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March 4, 2013

Plenty of action in Ontario’s $1.28 billion film, TV industry

March 1, 2013 - Toronto Star

There was plenty of action on Ontario film and TV sets in 2012, so much so the industry enjoyed another record year for film and TV production in Ontario with 273 productions bringing in $1.28 billion to the provincial economy.

That’s almost double the $671.2 million the industry earned in the lean period of 2008 when production figures took a serious drop due to a rocky economy, especially in the U.S.

“It is a record. Again. Things are looking good in Ontario,” said Karen Thorne-Stone, president and CEO, Ontario Media Development Corporation of the slight hike from last year’s then-record of $1.26 million.

“We attribute it to a strong, stable environment for the film and television industry and a strong tool kit of support and (tax) incentives, a tremendous Ontario film commission and talent in front of and behind the camera.”

TV production is leading the charge, bringing in $968.8 million of the total. Domestic television brought in the lion’s share — $698.8 million — for shows like Beauty and the Beast, Bomb Girls, Degrassi, Lost Girl and Rookie Blue. The biggest growth was in foreign TV series production, which was up 80 per cent from 2011 and included shows like Hannibalfor NBC and Netflix’s Hemlock Grove.

It’s no surprise to John Weber, executive producer on several shows and president and CEO of Take 5 Productions. Among the shows his company produces is Vikings, which premieres March 3, and Beauty and the Beast, airing on Showcase here and CW in the U.S., along with lavish historical dramas The Borgias and World Without End.

“There’s a ton of projects going on in Ontario right now on the TV side,” Weber said from Cinespace Film Studios’ Kipling Ave. location.

“More and more we’re seeing a demand for high-level content on TV series internationally and domestically,” said Weber, adding stable tax credits and smart marketing help draw production here.

“We have incredible crews,” he added. “It’s a world-class production centre here.”

Weber said even if a TV series is shot offshore, like Vikings is in Ireland and The Borgias in Budapest, the cast and crew includes Canadians and the post-production work such as editing, music and special effects are done in Toronto.

Weber, who just returned from Los Angeles, said Ontario crews and post-production facilities have a stellar reputation there.

“It’s got to be one of the leading industries right now. It’s a great story,” added Weber.

Thorne-Stone said in terms of the “entertainment and creative cluster,” which also takes in publishing and broadcasting, “it’s well over $12 billion a year to the provincial economy and that’s bigger than agriculture.”

The industry looks just as strong for 2013, with 21 productions shooting or in prep, and nine series and two pilots underway, with more to come.

“These numbers are very high for February in Ontario,” said Thorne-Stone.

“It’s happening at a time when the dollar is strong and that says a lot about the reputation we’ve been able to build,” she added.

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