Canada’s screen industry not alarmed over axed Canadian-shot shows

TORONTO — The recent cancellation of several Canadian-shot series doesn’t seem to be raising alarm bells in the country’s film and TV industry.

But Canada’s performers’ union is calling on broadcasters here to help replace the lost shows with drama programming.

As TV networks reveal their upcoming seasons in an annual springtime tradition known as the “upfronts,” some Canadian-shot shows have been chopped. They include B.C.-shot “The Crossing” and the Toronto-shot “Taken,” “Designated Survivor” and “The Expanse.”

The Toronto labour union IATSE Local 873, which represents technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the industry, says “it’s not a concern.”

“The lion’s share of our work right now is television production and it’s inevitable that series get cancelled. It’s the way the industry runs,” Monty Montgomerie, business agent with the IATSE Local 873, said in an interview.

“It’s unfortunate, we never like to see a show get cancelled, we wish they’d stay here forever. But on the positive side it does present an opportunity for another project to come to town and hopefully spend a few years here and fill the void.”

TV production in Ontario has “been very good” and “seen a steady incline of volume” for the past seven or eight years, he added, noting they’re expecting the same strength for the year to come.

“There’s still a lot of interest in coming to Toronto,” Montgomerie said.

“When these shows (remove) their sets and free up space, we’re fairly confident that those shows that are looking to come to Toronto will move into those voids.”

The Ontario Media Development Corporation says its Film Commission “saw a surge of scouting activity throughout the latter half” of the fourth quarter.

“Ontario is bustling with 25 film and television projects currently underway throughout province, including a number of incredible new projects filming their first seasons in the province of Ontario,” Justin Cutler, Ontario Film Commissioner at OMDC, said in a statement.

Those new projects include “Wayne” (YouTube Red), “Umbrella Academy” (Universal/Netflix), “The Boys” (Amazon), and “Jett” (HBO), Cutler said. He also pointed to the recent success of the Ontario-shot, Oscar-nominated films “The Shape of Water” and “The Breadwinner.”

Jim Mirkopoulos, vice-president of Toronto’s Cinespace Film Studios where many productions are shot, says “there’s very little concern.”

“Obviously it’s not optimal for people in the industry that are hoping that on such a specific date, they can count on five or six months of employment. However, the turnover in the industry more than makes up for that uncertainty,” he said in an interview.

“New shows are coming in as old shows are leaving, and Toronto continues to be very busy. Between Ontario’s competitive tax credit on top of the still-lucrative exchange rate, we are a top jurisdictional choice for the Hollywood majors.”

While the heavy competition for eyeballs means the turnover of series might be quicker, overall the level of business will be the same if not more because of the rise of content on other platforms, added Mirkopoulos.

“I would also highlight that the last year has probably been the most winning-est year in the history of Toronto film crews, with ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ having won several awards, including Golden Globes and Emmys, and ‘The Shape of Water’ having won four Academy Awards, all heavily local Toronto crews having produced both of those projects,” Mirkopoulos said.

The Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists is now calling on Canadian broadcasters to step up to the plate.

“We regret the cancellation of the Canadian-produced series, particularly the jobs of the Canadian performers, other creators and crew on these shows,” Stephen Waddell, ACTRA National Executive Director, said in a statement.

“We look to Canadian broadcasters to replace these cancelled series with distinctive, high-quality Canadian drama programming that attract Canadian and international audiences.”

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