Canada

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Overview and productions

Canada’s production boom has always been driven by incoming projects, mostly from the US. According to the Canadian Media Producers Association, foreign location and service production in the country soared 180% in the decade pre-pandemic, while homegrown content production rose 20%.

 

Most recently, the country’s reliable tax breaks, modern and fast-growing studio infrastructure and favourable exchange rate have proved particularly attractive to global streamers. Their ever-growing appetites for new films and series have kept several of Canada’s major production hubs busier than they were pre-pandemic.

British Columbia (BC) gets the bulk of the incoming feature work. In 2020-21 the region gave its Production Services Tax Credit to 231 projects, spending $2bn (c$2.7bn), up from 199 projects spending $1.7bn (c$2.3bn) the year before.

 

Visiting feature projects have included adventure comedy The Adam Project (Netflix), Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, Thor: Love And Thunder and Davis Guggenheim’s untitled documentary (sometimes known as Pinky) about Michael J Fox. Incoming TV projects have included season two of Showtime’s Yellowjackets, Disney+ streaming series The Spiderwick Chronicles and Netflix limited series The Fall Of The House Of Usher.

 

Ontario has become the centre for incoming streaming and TV projects, with 77 series spending $1.17bn (c$1.6bn) in 2021 — more than double the $695.7m (c$946.9m) spent by 49 series in 2019 — out of an overall foreign production spend of $1.1bn (c$1.9bn), up from $808m (c$1.1bn) in 2019. Ontario-hosted TV projects include Reacher (Amazon Studios), Station Eleven (HBO Max), Netflix sci-fi miniseries Horizon 2074 and AppleTV+ limited series Five Days At Memorial. Recent features shot in Ontario include family adventure Slumberland, action comedy The Man From Toronto (both Netflix), Sarah Polley-directed drama Women Talking and STX’s indie thriller The Marsh King’s Daughter. Due to shoot in the province this autumn is Sofia Coppola’s feature Domino.

 

Quebec is the centre of Canada’s mostly homegrown French-language film and TV industry. The province also lures English-language projects, with its largest city Montreal often used as a stand-in for Paris or New York. Visitors have included Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, Paramount’s horror franchise revival Scream 6, Lionsgate’s fantasy adventure Chaos Walking and indie horror Disappointment Blvd starring Joaquin Phoenix.

 

Less active provinces, such as Alberta and Nova Scotia, are now looking to promote their areas. Alberta is boosting annual funding for its two-year-old film and TV tax credit programme, which has been accessed by projects including Predator prequel Prey (20th Century Studios), HBO series The Last Of Us and crime mini­series Under The Banner Of Heaven (FX/Hulu) starring Andrew Garfield and Daisy Edgar-Jones. Nova Scotia has hosted features including Tribeca/FilmNation comedy drama The Good House, Epix series From and 20th Television/Hulu miniseries Washington Black.

 

Canada’s production boom looks set to continue for as long as streamers keep expanding their original content slates. However, it has caused some debate about the effect on the country’s homegrown industry. The Canadian government has this year been debating the Online Streaming Act, also known as Bill C-11, which would make streamers subject to the same rules as the country’s broadcasters and require them to make large investments in Canadian content.

 

While some industry groups have welcomed the legislation — due to come up for a final vote in November 2022 — there are also fears it might drive production work for streaming platforms away from Canada.

Regional offerings

British Columbia gets the bulk of the incoming feature work. In 2020-21 BC gave its Production Services Tax Credit to 231 projects, spending $2.1bn (c$2.7bn), up from 199 projects spending $1.8bn (c$2.3bn) the year before. Among the visiting film projects were adventure comedy The Adam Project (Netflix), horror comedy Fresh (Searchlight Pictures) and Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness and Thor: Love And Thunder. Incoming TV projects included Showtime’s Yellowjackets and upcoming FX period drama, mini-series Shōgun. 

Ontario has become the centre for incoming streaming and TV projects, with 77 series spending $1.3bn (c$1.6bn) in 2021 — more than double the $760m (c$946.9m) spent by 49 series in 2019 — out of an overall foreign production spend of $1.5bn (c$1.9bn), up from $862m (c$1.1bn) in 2019.

Ontario-hosted series include Reacher (Amazon Studios), Station Eleven (HBO Max) and Mayor Of Kingstown and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (both Paramount+). Recent features shot in Ontario include Toronto regular Guillermo del Toro’s Nightmare Alley (Searchlight), family adventure Slumberland (Netflix), sci-fi drama Finch starring Tom Hanks (AppleTV+), and thrillers Alice, Darling (Lionsgate) and The Marsh King’s Daughter (STX).

