What would our film and TV numbers be if Nova Scotia's Film and TV strategy were dialed in correctly.
The federal government of Canada spends an astonishing effort to ensure federal programs are share equitably across Canada. In Film and TV our CANCON rules, federal film tax credits and organizations such as Telefilm, NFB, CBC and the Canadian Media Fund all have mandates to ensure all the regions share in Canada's burgeoning culture industries of film, TV and new media.
Nova Scotia, measured by GDP or population, represents about 2.5 - 3% of Canada, so it seems a fair rule of thumb to say we should be getting about 2.5% of the film and TV business, federal funding, jobs and investment related to that industry. In fact, since some provinces have chosen not to compete in creative industries we could expect even a little more.
If we take the Canadian federal stats for the film and TV industries and budgets of the federal agencies as collected and reported by statscan and other arm's length agencies such as the world bank, and take 2.5% of those numbers it should give us an estimate of the size of our industry... what it should look like.
In 2012 the film and TV industries were worth about $20 Billion in Canada, generating $2.7B in local and provincial taxes and the three leading federal agencies supporting these creative industries, CBC, Telefilm and CMF, had budgets totaling over $1B.
The chart above shows what Nova Scotia's 2.5% of that should look like and the resulting Full Time job base. Based on various reportings in Nova Scotia the numbers were only one half to one third of what they should be. Why?
Like highway, infrastructure, and government building projects, the way the system of film and TV funding works is that local and provincial governments 'anti-up' for federal funding based on their interests, aptitude and competitive strategy. Everyone has seen the highway projects and building projects where the local government puts in a third, the province a third and the feds a third and that funding triggers whatever economic activity is intended. It's the same in film and TV.
The data would indicate that in order to attract Nova Scotia's proportionate share of film and TV industry and still be in a revenue positive position the government should expect to spend up to $67m per year. Up to that amount, if the system is well managed and responsible, it would be a net revenue generator for the province and each and every citizen would benefit both financially and culturally from the industry.
2016 has seen unprecedented growth in film and TV because of low interest rates, the competitive value of the Canadian dollar and audiences ever increasing demand for screen content across all mediums. The average Canadian watches 29.7 hours of TV per week and over 6 hours of TV on other platforms like internet and mobile. It's not unreasonable to expect industry growth of 20% over the established 2012 numbers. Here's what that should look like in Nova Scotia.
Over the last year the government has spent a great deal of time and effort tinkering with its creative industry strategy in Nova Scotia. First abandoning it all together, then forced to rethink and backtrack, it's ended up dumping it's proven organization and support systems and replaced it with a hodge podge of band aids and back room deals. Along the way it severely undermined the industry's confidence in Nova Scotia's work, lost hundreds of key creative talents, sunk several crucial infrastructure companies, discouraged a generation of young creative people, and distracted the province from its economic goals.
Now, without any benchmarks or strategic plan for the the screen industries that are so deeply woven into the fabric of our society and the shape of things to come, the government is suggesting we should all just sit by and watch what happens as it reels from criticism and talk about simply not being able to compete and boastful press releases grabbing credit when some entrepreneurial spirit, in spite of all the crosslights flashing is still able to wrangle some business for Nova Scotia.
We need a major jump-start to recover what we lost. We need a plan and a strategy. We need benchmarks to understand where we should be and we need to employ tactics to get us there. We need to lobby and demand our fair share from our federal partners. We need to be the kind of place that attracts future industries. To start we need to emulate the best practices of the most successful markets. Ironically, those markets, BC and Ontario, got their play book from us and use a dynamic system of tax credits administrated by a dedicated public corporation that makes productions happen, markets the industry to the world, supports developing local talent, and encourages the infrastructure needed to make the industry work. We had all the pieces in place. Reviews recognized that they needed to be manged better to be more effective. And the government, with a clear mandate to do the opposite, wrecked it all for no reason - no cost saving and the loss of jobs, cultural production and investment. Now they are sheepishly and reluctantly working to cover their mistakes, but lacking any proactive approach or the willingness to use the tools proven to succeed we are muddled at best and don't even understand how prosperous we deserve to be.
What would it look like if we were doing it right in 2016?
$600m in production
$80m in taxes to the province
$30 million in federal inflows of capital
That's where we should be in 2016 if the government were doing this industry right.
Think about that next time they boast that production might reach $20m this year...
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.