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'Halifornia' dreaming: How Nova Scotia's film sector returned to life after losing its tax credit –



In 2015, when the Nova Scotia government terminated its long-standing film industry tax credit, local filmmakers, crew members and executives believed it would be a death sentence for their previously reliable sector. But just six years later, “Halifornia” — named for Halifax’s fledgling Hollywood reputation — is booming.

Thanks to high-profile productions such as The Lighthouse, the creation of a provincial incentive fund that recently doubled in size and the province’s miraculously low COVID-19 case count, executives are choosing Nova Scotia for their film and TV productions.

It’s a reality that, until recently, would have been unimaginable for Nova Scotia’s film community, which says that the elimination of the tax credit decimated the industry.

“In Nova Scotia, particularly when the tax credit went away, there was a real concern that there would be an outflow … of young people who wanted to work in the film industry and were going to go find their their fortune elsewhere,” said David Hardy, vice-president of sustainability and stakeholder affairs with Toronto-based William F. White International, the largest distributor of film equipment in Canada.

“And slowly but surely, the industry’s come back very strong here. And we look forward to working with the new government on this industry and seeing it grow further.”

Financial incentives complement province’s beauty

Folded into the province’s 1995 budget by then-finance minister Bernie Boudreau, the tax credit aided the film industry’s modest success, making careers as creative personnel or crew not just possible but stable.

All of that seemed to come crashing down in 2015, when the province’s Liberal government, led by Stephen McNeil, announced that the credit was no longer. Instead, it was to be replaced by the Nova Scotia Film and Television Production Incentive Fund, which offered a 25 per cent refund for foreign productions and a 26 per cent refund for local productions made in the province.

The community erupted in protest, and the government listened to its concerns. But the damage was done: The incentive fund was not nearly as appealing for international productions as the tax credit had been, and local film workers left the province in droves.

The fund, favoured by the government for its transparency, is footing the bill for some 61 Nova Scotia productions this year. On June 23, the outgoing Liberal administration announced that it would contribute $46.8 million for the 2021-22 fiscal year — a whopping 194.4 per cent increase from the previous fiscal year.

At William F. White International in Halifax, the industry’s growth has led to higher demand for production supplies — from lighting and grip to cameras and other equipment. The company’s Halifax office has expanded its footprint by roughly 2,500 square feet and doubled its staff, said Trevor Sutherland, the company’s manager for Atlantic Canada.

“We’re constantly bringing in different lines of business to fill the needs,” he said.

The province is an attractive production location for reasons beyond these financial incentives, said Laura Mackenzie, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia, the province’s film authority.

When pitching to Hollywood executives unfamiliar with Nova Scotia’s charm, Mackenzie said she points to the province’s unspoiled coastlines, local wineries and golf courses, major university campuses (which can pass for Ivy League schools in the United States) and Cape Breton’s rolling hills.

Laura Mackenzie, executive director of Screen Nova Scotia, says the province is an attractive production location for reasons beyond financial incentives. (CBC)

“The diversity of location in Nova Scotia is spectacular, and it’s small enough that you can get to any of it, you know, in five hours,” she said.

Hardy said that streaming giants such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and HBO Max have made the digital landscape as competitive as ever. That demand for original content has turned Halifax into a serious market player, with a capacity to meet the surfeit.

“The need for new content really has never been more pronounced than it is right now,” Hardy said, “and we fully expect that to continue.”

High-profile productions fuel growth

Veteran Nova Scotia producer Hank White, who has been working in the industry since he was 10 years old, said the province’s film industry has made it a compelling destination for tourists.

“We were bringing in millions of dollars for tourism. People wanted to see where Titanic was shot, people wanted to see where Dolores Claiborne was shot. They wanted to see [where] The Mist was shot,” he said. “The investment that the province had given to us — we paid that back [through] tourism.”

Willem Dafoe, left, and Robert Pattinson on the set of the 2019 film The Lighthouse in Yarmouth, N.S. (Screen Nova Scotia/Eric Chakeen)

Among Nova Scotia’s most recent high-profile productions is the 2019 film The Lighthouse, which starred Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as two sailors whose sanity unravels while stuck in an isolated lighthouse.

Mackenzie said the local industry grew “exponentially” after that film wrapped.

“After The Lighthouse came, it was almost like it sort of triggered confidence in the international community that our crew still were here and our on-screen camera work here — and that we were actually actively engaged in the film industry,” she said.

But it’s not just international productions leading the charge. Filmed in Dartmouth, CBC legal drama series Diggstown deserves partial credit for the industry’s prosperity, said its star, Vinessa Antoine.

When Diggstown began production in 2018, Antoine used social media to spread the word that jobs were available for Nova Scotia-based film workers, feeling that the industry needed the boost.

“Now it’s like I feel like everybody I know is moving to Halifax,” Antoine said. “And there’s so many shows that are coming to Halifax.”