Quebec is the centre of Canada’s mostly homegrown French-language film and TV industry. The province also lures English-language projects, with its largest city Montreal often used as a stand-in for Paris or New York. Visitors include Roland Emmerich’s Moonfall, Lionsgate’s fantasy adventure Chaos Walking, Paramount sequel Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts and indie horror Disappointment Blvd starring Joaquin Phoenix.

Less active provinces, such as Alberta and Nova Scotia, are now looking to promote their areas. Alberta launched a film and TV tax credit programme in January 2020 and reports that 50 projects accessed it in the first 20 months, among them Ghostbusters: Afterlife (Sony), Predator prequel Prey (20th Century Studios), upcoming HBO series The Last Of Us and crime mini­series Under The Banner Of Heaven (FX/Hulu), starring Andrew Garfield and Daisy Edgar-Jones. Nova Scotia has hosted features including Tribeca/FilmNation comedy drama The Good House and Epix series Chapelwaite and From.

Infrastructure and crews

Canada’s primary production hubs are located on opposite sides of this vast country, which has an area of 3.9 million square miles, 40% of it situated north of the Arctic Circle. The provinces of Quebec and Ontario are in the east and British Columbia and Alberta are 1,500 miles away in the west. The Trans-Canada Highway links all the main cities in the country’s southern third, although travel to the northern regions — like the independently governed territory of Nunavut — can be more difficult.

The biggest international airports are Toronto Pearson International in Ontario, Vancouver International in British Columbia, Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International in Quebec, and Calgary International in Alberta. Flight times from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal range from four-and-a-half to five-and-a-half hours. Getting to Europe takes about 10 hours from Vancouver and seven from Toronto and Montreal.

Canada’s extensive and fast-growing production infrastructure is concentrated in its two biggest regional hubs. The country also has a large and experienced crew base, although in some locations the demand for film workers is beginning to outpace supply.

 

On the Pacific coast, BC has around 2.5 million square feet of studio space. Purpose-built facilities in the province include Canadian Motion Picture Park Studios, where Netflix has a long-term lease on seven stages; the expanded Eagle Creek Studios; Vancouver Film Studios; North Shore Studios; and Bridge Studios. Among BC’s converted facilities is Mammoth Studios, with three soundstages including one of nearly 124,000 square feet.

 

British Columbia is also the centre of Canada’s VFX, post-production and animation industry, with facilities including the Vancouver branch of Scanline VFX (recently acquired by Netflix), Walt Disney Animation Studios’ new Vancouver unit, and a branch of Industrial Light & Magic that is adding a virtual production stage of 20,000 square feet to its offerings.

 

In the east, Ontario already has 3.7 million square feet of stage space, with another 2.6 million scheduled to be completed over the next few years in and around Toronto, as the industry tries to keep up with demand.

 

Among expanding facilities are Pinewood Toronto Studios — another Netflix base and home to the 45,900 square feet Mega Stage — which has started work on a multi-stage expansion; Studio City, which has recently added three new stages — including the 36,000 square feet Jumbo Stage — to its three existing in downtown Toronto; and the Stratagem Group, which is investing $14.7m (c$20m) to add two more stages to its Eastside Studios.

 

New facilities in the works for Toronto include Basin Media Hub, a $183.5m (c$250m) studio of eight soundstages, with construction expected to start in 2023. North Star Studios is planning a five-stage facility in the city of North Bay, 180 miles north of Toronto.

 

Elsewhere, Quebec has Mels Studios and Postproduction, which operates five facilities with 20 stages around Montreal. Growing production hub Alberta has the Calgary Film Centre, with three soundstages, and William F White’s recently opened Fortress Studio. And in Manitoba, Big Sky Studios is due to begin opening this year in Winnipeg.

 

Meanwhile in Nova Scotia, the local government is planning to put $5.9m (c$8m) into building the province’s first soundstage for major productions.

 

Producers and companies working with international projects that need to steer through the Canadian system include David Gross, head of Toronto and Los Angeles-based outfit No Trace Camping and Roger Frappier’s Max Films in Montreal.

Size matters

Canada’s primary production hubs are located on opposite sides of this vast country with an area of 3.9 million square miles, 40% of it north of the Arctic Circle. The provinces of Quebec and Ontario are in the east, and BC and Alberta are 1,500 miles away in the west. The Trans-Canada Highway links all the main cities in the country’s southern third, although travel to the northern regions - such as the independently governed territory of Nunavut - can be more difficult.

 

The biggest international airports are Toronto Pearson International in Ontario, Vancouver International in BC, Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International in Quebec, and Calgary International in Alberta. Flight times from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal range from four-and-a-half to five-and-ahalf hours. Getting to Europe takes about 10 hours from Vancouver and seven from Toronto and Montreal.

First people to contact

Telefilm Canada: telefilm.ca/en/we-partner/filming-in-canada

 

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