You can’t walk a block in Toronto or Vancouver without running into a sea of orange pylons and trailers. Hollywood has officially moved into Canada, the most attractive place in which for them to shoot. Here’s why:
Variety Names Canada a “Billion Dollar Location:
The entertainment magazine says Canada offers Hollywood an outstanding assortment of locations, state-of-the-art facilities, and crews with vast experience working on everything from productions with budgets exceeding $100 million to small indie films.
As for dollars, producers from the United States can $1.34 USD for every Canadian dollar “effectively allowing U.S. producers to get a dollar’s worth of production in Canada” for way less money — much to Canadians’ chagrin.
Canada Offers Generous Tax Incentives
Variety writes that Canada’s “patchwork of generous tax incentives” further incentivize U.S. producers to get “big bang for their bucks”. Furthermore, though not to the same point, that Canadians have a reputation for being polite, tolerant people. We can’t figure our why Canadians’ politeness is consistently a quality highlighted by people from the United States, it feels like they’re not receptive to our dynamic diversity if all they talk about is how polite we (all, supposedly) are.
“We believe that incentives play an important role in positioning Canada as a partner and location of choice for producers,” says Mélanie Joly, Canada’s Heritage Minister. “Film and television production is a valuable source of economic activity in Canada.” Last year, the sector generated more than 140,000 jobs and $8.4 billion in gross domestic product for Canada.
“This sector not only directly employs a wide range of creative workers with a variety of skill sets, but also creates spillover effects that benefit the whole economy,” she says.
When The Canadian Dollar Is Poorer Than A United States Dollar, Production Soars
A few years ago, when the Canadian dollar was better than the U.S. dollar, international production in Canada slowed down. Now that the Canadian dollar is less than the U.S. dollar again, the production pendulum is swinging back in Canada’s favour. The number of U.S. productions in Canada is currently at an all-time high.
When U.S. producer Marc Bienstock (“Split,” “Before I Fall”) was considering where to take his most recent project, “Life in a Year,” starring Cara Delevingne and Jaden Smith, he looked for a site that would serve the story a esthetically and dramatically, as well as financially.
“We were looking for a city that has a film community and infrastructure for filmmaking that would allow us to make the biggest movie possible with our limited resources,” he says. Toronto had the northeast regional look he was going for, as well as a strong sense of seasonality that was integral to the film.
Variety says the financial factor is especially significant for $2 million TV movies that would otherwise struggle to be made, says producer Dan Paulson who discovered the advantages of filming in Canada years ago when he handed a waiter a $20 U.S. bill and got $21 in Canadian change (editor’s note: THAT’s how he found out Canada has a different dollar value than the United States?). Since then, he’s spent so much time working on shows that he’s actually claimed permanent residency in Canada, which also gives him some tax advantages.
“We have a model here that works,” he says. Tax incentives, rebates, and the cheap dollar are all part of the financial plan because “you can put more on the screen … we can make a better product for less and people here make a lot of money because everyone’s working.”
It’s rare these days to get to shoot in L.A., Davis says, and he doesn’t see that changing, despite California’s relatively new incentives package. “I don’t think anyone [in government] is focused on California [offering incentives similar to those in England or Canada],” he says. “I would love to shoot [in California] but the incentives just aren’t there. … Production in our state isn’t seen as a financial priority.”
For her part, Joly says, the “close ties between Canada and the U.S. will continue to play an important role in both of our countries’ film and TV production industries, as good middle-class jobs in all sectors rely on our strong connection.”
A Canadian Perspective
Local Toronto actress Suzannah Moore says that The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund program activates work for local crew, and that’s a great thing. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund incentivizes productions to hire people in Northern Ontario for crew and cast, like background talent. Canadians can now be a camera operator or a D.O.P. in Sudbury, Ontario and regularly get work with American productions.
Canadian talent, or actors, however, are still get the short end of the stick. U.S. productions typically bring American actors and actresses across the border. Hiring Canadian actors for day players is good for tax credits, which is good for the overall budget, but that won’t stop a production from hiring an American star and it doesn’t mean Canadians will be given the opportunity to read for lead parts.