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Manitoba sees payoff from film investment

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The province of Manitoba's stake in film and media production has paid off to the tune of more than half a billion dollars in production volume in the past five years, according to a new economic impact analysis released Tuesday morning at the offices of On Screen Manitoba.

OSM commissioned the study, which analyzed data from 2008-09 to 2012-13, and showed a dramatic rise in the industry's production volume, from $74 million during the global economic crisis in 2009 to $129.9 million in 2012-13. The five-year total was $542.3 million.

Even more encouraging was the rise in the province's co-production activity, up 50 per cent over the previous five-year period. It's a trend that gives Manitoba companies a financial stake in a project's intellectual property.

"We've been doing a lot of work on the international markets and we're trying to see the results of that now, said Manitoba Film & Music CEO Carole Vivier, citing the recent Manitoba-lensed drama Cry/Fly, starring Jennifer Connelly, as "our first Spanish co-production in the English language.

"Manitoba owns some back-end on projects like those," Vivier said. "It's so much more than just being a service producer."

Premier Greg Selinger asserted the province's investments in the media industries have been paying off.

"It's an industry that's very job-intensive, so we're pleased to see the shift from focusing on services to intellectual products, where they're taking an ownership stake, which means a long-term revenue streak coming back to Manitoba to grow our economy and grow even more jobs in the future."

"It shows the industry is maturing and gaining credibility, not only in North America, but internationally as well."

The cry-fly in the ointment was OSM's executive director Nicole Matiation offering the good news/bad news example of Original Pictures' producer Kim Todd being hired to help produce the 10-part FX series Fargo... in Calgary.

Matiation said that hire was an example of how good, seasoned Manitoba producers are valued even beyond the province's borders.

The other side of that coin is that, despite the province's superior tax credits, its cold, snowy winters, and its Fargo-esque geography, we still lost our bid for the Billy Bob Thornton-starring series, mainly owing to a lack of a direct flight between Winnipeg and Los Angeles.

"It had a huge impact on it. The fact that we don't have a direct flight really hurts us," said Vivier.

"We've been working on it with the Winnipeg Airport Authority, trying to find carriers, and it's an ongoing process," she said. "It's certainly not something I'm giving up on."

"I recently had one studio executive say to me, 'Carole, if you had a direct flight, it would be a no-brainer for us to put a series there.'"

Selinger expressed his own disappointment in that development.

"I wrote a big letter to back up (the Fargo bid)," he said. "It was a transport problem; it wasn't a tax-credit problem or a talent problem."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 30, 2013 D3

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