B.C.’s ailing film sector has Langara grad working at Starbucks

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Joel Harris shows off his novel and movie. Photo by Ben Bulmer.
Joel Harris shows off his novel and movie. Photo by Ben Bulmer.

Reported by Ben Bulmer

Langara journalism grad Joel Harris is a successful screenwriter and published novelist, and he’s also rather good at his day job, making coffee.

Harris wrote and produced his first movie, Neutral Territory in 2008, published his first novel, A Thousand Bayonets in 2011 and is currently adapting it into a screenplay. Neither of these successes is paying him a wage though.

“I work in Starbucks, that pays the bills,” says Harris.

Quebec, Ontario benefit from greater tax credits

The Save BC Film campaign and its supporters packed a North Shore studio on Jan. 22, calling on the government to increase tax credits to enable them to compete with Eastern Canada and the U.S.

Currently, Ontario and Quebec give a 25 per cent tax rebate on the total cost of production, whilst B.C. gives a 33 per cent rebate on labour only.

Thousands of B.C. film-industry workers are unemployed

With the dollar as low at 63 cents in 2002, U.S. film producers saved vast amounts of money by moving productions to Vancouver. From this emerged a world-class TV and film industry, filming shows that became household names like The X-Files and Smallville. With the dollar now at an all-time high, productions have moved on to cheaper places and taken the jobs with them, leaving 90 per cent of B.C.’s 25,000 film workers unemployed, according to Save BC Film.

Harris thinks he could make a living screenwriting if the industry was in a better position.

“’Definitely’ is such a strong word, but I’d say that there’s a good chance that would be the case.
“If we have that incentive [tax credits] and we have that in place than there’s nothing to stop us competing with Ontario or with the United States.”

Langara film student Hillary Katlan said it was important to be optimistic when considering the job market after graduation.“I don’t know how realistic that is. I like to think that [unemployment] won’t be a problem.”

Premier Christy Clark said on Jan. 22, “$285 million on the part of the citizens of the province to support the industry? I think citizens are being generous with that.”

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  1. T.Burekin says

    Premier Christy Clark repeatable lies.lies,lies to the public.She is a true politician in it worst definition.She is using brainwashing 101 on the general public, hoping they will think the money is coming out of there hard earned dollers.Hopefully the not so brain washable bc redidents will fall into her polital evil tactics which support the east and not bc.

  2. Dar McWheeler says

    The problem with economics in this country is not that public sector unions are getting too much money. It’s that our governments funnel our tax dollars to major internation corporations, like movie companies.

    In a free market companies are free to go broke and people are free to move to LA if they want to write for Hollywood.

  3. Dana says

    Supporting save BC Film is crucial! We have 25, 000 people in the province now without work in this industry…but consider in addition the contribution this industry brings to the tourism and hospitality portion of Vancouver. As an actor and writer I adore the film industry and really want to see it thrive in BC. My day job (Since we all have at least one, I actually have 3) is assisting to manage a hotel on Robson St. We benefit tremendously by housing crew from the states and around Canada, we rent large suite for shooting in, guests inquiring about ongoing productions are referred to the BC film commission website to see if they can catch a movie being made here. My second job is working at an actor training school which I attended as well and enjoyed my education immensely and I still train there, but numbers are dwindling across all the school because actors want to study where they can graduate and FIND WORK. Now students are reconsidering studying and building a base here…to later have to start again in Toronto! BC has BEAUTIFUL landscapes, buildings with character, ideal shooting conditions, thousands of trained actors and film crew and creative people who WANT TO WORK! To lose this industry will be a detrimental loss for all BC. Lets keep film here. Hollywood NORTH BABY!

  4. Sandra says

    Yes, so let’s allow $1.3 BILLON dollars to go east and STOP being put into the BC economy. And mostly the lower mainland at that. So how do you think THAT will impact taxes, businesses, and the economy in general? Over 14.3 BILLION dollars has been pumped into BC from the states since the incentive program started. That’s a hell of a lot of money and a lot of taxes paid. And this is bad…how??

    If there was any other industry in BC that was about to let 25,000 skilled workers be left without work, there would be a massive public outcry. As it is, the film industry not only employs those people, it keeps HUNDREDS of businesses going. AND… when we shoot in publicly owned locations… we PAY to be there. We fix it up… schools get new windows, paint jobs, repaired doors that won’t close, playground equipment gets fixed up…. all on FILMS dime. We leave everywhere we go better than we found it. The township of Langley has paid off massive DEBT with the filming permit fees they charge … I believe the estimate was 27 MILLION dollars paid to that town over the years.

    So, Dar…. you think it’s the movie companies that benefit? The REBATE they get goes right back into production… they add it into their budget up front even though they don’t get it for a couple of years…. so that money goes right back into BC.

    SO TELL ME AGAIN… WHY IS THIS SO HORRIBLE????????

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