Assessing the quality of the Sask. film industry

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author: ethan butterfield | arts and culture editor

Lights, camera… wait

 

Industry continues to fight for recognition

This article is an amendment/follow up to a previous article that went to press with the wrong version. As our old prod. manager used to say, “Shit happens then you die.” We thought it important to add to the article and for the EIC to own his mistake. We’d like to thank our readership for holding us to account when things like this happen.

 

Let’s discuss the quality of the Saskatchewan film industry, which I believe to be on the rise, but also lacking in some areas (production-wise). I understand there’s a lot of factors to take into account, but the major one is going to be obvious the cutting of the film tax credit in 2012. Just to give some perspective on cutting of the film tax credit, there were a couple of pieces done recent-ish about how the Sask. film industry looked seven years after the cut had taken place. The following information can be found on the Global News Website, in a piece written by Sarah Komadina.

“A study commissioned by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and Sask. Film that was done in 2012 said the industry generated $44.5 million in economic spinoffs and created about 850 jobs when the tax credit was available.”

$44.5 million in economic spinoffs and 850 jobs. Those are some big numbers that have been quite heavily impacted (It stands to reason that, because of those lack of jobs and money that the filmmaking quality in the province would drastically decrease in… well, quality.

Now, and this is going to be the part where people hate me (and I get that), but just because the ability to make quality films has decreased, does that mean those projects/films should decrease in general? Let me explain in greater detail so that, hopefully, I don’t get a bunch of torches and pitchforks coming to my door.

Let’s go back to 2014, during the release of WolfCop. The film’s release was a huge step for Saskatchewan-based films as it not only showed what we, as local creatives, can do without government benefits, but it was also huge because of the way that WolfCop was made. As can be seen in this CTV Regina quote from 2013.

“The Saskatchewan movie crew behind WolfCop has received $1 million in production financing after winning the CineCoup Film Accelerator contest.”

The Cinecoup Film Accelerator, for those who don’t know, was a national competition that is put on in order to help filmmakers make films with a larger budget. WolfCop, by winning this, gained (as noted by CTV) $1 million for its budget, which showed that our film industry can do great work on lower budgets.

Moving away from 2014 though, and it seems like that great work has follow behind Regina or Saskatchewan-based projects just isn’t all that it can be. Especially when taking into account films like Patient 62, Talent, and Another WolfCop, which feel like their productions where more low effort, if you get what I mean. Then again, these films didn’t have near the budget that WolfCop did (except for Another WolfCop, of course), so I can’t really expect them to be on the same level in terms of production.
I have no doubt in my mind that the people behind these projects are passionate, hungry filmmakers, but if I was a government executive or somebody who was responsible for giving back the film tax credit to Saskatchewan and I saw the films listed above, I probably wouldn’t uncut the tax credit. Again, I understand that the budget is important, but a film has to at least have passion in its production if it wants to convince someone that Saskatchewan is a place worth making films. Right? Well, that being said,, SuperGrid looks like a film that would convince someone that “Hey, maybe Saskatchewan does deserve to have this tax credit.”
Despite my comments above about production being a big factor in getting the film tax credit back, a recent, discussion with Saskatchewan Filmpool Cooperative Executive Director Gordon Pepper really opened my eyes about what else there is to look at in regards to this situation. He noted that my previous comments on film quality is a very black and white perspective to have on where the film industry. is

“…I think in terms of what is needed, in terms of advocating for the tax credit, is a full comprehensive look at what the film industry could be here in the province. So, if it includes films like Patient 62, great. If it includes films like SuperGrid, fantastic. If it includes films like the projects we’ve had at our Saskatchewan Independent Film Awards that are lower budget, maybe a bit more personal in nature, fantastic. It gets people working, it gets people learning about the expertise that’s required to make a film. It’s all positive..”

With these comments taken into account, I have to say I feel a lot more knowledge about the behind the scenes aspect of things, rather than just looking at the quality with a very straightforward perspective. The good news, though, is that at least we’re trying to obtain funds in other ways so that passionate local filmmakers can have the ability to create their own projects. Looking back again to that Global News article, it stated that “The province’s Creative Saskatchewan [a provincial funding agency]. gives the film industry two million dollars through grants.” So, there is some form of a budget there to work from, at the very least.

So, long story short, (and looking at it from a different angle) I completely get the shitty situation Saskatchewan is in with regards to trying to make films. That doesn’t mean it’ll keep being a bad situation though, as there talented filmmakers out there waiting to make their mark.

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