Whilethe film industry in Canada is dwarfed by the United States’ (Davis and Kaye,2011), a study by Telefilm Canada identified theatrical distribution, paytelevision, and free over-the-air TV as the most important platforms forCanadian feature films; film festivals were also viewed as important forEnglish and French-language feature films (Lafontaine, 2015).
In a separate study, Telefilm discovered thegreatest barrier to Canadians who show “manifest interest” in Canadian contentwas poor promotional marketing and distribution (Telefilm Canada, 2017). Thereis, apparently, a significant uptick in Canadians’ express interest in viewingCanadian-made content; Telefilm reported a 61% increase from 2016 (ibid.).
EconomicallyMM1 speaking, Telefilm Canada found decreases in production volume, full-timeemployment, and gross domestic product, with only a 1% increase in overallexport value in 2016 (Dept. of Canadian Heritage, 2016). These figures are notparticularly promising as many policies surrounding the production of Canadiancontent were created with the purpose of supporting and vitalizing the culturalindustry and consequently fuelling economic development (de Valck, 2014).However, it is difficult to develop a distinct cultural identity and hencedifficult to develop a separate Canadian cultural industry due to Canada’sproximity to the US industry. Both countries share close similarities inlanguage and culture but not in quality and infrastructure.
This means thatCanadian content is constantly being compared to Hollywood content, and thecontrasting quality is impossible to ignore. This sentiment is reflected bymany industry insiders as well. For instance, twenty eight out of the 40screenwriters that Davis and Kaye surveyed in 2011 expressed a negative view ofCanadian competition in the marketplace. The screenwriters used phrases like”can’t compete,” and “uncommercial” to describe Canada’s place in the mediamarketplace (Davis and Kaye, 2011). Despite the small and generally unsuccessfulmarket in Canada, the government continues to offer incentives to anyproductions -both foreign and local- that wish to make a film or televisionshow on Canadian territory. In 2012, the Canadian government spent nearly 3billion dollars on the creation of Canadian content (Coutanche et al,2015).
A lot of this cost is accrued viatax credits that allow a production company to write off a percentage of thelabour costs from producing a film or television show. For example, forproductions shot in Ontario and British Columbia (home to the most popularshooting locations of Toronto and Vancouver), local producers receive a 35percent tax credit and foreign producers receive 25 percent (Coles, 2010). Boththe federal and provincial governments spend approximately $470 million dollarsyear in tax credits specifically aimed at encouraging foreign location shootingin Canada (Lester, 2013). Foreign Location shooting is when a foreignproduction company -typically from the United States- films a production in aCanadian setting. The production value of FLS in Canada exceeds $1 billiondollars a year (E & B Data, 2010). Data collected from those in theindustry indicates that FLS can be beneficial in some ways; for instance, 77percent of both employers and employees in the industry claim to have gainedgood work experience from FLS and 80 percent said that this work experience wastransferable to Canadian productions (E & B Data, 2010).
However, a studyconducted by Telefilm Canada hypothesized that on average, Canadians would bebetter off if federal and provincial tax credits for FLS were eliminatedcompletely as the costs outweigh the benefits (Lester, 2013). Because although American FLS allow Canadianworkers to work with better technology and talent, most American studios opt tobring in their own talent for the key creative positions, especially on largerbudgeted productions where the majority of employees and technical companiesend up being American anyways. Also, FLS can be referred to as “FloatingFactories” since their dismantling is predetermined and the economic andemployment benefits are not for the long term (Coles, 2010). From the research it appears that the mosteconomically beneficial facet of media in Canada are film festivals. Filmfestivals are great for generating economic value and also are a platform forintroducing Canadian content to an international audience. For example, thefast-growing Whistler Film Festival which is scheduled near the beginning ofthe ski season, boosts the city’s economy by 10 million dollars due to an 11percent increase in occupancy (Burgess, 2014). Also, one of the moreprestigious film festivals in the world is hosted on Canadian soil: The TorontoInternational Film Festival (or TIFF).
TIFF shows over 300 films and works offof an operating budget of over 33 million dollars -and as previously stated-drew over 340, 000 attendees in 2016 (Burgess, 2014). However, despiteproviding a boost to the Canadian economy, the purpose of these film festivalsare not to showcase Canadian created content, and are generally headlined byAmerican and other international content.