Thursday, November 18, 2004

HOLLYWOOD NORTH WOES

There's a big article in the Toronto Sun today about all the problems facing Hollywood North: the motion picture industry in Toronto. I know Global TV has done pieces on this, too. Toronto is losing tons of productions to the US and they're also getting squeezed by Vancouver and Montreal. They are even losing productions to the Czech Republic and Romania! ( No wonder I keep seeing so many movies set in the Czech Republic ). Plus, you have a California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who is on record for wanting to keep motion picture work in California.

I'm surprised at how bad Toronto is doing these days. Not too long ago everyone from Jackie Chan to Peta Wilson to Catherine Zeta-Jones was in Toronto. I remember when I was working downtown at Headline Sports- after my shift ended I walked down the street and they were shooting Driven- a big Sylvester Stallone movie- on the streets of TO. Earlier this year they dressed up The Bay department store to look like the old Madison Square Garden for a movie.

I would have thought Toronto would have been able to weather a downturn in the movie industry a lot better than Vancouver because Vancouver relies on work from all these Hollywood producers, while Toronto does a lot of stuff with Canadian producers and Canadian actors. And I would have thought there would always be a steady need for that type of work in this town, because of CRTC requirements for Cancon and the like. My understanding is that Vancouver is offering a better tax break scheme at the moment, so as a result, Vancouver is stealing some work away from Toronto. Even Winnipeg is stealing away work because of better tax credits. So everyone in Toronto is now starving to death.

The problem is that Toronto has yet to realize that in order to go out and get business they are going to have to fight for it with tax incentives and the like. They keep on blaming SARS for their problems, but the fact is they are simply not keeping up with everyone else with tax breaks. Plus, the cost of doing movies has gone up, people are really getting hosed by the locals who are putting their prices up. And the hassle factor with bureaucrats is way up. I read in the Sun that one movie in particular, 3000 Degrees, a movie about firefighting, was run out of town because the local firefighters picketed the movie. Way to go, Toronto Fire Department. That's a bunch of jobs up in smoke, thanks to you. No wonder people don't want to come here. It's difficult enough for people to get movies financed and made these days to have to put up with stuff like that.

Adding to the hassle factor is that there are Hollywood actors and actresses like Sharon Gless who've lived here for five years, would like to open a production company up here and employ people and stay here- and all they are getting is bureaucracy from Ottawa and applications stuck in a pile of papers. So that's more work not happening, thanks to your friendly neighbourhood government. See, this is the type of thing that just drives people nuts.

But you know, it's tough all the way around in the film and TV business. Now you have these religious fanatics going nuts over Desperate Housewives promos on TV and getting ads pulled from that silly show, plus you have the reality TV craze. Reality TV has been a disaster for most everyone who works in series television. You don't need real actors or fancy sets, you don't even need writers or scripts! These networks feel they can get away with programming absolutely the cheapest junk imaginable. I don't mind some reality TV, but too many of these shows are really awful (Nanny 911, Paris Hilton, etcetera). By the way, I hear that tonight's boardroom on The Apprentice is going to be really wild, one of the wildest ever, and not to be missed. That I look forward to.

I'm glad I've gotten to write about the movie industry. I had been looking at ways to possibly get into the business myself as a business affairs person or a talent manager or something like that. In fact, I sort of ended up pursuing journalism and politics by default, because I couldn't get into the movie/TV industry. Ironically I probably have better qualifications now to get in the door, but I've encountered hassles of my own.

BREAKING NEWS- Apparently Vince Carter's about to be traded, finally. Rumor is it's to Portland.

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