    http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/12/01/us/government-incentives.html?_r=0

    • TimeToAct says:

      He says end ALL Subsidies !! Everywhere!!

      Do you all not read anything before you comment?

      • Charlie, Vancouver says:

        “Ending all subsidies” is up there with “ending all pollution” or “settling all indigenous land claims”. Admirable… but unlikely.

        Living in one region, where fellow citizens enjoy the advantages of government subsidies, and attacking another for developing a service based sector with the help of similar policies is quixotic at best.

        I agree that all subsidies need to be managed with much more due diligence on their economic return, however,
        like it or not, subsidies are apart of our economy. They are a global phenomenon that governments use to lure key economic sectors (energy, agriculture, manufacturing, and services) to their regions and citizens.

        US SERVICE SUBSIDY #1

        The US banking system, which finances, and profits from, our high risk speculative investment service business of film and TV, at the very least, enjoys an $83 billion annual “subsidy”:

        http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-02-24/remember-that-83-billion-bank-subsidy-we-weren-t-kidding.html

        http://www.upworthy.com/elizabeth-warren-continues-to-be-the-senator-we-all-hoped-she-would-be?c=ufb1

        In fact, some would say the US banking sector receives a $780 Billion annual subsidy:

        http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/03/top-banking-analyst-subsidies-to-giant-banks-exceed-780-billion-year.html

        Is this fair to the Canadian based banking services, their employes, or their share holders?

        US ENERGY SUBSIDY

        The IMF estimates that global energy subsides, such as California’s clean energy subsidies and grants, ad up to $1.7 trillion annually. The United States is “the top energy subsidizer in the world at $502 billion annually” (IMF below). I am extremely confident that these subsidies negatively affect Canadian energy based companies, share holders, and jobs (approx 200,000, or %2 of the working population’s employment.)

        http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/survey/so/2013/INT032713A.htm

        http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/12/business/energy-environment/a-cornucopia-of-help-for-renewable-energy.html?pagewanted=all

        BOTTOM LINE

        The film and TV business is now an international one and it is in trouble: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21572218-tale-two-tinseltowns-split-screens.

        Regions where citizens deem film and tv “tax credits” a rewarding investment will continue to lure these troubled film divisions of profitable parent companies to their area. Today’s news from Australia is a great example.

      • tazzman says:

        Yeah, and you’re response to vfxsoldier’s stance is what, continue the status quo?

      • Charlie,

        I think we agree that most subsidies for some of the most profitable corporations and industries on Earth are a bad thing.

        But let’s look at the “subsidies” you railed against vs. a refundable film tax credit (i.e., cash payout).

        You mention the banking subsidy and how it may hurt the Canadian banking sector. On the latter, the US bailout actually saved a large chunk of the Canadian banking sector. So, you are welcome. http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/canada%E2%80%99s-secret-bank-bailout-revealed

        Regardless, the main culprit in the banking subsidy articles you linked to are much less a “subsidy” than the cash payouts offered under film incentive programs. The US bank subsidy you complain about is, for the most part, just a lower interest rate offered to large banks (including Canadian banks). If I get American Express to lower my interest rate on a credit card from 12% to 6%, is that also a subsidy? Because that is basically what the US bank subsidy you singed out is. A lower flipping interest rate. Compare this to a cash refund based on spending which is paid even though you don’t owe 1 cent in taxes. Film credits are free cash, bank subsidy means less interest owed—but still money paid to the gov. So, which is the subsidy to you?

        Subsidies for the US energy sector? Do they hurt Canadian energy companies? You mean the same energy companies that have also been long subsidized by the Canadian government?? The only pain being inflicted is to the taxpayers in Canada and the US who stand for it.

        Finally, stop worrying about the “troubled film divisions” at the studios. They are doing fine. Box office hits new records each year and the amount of revenue from DVD/Blu Ray/internet and ancillary sales is triple the BO. Add on the licensing deals for most major properties…yeah…the studios are not Oliver Twist.

    • RH_vfx says:

      Thank you for your always creative, entertaining, and passive aggressive comments.

      Please give us more links to US and International subsidies that we all know are given out to different industries.

      • Charlie, Vancouver says:

        No problem, please see above.

      • TimeToAct says:

        Wow you completely missed the sarcasm and I hope you go back and do some reading, there are so many post from VFX solider about the US subsidies. So your post is just a repeat of what most of us already know.

    • RH_vfx says:

      Welp. There’s no reasoning with Charlie. Too short sighted to see a problem. Everything is good for Charlie now so the rest of the world better just get used to the way things are. Clearly Charlie, you have a good job in Vancouver, relatively stable…for now.

      Look to the here and now and not to the future Charlie. I’m going to guess you’d vote Republican if you were in the states.

      • Charlie, Vancouver says:

        I enjoy reading VFX soldier and feel it brings up a lot of valid perspectives and informative links….

        My point is, this website gets very inflammatory in spirit and language against BC and her citizens, e.g. the suggestion we are “bribing” Hollywood studios, when the United States and California are equally guilty of these economic measures.

        The $9 Trillion US Financial Industry, (yes Adrian) including Canadian owned banks that have US operations and pay US taxes, receive US tax payer supported subsidies. Canada’s banks also receive Canadian taxpayer assistance, but nothing like this: “Multiplied by the total liabilities of the 10 largest U.S. banks by assets, [the perceived credit] amounts to a taxpayer subsidy of $83 billion a year. To put the figure in perspective, it’s tantamount to the government giving the banks about 3 cents of every tax dollar collected” Bloomberg. This directly results in a competitive edge that international investors and shareholders likely choose over Canadian institutions. I am not saying that this is “unfair”, or that these are “bribes” to banks, just that they exist and there are many US citizens who’s careers depend on it.

