Nova Scotia film fund extended amid COVID-19 business boom


Industry members are applauding the extension of Nova Scotia’s film and television incentive fund for another five years, which will now run until 2025-26.

Laura MacKenzie, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia, said it was a toss-up whether the province would keep the fund going amid the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everybody can take a big, you know, sigh of relief,” she said. “The government wouldn’t have done this at this time if they didn’t recognize the value that the industry brings to the province.”

The province made the announcement Wednesday.

MacKenzie said movie and TV productions are having a positive impact on the province’s economy, and are coming in part thanks to Nova Scotia’s low numbers of COVID-19 cases.

Mark Kenny, a lighting technician, says the fact that Nova Scotians were able to keep COVID numbers low for the past three months has attracted production. 1:59

Recent successful films like The Lighthouse, which was filmed in Yarmouth, N.S., have helped draw attention to the province. Current productions include the film Wildhood, and the series Chapelwaite, based on a Stephen King short story.

According to the province, Nova Scotia spent $77.5 million on 162 film and television projects in the past four years through the fund. That resulted in $292 million in production spending for salaries, taxes, and goods and services from local businesses.

Next year looks even better for the local industry, MacKenzie said, with the possibility of a fully-booked 2021 if all goes well.

“If we can keep our province safe, then this industry can be relied upon to be a big part of economic recovery because so many productions want to come here now,” she said.

Laura MacKenzie is the executive director of Screen Nova Scotia. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The province also needs a sound stage, and MacKenzie said they’re working with the government to try to find a place that foreign productions can call home.

In 2015, the Liberal government unexpectedly cut the previous film tax credit system. The contentious move saw many people leave the province in search of work elsewhere. The province then created the incentive fund.

MacKenzie said while momentum is building, “we’re certainly down a few hands.”

But she said as long as they can attract productions, they can hopefully instil enough confidence in those that left that they might be able to soon return and work year-round.

MacKenzie said the industry could provide career changes for people such as carpenters, painters, accountants or tailors who are out of work due to the pandemic.

Marc Almon, founder and partner of the Culture Link hub in Halifax, was the chairman of Screen Nova Scotia during what he calls the “crisis” of 2015.

Production for the film Wildhood is currently taking place in Nova Scotia. (CBC Arts)

He said the fund renewal is great news for an industry that needs to “make up for some lost time” since Nova Scotia missed out on the production boom that took off across Canada after 2015.

Despite the growing pains of the new system, Almon said the industry is in a better situation now than it was five years ago because they learned how to better communicate with the government.

All three political parties also support the industry, making it a non-partisan issue, Almon said.

Like MacKenzie, Almon said it’s exciting to see Nova Scotia as a “beacon of stability” that is giving most industries a boost in comparison to other regions.

“Everyone wants to work here,” Almon said. “We’d be wise to see this as an opportunity.”

Film and TV productions in Nova Scotia provide employment for over 1,500 producers, technicians, and performers from the Atlantic region, according to the province.

Read more at CBC.ca