Lights, cam­era, in­ac­tion

Au­di­tor says prov­ince not mon­i­tor­ing film, TV grants

StarMetro Edmonton - - Entertainment -

The au­di­tor gen­eral says Al­berta’s $43-mil­lion film and TV grant pro­gram has been abused be­cause the rules are so loose, they are al­most un­en­force­able.

Mer­wan Sa­her said grant re­cip­i­ents have been vi­o­lat­ing the aim of the Al­berta Pro­duc­tion Grant by hir­ing peo­ple and buy­ing ser­vices from out of prov­ince. He said one per­son claimed mul­ti­ple salaries on the set for three jobs.

Sa­her stated the gov­ern­ment was aware of the prob­lem al­most two years ago, rewrote the rules to tighten them up in early 2016, but then never im­ple­mented the changes. And he said the gov­ern­ment has con­tin­ued to hand out grants to pro­duc­ers deemed to have bro­ken the rules.

The grant is given to film and TV pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies to en­cour­age them to spend money in the prov­ince and hire lo­cal tal­ent.

In late 2015, the Cul­ture and Tourism de­part­ment, act­ing on anony­mous com­plaints, found some com­pa­nies were hir­ing peo­ple and pay­ing for ser­vices in B.C., On­tario and the United States. Nei­ther the au­di­tor nor the de­part­ment would name the pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies in­volved.

The de­part­ment crafted tighter guide­lines in early 2016, at the same time that the cur­rent min­is­ter of the de­part­ment, Ri­cardo Mi­randa, took over.

But un­der Mi­randa, the new rules were not put in ef­fect for a year-and-a half, un­til they were in­tro­duced by him last week un­der a re­vised grant pro­gram, ti­tled the Screen-Based Pro­duc­tion Grant.

Mi­randa, in an in­ter­view, said the ma­jor­ity of the grant ap­pli­cants fol­lowed the rules. He said the year-and-a half de­lay was be­cause the is­sues were com­plex.

“It’s not some­thing you can fix overnight,” said Mi­randa. “We needed to fig­ure out how the pro­gram needed to be struc­tured in a way that we cap­tured some of the is­sues that were be­ing raised (while) be­ing re­spon­sive as well to the needs of the industry, be­cause you could eas­ily dam­age the industry if you cre­ate un­cer­tainty. It’s highly mo­bile.”

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