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Free rent in Saskatchewan
by: May 10, 2010 Print

Saskatchewan has introduced a new incentive for TV makers - which waives the rent on the government-owned Canada Saskatchewan Production Studios - for a pilot or the first year of a series. But some say it won't do enough to reverse the province's crippling production slump.

The rent deal is capped at $140,000 a year per production, and series must come back to Saskatchewan for their second seasons.

Culture Minister Dustin Duncan is optimistic the initiative will attract producers who would otherwise shoot elsewhere. And it was crucial in attracting Regina-based Vérité Films' spy sitcom InSecurity, according to its exec producer Virginia Thompson.

"We always wanted to film in Saskatchewan, but the problem was, Saskatchewan was becoming less and less competitive," says Thompson.

But others say the incentive isn't enough to reverse the 70% drop in production since 2008 - a drop critics blame on the provincial government's failure to improve the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit.

Duncan says the Vérité series shows that the province is competitive without a change to tax credits.

However, local producer Rhonda Baker of RGB Productions notes that the rent deal only helps out those working in episodic television and ignores feature films and documentaries. Baker wants to see the government commit to equity investments for productions where the potential for recouping costs would be high.

"A 10-week shoot on a series will not sustain craftspeople, most of who rely upon the 20 or more SCN-supported programs and series produced throughout the year for a sizeable portion of their income," adds Robin Schlaht of Zima Junction Productions.

The Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association has been meeting regularly with the government in hopes of developing more initiatives that address Saskatchewan's competitiveness.

"The Saskatchewan series incentive is a step in the right direction," says Stephen Onda, president of SMPIA.

In March, the province announced it would be shutting SCN, the educational network that provided seed money to local productions. The Saskatchewan government has started an expression-of-interest process with hopes that some form of the broadcaster will remain.



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