Support BC's film industry, not just natural resources: Save BC Film organizer

Oil pipeline proposals such as the Enbridge Northern Gateway promise $1.2 billion in tax revenue to BC over 30 years. The BC film industry generates that amount in one year, according to #savebcfilm social media campaign organizer and film producer Wayne Bennett. So why isn't there more support for the latter from the provincial government? 

"Our position is that we're bringing 1.2 billion dollars a year and we're not digging holes in the ground, we're not ripping out trees, we're not digging mines and we're not raping the province of its natural resources," Bennett said in an interview following a major event in North Vancouver rallying people to save BC’s film industry.

"We're a very clean industry for all intents and purposes, and yet the government continues to spend money in that area (of natural resources)."

BC filmmakers are demanding broad changes to make the province's film industry more competitive. Currently, tax credits for BC filmmakers only apply to labour costs (a 33 per cent rebate), whereas Ontario and Quebec give a 25 per cent tax credit to every aspect of work involved.

What's more, Bennett says, the rebates only apply to BC residents, while provinces like Quebec offer the same tax credit to non-residents who are only temporarily in the province to work on a film or television show. 

BC Premier Christy Clark insists that the the $285-million annual tax credit for film is already good enough. Her position contrasts sharply with that of rival and provincial NDP leader Adrian Dix, who traveled to Los Angeles today in order to advocate on behalf of BC's film sector.

Bennett suggests that Clark's decision not to support the BC film industry is more rooted in politics than economics. For example, he notes that for the mining sector, the government offers a tax credit rate of 30 per cent for mineral exploration in areas affected by the Mountain Pine Beetle and 20 per rent for all costs -- not just for labour.

Compounding the issue is BC's return to PST on April 1, which means that companies will be no longer able to claim the expenses they used to be able to under the HST system.

A complex problem and interconnected creative industry

One problem that BC's film industry supporters note is that the public generally has a narrow understanding of the work involved in the industry. Beyond actors and directors, the industry employs and impacts many businesses and people contributing to BC's economy. 

"The creative community is an interdependent web of businesses," said Omnifilm Entertainment vice president and executive producer Brian Hamilton.

"As a BC-based producer, I am constantly working with and employing people in the digital sector, and they are producing our digital companion to our TV series," he said, noting that even the publishing industry is impacted by the work of films.

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