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B.C. film, TV industries on rebound despite losing Superman sequel

Peter Leitch, head of North Shore Studios, is bullish about the prospects of film and TV production in B.C.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Superman will not be coming to rescue the B.C. film industry. The chairman of the Motion Picture Production Association of B.C. says it looks like the sequel to The Man of Steel – substantially shot in the Lower Mainland – will be produced elsewhere.

But Peter Leitch, also president of North Shore Studios and Mammoth Studios – which hosted the Superman film – is bullish about the prospects of film and TV production in B.C. after gloom earlier this year and a provincial election in which the B.C. Liberals opposed larger tax credits for the sector and the New Democrats supported them.

Part of his optimism is linked to Tomorrowland, a Disney feature with George Clooney, and Hugh Laurie of TV's House, due in theatres in December, 2014. The film is being directed by Brad Bird, who shot much of 2011's Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol in the Lower Mainland.

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There was word, a few weeks ago, that The Man of Steel sequel would go elsewhere. Where do things stand?

It was my understanding it was going back East. Obviously, we'd like to get that project. We'd like to get a lot of projects, but we recognize that, creatively, it might be a better choice for them.

What did that first (Man of Steel) production mean for the B.C. film sector?

It's a huge injection in terms of job creation as well as money going directly into the economy.It's literally large amounts of money instantly injected into the economy in a variety of businesses including hotels, lumber yards, taxi cabs and restaurants.

How are things looking for the industry?

A lot more people are working in this half of the year than in the first half of the year. That's because the experience [producers] have had here has been a very good one. They're looking for reasons to come here.

Can you tell me about any big productions that are here or locked down?

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Tomorrowland is building right now. That's one of the biggest productions we've had. 20th Century Fox is looking up here to bring another big show. They haven't confirmed it, but hopefully we'll have something from Fox in the next month or so. We've got as many television series as we've had for some time here. We're optimistic that things have turned around from the first half of the year a little bit.

What does a big production like Tomorrowland mean for the industry?

It's going to provide a lot of jobs and well-paying jobs for a lot of people. That's the most important thing. We're talking 500 to 700 people working on a production like that [for] even up to a year. Also, there's talent development that happens when we get these big features.

There was a lot of despair in the early half of the year. Would you say the mood has improved?

The concern was real.There were people who were out of work and having a difficult time making ends meet and paying for their mortgage. Now that more people are working, I think there is a new sense of optimism. We did lose people in the industry when things were slow to other jurisdictions.

The outcome of the provincial election would seem to have repudiated the push for bigger tax credits.

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We don't have to be the lowest-cost producer here in terms of incentives. We just need to be close enough, because we have other advantages they don't have in terms of our infrastructure, great crews and cast, of course, the same time zone [as Los Angeles], and the world of looks we've got with all the different locations here.

Is the tax-credit discussion over?

It's certainly ongoing. We met with [Shirley] Bond, our new minister, and she's very interested in supporting the industry.

But if it's not tax credits, what can the province offer you?

Tax credits are probably the most important way of government supporting the industry, but just to make it easy to shoot in British Columbia is another important aspect.

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