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Film funding talks take three 

NS movie industry and finance dept. reps meet again today.

click to enlarge A sign with #NSFilmJobs attached to a telephone pole with an arrow pointing to the left.
  • Another day, another meeting, another chance for the government to change direction on the film tax credit reduction.
  • Gabby Peyton

The first time they met, finance minister Diana Whalen refused to own up to her role in the potential destruction of the local film industry. After the two-hour meeting last Tuesday, she told reporters “they have a problem with this, we do not. It works for government.”

“This” is of course the budget Whalen introduced that undermines Nova Scotia’s longstanding film tax credit, and “they” are the representatives of the film biz who sat down with people from the finance department to try to undo said undermining. They showed great patience in the face of Whalen’s patronizing tone, and sat down for a sequel meeting on Friday for four hours.

The second meeting went so well, both sides agreed not to talk publicly about the discussions until their third meeting, scheduled for this morning from 9:30 to 12:30. We’ll have an update on any official words afterwards.

Members of the public—both filmmakers and other taxpayers—made no such promises about speaking out, and have done so across platforms from letters to MLAs to a demonstration yesterday morning at the Armdale “Rotary” Roundabout. The film industry issue remains the biggest headache premier Stephen McNeil’s Liberals ever caused themselves.

Also unrestrained from speaking out was Mark MacPhail, assistant to fisheries and aquaculture minister Keith Colwell. Clearly not one of those government workers who leaves the job behind at five o’clock, MacPhail had a long weekend thanks to the tax credit file.

He was busy making disparaging tweets about Wednesday’s huge pro-film rally, locking his Twitter account away from public view, writing an apology letter, planning his resignation phone call to Colwell and altogether embodying the #macphailfail hashtag. Minister Colwell apparently refused the resignation Monday, so #macphailfail again.

Ultimately between the finance department and industry groups like Screen Nova Scotia, what we’ve got here is a failure to communicate. Government estimates the local movie biz is worth $66.8 million a year to the province, making it a good-not-great investment of a tax credit program that costs $24 million. The film community believes the return is more like $139 million a year, most-if-not-all of which will disappear to other places without a tax credit maintained at something like its pre-budget level.

What’s become painfully apparent in the wake of the budget’s dropping is that our finance department does not have a grasp on what the film industry brings to the province. Hoping to developing solid, transparent numbers that government can understand, the industry is looking to hire a Toronto accounting firm. You can bone up on how the film business works with these surprisingly accessible new animations from Screen Nova Scotia.

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