Alberta removes $10M per-project tax credit cap in bid to draw big film, TV productions

Alberta is removing a cap that limited film and television productions to a maximum $10-million tax credit claim, in a bid to draw larger projects to the province.

This year’s budget increased the funds available for the industry by $19.5 million, to a total of $50 million. 

Doug Schweitzer, minister of jobs, economy and innovation, hinted that there’s more good news for the industry to come. 

“We’re starting to see continued momentum in this field,” he said at a news conference on Friday.

“This is going to be one of our best years on record in film and television in Alberta. We’re expecting a significant amount of growth, there’s some rumblings about some significant projects that could come here to Alberta.”

The production cap was removed after consultations with major global studios and production companies, Schweitzer said. 

Executives from HBO, Disney and Warner Brothers welcomed the announcement in a release. 

“Alberta is poised to become the next major production centre in Canada and with the changes to their production incentive they have made themselves competitive with many jurisdictions both inside and outside the country,” Barry Ziehl, senior vice-president of public affairs with Warner Brothers, said. 

The tax credit is part of a diversification push for the province to ensure there are jobs available in a variety of industries. 

“These are carpenter jobs, these are electricians, these are lighting, these are blue-collar jobs, as well as filling up hotels across this province,” Schweitzer said. 
    
“There are thousands of people who have been putting in the work to create the environment that now the minister can invest in for us to be competitive,” said Luke Azevedo, film commissioner at Calgary Economic Development.

Since the tax credit launched in January 2020, the province has approved 31 medium and large-scale productions that are anticipated to spend $177.6 million and create 3,300 jobs in Alberta.

Applicants can apply for either a 22 per cent or 30 per cent tax credit rate.

Those applications include 10 feature films, 20 television series — 13 of which are returning — and a digital media production.

Local filmmaker sees opportunity

Local filmmaker Matt Watterworth said he’s excited by the possibilities the announcement creates. 

“You look at jurisdictions like B.C. or Ontario, we’re talking about multibillion-dollar economic impact,” he said.

Watterworth said while the removal of the per-production cap doesn’t necessarily benefit low-budget, independent filmmakers, it creates the opportunity for them to gain experience on high-calibre productions.

He pointed to previous projects that have filmed in the Calgary area like HBO’s TV series Game of Thrones or Christopher Nolan’s film Interstellar, which had a budget of $165 million US. 

“I mean, it’s going to create opportunities for people in the film industry, but also people who are looking to transition into film.… I’m really excited by the possibilities, and I can’t wait to hear the stories of people who are, like, you know, with oil and gas, had some transferable skills, took a little while to get trained up, but now work as a generator operator for film and television.

“There’s a lot that can transfer over to the film industry.”

The government said for every $1 spent in tax credits, $4 is invested back into the province’s economy.

The Opposition NDP said while the removal of the per-production cap is good news, removing the overall budget cap would be a stronger way to increase Alberta’s ability to compete in the market. 

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