Calling it a “final blow to the film industry” in the province, the Saskatchewan Media Production Industry Association issued a warning Wednesday that the “government intends to shut down SaskFilm.”
SaskFilm, which was established in 1989 to support the development of the film and television industry, has served as the province’s film commission and funding agency.
The government announced on Friday that it will establish a new super agency, Creative Saskatchewan, to support creative industries including film and television but also music, digital media, visual arts, crafts, publishing, theatre and dance.
The change follows last year’s cancellation of the provincial film employment tax credit program, a move the industry says has been disastrous.
Provincial funding which has gone to SaskFilm will instead go to Creative Saskatchewan, and that is being seen as the writing on the wall for SaskFilm.
Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport Kevin Doherty told The Globe and Mail that the tax credit would definitely not be renewed, and that funding that has gone into SaskFilm will be moved to the new agency – although he took issue with SMPIA’s assertion that the government intends to shut down SaskFilm.
“SaskFilm is a non-profit organization at arms-length from government so we don’t determine whether it’s going to be dismantled or not.”
A $1-million transitional fund will support projects in the form of grants until Creative Saskatchewan is launched later this year, Doherty said. The transitional funds will be adjudicated by the Saskatchewan Arts Board, with a cap of $60,000 per project.
Future funding will be announced in the upcoming provincial budget.
“Film along with all the other different creative industries will have the ability to apply for funding from this new fund,” said Doherty. “So they’re on an equal footing with other creative industries.”
SaskFilm CEO Susanne Bell said it was difficult to say what the future holds for her agency, which employs six people. “Clarity has not been provided yet,” she said, but she did point out that the new agency will take responsibility for the delivery of programs and initiatives for screen-based media – currently the role of SaskFilm.
“I don’t know what our mandate would be, quite frankly ... if we’re not delivering programming.”
SMPIA said SaskFilm has been an important economic and cultural ambassador outside of the province – both within Canada and internationally, and warned its absence would make rebuilding the troubled industry in the province even more difficult.
“SaskFilm has expertise. They’ve got years and years of people who have all the relationships built,” said SMPIA Executive Director Vanessa Bonk. “That institutional knowledge is a big deal.”