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Lights, Camera, Economy: The Impact of the Film Industry in the Northwest Territories

The film industry has emerged as a significant economic contributor in the Northwest Territories (NWT), bolstering revenue and employment while also diversifying the economy away from its mining sector foundation.

Members of Yellowknife council were presented with a report entitled “Eyes Wide Open,” which was written by Graeme Clinton of the research firm Impact Economics. The report exposed the potential economic repercussions that could ensue from the closure of certain mines in the territory. The film industry may serve as an alternative method of establishing employment stability in a variety of sectors throughout the territory when the mine closures unfold.

Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Caitlin Cleveland says it is a common misconception that working in the film industry requires technical training or expertise in film and/or media. Electricians, transporters, and carpenters are all essential components of a diverse workforce, which is critical for production.

Service providers, including both individuals and businesses, play a vital role in ensuring the film industry’s smooth operation in the region. The provision of accommodation, meals, and equipment rentals are among the services they render indispensable for effectively implementing commercial productions. Additional sectors that provide diverse services advantageous to the film industry include wildlife monitoring, cultural advising, and tour guiding. By supporting the film industry in this way, Cleveland says service providers ensure the continued growth and success of production in the Northwest Territories.

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The Canadian Media Producers Association (CMPA) reports that media production in Canada supported 241,000 jobs, contributed $13.7 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product, and attracted $7.5 billion in foreign investment during the fiscal year of 2022.

According to Statistics Canada, the multiplier effect for most Northwest Territories motion picture and video industries is 1.54. This indicates that each dollar invested in production activities yields a return of $1.55. According to statistical data, the Northwest Territories received an estimated $16 million in revenue, of which $3 million originated from commercial productions.

With guest productions such as Cold Road, Alone, and Alaska Daily and local productions such as Food for the Rest of Us, She Gives Birth, Stuff I Found Diving, and Elijah in the Rock Creature, the film industry in NWT has expanded substantially.

Cleveland asserts, however, that the territory’s principal obstacle at this time is competing for projects with its provincial and territorial neighbours.

In response to this concern, the government initiated the Rolling, Action! The Next Five Years initiative. Per the NWT Film and Media Sector Strategy and Action Plan, several initiatives have been successfully deployed to aid regional producers and entice productions to the north. The strategy has stimulated regional economic activity and job growth.

The film rebate program for the Northwest Territories is a significant deliverable of this strategy. This competitive program encourages investment in the region by offering a 25% to 14% rebate on labour and expenditures incurred during production to pre-approved productions that intend to film in the territory. To promote the expansion of production beyond Yellowknife into other regions, a cost-offsetting provision of up to 40% of the funding will be extended. Historically valued at $100,000, the program allocated an additional $300,000 during the last fiscal year. Since inception, the film rebate has supported 20 productions included in these productions have been feature films, documentaries, television series, and commercials that have been filmed across the territory.

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