How to Shoot in Canada: THR's Breakdown by Province

Words and Pictures Film Still - H 2013

Words and Pictures Film Still - H 2013

Generous tax credits and versatile locations (they can double for settings from Montana to Maine) continue to lure high-profile shoots like "X-Men: Days of Future Past" and "The Art of the Steal."

This story first appeared in the Sept. 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 


Turns out Alberta stands in well for small-town Montana. Cut Bank, starring The Hunger Games' Liam Hemsworth as a young man looking to escape his tiny hometown, was shot in and around Innisfree (population 230, about 100 miles east of Edmonton). The western Canadian province has no film tax credits, so Cut Bank producers tapped the Alberta Media Fund, which provides up to 30 percent of a film's budget, and the $10 million Edmonton Film Entertainment Fund. The equity investment fund is run for the Edmonton Economic Development Corp. by Los Angeles-based Kilburn Media, which screens projects to recommend as recipients of recoupable loans.


Cry Fly, directed by Claudia Llosa and starring Oscar winner Jennifer Connelly and Cillian Murphy, may be set in Minnesota, but the $8 million theatrical drama was shot in and around the town of Beaconia in Manitoba. Making it worthwhile for the USA-Spain co-production to shoot locally was the province's 65 percent labor-based tax credit, which includes bonuses, or a 30 percent tax incentive based on all eligible Manitoba expenditures.

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Copperhead, the Civil War-era epic from director Ron Maxwell, was shot at King's Landing Historical Settlement in New Brunswick, which doubled as upstate New York. "I thought, 'We can make the entire movie here and not go out to distant locations,' " says Maxwell of the site's historic buildings, complete with period artifacts, furniture and tools. The drama, starring Billy Campbell, Angus Macfadyen and Peter Fonda, rarely had to leave its production base for alternative locations. That said, Copperhead nearly bypassed New Brunswick after the province in late 2011 decided to ditch its 40 percent film tax credit. What kept the film shooting locally? The provincial government bowed to criticism and introduced a new tax credit that funds up to 30 percent of eligible production expenditures.


Director Bryan Singer in early August told a Fantasia Film Festival audience in Montreal that "great bars" lured him to shoot X-Men: Days of Future Past in the city, on top of local film tax credits. The latest in the Fox/Marvel franchise took advantage of a Quebec film tax credit that offsets 25 percent of the film's overall budget. The visual effects-heavy shoot also exploited Quebec's 20 percent bonus on all CGI and greenscreen shots for eligible labor costs. The shoot utilized a number of Montreal locations, including the historic City Hall, which was transformed into the French Embassy.


Step Dogs, a family movie starring Dylan Schmid (Once Upon a Time) and directed by Geoff Anderson, was one of the last local productions to tap the 45 percent Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit, which the province rescinded in 2012 to help balance its budget. Despite protests from actors such as Wes Bentley and Kim Coates to restore its production subsidy, Saskatchewan said it wanted out of the race to woo big-budget Hollywood film and TV shoots. Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall eventually introduced a replacement, nonrefundable 25 percent tax incentive, but local producers declared it useless and quickly started picking up stakes and moving to Vancouver or Toronto, where generous refundable tax credits still are available.

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Lights, cameras … and a 33 percent tax credit on labor for Fred Schepisi's Words and Pictures, which will be feted with a gala world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival on Sept. 7. The romantic dramedy, which stars Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche, tapped locations such as St. George's private school, which stood in for a posh New England prep school. The British Columbia film tax credit for foreign movies and TV series is a 33 percent offset on qualifying labor expenditures only -- no Canadian content required. There's also no limit on a tax credit claim to be made by a foreign producer.


The Syfy TV series Haven is shooting its fourth season in Halifax. "The Haven team chose the province because they saw we had the complete package, including a strong film tax credit incentive," says Ann MacKenzie, president and CEO of Film Nova Scotia, referring to the province's generous credit of up to 65 percent on labor or 35 percent of total production costs. Based on the Stephen King novella The Colorado Kid, the popular small-screen drama employs locations around the southern shore of Nova Scotia that can convincingly stand in for King's milieu of choice -- small-town Maine.


Unlike many Hollywood productions in the province, The Art of the Steal, starring Kurt Russell and Matt Dillon, was shot and set in Niagara Falls, Ontario. But it wasn't the natural beauty of the location that the filmmakers were looking for. "We deliberately embraced the kitschy, neon, campy, garish vibe," says producer Nicholas Tabarrok. "We didn't shy away from it. We played Niagara Falls for Niagara Falls." Art of the Steal will debut at the 2013 Toronto Film Festival.