I support the cultural industries transition fund grant created by the Saskatchewan government.
"I am not dead yet." It's a classic Monty Python moment, and exactly how I feel about my industry, film and television.
I currently produce a preschool television series in Saskatchewan, without a tax credit. Why? Because Saskatoon is my home, and I have no desire to relocate my animation production company because of short-term economic conditions.
Cheshire Smile Animation Inc. was born during the dot-com boom and got its start right here in Saskatchewan in 2000 making web cartoons about the apocalypse. We survived the dot-com crash, we survived the crash of 2008, and will survive the loss of the tax credit in Saskatchewan.
I am thankful for the cultural industries transition fund because it will allow us to replace with actual cash the in-kind support we were receiving from our Saskatchewan peers in the industry. More importantly, we will receive this cash almost right away, at the moment we need it.
You see, tax credits are a big administrative headache. Government and producers have to account for them, audit them, and make sure everything is on the level. Producers need interim financing for up to 18 months because the money does not arrive until after all the forensics of the production are complete.
A grant system may appear to be a step sideways, but a simple, clean grant system is a step forward when considering the accounting and financing red tape and costs that producers and government can avoid.
The truth is this grant is not big enough to be meaningful to the film and television Industry. It will provide up to 30 per cent of the budget, to a maximum of $60,000. This is enough money for a small project like Space Stretch with a broadcaster like Citytv.
Our next project, The Side Show Halloween, has a $900,000 budget and requires around $150,000 to $180,000 from the province to create a financial structure that justifies production in Saskatchewan for our broadcaster Teletoon Canada Inc. The Saskatchewan government needs to raise the limits of this fund so that producers can access between 20 per cent to 30 per cent of their budget within Saskatchewan for projects sized between $2 million and $3 million.
By choosing only to throw rocks at the government and posturing its dialogue around those in the industry who have the luxury of being able to easily leave the province to work elsewhere, the Saskatchewan Motion Picture Industry Association has created a dialogue firmly based in the past. SMPIA is missing the opportunity to shape this grant to meet the immediate needs of the companies that have actually remained in this province.
I have no desire to participate in the eulogization of our industry's past to the government of Saskatchewan. What I would like to see is forward looking talks around the circumstances that Saskatchewan's creative entrepreneurs - who own intellectual property in screen-based media, literature, music, theatre and other creative industries - need to compete in today's global economy.
The reality is that we cannot attract producers to come to Saskatchewan without deep incentives.
Hollywood-style film production is not an intuitive industry for this province. We are isolated and difficult to travel to by air. The locations are limited, and our sound stage, although world class, is too small to house uber-productions such as X-Men or the Hunger Games.
We need to cultivate creative entrepreneurs (producers, animators, writers, storytellers, filmmakers, the list goes on) from within our borders. We need to fast track them onto the best practices for creating competitive cultural products in the global content marketplace, and help them develop sustainable business models that allow them to withstand the short-term fluctuations in the global or local economy and win over the long haul.
Less is always more. By having a smaller, more intellectual property based creative industry, we will see less of Christian Slater on the streets of Regina, but we will see more Saskatchewan on the streets of Toronto, New York City and Beijing.