In the back corner of Uncommon Grounds, actress Amelia Cornick’s eyes fill with tears; she struggles to put her feelings into words. For the first time ever, she can imagine a life for herself in Nova Scotia doing what she loves most.
She is not alone. Workers in the film industry were overjoyed on March 8, 2022, when Premier Tim Houston announced $23 million in funding.
According to a press release, the funding will be broken up into two investments: $15 million will go towards a new Nova Scotia Content Creator Fund that will support local film and television creators. The other $8 million will be invested in a soundstage to increase the industry’s capacity and create a space for filmmakers to produce content year-round. A soundstage is a soundproof building used to produce film and television content.
Cornick says a soundstage plays a huge role in developing the Nova Scotia film industry.
“That’s a game changer, because it opens the door to year-round filming [and] it broadens the possibilities for what can come here.”
Cornick says Nova Scotia will see more and more local talent surfacing with the help of the Nova Scotia Content Creator Fund.
“Having local funding here for our creators is a huge show of support,” she says.
Despite the excitement radiating from within the film industry, some concerned citizens do not share this excitement. Cornick says many people believe the money should be spent on more pressing matters, such as the housing crisis. However, she wants to help others understand the importance of this investment.
“Whatever is being put into the film industry, through this investment, is going back into the community.”
According to the press release, in 2021-22, the film industry contributed about $180 million to Nova Scotia’s economy, up from $78 million in 2019-20 and $91 million in 2020-21.
“This is affecting the entire community, the entire province and it’s an insane economy boost,” says Cornick.
A bright future
Toronto and Vancouver dominate the Canadian film industry. Cornick says after the 2015 tax slash, actors and filmmakers never thought Nova Scotia would be able to keep up.
Similar to Cornick, actress Bonnie Russell knew she would have to move to Toronto if she wanted to further her career. Now, Russell sees potential in Nova Scotia and believes that it could easily measure up to larger industries with this proper funding.
“I could stay here and I don’t have to worry about picking everything up and leaving,” she says.
“That changes my five-year plan entirely.”
Cornick, who was dreading the idea of leaving her friends and family behind, is equally as ambitious for Nova Scotia.
She and her friends started “bawling crying” when they heard the news of the government’s investment, she says.
“We have a better possibility of pursuing our dream careers from the comfort of home. There’s more opportunity. There’s less pressure to have to leave to go to bigger markets,” she says.
“It’s not fun when you have to say goodbye to your friends.”
The appeal to filmmakers
From picturesque rural scenery to the bustling city life of Halifax, Nova Scotia offers many attractive settings for filmmakers, all while being surrounded by the ocean.
However, Russell says its beautiful scenery is not the only reason the province is so appealing to filmmakers.
“There’s just a ton of really excited and passionate people,” she says.
“Because of how small the industry is [in Halifax] right now, everyone kind of has to know a lot of skills in film and TV in order to get jobs.”
The benefit of the pandemic
Cornick says much of the film industry’s growing success is thanks to its tireless effort during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nova Scotian talent and crew rose to the challenge of creating content while adhering to the COVID-19 restrictions. This allowed the province to host productions while other locations couldn’t.
“That’s what was necessary at the time and those precautions allowed us to stay open, which was a game changer because it really caught the attention of bigger productions, bigger companies,” she says.
Cornick says the work put in during the pandemic “opened the door” for the Nova Scotia film industry and paved the way for this new funding.
“It was a huge challenge, but I really, really think the people around here rose to that challenge.”