Q. I graduated last year with an MFA in Screenwriting from Loyola Marymount University. I’m Canadian and my visa expires this summer (they give you 1 year to work “in your field” post-graduation and that’s it). So it looks like I’ll be returning to Canada. My career goal is to be a TV writer. Is it wiser for me to move to Toronto or to Vancouver?
From reading your blog posts, Toronto seems to be the answer because the networks + guilds are headquartered there and most shows are staffed there. Does that still hold true in 2013? I know Toronto since I went to college there, but Vancouver appeals to me because of its milder winters and proximity to LA.
According to the CMPA’s 2011 report, Ontario had 47% of domestic Canadian TV production whereas BC only had 11%. The opposite is true for foreign/American production in Canada. If I want to be a camera operator or key grip on a US-produced pilot or series, BC would be the best choice. If I want to be a writer in Canadian dramatic TV, Toronto is the place is to go. Am I understanding this right?
A few of my friends who are big deal TV writers have moved out of Vancouver to Toronto. I don't know anyone successful who has moved from Toronto to Vancouver. I think shows are more and more getting written out of Toronto. So enjoy the Big Smoke, and be sure to go to lots of Ink Canada
and Writers Talking TV
events when you get there.
UPDATE: See DMc's excellent explanation in the comments below.
Hi Alex -- just to amplify and add some concreteness to your answer above, let me try to explain the situation.
Most people in the biz know that various places offer tax incentives to people to shoot in other than the "normal" L.A. backlot. For the longest time nothing was shot in NYC because taxes were high. Then they started rebates and tax incentives, and Voila! You have series there now.
Canada was largely the king of this -- especially combined with a generous return on the dollar from the Canadian dollar being less than the US.
But even with parity, certain places in Canada are still advantageous to shoot because your dollar goes farther.
B.C. built its industry this way by relying on "service" ie: foreign or US shows that used BC for crew and got tax returns that way. Other places like Toronto & Montreal did the same thing -- but crucially they went one step further.
In both those jurisdictions, the tax incentives are greater for domestic (what we call 10/10) productions. That's where the creative topliners like Actors, Producer, Writer, Director -- are Canadian.
The nut of the problem with BC is that they don't offer good incentives to domestic shows...they're not much better than the foreign ones. Plus -- and this is the killer -- the work of the writer, which happens in development prior to the start of photography -- is not considered eligible for tax credits.
This is a huge deal. It means that there is no advantage to using B.C. writers for projects that shot in BC. It means that BC writers are more expensive to use in Ontario, say, because they don't get the labor tax write-off for that person being resident in the province where the work is.
This is a huge disincentive. The Writers Guild of Canada has been trying for years to get the B.C. government to wise up and see the wisdom of prioritizing their writers, and bringing development work under the existing incentives. But that lobbying has fallen on deaf ears. It's one of the reasons why the industry is so anemic right now in BC, and why many talented West Coast writers find that they have to move to Toronto to find work.
Until the current -- or a new provincial government -- sees sense and starts seeing this as labor issue, B.C. will continue to be a much tougher place for Canadian writers to do business.
That's the truth. No Toronto-Vancouver, West Coast-Centre of the Universe spin. It comes down to bad industrial party.
All things being equal, it's a much smarter move for a writer to relocate to Toronto than to Vancouver right now. It's not an aesthetic thing. It's not even particularly where the networks are based. It's math.
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