Greater Victoria film industry set to boom with tax credit in B.C. budget

The TV series Gracepoint films on Oak Bay Avenue. While Gracepoint producers won
The TV series Gracepoint films on Oak Bay Avenue. While Gracepoint producers won't be eligible for a new provincial tax credit, the news from today's budget announcement is expected to at least double film production in the Capital Region in 2014.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

The Greater Victoria film industry is "popping champagne corks" after a surprise announcement in Tuesday's provincial budget, says the region's film commissioner.

Effective Feb. 19, Finance Minister Mike de Jong announced all new film productions in the Capital Region will be eligible for a six-per-cent tax credit, known as the distant location regional tax credit. The decision should double direct spending by film companies in the region by the end of 2014, said Kathleen Gilbert, Vancouver Island South Film and Media Commissioner.

"We expect we'll feel the effects immediately," Gilbert said. "I have three calls to make to producers this afternoon who were waiting to see if we'd got (the tax credit). I'm hoping to have them here by next week scouting locations."

Gilbert was optimistic the decision will increase direct film spending from about $7 million last year to at least $18 million by the end of 2014.

"We're absolutely thrilled," she said.

Victoria's film industry has seen a devastating drop-off since 2006, when 11 major productions brought in $20 million to the local economy.

In 2008, the B.C. government implemented the rural tax credit for all filming done outside the Lower Mainland region, from north of Whistler to east of Hope. The Capital Region, however, was excluded from the credit in 2009.

Since then, the global recession, combined with a strong Canadian dollar, has driven direct film spending down to about $7 million annually, Gilbert said.

“We have had a lot of production over the last few years that have set up in Victoria, but try to do at least 70 per cent of their locations outside the CRD (to claim the tax credit),” she said.

Bruce Carter, CEO of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, said the economic benefits from increased film production will be significant, particularly for restaurant, hotel and construction industries and car rental companies.

“We are glad to see the government responsive to the needs of the film industry, particularly here in Greater Victoria,” he said. “This will help build B.C.’s share of the film industry as the capital has some unique locations not found anywhere else in B.C.”

Gilbert, who has been lobbying the province for years on the matter, said she had no advance notice from de Jong on the tax credit announcement today.

"Yesterday, I was convinced we weren't going to get it," she said. "We're beyond excited."

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