Inter-Provincial Co-Productions: Solution to Saskatchewan's Talent Exodus?

With film workers leaving as local film tax credit vanishes, broadcaster Rogers Media says it will back cross-Canadian productions to get local producers back in the game.

TORONTO – This could get an embattled Saskatchewan production sector back in the game.

Canadian broadcaster Rogers Media has ordered a one hour documentary, The Sky is the Limit, from Saskatchewan producer Stephen Onda Productions, after launching a Citytv Saskatchewan outlet for its expanding national network.

But while promising to commission more programming for local producers, Citytv is also dangling a solution to stem the exodus of local talent headed to rival Canadian provinces: inter-provincial co-productions.

The Saskatchewan government ending its refundable film tax credit as of June 30 has major producers in Regina and Saskatoon leaving the province to relocate to Vancouver or Toronto, which retain generous film tax credits.

Claire Freeland, director of original programming at Rogers Media Broadcasting, said the broadcaster routinely partners up TV producers from different provinces to leverage tax credits.

The key is ensuring the inter-provincial co-production fits the Citytv brand on-screen.

“Whichever is best to serve the material, we’ll talk,” Freeland said.

For Rogers Media’s first Citytv Saskatchewan project, Onda is to direct The Sky is the Limit documentary to showcase local players behind his province’s resource-driven economic boom.

The documentary follows Rogers Media ordering two locally-produced sitcoms, Seed and Package Deal, to complement a comedy-heavy Citytv schedule that includes returning hits like Modern Family and 30 Rock, breakout hits like New Girl and 2 Broke Girls and nine new U.S. sitcoms acquired at the recent Los Angeles Screenings.

“We’re really poised to leverage those shows. Comedy continues to be of interest and it’s such a great fit,” Freeland said.

She added Rogers Media is also eyeing locally-produced dramas and reality series, ahead of shortly launching The Bachelor Canada.

Saskatchewan indie producers were out in force at the recent Banff World Media Festival to drum up possible co-production deals, with Canadian and international partners.

Major Saskatchewan producers like Partners in Motion and Verite Films have already announced plans to relocate elsewhere in Canada.