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Canadian screen co-productions costing jobs at home, study finds

A scene from the Canadian production "Rookie Blue": It's better for the economy?

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The cops on Rookie Blue and the medics on Combat Hospital are working twice as hard for the Canadian economy as those dissipated aristocrats on The Borgias.

That is the message contained in a new report about the Canadian film and television industry released by the performers and screenwriters unions Tuesday.

The report prepared by research company Nordicity for ACTRA and the Writers Guild of Canada measures how many jobs are created by different kinds of film and television productions involving Canadians. It concludes that both Canadian productions, like Rookie Blue, Flashpoint or Republic of Doyle, and Canadian-led international projects, like Combat Hospital or The Transporter, create twice as many jobs in Canada as productions, like The Tudors, The Borgias or Camelot, in which Canada plays a minority role.

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"The system is out of whack and it is costing Canadian jobs," Writers Guild executive director Maureen Parker said in a press release accompanying the report.

The Writers Guild and ACTRA are concerned that minority co-productions to which Canada contributes some money in exchange for a few on-screen roles and behind-the-scenes jobs are beating out Canadian-led projects in the competition for both air time and government investment.

The Nordicity study, based on numbers from 2004-05 to 2007-08, found that for every $1-million of a TV series' or movie budget, a Canadian project created about double the jobs of an international co-production. But the study also found that majority Canadian co-productions, in which Canada was the lead partner, also generated double the number of jobs as minority co-productions.

Although they usually star British and American actors and are often set in Europe, minority co-productions count as Canadian content on the broadcasters' schedules because there is some Canadian investment in them. The unions call for more balance between funding for the two types of co-productions, noting that in the last two years Canada is the minority partner in three-quarters of the international co-productions in which it participates.

Broadcasters and producers have defended the move to so-called co-pros, a model that has existed for years but which got a big boost when the CBC began airing The Tudors in 2007. They argue that these big-budget productions are popular with viewers, help the broadcasters compete with Hollywood shows and movies, and would not be possible without allowing countries to club together in this way.

The study also found that the production of Canadian film and television shows created 17 per cent more jobs in Canada than foreign productions that chose to shoot in Canada.

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About the Author

Kate Taylor is lead film critic at the Globe and Mail and a columnist in the arts section. More

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