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B.C. film industry takes action during election campaign

When she was a little girl, Gina Hole Lazarowich went door to door with her mother campaigning for the Liberal Party. The affiliation stuck, federally and provincially. Ms. Hole Lazarowich, 50, has voted Liberal her entire life.

Not this time.

Ms. Hole Lazarowich and her husband work in the film industry. A former make-up artist in Hollywood, the North Vancouver resident is now an agent for other make-up artists, and owns a photography studio. Business is down about 30 per cent, she says. Her husband owns a special-effects studio. His department was nominated for an Oscar last year for its work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes – but he has had very little work since then. So he's in Alberta for four months working on a BBC series. They're living on their line of credit.

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"This is a turning point for me and so many people," says Ms. Hole Lazarowich, breaking into tears at one point on the phone. "I've had to do a 180."

With fewer lights and cameras operating, the B.C. film industry has taken action during this election campaign, lobbying the parties to improve the tax incentives to provide parity – or at least level the playing field somewhat – with Ontario and Quebec. At an early campaign stop at Vancouver Film Studios, NDP leader Adrian Dix announced his party would increase tax credits to 40 per cent. Currently, B.C.'s tax credit for foreign productions is 33 per cent on labour, while Ontario and Quebec offer 25 per cent on all production costs.

The B.C. Liberals have declined to increase the tax credits, calling that a race to the bottom. Instead, they have created an agency called Creative BC – an independent, non-profit society akin to the Ontario Media Development Corporation, to develop and implement strategies to bolster the film and television, digital media, music, publishing and other creative sectors. But the planned $1-million budget is a fraction of what the OMDC receives – $24-million for 2012-13. Ontario's production industry experienced record growth last year, while in B.C., industry data show production is down 22 per cent this year from 2012 – and 2012 was also down from 2011.

"It is clear [the Liberals] are trying to gloss over the fact that they have no intention of raising the tax credit to keep us on par with Toronto," says Vancouver-based production designer Geoff Wallace, who is also voting NDP. "Everything else is insignificant if we don't keep pace with Toronto."

The grassroots lobby group Save BC Film has generated a huge amount of discussion and visibility for the issue – although it is not telling people how to vote.

Still, Save BC Film organizer Wayne Bennett says it is clear "there is overwhelming support" for the NDP , including among people who have always voted Liberal.

Producer Raymond Massey is another life-long Liberal who is voting NDP this time. "On top of all the other difficulties our industry is facing as independent producers, the last thing we need is a kick in the head from our own government, which seems to have forsaken us."

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Ms. Hole Lazarowich initially tried to work with the B.C. Liberals, urging them to improve the tax credits. Her MLA helped set up a meeting with Culture Minister Bill Bennett. But Ms. Hole Lazarowich, who travelled to Victoria for the meeting, says it was a disappointment.

"I just looked into Bill Bennett's eyes and he had nothing for us," she says. "I was gobsmacked. And I kept hoping as we were waiting for the platforms to be released. And I waited and I waited and it was like, 'Throw us a bone, throw us anything so we can stay with you.' "

The issue has led to an unprecedented move by a number of local film unions. IATSE Locals 891 and 669 have for the first time wandered out of neutral territory to endorse a political party, and are urging their members to vote NDP.

"Uncertainty is a huge problem in this industry," says IATSE Local 891 business representative Paul Klassen. "We know we have competitive issues with other provinces in Canada and the U.S., and we don't want to lose what we've built over many years."

Teamsters Local 155, while not advising members how to vote, is endorsing the film plank of the NDP's platform – also a first for the local.

"I honestly think that the NDP could very well get in. I think that this is one of those sort of hot-button issues. It's a huge business. It brings a lot of money to this economy," actor Brian Markinson said on the Vancouver set of the series Continuum (he also joined the cast of Mad Men this season as Don Draper's cardiologist neighbour). "Christy Clark … doesn't really get that at this point, and she may be in trouble in this upcoming election because of that."

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But in a province of more than 3 million registered voters, can 25,000 people – 15,000 who work in the production industry and 10,000 in related industries – really have an impact on election day?

Mr. Bennett says they might in some key ridings that have hundreds of film industry workers, such as Vancouver-False Creek and North Vancouver-Seymour, where Ms. Hole Lazarowich lives.

Clearly, the NDP is betting on the issue. It will return to Vancouver Film Studios for its final big pre-election rally on Sunday. Ms. Hole Lazarowich says the initial NDP film studio campaign stop ended her days as a card-carrying Liberal.

"It was a life-changing moment for me, and I cried," says the woman who now has an NDP sign on her lawn. "I'm desperate for the Liberals to not get in now."

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More


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