News / Calgary

New funding model needed for Alberta film industry

Filmmakers lament cuts to Alberta Media Fund in latest budget

The Northlander was funded, in part, through the Alberta Media Fund.

Courtesy Benjamin Ross Hayden

The Northlander was funded, in part, through the Alberta Media Fund.

Following last week’s slashing of the Alberta Media Fund, some experts in Alberta’s film and TV sector are hoping to overhaul the industry’s funding model.

“We’re working diligently with the provincial government to ensure we identify the needs of the industry and to see if we can come up with a model that actually works well for Alberta, and is able to meet the success metrics the province needs,” said Luke Azevedo, film and television commissioner at Calgary Economic Development.

He added that the province’s grant system is unique, but he believes a system to incentivise all parts of the film sector – from actors and talent to the nails, wood and paint – and increasing the grant caps on larger project would convince larger projects to come to the province.

It doesn’t help that in last week’s budget, the NDP reduced the Alberta Media Fund from $36.9 million to $34 million. Calgary’s Mayor Nenshi expressed his disappointment at the decision, considering the city request an increase to $50 million for the fund, which helps a number of different industries, including film.

“It’s an industry that needs to grow significantly in Alberta because it supports a lot of jobs, and a lot of good jobs,” Nenshi said. “It’s difficult to grow that industry if we can’t competitive with funding the way that other jurisdictions and provinces are.”

The fund is seen as an important incentive for projects of large and small scale.

Indie Film

Director Benjamin Ross Hayden created Northland, a sci-fi film based on Metris history, with the help of the Alberta Media Fund. The indie film has enjoyed enough box office success to warrant a second theatrical tour, which he said was made possible through government support.

Grants like the Alberta Media Fund are important to keep the economy diverse, and help local filmmakers like him get projects off the ground.

It’s a sentiment shared by Barry Thorson, executive director of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers. Having these funds in place makes other investors in the province more likely to jump on-board a project, many of which require five or six different investors to get off the ground.

“It’s how people make their livings,” said Thorson. “It’s not a nice to have – it’s an absolute.”

The Calgary Film Centre.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

The Calgary Film Centre.

Big Budget Film

Azevedo pointed out the potential film has in the province to become a half-a-billion-dollar industry within five or seven years, making it one of the biggest job creators in the province. With so much money and effort put into opening the Calgary Film Centre last year, it’s important to support the industry. Having a full slate of programming year-round ensures people are consistently working.

The Alberta Media Fund has grown in size since the NDP came into power – in 2015 the budget was only at $24.9 million, but this decrease is still seen as a blow to film production in the province.

Culture and tourism minister Ricardo Miranda said in a statement that the budget does include a one-time increase of $5 million through the Capital Investment Tax credit (which could help organizations like CSIF), and the government is committed to working with the industry to ensure ongoing support.

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