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Incentives spark new beginnings for filmmakers

By NICK STEWART The face of cinema in the North has started to change in recent years, allowing greater opportunities for up-and-coming filmmakers choosing to ply their craft within the region.


The face of cinema in the North has started to change in recent years, allowing greater opportunities for up-and-coming filmmakers choosing to ply their craft within the region.

Gregory Tremblay’s feature film Slave Inc. has been showcased in this year’s Sudbury Cinefest. “It’s actually a really exciting time in film right now,” says Dennis Landry, executive director, Music and Film in Motion.

“It’s the first time new kinds of advantages have been available to their current degree.  When you combine all these financial incentives, it really puts Northern Ontario on really sound footing with respect to film and television production.”

Incentives are helping to spark the beginnings of a film industry in the North with the recent emergence of medium- to large-budget film productions in Wawa and North Bay and a $12,000 provincial funding boost for Sudbury’s annual Cinefest Film Festival.

“Right now, there are some pretty significant advantages that exist only in Northern Ontario,” says Landry.

“That’s essentially through a loan program through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation’s Emerging Technologies program.  Depending on the nature of the project, they would look at it in other programs as well, such as the Youth Entrepreneur program, which is more of a grant scenario.”

Landry also points to a tax credit program overseen by the Ontario Media Development Corporation that allows for a base 30 per cent credit for labour costs, with an additional 10 per cent for anyone shooting outside the Greater Toronto Area.

These elements represent a change in attitudes at the provincial level enabling a greater degree of viability for the film industry in the North, he says.

“Other provinces have subsidies and projects which help to fund film and television production, which Ontario hasn’t had for the longest time,” says Landry. “This is starting to change now under the McGuinty government, which is great to see.”

One of the areas currently in need of improvement, says Landry, is the lack of substantial funding for newcomers to the industry. Young filmakers may have a couple of short low-budget feature films under their belt and require help reaching the next level.

With his first feature film, Slave Inc., having been presented at this year’s Cinefest Sudbury, resident Gregory Tremblay fits this profile as he knows all too well the advantages and obstacles facing young film producers in the region.

With no training or formal education in the industry, Tremblay’s love of movies began when he picked up a camera nearly five years ago. He taught himself the finer points of bringing his ideas to the big screen and honed his entrepreneurial capacities after securing local financial support for five short films and one feature later. He is expecting to use his latest project to try and attract grants for future films by demonstrating what he’s capable of doing on a relatively small budget.

However, first-time or relatively new directors in the region can rarely access the kind of capital that would allow them to pursue their craft on a full-time basis, says Tremblay, who works in retail to subsidize his passion.  Instead, beginners must invest their own time and money, working alternate jobs while assembling the film with what little free time they may have.

“Time and creativity can be powerful assets and can solve a lot of problems,” he says. “You’d be amazed what you can come up with and what you can do when you really look at what’s out there.”

Although he’s hesitant to try and pin a total value of his feature, Tremblay says nearly $20,000 has been spent just on props and other related expenses. 

Reliance on the goodwill and generosity of Sudburians helped him to move his picture along, with various local businesses and individuals donating funds as well as free services just for the opportunity to be involved with the production of a film.

“When you mention that you’re doing a film, everybody wants to get onboard,” says Tremblay. “Everyone that worked on it did more than one job. You can’t pay for locations and any number of other things, so on any given day, we might find ourselves shooting in someone’s backyard.”

Between the local willingness to lend a hand and government-financed opportunities, Tremblay says Sudbury is a perfectly viable place on which to establish a solid centre for filmmaking.

“There is a phenomenal opportunity to build the film industry here,” he says. “I get frustrated when people say that the potential for the industry sucks in Sudbury.  My answer to that is, if you search, you’ll find that everything is essentially here.”