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Lights, camera, action!

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Manitoba is ready for its close-up

The increased consumer demand for original content, particularly for home entertainment via streaming services, alongside the evolving platforms, such as TikTok, for creators to find a spotlight on the digital stage has led to an explosion in the film and TV industry. And Manitoba is perfectly positioned to benefit. 

“In recent years we have seen some dramatic growth in consumer demand for streaming content, leading to a boom in production around the world. A healthy portion of that growth has found its way to Manitoba, as our reputation as being a great place to shoot has been cemented over the decades,” says Rod Bruinooge, film commissioner and interim CEO of Manitoba Film
and Music.

While BC and Ontario still dominate the country’s film industry—each brings in just over $3 billion in revenue from their respective film industries—Manitoba is commanding its fair share of the lime light. Last year, the province saw its highest production volume ever recorded at a substantial $365 million.

“We punch well above our weight relative to our population size,” says Bruinooge. 

Manitoba’s booming film industry is not an overnight success story, but rather decades of consistent industry activity, highly talented crews, a welcome environment and tax credit stability. 

The Manitoba Film and Video Production tax credit is the most competitive of its kind in Canada and played a role in bringing over 20 film productions to Winnipeg in 2021. This credit allows claims for up to 65 per cent with the cost-of-salaries tax credit (including bonuses) OR up to 38 per cent on all eligible Manitoba expenditures with the cost-of-production tax credit (including bonus).

While the province has long had a film industry, Bruinooge points to the launch of the tax credit in 1997 and the subsequent green lighting of the movie Shall We Dance starring Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez, which was filmed in 2003, as a “watershed moment” for the province. Together, this launched the modern era for Manitoba’s film scene and has subsequently driven our economy forward, directly and indirectly.  

“Every time a production is green-lit, people are employed, hotel rooms are booked and goods and services are purchased. When a series is booked here, the multipliers on that investment are felt throughout the economy. And we can’t forget this is typically new money to Manitoba, coming in from out of the country,” says Bruinooge.

Key factors for growth
BC and Ontario see the country’s maximum film industry dollars for very good reasons: BC’s proximity to California helps it remain the number one market in Canada, says Bruinooge, while the world’s largest film festival in Toronto, alongside its impressive studio growth have cemented Ontario’s spot in a very competitive second place. 

Recent changes provincially have provided Manitoba with news ways to actively compete with the big dogs. While our natural beauty with four distinct seasons and incredible architecture and locales for exterior shots is first class, there has long been a lack of studio space for interior filming. 

“We have been limited by having just one purpose-built studio in Manitoba over the last two decades. The Manitoba Production Centre has served our market well, but we have, for a long time now, needed more indoor space to shoot in order to grow. Thankfully, Big Sky Studios has entered the market,” says Bruinooge.

Big Sky Studios is a 137,000-square-foot media campus/full-service motion picture production centre that opened in summer 2022. This one-stop shop boasts two sound-proof production sound stages, a mill and paint shop, presentation theatre, storage, offices for post-production and animation, and more. 

The other disadvantage that our middle province has is the proximity—or lack thereof—to Hollywood. While Manitoba can’t bring itself closer to Los Angeles, it can make it easier to get here with the recent WestJet announcement of a direct route from YWG to LAX.

“We believe really strongly that connectivity drives economic development. The more direct flights we have, the more connectivity we have, the more we can attract investments. LAX has been one that’s been on the wish list for some time,” says Dayna Spiring, president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg. “We’re excited that with this new direct route, we can get more interest from our friends in California.”

Spiring admits that the province has lost out on some productions because there was no direct flight in the past. Together, Economic Development Winnipeg and Manitoba Film & Music, along with the Government of Manitoba’s support, have advocated for a direct flight to Los Angeles for years. This will allow the cast and crew of American productions to easily travel home on weekends, increasing the province’s opportunity to attract higher profile and higher budget shows and films. 

Manitoba is primed and ready for a surge in productions as these factors build on the momentum of the last couple of years, says Spiring. “There’s lots of opportunity for our city going forward.”


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