The possibility of whether the Saskatchewan Soundstage will be sold to the private sector has local filmmaker Layton Burton’s blood boiling.
Earlier this month, Central Services Minister Ken Cheveldayoff announced the province is looking into selling off any under-utilized government-owned buildings across Saskatchewan. A total 660 buildings are currently under review — including the soundstage.
Burton argued, if the province wants local filmmakers to thrive, the soundstage shouldn’t be considered.
“There will always be a film community, but that soundstage is our anchor and our jewel — it represents our industry,” he said. “Without it, we are less than we ever were as a community and as an industry. We will be devastated.”
As of Tuesday, Cheveldayoff confirmed the province has no plans of selling the soundstage.
“We’re not contemplating any sales at this time. What we’re looking at is the whole portfolio of 660 buildings,” Cheveldayoff said. “There have been no decisions made around the soundstage.”
Over the Saskatchewan Soundstage’s 16 years in operation, government numbers show it has been less than 60 per cent occupied.
Film tax credit would boost occupancy rate, filmmaker says
Burton said occupancy numbers have been lower since the province axed the Saskatchewan film tax credit in 2012.
“Without a tax credit, it doesn’t pay to use the soundstage. There’s no incentive to use it, so that’s why it sits as it does now,” he said.
As a director of photography for 35 years, Burton said he watched as the film tax credit and soundstage attracted productions such as Corner Gas and Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story.
Though he admitted there were transition times where the building did sit empty, Burton said that’s typical in the film industry.
“You’re making spaces for films to come and go, so for the government to say there were large chunks of time where the soundstage was empty — that only occurred when they killed the tax credit,” he explained.
A 2012 report from the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and SaskFilm concluded that for about every $1 million the provincial government spent on the film tax credit, the economic benefit was $44.5 million.
The Saskatchewan Soundstage is the only facility of its kind between Regina and Toronto.