Crew members and sound stage are needed

Diggstown creator Floyd Kane said that while there is an abundance of local creative talent in Nova Scotia — actors, directors and writers — the province is thin on technical crews.

“In terms of the question of ‘Is it harder to get crew?’ Absolutely. Absolutely, it’s harder to get crew,” Kane said, estimating that the province currently has three crews working.

Vinessa Antoine, right, is pictured on the CBC legal drama series Diggstown. The show, which is filmed in Dartmouth, N.S., deserves some credit for the industry’s current prosperity, she says. (CBC)

That’s due to an exodus that occurred after the tax credit was eliminated, said White, who started a shadow program to train young Indigenous people for crew member roles.

“Our film industry was decimated, and crew were leaving because they couldn’t survive here; they couldn’t survive on nothing,” he said. “Producers couldn’t keep their crew on because we were dipping into our own pockets.”

Mackenzie agreed. “One of the biggest impediments to our growth right now, of course, is developing our crew.”

Another challenge for the community is the lack of a sound stage, a sound-proof space for theatrical productions to shoot on a large scale. At this time, there isn’t a single one in Nova Scotia.

White said that doing so would attract even more productions to the province.

“We’ve been struggling and calling for years to get a sound stage built in Halifax, telling the government the old Field of Dreams thing: ‘If you build it, they will come,'” he said.

‘These are real jobs that pay real, solid wages’

With local workers and foreign productions having left after the 2015 “tax-ccident,” as Mackenzie called it, the province’s film community is now trying to spread the word that it’s open for business.

Hardy, who was among those protesting the elimination of the tax credit in 2015, said that the industry should not be seen as a dispensable part of the province’s economy.

“We always want to, at the same time, convey the notion that it’s real work and that these are real jobs that pay real, solid wages and that they create opportunity where it otherwise might not exist,” he said.

So while “Halifornia” is on the upswing, having narrowly avoided a calamity, the industry is still reeling from the talent it lost to Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal in 2015. Mackenzie has a message for those looking to make their move back to the Atlantic province.

“If there are individuals out there that work in the film industry [who] would like to come and make Nova Scotia their home, there will be work for you.”

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COVID booster use may be expanded, US health officials say – Al Jazeera English



FDA advisory body this week recommended coronavirus booster shots for people more than age 65 and those at high risk.

Top health officials in the United States have said broader approval of COVID-19 booster shots could be weeks away, after a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) expert advisory panel this week recommended a third jab for a limited segment of the population.

The director of the National Institutes of Health said the FDA panel’s decision on Friday to limit Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to Americans age 65 and older as well as those at high risk of severe disease was a preliminary step.

In an interview on Fox News Sunday, Dr Francis Collins predicted more wide-ranging approval for most Americans “in the next few weeks”.

Collins said the panel’s recommendation was correct based on a “snapshot” of available data on the effectiveness of Pfizer’s two-jab regimen over time. But he said real-time data from the US and Israel continue to come in showing waning efficacy among more groups of people that will need to be addressed soon.

“I think there will be a decision in the coming weeks to extend boosters beyond the list that they approved on Friday,” said Collins, who also appeared CBS’ Face the Nation programme on Sunday.

Some rich nations, including the US and UK, are considering coronavirus booster shots amid a recent surge in cases linked to the highly contagious Delta variant.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) this month called for a moratorium on booster shots amid concerns about vaccine supplies to poorer nations, where millions have yet to receive their first jab.

A group of international scientists also said last week that even with the threat from the Delta strain, “booster doses for the general population are not appropriate at this stage in the pandemic”.

“Any decisions about the need for boosting or timing of boosting should be based on careful analyses of adequately controlled clinical or epidemiological data, or both, indicating a persistent and meaningful reduction in severe disease,” the scientists wrote in The Lancet medical journal.

Dr Anthony Fauci, who is US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, on Sunday praised the FDA advisory board’s plan for covering a “good chunk” of Americans. But he stressed that “this is not the end of the story” based on data that was emerging and said the guidance would likely be expanded in the coming weeks to months.

People in the US who have received the two-dose Moderna vaccine or one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still awaiting guidance on possible booster shots.

“The actual data that we’ll get [on] that third shot for the Moderna and second shot for the J&J is literally a couple to a few weeks away,” Fauci told NBC’s Meet the Press programme.

“We’re working on that right now to get the data to the FDA so they can examine it and make a determination about the boosters for those people.”

The FDA will consider the advisory group’s advice and make its own decision, probably within days. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also is set to weigh in this week.

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US stocks tumble amid fears of market correction – BBC News



A US trader

Getty Images

US markets have tumbled amid growing concerns about China’s financial system and the impact of coronavirus on the global economy.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones index lost almost 800 points to 33,816.92 before regaining ground.

