Canadian Film Policy: History of Federal Initiatives
Until the end of the 1960s, Canada did not have a bona fide feature film industry. The National Film Board (NFB), created in 1939, was for many years the primary source of films designed to interpret Canada to Canadians and to other nations.
The year 1967 saw the creation of the Canadian Film Development Corporation (now known as Telefilm Canada), which marked the beginning of federal government efforts to promote the development of a Canadian-owned and -controlled film industry. The results were overwhelming, with production increasing from four or five films a year in the early 1960s to an average of more than 20 films a year in the period from 1968 to 1974.
In 1974, the Government of Canada introduced a fiscal incentive, in the form of a capital cost allowance, designed to assist the Canadian film industry to attract private financing. While this measure had some success in fostering production, it did not address issues related to distribution or improving access to screens.
In 1984, recognizing that the Canadian film and video industry had not yet fulfilled its economic and cultural potential, the Government introduced the National Film and Video Policy. One of the Policy's main achievements was the creation of the Feature Film Fund in 1986. Administered by Telefilm Canada, the Fund's purpose was to support investment in high-quality, culturally significant Canadian films for theatrical release.
To encourage better market access for Canadian productions, in 1988 the Canadian government adopted its Film Distribution Policy. One element of the policy was the establishment of foreign investment policy guidelines under the Investment Canada Act. The guidelines state that:
- foreign takeovers of Canadian-owned and controlled film distribution businesses will not be allowed;
- new foreign distribution businesses will only be allowed to distribute proprietary films (proprietary films are considered to be any film where the distributor owns world rights or is a major investor); and
- takeovers of foreign distribution businesses operating in Canada will be reviewed to determine their net benefit to Canada. Along with the new policy on foreign investment, the 1988 initiative led to the creation of the Feature Film Distribution Fund administered by Telefilm Canada.
In 1995, the capital cost allowance was replaced by the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit, a better-targeted program that reimburses producers for a portion of their expenses. The 1997 Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit encourages Canadian and foreign film-producers to employ Canadians for production services performed in Canada.
In 1996, the Government announced the creation of the Canada Television and Cable Production Fund. This public- and private-sector partnership contributes to the funding of high-quality Canadian French- and English-language television programs. Of the Fund's total $200 million annual budget, $15 million is targeted exclusively for the production of feature films that eventually find their way to television broadcast.
Current Federal Measures in Support of the Canadian Feature Film Industry
- Telefilm Canada provides about $40 million annually for the development, production, distribution, and marketing of Canadian feature films.
- $15 million from the Canada Television and Cable Production Fund supports the production of feature films that eventually find their way to the television market.
- The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Creditprovides Canadian producers with about $60 million a year through a refundable tax credit worth up to 25% of the costs of eligible labour costs.
- The new Film or Video Production Services Tax Credit is worth up to 11% of the cost of qualifying Canadian labour expenditures for production services performed in Canada.
- The Foreign Investment Policy for film distribution helps ensure that foreign investment in the Canadian film distribution sector results in a net benefit to Canada.
- Support for national training provides $1.3 million annually to film and television training initiatives.
In recognition that a healthy film industry needs access to a growing pool of skilled filmmakers, a further goal of the Canadian government is to provide stable and sustainable funding for national training initiatives in the film sector. It created a program for this purpose in April 1997, and creators and professionals receive training through the Institut national de l'image et du son, the Canadian Film Centre, the National Screen Institute, and the Canadian Screen Training Centre.
Alongside these federal initiatives, provincial policies, programs and legislation have been introduced to help promote Canadian feature films. Provincial governments have established film and tax credit programs in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and six provinces have direct funding programs.
A Review of Canadian Feature Film Policy: Discussion Paper.