Wes Bentley, Kim Coates Urge Saskatchewan to Keep Film Tax Credit

Wes Bentley

American Beauty star Wes Bentley at the premiere of The Hunger Games.

Despite the Hollywood stars urging the province to restore its production subsidy, premier Brad Wall insists he wants out of the race to the bottom to woo big-budget film and TV shoots.

TORONTO - Hollywood is adding its voice to calls for Saskatchewan to restore its film tax credit before its local industry vanishes.

Sons of Anarchy star Kim Coates on Monday said his native province deciding last week to kill the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit threatened to decimate local film and TV production.

“This is not just a matter of lowering the tax credit from 40% to 30%. It’s an absolute rape and pillage of the entire industry,” Coates insisted.

The Hollywood star said he has just completed work on two feature films shot back to back in Saskatoon, and the provincial government was ending a tax credit program that brought in much-needed investment to Saskatchewan.

“It’s not a hand-out. They get $6.00 for every dollar they (producers) spend,” Coates said of tax breaks that have cost the provincial government around $100 million since 1998, while reaping around $620 million in local jobs and spin-off benefits.

The Hunger Games star Wes Bentley, who performed in the 2009 film Dolan's Cadillac that was shot in Regina, in a statement Monday said Los Angeles producers will write off Saskatchewan if it has no tax incentive to match rival jurisdictions.

“The fact is, ending the SFETC will severely damage the film and television industry in Saskatchewan," Bentley argued.

Paul Bronfman, CEO of William F. White International, a major Canadian production equipment rental supplier, said the decision to axe a tax subsidy for up to 55 percent of labor costs in local production, did not make economic sense.

“I am completely shocked and outraged at the short-sighted actions of the Saskatchewan provincial government and especially finance minister (Ken) Krawetz,” Bronfman said. 

He added William F. White now had to reconsider its presence in Regina in light of the tax credit cancellation and the absence of an alternative subsidy.

“If business conditions deteriorate any further, we will have no choice but to shut down operations immediately,” Bronfman warned.

But Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall on Monday insisted the province wanted out of the tax credit game, with never-ending rises in tax incentives to woo Hollywood and other foreign producers.

“We're not going to participate in the bidding war that is happening between provinces with respect to these grants," Wall told reporters following a 90-minute meeting with representatives for Canadian film and TV producers.

Wall did dangle upcoming negotiations to find alternative ways to subsidize the province's film and TV industry.

New Brunswick in March 2011 similarly stunned the local film and TV sectors by phasing out its 40 percent tax credit to cut the provincial debt.

But, faced with a talent exodus to rival provinces, New Brunswick not long afterwards reintroduced a film incentive that rebates up to 30 percent of eligible expenditures.

The new program in New Brunswick gives 50 percent of the government money to indie producers up front for pre-production or production, with the other half coming when a project has finished production.

Saskatchewan film and TV producers are also looking to get the provincial government to figure out a way to restore local subsidies to keep their industry on the rails.

By contrast, the provinces of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, where most foreign production takes place in Canada, have in recent years juiced their tax credits and sold them to foreign producers on their certainty and bankability.