Q&A with Justin Cutler, Ontario Film Commissioner at Ontario Creates

Cutler talks about what the Canadian region has to offer and why it is attracting so many major productions, including Guillermo Del Toro's Nightmare Alley

By Chris Evans 25 Nov 2019

Q&A with Justin Cutler, Ontario Film Commissioner at Ontario Creates
Umbrella Academy filmed in Toronto

Where are the best places to shoot a film, high-end TV series or commercial and why?

 Ontario literally has it all: breath-taking locations, more than two million square feet of state-of-the-art studio facilities, some of the finest and most experienced technicians and crews in the industry, world leading post-production and computer animation & special effects companies, and a complete equipment and services supply chain. Plus, Ontario Creates (the agency of the provincial government which supports Ontario’s creative industries) and the Ontario Film Commission support productions through tax credits and assistance with location scouting, permits, crews and suppliers.


Can you tell me about the variety of locations on offer in Ontario? Can they double for other countries?

 Ontario locations have doubled for locales around the world. Major cities like Toronto, Hamilton and Ottawa have been the backdrop for New York, Chicago, Dallas, Boston, Detroit and Washington, D.C., to name just a few. Smaller towns and sweeping rural vistas have hosted productions set in middle America and Europe. And given Ontario’s great ethnic diversity, its people and streetscapes have even represented Asia and the Middle East as well.

 Ontario Creates hosts an online image library of more than 400,000 images from over 10,000 different locations in the province, searchable by a wide range of criteria, and accessible online from anywhere.


What makes Ontario stand-out from other locations?

 Ontario offers a combination of diverse locations, studio and soundstage facilities, highly skilled crews, post-production, computer animation and special effects capabilities that delivers every possible need for any kind of production. With its ethnic and linguistic diversity, a film commission focused on making things as efficient and seamless as possible, attractive tax credits, a favourable exchange rate on the Canadian dollar and being located in the Eastern Time zone, Ontario offers producers a turn-key solution that’s incredibly attractive.


What international film, TV projects and commercials have you assisted recently and where did they shoot?

 Nightmare Alley (Fox Searchlight): Guillermo Del Toro’s upcoming feature currently shooting across the Greater Toronto Area

Schitt’s Creek (CBC/Netflix): Goodwood and Mono

Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix): Hamilton, Toronto, Mississauga

IT: Chapter 2 (Warner Brothers): Port Hope, Oshawa and Toronto

Titans (Warner Brothers): Greater Toronto Area and Kingston

Umbrella Academy (Universal/Netflix): Hamilton, Toronto


Is it easy to get permission to shoot in Ontario? What is the process for applying and who to?

 Ontario is exceptionally film friendly. Ontario Creates and the Ontario Film Commission work with production leads to source locations, studio space and to assist with all aspects of permits and other requirements, maintaining a database of about 80 film friendly municipal and regional agencies and contacts.


What facilities are available in Ontario (Studios, sound stages etc)? 

 Ontario currently boasts 2.3 million square feet of world-class studio space, with that figure set to double by 2022. Pinewood Studios has a major facility in Toronto, where Star Trek: Discovery is produced (among others). CBS Stages Canada is newly established in nearby Mississauga, and Ottawa is home to several studios with a major new development underway.


Can you provide details of funding/incentives available for international productions that shoot in Ontario? How do producers apply for it? What is the criteria for receiving the funds? etc

Ontario has a suite of three incentives designed for domestic and foreign producers. Ontario’s credits are refundable, with no sunset clause or annual caps in place.

Foreign service productions utilize the Ontario Production Services Tax Credit (OPSTC). OPSTC is a refundable tax credit to eligible Ontario-based Canadian and foreign-controlled corporations of 21.5% of qualified Ontario production expenditures for eligible film and television productions. The federal government also offers an additional tax credit of 16% on labour.

Domestic productions and treaty co-productions have the option of utilizing OPSTC or the Ontario Film & Television Tax Credit (OFTTC). OFTTC is designed for eligible domestic and treaty co-produced film and television productions on labour expenditures with an additional 10% regional bonus. The federal government also offers 25% on Canadian labour costs.

The Ontario Computer Animation & Special Effects (OCASE) Tax Credit is a refundable tax credit to Ontario-based Canadian and foreign-controlled corporations of 18% of qualifying Ontario labour expenditures for digital animation and digital visual effects created in Ontario for film and television productions.


How experienced are the local crew?

Ontario boasts more than 9,000 highly skilled technicians and crew members across all categories of film and TV production. With five decades of consistent feature film production history, our crews have earned a global reputation for their expertise, dedication and quality of work.


What would international producers need to bear in mind when shooting in Ontario?

You simply can’t find another jurisdiction that offers all that Ontario does for film and TV productions. The quality of facilities, crews and talent, the variety of locations, and the receptivity and support for hosting productions in unparalleled. Add in the diversity of the population, the financial incentives in terms of tax credits and a favourable currency exchange rate and its convenient location in northeastern North America and it’s simply unbeatable.

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