Speaking the Language of Television and Film Financing: Program Review

  • June 05, 2021
  • Karin Kazakevich

In May, the OBA Entertainment, Media and Communications Law Section hosted its first of two sessions on film and television financing in Canada. Section Executive Cheryl Grossman (Cheryl Grossman Entertainment Law) hosted the event and welcomed a panel of well-known leaders in the field to discuss current trends in the world of production financing. The panel featured Ken Dhaliwal (Partner, Dentons), Kelly Jenkins (Senior Director, Media Finance, BMO), Ryan Keller (VP, Business Affairs, New Metric Media), Jason Meloche (Account Manager, Creative Industries Group, National Bank), and Kelly Payne (Director of Business Affairs, Production Funding, Blue Ant Studios Canada Inc). The second session in the program will be taking place on Thursday, June 3rd.

Financing a television series or film in Canada invites a unique array of opportunities and challenges. From tax credits to treaty co-productions to private financing and everything in between, there are many avenues to bring a production to life. Likewise, there are many players who are critical to the financing mission including producers, lawyers, accountants, banks and production companies. As key industry players continue to expand in Canada, it is essential that producers and their lawyers speak the language of film financing.

Here are just some of the popular terms you need to know in this industry and what they mean for your production:

Canadian Audio-Visual Certification Office (CAVCO): CAVCO certifies domestic television and film productions under a point system to determine eligibility for certain types of funding in Canada. This key creative point system considers how many Canadians occupy key creative roles in a production. With a maximum of 10 points, creative roles include directors, screenwriters, picture editors, and lead performers among others.

Canada Media Fund (CMF): The CMF funds various productions in Canada through its convergent and experimental streams. Producers should be aware of the requirements CMF funding imposes such as 10/10 CAVCO points (or 8/10 for animation) and dominant Canadian control of the production and its underlying rights.

Tax Credits: On both a federal and provincial level, the government provides film and video production tax credits that can be utilized by producers. These tax credits allow for various percentages of eligible labour expenditures and can be an important part of a production’s budget. Make sure to review the requirements each tax credit program imposes and remember that this funding will only become available after expenses have already been incurred which brings us to...

Interim Financing: Since productions typically do not receive all of their financing right away, they will turn to banks to provide interim loan financing through various arrangements. Banks play an important role here and will often work with producers and their lawyers to establish amenable loan agreements.

Distribution Agreements: These agreements sell the right to distribute the film or television series and will contain various negotiated provisions including distribution guarantees that support production costs.

Canadian Broadcast Licence: A broadcast licence delivers broadcasting rights for the content in return for a licencing fee that contributes to a production’s budget.

Other funds: Other funds such as the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund and the Shaw Rocket Fund can help contribute to the financing of a production. When it comes to financing, creativity may be your best asset and working with knowledgeable partners who speak the language is often key to bringing a project to life. 

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