Overbooked sound stages and streets blocked with production vehicles are a common sight during the summer in Canada, as US productions take advantage of the favourable exchange rate. Films currently supplying overtime for Canadian crews include Warner Bros' See Spot Run, starring David Arquette, the Warner Bros/Universal Pictures' joint venture Champs, starring Sylvester Stallone, and Mandalay Pictures' The Score, starring Robert De Niro.
While the US migration has lucrative benefits for the Canadian industry, it means many of the more modestly budgeted local features are often forced to shoot out of season. This year, only about half a dozen indigenous productions are currently shooting, of which three are UK co-productions. Official co-production status helps producers gain access to federal tax credit provisions, public support mechanisms and Telefilm Canada programmes. Many provincial film commissions have been going to London to woo UK co-producers, largely because of the UK-Canada co-production treaty that allows for substantial financial incentives, such as tax credits, in both countries. Canadian production partnerships are also very attractive to UK producers, not only because of the weak Canadian dollar, but because of the sale and leaseback transaction, where a UK partner receives a tax shelter equal to 100% of a production's budget, even if the UK partner's contribution to the project is as little as 20%.
One producer taking advantage of the benefits is Thomas Hedman of the UK's Europa Productions. Hedman produced The Guilty in Vancouver last year with Canada's Dogwood Pictures, and has now teamed up with the Toronto-based Studio Eight Productions and formed GFT (Redwood Kotn Films) to produce $17m thriller Ignition and $15m comedy Kevin Of The North. Both are now shooting in British Columbia.
Other producers teaming up with international partners include Michael Parker of Vancouver-based Holiday Pictures, who recently produced the $1.3m (C$1.9m) feature Lunch With Charles with Hong Kong's Newfull Development. The film benefited from a Hong Kong-Canada co-production treaty. The romantic comedy, which Parker also wrote and directed, is distributed by Vancouver-based LS Entertainment in Canada and Mandarin Film Distribution in Asia.
In Canada's more remote Maritime region, which comprises four provinces and a total population of only two million, large feature productions - either US or indigenous - are few and far between. Although the region does not have a production industry to match other regions, in Halifax (the largest city of the region), imX (also known as Imagex) is buzzing with activity and is building itself a reputation for producing and backing some of Canada's most successful films. With credits that include Margaret's Museum, Love And Death On Long Island and The Divine Ryans, the imX also co-produced New Waterford Girl, which did surprisingly well on a limited release in Canada. ImX is now shooting A House With A View Of The Sea (Una Casa Con Vista Al Mar), a Canadian-Venezuelan-Spanish co-production in Venezuela. Directed by Alberto Arvelo, it tells the story of a widower who consoles himself and his son with stories of an imaginary place.
Such international co-productions are proving increasingly necessary for Canadian producers. The state of public funding resources is a constant debate in Canada these days, with leading federal finance fund Telefilm Canada's recent announcement that it is hampered by insufficient financial resources. It said it was only able to accept three of the 35 French-language applications it had for production finance in the second round of applications in 2000. In the previous round, which took place in January, 27 French-language applicants received awards.
Telefilm's annual feature film production fund is about $27.9m, with $10.3m allotted for French-language projects. But despite concerns over financing, the indigenous industry's artistic wheels continue to spin, with highly-anticipated projects such as Nuit De Noces from producer Denise Robert of Cinemaginaire gearing up for production in Montreal and Niagara Falls later this summer - when the annual influx of US film-makers has headed back across the border.