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Nova Scotia’s film community hurt, unified by changes

The film industry is volatile enough on its own, but this year was exceptionally turbulent. With the community gathering again to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Atlantic Film Festival, we sat down with Martha Cooley, executive director of the Atlantic Film Coop (AFCOOP) to talk about how the industry has changed.


Gazette:  How do you think the recent changes in legislation have affected the film industry in Nova Scotia? 

Cooley: The recent changes to the film industry including the removal of the Film Industry Tax Credit and the closure of Film & Creative Industries Nova Scotia have been devastating. We are only now starting to see the full impact of this rash and misguided decision. One of our biggest equipment service providers, PS Atlantic, who has been supporting the community since 1997, is closing in October. This is a harbinger of more bad news to come, I’m afraid.

For independent filmmakers working outside the industry this has also been very destructive. Film and Creative Industries ran programs that helped train emerging filmmakers including the First Feature program and they were the main cash funder of AFCOOP’s FILM 5 program. The industry and service providers like PS supported independent filmmakers through sponsorship of awards like the Linda Joy Media Arts Awards (which were cancelled this year) and programs like FILM 5.

On the positive side, this has definitely unified the community. The response of the industry was quick, and cohesive. People came out in the thousands to protest, make videos, sign petitions and give testimonials in Parliament. It has certainly also brought this issue to the public eye. Everywhere I go when I mention that I work in the film industry people are aware of what’s going on and are sympathetic to our challenge. There has been a very positive unification of the industry from PAs to producers, everyone is rallying together to fight this issue.

G: What is the atmosphere like in this year’s Film Fest?

C: In terms of the festival I think filmmakers are trying to remain positive in some ways. It has been a long, challenging six months and I think those of us who are still here (many young people have already left to work elsewhere) are ready for some positive news, some hope and some celebration.

There is also a general fatigue with talking about our challenges, I think, at this point. The mood at AFF that I have experienced is a tired anger and a small amount of hopeful celebration. It’s on everyone’s minds all the time, but we also have to continue doing what we do.

G: How do you think that the community and industry will look like in the future?

C: With any industry there is a natural boom and bust cycle. We’ve been thrust into a bust but I think there will be positive things to come out of this trying time. When the industry is strong, people get on the treadmill of working on shows and making as much money as they can. Now that things are quieter, people will have time to work on their own projects a little more. We may see some more personal work coming from people who have been devoting their time to working in the industry and now have a chance to get back to the type of projects they really want to be working on.

AFCOOP  runs programs such as workshops for aspiring filmmakers and independent film screenings. More information may be found on their website at


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