It’s soapbox time, once again. Apart from urging letter-writing in a little while, I’m completely off-topic today.
So, who here likes film and television? I will answer this apparently obvious rhetorical question with a somewhat surprising, “Not the government of my province.”
Years ago, the provincial government decided to extend a tax break to producers of video entertainment, in hopes of attracting a somewhat more diverse industry base to this extremely resource-based, somewhat agrarian-centric part of the world; there was at the time a bit of an economic malaise in California and film-makers were looking for cheaper places to grind their grain. Last week, citing what they characterized as a failure to flourish, the provincial government (in the hands of an entirely other party) announced the end of this tax break.
And a large part of the provincial population went completely insane with rage.
The rage is based on several heads, of which I will enumerate only three. Those in the industry point out that with the removal of this tax break, which is currently being offered by just about every other place in North America, the plug has effectively been pulled on production here, and they are faced with the choice of not pursuing their craft (on which more in a moment) or deciding where to move to. Those only peripherally or entirely unconnected with the industry point out that even with this occasionally-dubious bastion of culture, this province is considered somewhat backwards and (ho ho) provincial, and the official declaration that “we hate art” is only going to enhance that image. Some, approaching from a political/economic viewpoint see it as a mere lashing out at something put in place by a previous regime, and that in this lashing out the current ruling party has managed the tricky act of simultaneously shooting themselves in the foot and cutting off our collective nose to spite our face.
I find myself in all three of these camps, since my wife has occasionally made some rather good money out of it (look for her in “The Accidental Cleanist” episode of Corner Gas), I kind of like our slowly-developing metropolitanism, and I both dislike the current party in charge and can do simple math. On that last point, one of the more damning items comes from one of the current government’s own documents, in which we find this passage:
The total average provincial investment in film projects supported through the SEFTC [Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit] is 17.4 %. . . . This means 82.6 % of total production financing is leveraged from other sources. . . . For an annual provincial investment of $6.5M, $37.5M in SFETC production volume is generated including $23.5M in direct Saskatchewan spending. This brings $17M each year into the provincial economy that would not come without the industry being active and competitive enough to access these funds.
I don’t know about you, but if I found an investment that routinely returned, depending on which numbers one focusses upon, either six times (the amount of raw economic action, which the truly rabid keep pointing to) or roughly two and a half times (that last sentence, which I think is the more reasonably point to chase) the investment, I would nurture it as the hope of my retirement fund rather than work to see it destroyed.
A large part of my anger comes from this being phrased as a move which in some way enhances the local economy through not “wasting money”. I mentioned above the people who pursue their craft in the making of films, and I should add to that “ply their trades.” The tax break is phrased in such a way that it can only be applied on the people in the production who actually live here. We are not throwing our tax money to draw hither whatever the current version is of the Liz & Richard Travelling Circus, but rather to see to the gainful employment of a pile of people who will then be in a position to pay taxes back into the process. Even if one views any degree of acting a mere avoidance of real work, there are still the legions of non-actors to be considered. Have you ever watched the credits at the end of a TV show? There’s a lot of people involved in even a very simple one, including non-airy-fairy folks like electricians and carpenters. If this industry goes, these people go with it or are cast onto unemployment; either way, the local economy sees a good patch of money disappear out of it, and that seems the opposite of the declared result.
I will also point out, in the interests of fairness, that sometime the job description of “actor” not infrequently includes “standing neck deep in very cold water for seventeen hours,” lest we think it’s all complimentary caviar and foot-rubs for the on-camera crowd.
Those who believe this is a massive mistake are urging everyone in the province to write a letter to the Premier expressing this feeling. I’ve just finished the first draft of mine (and you’ve just read it), and I join in the urging. Here’s the contact information:
The Honourable Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan
226 Legislative Building
CANADA S4S 0B3
Telephone: (306) 787-9433
Facsimile: (306) 787-0885
If you live in Saskatchewan, you should be mad about this, even if you don’t like movies and TV, because it is going to loosen the wheel-bolts of the provincial economy. If you are mad, you might as well let him know now, because the whole industry will be well and truly dismantled by the next election. For those outside the province, you might like to send a note along as well, thanking him for contributing to your local economy at the expense of ours.
Today’s pen, about to be wielded in cold anger: Parker “51″
Today’s ink, same colour as I’m seeing: Diamine Syrah (although this means the final draft will likely be with another pen loaded with a more conventional colour… probably a blue-black)
…and here’s a few other links one might enjoy in this connection: