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Movie business in Victoria feeling the squeeze

Film industry sees reduction of movies being filmed here

The Greater Victoria film industry is working on ways to bolster movie and TV production, as Hollywood shifts work to other provinces that offer generous subsidies and tax breaks.

Early estimates for 2012 show the Capital Region benefited from roughly $7 million in directing spending from the film industry, a far cry from the $20 million highs of 2006, said Kathleen Gilbert, Greater Victoria film commissioner.

“Budgets have dropped quite significantly,” she said. “Even the big blockbuster movies have smaller budgets than they used to.”

While lucrative franchises like the X-Men series have rolled through the region in the past, made-for-TV films have typically been the bread and butter of local film crews, Gilbert said.

She attributes the downturn to the global recession, a strong Canadian dollar and the exclusion of the Capital Region from B.C.’s distant tax credit, an incentive offered to production companies who work outside major metropolitan areas.

“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,” she said.

The province won’t be matching generous tax credits offered by Ontario and Quebec either, said Bill Bennett, B.C.’s minister of community, sport and cultural development.

“I understand why the film and TV and digital media industries are concerned,” Bennett said.

“What the film industry seems to want mainly is for us to match the tax credits that are available in Ontario, and we can’t do that.”

Bennett said he is working on a new policy that will “clean up and simplify” the business environment for the industry, which is looking at further costs as B.C. prepares to phase out the harmonized sales tax in March.