News / Halifax

'A pretty painful thing to watch:' New numbers show Nova Scotia film work on the decline

The numbers show that members of a Nova Scotia union representing motion picture technicians worked 55 per cent fewer hours in 2017 than they did in 2016.

Members of Nova Scotia's film and television industry protest outside the legislature in Halifax on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. The Liberal government has proposed cutting a tax credit to the industry in the recent provincial budget to $6 million from $24 million.

Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press

Members of Nova Scotia's film and television industry protest outside the legislature in Halifax on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. The Liberal government has proposed cutting a tax credit to the industry in the recent provincial budget to $6 million from $24 million.

The head of a union representing hundreds of the province’s film workers says the industry is booming everywhere but Nova Scotia, where new numbers show a steep decline.

During its first term, Stephen McNeil’s Liberal government cut the Film Tax Credit, which covered up to 65 per cent of the cost of a production, replacing it with a capped incentive program that covered only 25 per cent.

IATSE Local 849 represents about 300 Nova Scotia motion picture technicians – behind-the-scenes crafts like hair and make-up artists, drivers, and lighting and grip technicians.

The union compiled numbers of annual hours worked from 2014 to 2017.

Those numbers show that the union’s members worked 55 per cent fewer hours in 2017 than they did in 2016. Compared to 2014, the year the Film Tax Credit was cut, the members worked less than a third as much in 2017.

“It’s an incentive system that is not competitive with the rest of the country, and we’re seeing our people leaving,” Jenny Reeves, IATSE Local 849 president, said in an interview.

“They’re leaving the industry, or they're leaving the province. They’re not able to make a good living for themselves in this industry anymore, and it’s a pretty painful thing to watch, to see something that people have worked so hard for 30 years to build be so devastated in such a short period of time.”

Reeves said the industry is “bursting at the seams” in the rest of Canada and in the U.S., but Nova Scotia can't attract productions with its weaker incentive.

The NDP campaigned in last year’s election on a promise to reinstate the Film Tax Credit to its former glory, and the party’s film and television spokesperson said the new numbers aren’t surprising, but they are depressing.

“I don’t see it getting better, frankly,” said Susan Leblanc, Dartmouth North MLA. “It’s quite depressing.”

Leblanc worked in the industry herself until she was elected last year, and saw first hand the effect of the cut in 2014.

“When you look at those numbers of hours worked, you know, those are real people,” she said.

Reeves said her union wants to start talking to Nova Scotia Business Inc., which doles out the incentive funding, about improving the fund, but meetings never seem to happen.

For now, she wants people to know that Nova Scotia is still open for film business.

“We absolutely still have the technical skills and abilities here, and the equipment,” she said.

“There are lots of people that have their feet dug in here. We’re from here. We grew up here, we live here, this is our home. And we love the industry we work in and we want to work in it here.”

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