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Pennsylvania shows Nova Scotia how to build a thriving film industry

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"The math is simple," explained the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a Jan. 8 editorial about the state of that state's film tax credit.

Pennsylvania is currently in the middle of a messy budget kerfuffle. The big picture is beyond the scope of this column. But it's worth noting that when Gov. Tom Wolf approved an emergency $23-billion cash infusion earlier this month to restore "essential services," one of those essential services was the state's film tax credit.

"The credits," the editorial continued in what should be bedtime reading for Nova Scotia finance department bureaucrats, "are the deciding factor for an overwhelming number of productions to choose Pennsylvania over other locations."

"The crews spend loads of money locally" -- check for Nova Scotia film crews too -- "generating more income" -- check -- "and [more] tax revenue than the tax credits cost." Check, check.

"More work builds a local industry of technicians. The multiplier effect fills hotel rooms and restaurants and fuels catering operations. The national buzz when, say, star Jake Gyllenhaal declares his adoration for Pittsburgh after filming here is gravy." Yes, yes and yes!

After Wolf reinstated the tax credit, the director of Pittsburgh's film office exulted, "We're set up to have one of the best years we've had..."


Let us compare.

Pennsylvania's governor was concerned enough about his film industry to include funding for it in his emergency allocation.

Premier Stephen McNeil, on other hand, eliminated Nova Scotia's film tax credit in last spring's budget. Its replacement -- the Nova Scotia Film and Television Incentive Fund -- has been an abysmal failure. The industry reports 82 per cent fewer film jobs in the last quarter of last year compared to 2014. And it predicts even worse to come.

McNeil's response? In December, he shrugged the industry he decimated was in "a transition," so "we're moving on."

Perhaps Nova Scotia's economy is doing so well we don't need a thriving film industry.

While Pittsburgh gears up for one of its "best" film years, iconic Nova Scotia film industry companies -- Filmworks, Special Effects Atlantic, Arcadia Entertainment -- have announced they are either folding, or are considering packing it in, or are packing up their gear and relocating to where the work, and welcome are.

Which is to say almost anywhere but here.

This article first appeared in Stephen Kimber's Halifax Metro column.

Photo: Katie Gieratz, U.S. Air Force/Wikimedia Commons

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