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Province ready for its closeup

Manitoba offers more aid to film and TV production via tax credit

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>From left: Finance Minister Scott Fielding, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler, Economic Development and Training Minister Ralph Eichler and Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox.</p>

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

From left: Finance Minister Scott Fielding, Infrastructure Minister Ron Schuler, Economic Development and Training Minister Ralph Eichler and Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/3/2020 (235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In the Lombard Avenue offices of Manitoba Film & Music, no fewer than four provincial ministers joined MF&M CEO Rachel Rusen Margolis on Friday morning to announce an enhancement to the Manitoba Film and Video Production Tax Credit along with a change to legislation to permit the use of certified flag persons on productions instead of police officers.

For many of the local film industry players in attendance, it was a double shot of good news worthy of the political full court press. The production tax credit, not to be confused with Manitoba’s aggressive film industry labour tax credit, boosts the existing 30 percent cost-of-production credit by eight per cent, for a total cost-of-production credit of 38 per cent.

It is hoped that will encourage companies to establish a home base in the province.

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Rachel Rusen Margolis, CEO and Film Commissioner of Manitoba Film & Music.</p></p>

SHANNON VANRAES / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Rachel Rusen Margolis, CEO and Film Commissioner of Manitoba Film & Music.

"We want to make Manitoba even more competitive with other jurisdictions across the country," said Culture Minister Cathy Cox, who was joined for the announcement by Finance Minister Scott Fielding, Ralph Eichler, minister of economic development, and Ron Schuler, minister of infrastructure.

"The increase in the cost-of-production tax credit will not just work to attract productions to come and shoot in Manitoba," said Margolis. "It will encourage more post-production, VFX, animation, which will hopefully have the effect of causing companies to invest in the infrastructure of Manitoba, and then build a permanent position here."

The tax incentive is expected to boost the existing trend for companies to establish offices in Winnipeg, including Urban Prairie Post, a Toronto-based post-production and visual effects house, and the L.A.-based company The Cartel, which created an office here in September 2018 and has gone on to produce more than a dozen movie-of-the-week style feature films.

Brown reclaims ownership of Frantic FIlms

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Frantic Film’s Jamie Brown</p>

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Frantic Film’s Jamie Brown

Jamie Brown picked a good time to take back the ownership reins of Winnipeg production company Frantic Films, for whom he serves as CEO.

Attending the MF&M press conference, Brown nodded approval of the provincial government’s efforts to boost the film industry, which generated $250 million into the province’s economy last year. He allows that extra eight per cent tax credit might make a difference in deciding the viability of an American TV series for the CW network that Frantic is considering partnering on.

Jamie Brown picked a good time to take back the ownership reins of Winnipeg production company Frantic Films, for whom he serves as CEO.

Attending the MF&M press conference, Brown nodded approval of the provincial government’s efforts to boost the film industry, which generated $250 million into the province’s economy last year. He allows that extra eight per cent tax credit might make a difference in deciding the viability of an American TV series for the CW network that Frantic is considering partnering on.

Brown has more skin in the game since he single-handedly purchased back Frantic Films from Kew Media Group in February, almost three years after Frantic was sold to the Canadian media conglomerate.

“Kew Media was having difficulties,” he says. “As things deteriorated at Kew, I was concerned about the viability of our company and our shows and our jobs.

“And there weren’t a lot of solutions being presented,” Brown says. “But one was for me to buy the company and take it out of Kew.”

“They went into receivership the day after I closed the deal to buy Frantic,” Brown says.

Frantic Films produces a wide variety of programs, from the HGTV lifestyle show Backyard Builds to the CBC sketch comedy Baroness Von Sketch Show (which was freshly awarded the 2019 Rose d’Or Award for comedy against an international field of competitors). Frantic recently accounted for 13 nominations for the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards.

“I’m really excited,” Brown says of reclaiming the company. “Everybody is hugely relieved. I got over 100 emails of congratulations in the first 24 hours after the purchase.”

Many films that shoot in Manitoba take their post-production — including sound mixing and visual effects — elsewhere. The tax credit may help make Manitoba more of a one-stop-shop for both production and post production, says Inferno Pictures producer Ian Dimerman. 

"We produced the big Netflix movie How It Ends," said Dimerman. "And on movies that have very large visual effects components to it, and very large build components to it, I think an enhancement like that will attract some larger projects," he said. 

"I think, all in all, it’s going to be great for business in Manitoba," Dimerman said. "It shows that we’re serious, it shows that we’re committed, and you can see this government is really committed to the growth of this industry."

 Fielding said the tax credit has led to long-term jobs in Manitoba and a growing industry.

"These are important jobs, long (term) jobs that are going to be here for a long period of time," Fielding said.

In 2017, the Manitoba government hired outside consultants to review its tax credit.

The KPMG report said the credit is the most generous among the provinces and recommended reducing it to a level in line with other Western jurisdictions.

The tax credit has cost the province between $15 million and $24 million annually in recent years, said a 2017 review by On Screen Manitoba, an industry association.

The money given out by the province exceeded the money it recouped through higher income taxes and other sources in four of the preceding five years, the association’s report said.

Still, Fielding has said the credit is a good investment because it has kept young people in the industry in Manitoba instead of leaving for other parts of Canada or the United States.

<p>From left: Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox, Premier Brian Pallister, actor Liam Neeson and Manitoba Film & Music CEO and Film Commissioner Rachel Rusen Margolis on set of The Ice Road.</p>

KRISTINE DERKSEN / GOVERNMENT OF MANITOBA

From left: Manitoba Sport, Culture and Heritage Minister Cathy Cox, Premier Brian Pallister, actor Liam Neeson and Manitoba Film & Music CEO and Film Commissioner Rachel Rusen Margolis on set of The Ice Road.


The other announcement allows film production companies needing traffic control services to be freed from a requirement to use police or Manitoba RCMP to perform those duties, instead allowing trained "flag persons" to do the job.

If that sounds like a comparatively trivial announcement, it’s not. Ian Dimerman can cite two films he worked on, the sequel A Dog’s Journey and the Netflix film How It Ends, as projects that ran into trouble because the Highway Traffic Act required police to control traffic when no officers were immediately available.

"On A Dog’s Journey, we had a difficult time getting enough law enforcement, in rural Manitoba in particular, because (it was shot during) summer, holidays. And they’re short-staffed and they’re taxed. There’s a lot going on.

"So in order to facilitate road closures, having trained people that are certified, it really helps alleviate the stress on law enforcement."

"It eliminates bureaucracy, it eliminates red tape," says Margolis. "(Infrastructure minister Ron Schuler) just recognized that we absolutely needed to streamline the process to maximize efficiencies on set, and that’s not just efficiencies in dollars but efficiencies of process."

"It’s really going to help everyone," says Dimerman. "It’s a very collaborative approach to dealing with a problem."

— With files from Canadian Press

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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History

Updated on Friday, March 6, 2020 at 9:32 PM CST: Adds photo credit

March 7, 2020 at 4:55 PM: Minor edits

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