Brad Wall Probably Thinks That Protests Over His Cancellation Of Saskatchewan's Film Tax Credit Have Quieted Down .....WRONG!
Dark Thunder is a company owned by Dennis and Melanie Jackson. Their most famous work is the acclaimed series Wapos Bay. Their specialty is the labourintensive genre of stop motion animation. They hire a crew of 45 to 50, not including the cast. While a feature film can be shot in four to five weeks, it takes about six months to complete a stop motion production of equal length. About half their crew is aboriginal.
Since 2005, they have produced 35 half-hour productions and a television movie, and their work has won four Gemini awards. This week their latest work, Long Goodbyes, won for best foreign animation at the International Family Film Festival in Hollywood.
My company, Blue Hill Productions, was the first to access the employment tax credits. In 2000, we did a coproduction with Cine Teleaction, a Montreal-based company that was drawn to the province because of the tax credit, the talented crew and beautiful landscape.
The four-hour miniseries, Big Bear, starred Gordon Tootoosis, Tantoo Cardinal, Michael Greyeyes and Lorne Cardinal. Numerous other Saskatchewan actors were also cast for various parts.
The production had a $8.5 million budget, and more than half of it was spent in Saskatchewan.
Today I have another script for a feature film about Gabriel Dumont. Sadly, if we produce this we will do it in Alberta or Manitoba. It will be one of many Saskatchewan stories that will be shot elsewhere.
The past decade has seen a renaissance in aboriginal production. With the combination of the Aboriginal People's Television Network, SCN and the Saskatchewan film and television tax credit, we were able to go after production agreements for series, documentaries and drama.
I produced three series and a number of one-off documentaries. I also partnered with Cory Generoux, and we produced two seasons of the sketch comedy the Bionic Bannock Boys. Our latest series, Oskayak Down Under, was shot partly in New Zealand. Both Oskayak and the Bannock Boys will be part of APTN's fall lineup.
But that will probably be it. With the loss of the tax credit I am unable to raise the money to finance any more major productions.
The employment tax credit was a tax rebate based on the Saskatchewan labour that was used in a production. This meant that photographers, editors, actors and others returned home from other provinces and became part of the growing Saskatchewan film and television industry.
Now it's all in shambles. We lost SCN last year, and only a few underfunded projects were commissioned. This year we lost the tax credits, and the industry is in its death throes.
The premier said he will not reinstate the tax credits, but left the door open to work with the industry and offered a vague commitment to look at other options.
When labour tax credits are the industry norm across North America, it remains to be seen what our government can offer. Tax credits encourage employment, build a local industry and develop crews.
Our involvement in the film and video industry was the kind of economic development I envisaged for aboriginal people. We developed viable competitive companies that were successful.
We hired integrated crews and worked for the common good of the industry.
Over the years I have mentored and encouraged young aboriginal people to work in the industry. Our last production of the Bannock Boys had a crew of whom more than half were aboriginal. We were proud of our work and looked forward to doing more. The film industry is a natural for our people; it's creative, it's abut storytelling, it's collaborative and it is fun.
We were players in the industry. The future looks bright for aboriginal production companies in other parts of the country, but not in Saskatchewan. I will complete the work I have and wind down Blue Hill.
Crew members are looking at a career change or a move, and other companies like Dark Thunder will leave to start up elsewhere.
It will be sad to see talented and gifted people driving a cab or flipping burgers.
This move on the part of the Saskatchewan government is one of the most pointless and stupid pieces of public policy in recent memory. It appears as if the government deliberately went out to destroy an industry. The overall economy is on the upswing, yet we have been placed in a depression. For the life of me I can't figure out why.
The only explanation points to the narrow-minded, single-issue, right-wing lobby of the taxpayers' federation. Over the past decade, the province has spent $100 million on an industry that brought $600 million into the province. Rather than look at the positive side of the ledger, the government and the federation see the investment as a liability, which is a lousy way to do business.
Now Saskatchewan returns to its status as a flyover province, and we're out of the mainstream.
Saskatchewan is back to the resource industries and we are hewers of wood and drawers of water. It's sad to watch so much talent and energy wasted for narrowminded ideology."
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