After 40 years of working in films, Cody Tabois saw the industry go through many changes.
But the current issues in B.C. particularly worry the Burnaby resident, who stopped working about five years ago.
"It was people that started in the industry early and sort of developed everything and got it where it is now, and it would be a darn shame if we didn't get the support to continue with this," he said in a phone interview with the NOW.
Tabois has worked in transportation, special effects, construction and has also done camera work for the industry in the past, he said.
The provincial government began supporting the industry in the late '80s, according to Tabois, who said that support began to wane once the Liberals were elected.
The lack of incentives for productions filmed in B.C., as well as the imminent return to the provincial sales tax, have made B.C. less competitive with other locations, he added.
"What we're asking for here in B.C. - it's an old clichÃ©, I guess - is to have a level playing field," he said.
It isn't just the film industry that suffers if productions aren't filmed here, he pointed out, but all of the supporting industries, as well.
"There are 25,000 people that work in the industry and on top of that, all of the other businesses - the suppliers, the lumber yards - they're all based and now geared to supply the film industry," Tabois said. "If that disappears, there's going to be a lot of people out of jobs, not just in the film industry."
Pictures take a lot more money to produce than they did when Tabois started out, he said.
"I started out in the late '60s and one of the first big films we had here was Carnal Knowledge with Jack Nicholson. 'Course, in those days, money went a lot farther. It was a $10-million picture, but there were a lot of sets built at the old Panorama Studio up in West Vancouver."
Producers want to shoot movies here because of the scenery, but they also have to consider where they'll get the best deal, he said.
While B.C. can't necessarily compete with locations such as Louisiana, the province should be able to remain competitive with Ontario, said Peter Leitch president of Mammoth Studios in Burnaby and North Shore Studios.
"With Ontario, we figure we should be on a level playing field and when I say that, we recognize that we have got advantages so we don't have to match them, we just have to get a littler bit closer," he said.
Even when Ontario had the provincial sales tax, before the harmonized sales tax was introduced there, the province considered film producers as manufacturers who were exempt from the seven per cent tax, he said.
"We're just looking to have consistent treatment with other manufacturers in the province," Leitch said of studios in B.C.
The return of the PST is particularly concerning to Leitch and others in the industry.
"That's seven per cent on a lot of the goods and services we consume," he said. "It will widen the gap between the incentives provided by Ontario and B.C."
On Jan. 31, the provincial government announced it would be bringing in initiatives to support the creative economy in B.C., including creating a non-profit society, Creative B.C.
Creative B.C., which is slated to begin operations in April, combines the responsibilities and programs of the B.C. Film Commission and B.C. Film and Media into one agency, according to a press release from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.
The ministry is putting $1 million into the agency for research, development and international marketing, the release stated.
The ministry is also launching other initiatives, such as scholarship funding via the B.C. Arts Council.
"I think it's certainly something in terms of a long-term strategy that could be very valuable to the industry," Leitch said, regarding Creative B.C. "But in the short term, we have good concern that there's an awful lot of people out of work and actually, the highly skilled ones are moving out to Ontario where there's more opportunity for jobs, and we just wanted to shore that up a little bit."
The industry needs a stronger voice, to convey its importance to B.C.'s economy, Leitch said.
"The creative industry worldwide is a trillion dollar industry, and we're so well positioned here to share in the growth of that industry," he said. "Everyone's now got screens in front of them where they're looking at content, and we're very good at providing content."
Despite the industry growth elsewhere, Leitch expects this will be a difficult year for film in B.C.
"It's pretty quiet here, in general terms," he said. "I mean, there's some productions going and there will be others coming, but it looks like we're going to have a real downturn this year compared with last year."
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