Federal film cuts hurt Gander

Shawn
Shawn Hayward
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Politics/Arts

Gander may be waiting longer than expected for new film productions in the town because of Ottawa's plans to cut five funding programs.

The federal government will cut $1.5 million from the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, $2.5 million from the National Training Program for the Film and Video Sector, and $300,000 from the Audio-Visual Presentation Trust of Canada. Two other programs, designed to provide stable funding to film projects, will also end.

Gander - Gander may be waiting longer than expected for new film productions in the town because of Ottawa's plans to cut five funding programs.

The federal government will cut $1.5 million from the Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, $2.5 million from the National Training Program for the Film and Video Sector, and $300,000 from the Audio-Visual Presentation Trust of Canada. Two other programs, designed to provide stable funding to film projects, will also end.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Heritage Minister JoseÉ Verner said the cuts were made to improve efficiency in her department.

"It's unfortunate that the cuts seem to represent a sector-wide philosophy that culture industries are not important to Canadians or our natural identity," said Gander Deputy Mayor Zane Tucker. "Most Canadians, and certainly Newfoundlanders, would disagree with the cuts."

Gander has been trying to attract film projects for years. Most recently, the town has been featured in "Lost Flight of the Eagle," a one-hour television documentary about an American bomber that crashed near Gander in 1942.

According to Tucker, these cuts could limit the amount of film work done in Gander by affecting the industry itself.

"It seems to me a lot of the Canadian companies that are trying to do film work are very limited in their budget," he said. "And it's not something that's easy to get financed privately, so they really rely on these government programs. And any cut to these programs will certainly have a detrimental effect on the industry."

Gander has been targeting film work to gain a new source of income. "Like any economy in Newfoundland and Labrador, we're always trying to diversify, so any time we see something we think could put a blemish on that, it hurts," he said.

But financial gain is just the most immediate benefit of film production, Tucker said. "It brings jobs, it brings money into the local economy, but perhaps more important, it ups our status on a world stage, and specifically, (with) people that might be interested in the aviation industry."

"And, of course, that's the reason our town is here. It might give them yet another reason to come visit Gander. So if they saw a movie or documentary, it could motivate them to say, 'I'd like to check out that spot, and see that museum, and actually visit the crash site.' "

Cuts to film work also hurts local actors and filmmakers.

Greg Blumer is an actor in Gander who has worked on several film projects, including "Misery Harbour" in 1998 and a script about the Arrow Air Disaster of 1985. He said he's been fortunate with the amount of work he has found in film, but is concerned about the results the cuts will have.

"Most of my work is done because of these grants," said Blumer. "If it's not a grant, it'll be money through the provincial and federal government. That's where a lot of my work comes in."

Lost work can have big consequences in his profession.

"If these things don't happen for me a week or a month here and there through the year, then I'm hurting big time," he said.

Blumer echoed the deputy mayor's worries about tourism. "Tourism is big because we have the arts here."

Organizations: Canadian Independent Film and Video Fund, Audio-Visual Presentation Trust of Canada, Canadian Press

Geographic location: Gander, Ottawa, Newfoundland and Labrador

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