        US Energy is also tax payer supported with “cash” payments ( http://www.treasury.gov/initiatives/recovery/Documents/P%20Status%20overview%202011-11-03.pdf ) and, for example, competes directly with BC Hydro, as Adrian points out a citizen owned/supported “crown corporation”, for California’s power market. In this instance a zero-sum game, but with the $502 billion US annual energy subsidy, it’s a game Canadian and BC citizens are not going to win. I am not rallying against this, just making it clear your fellow citizens enjoy this advantage.

        I sympathize with your cause. I too have seen a massive reduction in available film and TV work over the past few years and now must face moving my family or changing my career after 20 years. I just ask that VFX soldier tones down the rhetoric that fails to address its own governments economic agenda which directly affects the BC citizens it criticizes. In the meantime, I am taking it upon myself to examine the merits of DAVE from unbiased sources.

        PS the suggestion “Save BC Film” does not support Bollywood is also unnecessarily inflammatory. The concern has little to do with Bollywood, and much more to do with an $11 million grant the BC gov dropped on a brand new Indian film awards show months before an election. “Does the world need another film awards show?” and “Why would BC give it $11 million” was the problem, not Bollywood.

      • Look at the big picture says:

        Charlie:

        But what is the purpose of pointing out this “hypocrisy”? Few here will argue that there aren’t numerous subsidies in numerous industries affecting numerous people in numerous countries. VFX Soldier and the vast majority of readers and posters on this blog have repeatedly stated that they are against ALL subsidies. It has been repeated so often (in original blog posts in in response to comments like yours) that your argument makes no sense in this context.

        I can only assume that you are intentionally pretending that position hasn’t been well established here in order to give you room to make your real point which I can only assume boils down to “stop talking bad about Canada/British Columbia”. But you must realize that Canada/BC only appears the target of ire because of the circumstances at this moment in time. Tomorrow it may be somewhere else that appears to be attacked, but the real target are the subsidies not the locations.

  8. wb says:

    the whole industry is in BIG trouble….

    • Mister Wonderful says:

      Gee really?

      “Nahhhhh”😉

      Americans will ALL be in trouble in many industries with fallback from artificial stimulus across the board. There will be rare exceptions of people that get the lucky stick.

      Oh the bailouts.

      The shit is coming. The fan blades are turning.
      I’m praying for people with families in california. I sense some serious foreclosures are on the way. When we see those, Cali will take a bit of a dirt nap.

      I think the only thing that might save the state is that its a great place to film year round.

      Everything is getting gutted in the north and south. Now with Lucasarts and ILM and all that’s happening in the south of cali. Both North and South are expensive.

      Albeit sunny, both north and south have heinous traffic and is overly expensive.

      Property and cost of living is ridiculous. Most artists are broke paying uncle sam, student loans, rent, mortgage, daycare, food, software, hardware, re-education and modest car bills.

      God forbid that artist wants to go broke taking a vacation with his family after death marches and crunch time.

      But “nahhhh”, you are supposed to be a soldier for the job. This is what clients and producers want you to think. And our peers. We know we’ve all heard the cries about those family guys not “pulling weight.”

  9. vfxfootsoldier says:

    Been following this foreign & domestic government subsidies “race to the bottom” since “runaway production” days in late ’90’s. I appreciate so much how this blog has pulled together great information & research. And created the forum where vfx artists finally talk about the causes which have led up to the realities we face in our workplace in 2013.

    I have never felt the need to defend the right of business to do whatever is necessary to turn the greatest possible profit. In my country of origin, we give lip service to the notion that all human beings are endowed with inalienable rights…”for the protection of which they institute governments.” One is “the pursuit of happiness” and labor laws once addressed the right to decent working conditions and a living wage in exchange for honest work.

    Sometimes I feel like I’m living in George Bailey’s nightmare. Not only has Mr. Potter out-smarted everybody….the people of Pottersville are lining up for whatever crumbs drop.

    OK, yeah, I AM mad as hell…now what am I going to do about it ?

    Organize.

    I’m for Solidarity in the Pursuit of Happiness & Quality of Life.
    If we raise our voices as one, governments are forced to listen.
    It’s happened before, as the pendulum swings.
    We are the majority & they need us to do the work.

  10. Making VFX on some films is like doing the impossible. I hear a VFX Artist in gaming is like being on the show Deadliest Catch with death marching until 5am for months. Kids are like early 20s until they fry and move back in with mommie shell shocked. Come on…

    At will employment is common these days as an easy out to shed people. I expect this trend to continue. Wake up. Be a part of change. Be pro outspoken. Bad managing must be stopped by both the studios and the shops!

    So maybe VFX needs agents. I really do think that is a key way to make this work. Of course no subsidies etc. But the business and job hunt is too complicated for the artist to manage while constantly reinventing themselves.

    In some of you I hear this tough guy, I can work all night thing. Maybe you have a chance to educate the client (shop/filmstudio) by simply going home. They need to manage the shit better. It’s not your fault. VFX entails that you are inventing solutions. Can’t force a guy to be an inventor machine. He needs breaks or he’ll malfunction. Even machines have boot up times.

    Post production wise, we should be more don draper, less rosie the rivetter.

    Mr Wonderful

  11. John Doe says:

    I was wondering if lone freelance vfx artists that are working in countries that allow for large subsidies (aka Vancouver) also allow the studios to write them off as a tax cut. Example: If i am a Vancouver citizen, and i am working as a freelance artist on a large blockbuster feature, would the company that hired me, (warner bros., fox. etc.) be able to write me off as being part of that tax break? Or is that tax break limited to companies only?

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