Canada Aims to Take Film and TV Business From Georgia, Louisiana

Issue 12 BIZ Film Locations Illustration - H 2014
Mark Nerys

Issue 12 BIZ Film Locations Illustration - H 2014

Studio operators see strengthening greenback and rich tax breaks helping Toronto and Vancouver compete with Atlanta and New Orleans

Canadian production players see the sudden collapse of their dollar against the American greenback helping them draw projects from Georgia and Louisiana.

The Canadian loonie (one-dollar coin) on Tuesday plunged to below US$0.86 cents amid an oil bust. The extra currency savings for Hollywood film and TV projects shooting in Canada has local studio operators and equipment rental suppliers feeling more assured as they combat the lure of Atlanta and New Orleans.

Both locales offer incentives of up to 30 percent that cover eight-figure actor salaries and other above-the-line spending. "They can save 15 percent above the line. It's not 30 percent like in Atlanta and Louisiana, but it's putting Canada closer and closer to parity with our two main competitors, Atlanta and Louisiana," Paul Bronfman, chairman of Pinewood Toronto Studios and equipment supplier William F. White International told The Hollywood Reporter.

Read more Toronto: Why Hollywood Tentpoles Love Ontario

In the mid-1990s and early 2000s, generous film tax credits in Canada, combined with low exchange rates, brought the major studios north of the border in droves to make movies and TV shows. But the loonie surpassing the value of the American greenback in 2007, before settling back to around parity, allowed U.S. states outside of California with their own tax credits to take a chunk of business from Canada.

Ontario and Quebec sweetened their film tax credits to 25 percent all-spends, and British Columbia offered the film industry a 33 percent tax break on labor costs to help keep Vancouver doubling as Los Angeles and Toronto as New York City and Chicago, down to cop cars and mailboxes.

Now, with the Canadian dollar at 85 cents and change, studio operators report more phone calls and scouting by Los Angeles producers eyeing locations that depict Harlem or the Magnificent Mile. "I'm sure its going to be a busier year for U.S. production in Toronto in 2015," Ken Ferguson, executive director of Toronto studio Revival 629, predicted.

On the tentpole front, Toronto has David Ayer's Suicide Squad for Warner Bros. booked for pre-production and to shoot at Pinewood Toronto Studios from February to September, to be followed by Guillermo del Toro helming Pacific Rim 2 on the same stages. And Vancouver has a busy 2015 in view, with Star Trek 3 to shoot mainly in the west coast production hub, which is also set to host production on Steven Spielberg's The BFG and Uncharted, Sony’s adaptation of the video game Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune.

But Donna Zuchlinski, manager of industry development at the Ontario Media Development Corp., which markets Ontario as a film locale in Hollywood, said more than currency fluctuations are at work to bring the major studios north of the border.

She points to tax credit stability and one-stop shopping for standing sets, actors, technical crews and post-production and animation facilities. "We're a full-service jurisdiction that has tax credits and the dollar," Zuchlinski said.