André Bureau, Part 3: Revising the tax credit system and the need for industry lobbying groups

Interviewed by Fil Fraser on March, 2012

Fraser. Should we as a country have any sort of support system by way of quotas, or claw back of revenues, or other mechanisms to level the playing field a little?

Bureau. I think the tax credits could work better and could be improved to make sure that Canadian producers can really benefit, because it’s a great incentive.

F. How far would you go?

B.  The Pay TV services, both in French and English, are all showing Canadian movies; so it’s not a question of not getting access to the screen, at least the television screens. If necessary, government should consider giving tax credits to the cinemas to make sure that Canadian films also have their share of time there in terms of exhibition.

F. At the provincial level, André, there are quite a few tax credit programs; in fact, they keep trying to outbid each other. I think Nova Scotia has a very rich tax credit program, mainly to attract American productions.

B. I think we should have tax credits that are different for Canadian productions than for productions that come from somewhere else. We need to benefit better from our tax credits programs from a Canadian point of view by allowing specific Canadian tax credits in addition to those that are open for American productions.

F. What about support programs for the creators, the writers and the directors who make the movies?

B. The problem at the present time is that, if you are going to Ottawa, or any of the provinces, there doesn’t seem to be a pre-occupation or an understanding of where support would work the best. They are mesmerized by the Internet and things like that and they forget about the original content that could be created there and that is, of course, very valuable and intrinsically attached to our culture.

F. So, it’s not even on the radar and doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.

B. Well, I have heard Min. Moore talking about how he is proud of what has been achieved, but when he goes to his office and we visit him to see what can be developed, in terms of new ways of supporting these productions, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest there. They think they’re doing enough at the present time.

F. This is the age-old argument between the Arts and Commerce, of course. And Québec has always been much more favourable towards the arts.

B. It’s a question of sensibility. It’s also been a question of pride, because it is very popular and it works.

F. So, what do you think we need to do in the short-term or medium-term to make things better or do you think there is no chance?

B. In the short-term, I don’t see much chance of changing anything, but I would imagine there should be some thinking about what needs to be done in the future with all the new elements of production, whether it’s internet production, or movie production. Over the years there have been these moments when we have felt the need to reflect, to analyze the situation and come up with recommendations. It’s about time to do it again. No one is looking at the overall picture. They’re all looking at small things here and there instead of looking at the overall picture and saying, “For this sector, this is what is needed; for that one, this is the encouragement and support they should get…”

In the past, it was easy, we only had movies or television series and that was it. We now have a lot more to look at and the way that they are communicated is quite different. So, it’s probably appropriate that some people get together and think about that. We’ve had very short dialogues with the CMPA, at their conventions, or with the AFTPQ [Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec] here, but we’re missing the boat by not having an overall analysis of what is going on and where we should stand – where the government should stand, where the industry should stand, where the creators should stand and how they should be supported and encouraged.

F. André, what do you think the impact of technology – the Internet and all of the digital facilities – will have on all of this?

B. [laughs] If I knew, I would probably be travelling around the world telling everybody what it is. Fundamentally, I think that the big things, the creation of movies and television programs are still very much loved by people and are still a success. We still have to take that into consideration but we also have to look outside the traditional type of productions. I am on the Board of a little company that invests in new types of productions; and I’m amazed by the amount of time that children from the age of 7-14 spend on their little devices to watch a channel like Wooz and it’s purely virtual – they play games, they buy things and all of it is virtual. They spend hours on these things every week, but it doesn’t reduce the number of hours they spend watching television.

So, I think we should look at the overall picture and discover where there are needs for supports to make sure that we do the right thing.

F.  We talk about the democratization of the means of production. With all the technology that’s available to these young people, there should be an explosion of creativity because it is so easy to access.

B. Well, there is an explosion of creativity. I’m on the board of a company that is called Font d’idées run by Charles Sirois. They invest in small, start-up companies that are involved in new technologies; I’m amazed at what is being done in those little companies and how successful they are. They don’t need that much money and they are very creative. I have a great deal of admiration for these people, but they’re not part of the overall picture yet. So I think we have to look at creativity across the industry, from the small start-ups to the big film producers of Canada.

F. It’s a great question because everything is so available and there are so many means of distribution now as well as production that it is hard to keep track of.

B. Yes, it’s a question of harnessing it all so that we don’t just have an outburst that lasts a year or two, but that we have something that contributes to the entire system.

F. I guess part of it is something called multi-tasking that younger people are so good at; they can keep track of more things than we can.