It’s been an annoying thorn in our side. Islanders are irked at seeing movies and television shows about P.E.I. conclude with closing credits that reveal the shocking truth - shot on location in Ontario or elsewhere. How can this be? Who would go to southern Ontario to create the illusion of a P.E.I. village when the real thing is right here?
What is especially galling are movies and TV productions involving the phenomenally successful Anne of Green Gables franchise. Many of the P.E.I. scenes are limited to still shots of iconic Green Gables house, a beach scene or a picturesque meadow. The rest – including primary location, cast and crew - are all in Ontario. It just doesn’t feel right for P.E.I. viewers to see red-haired Anne skip down a brown dirt road in Ontario.
There is a good reason why Ontario does so well with these productions - money. The eligible Ontario Film and Television Tax Credit is pegged at 35 per cent, and jumps to 40 per cent for first time producers. Other bonuses can apply so it makes perfect sense for production companies to go where the costs are low and provincial support is high.
P.E.I. is fighting back. A new five-year culture strategy announced this week hopes to get P.E.I. into the game with $3.5 million over five years to help grow film, art and culture sectors. The overall objective is simple - support development and growth of P.E.I. culture. In Nova Scotia, data shows that for every dollar invested in the film industry, it gives back $6.
A new local film media fund will see a 25 per cent rebate on all money spent on P.E.I. in film production. It offers a better alternative to a film tax credit like those offered in other provinces. The fund will invest in P.E.I artistic products and events, and places government focus on supporting artistic and cultural endeavours. In many ways, culture is what defines a people or a province, and makes it unique and attractive.
The province must work collaboratively with industries to make sure the fund is meeting their needs. For example, the P.E.I. Media Arts Co-Op lobbied for such a fund as a way to support not only filmmakers but also other artists who work on film projects, such as musicians, technicians, construction workers, hotels and caterers.
Nova Scotia is only starting to recover from a drastic 2015 decision by the province when it overhauled the film tax credit. The N.S. budget essentially gutted the labour-based credit and a once-booming film and TV industry fled the province. Sanity has returned and a new fund focuses on the total amount of money a production spends in the province. The N.S. budget includes almost $23 million over the next year for the film industry; almost double the amount from last year.
A vibrant film and TV industry can happen on P.E.I. - with a little encouragement. We’re tired of seeing Anne of Uxbridge or The Road to Hamilton.