Canada Kicks Ass

Canadians. wary of Arnold terminating runaway films
Date: Wednesday, October 08 2003
Topic: International News

Promises made in the California recall campaign are resonating north of the 49th Parallel, where the Canadian film industry is waiting to see how serious Arnold Schwarzenegger is about halting so-called "runaway" productions.

During his campaign to become governor, Schwarzenegger promised to¬ lure back to California the dozens of¬ film and TV productions that are¬ filmed in Canada each year.

"I want to bring the productions back. This has been one of our number one exports is show business entertainment. And now the Canadians have stolen it from us," the former bodybuilder told reporters in the run-up to his election.

Lured north by a low dollar, skilled workforce and a slew of tax incentives, Canada has been attracting Hollywood productions for years -- especially in Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.

U.S. movie productions in Canada employ tens of thousands of people and pump billions of dollars into the economy.

But Schwarzenegger's platform of championing the rights of Californians threatens to pull the plug on Hollywood North.

In fact, the governor-elect was willing¬ take a significant cut of his $30 million US salary to avoid shooting his latest blockbuster, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, in Canada.

The $170 million Warner Bros. production had been scheduled to shoot in Vancouver last year, but in a last-minute move B.C. was scratched in favour of Los Angeles.

Although producers were loathe to admit that losing business to Canada was the reason for the change, Schwarzenegger made the facts clear in a speech at a California Chamber of Commerce gathering in September.

"When I started to film the movie Terminator 3, they wanted the movie in Canada. I wanted to shoot it in California," Schwarzenegger told the meeting of small-business operators.

"They said, 'Well, there's an $8 million US cost difference.'

"So I said, 'Let's sit down and talk about it.'

"I put in personal money of mine, the producers and heads of department were willing to shave a little bit off the budget, and we were able to film the movie right here in Los Angeles and around the Los Angeles area.

"At the same time, we helped create jobs, hundreds of new jobs, and that's what I want to do as governor. I want to bring business back to this state."

The speech was one of Schwarzenegger's early indications he had his eye on the governor's job. And while it made the aspiring politician's stand clear at the time, it stood at odds with opinions he'd already expressed in his role as a movie star.

In an earlier interview about his movie The Sixth Day, which was shot in Vancouver, the action star had high praise for the Canadian city.

"We went up to Vancouver because of budget reasons. And we come back (to L.A.) from Vancouver and say we have to go back there to film again because it's really the greatest city that we have ever worked in," the action star said in 2000.

So, as he begins the transition into the governor's office, the film industry north of the border will watching for Arnold's next move.

He has not actually come out and said he plans to put an end to runaway productions, but in the context of his promise to restore the state's struggling economy indications are it may become a political priority.

The question is, will he help launch an international trade dispute on the issue, or, decide to sweeten the deal for Hollywood producers by offering tax credit incentives better than those offered in Canada.

At least one Vancouver-based studio executive will be sleeping with one eye open until he finds out how the story unfolds.

"You know it's one of those things that we can't control," Lions Gate Studios VP Peter Leitch told CTV Vancouver.

"So, I guess on a long term basis we'll look to see how everything is affecting our business: the dollar, the tax credit, what our competition is doing and we'll react to it."

With a report from CTV Vancouver


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