There were similar falls in Europe, with the Germany’s Dax index losing 2.3%, and France’s Cac 40 down 1.7%.

One analyst called it “a classic flight to safety”, with Wall Street seeing its worst day since May.

But US stocks are still up more than 12% this year and some analysts played down fears of a correction ahead.

Monday’s sell-off was primarily driven by concerns that Evergrande – one of China’s biggest property developers – is struggling to repay around $300bn of debts.

Regulators in China warned it could spark broader risks to the country’s financial system. And investors fear this could hit big banks exposed to Evergrande and companies like it, causing contagion in global markets.


“The fear of an Evergrande bankruptcy appears to be leading to concern about China’s very own Lehman [Brothers] moment, and a big overspill across the region,” said Michael Hewson of CMC Markets.

Investors are also nervous that the US Federal Reserve, which meets on Tuesday and Wednesday, will confirm plans to pare back its support for the US economy this year.

Global stocks have rallied as economies have reopened and central banks have provided trillions of dollars in support to boost growth.

But there are concerns there could be a pull-back, if support is taken away at a time when the Delta variant is starting to drag on the recovery.

Strategists at Morgan Stanley said they expected a 10% correction in America’s S&P 500 index as the Fed starts to unwind its support. They added that signs of a stalling recovery could deepen that fall to 20%.

‘Signal from the noise’

However, other analysts played down fears of a rout, noting that September is typically a bad months for stocks.

“Overall, September continues to live up to its bad reputation as historically the weakest month of the year. But that doesn’t mean it can’t rebound,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.

And Lindsey Bell of Ally Invest said any pullback may be short-lived.

“Much of investing is about sorting through what’s signal and what’s noise,” she said. “While there is concern about the Evergrande situation infecting global markets, for the long-term investor, this situation may just be noise.”

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Pfizer Canada eyeing urgent COVID-19 vaccine approval for children aged 5 to 11 – Global News



Pfizer Canada says it plans to provide Health Canada with data showing its COVID-19 vaccine works for children in a bid to seek authorization “as early as possible.”

Pfizer said Monday its research shows its product works for children aged five to 11 and that it will also seek U.S. authorization for this age group soon _ a key step toward protecting schoolchildren from the novel coronavirus.

Christina Antoniou, the company’s director of corporate affairs in Canada, says they “share the urgency” to provide data that could lead to a shot for young kids.

Read more:
COVID-19 vaccine effective in children ages 5 to 11, Pfizer says

She could not say when that information would be submitted, but notes Pfizer has been sending new vaccine data to Health Canada as it becomes available.

Pfizer’s latest findings have not been peer-reviewed, nor published.

Health Canada says several studies on children are underway by various COVID-19 vaccine makers, and that it “anticipates vaccine manufacturers to provide data in children in the coming months.”

Click to play video: 'Pfizer says their vaccine works for children 5-11'

Pfizer says their vaccine works for children 5-11

Pfizer says their vaccine works for children 5-11

Health Canada adds that no submission has been received yet for the approval of any COVID-19 vaccine in children younger than 12 years old.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is already available for anyone aged 12 and older.

Pfizer studied a lower dose of its two-dose vaccine in more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school-aged kids, mostly in the United States and Europe. It says the kids developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as those detected in teenagers and young adults.

Read more:
COVID-19 hospitalizations among Canada’s children remain low despite Delta surge: experts

Moderna is also testing its shots in elementary school-aged children, and both Pfizer and Moderna are studying COVID-19 vaccines for those as young as six months old. Results are expected later in the year.

Medical officials called the results of Pfizer’s trial with kids “encouraging” but cautioned against anticipating too much too soon.

The medical lead with Manitoba’s COVID-19 vaccine implementation team said it was too early to know what the findings could mean for kids under the age of 12 in the province.

“At this time, we don’t even know the extent of how well it protects, what number of side effects they saw. We’re very early in the planning,” said Dr. Joss Reimer.

However, Reimer said the team has started planning in the event Health Canada approves the Pfizer vaccine for children.

She said this may include providing doses in schools or having alternative clinics in place for youth.

Click to play video: 'Parents react to COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools'

Parents react to COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools

Parents react to COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools

A spokeswoman for Ontario’s health ministry said the province is “monitoring the evidence.”

“Working with our public health and health system partners we will be ready to administer doses to children aged five to 11 as soon as they are approved by Health Canada,” said Alexandra Hilkene.

Alberta also said it would await Health Canada approval before vaccinating children.

“Until vaccines are approved for this age group, younger children rely on older Albertans who are immunized to strengthen our defences to protect everyone in our province,” said provincial government spokeswoman Lisa Glover.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Monday, Sept. 20, 2021.

— With files from Laura Osman in Ottawa, Brittany Hobson in Winnipeg, John Chidley-Hill in Toronto, and the Associated Press

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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