The Canadian Press/Handout/Little Mosque Productions/WestWind Picture Crew members work on a scene of “Little Mosque on the Prairie”, one of the shows produced in Saskatchewan that benefited from the Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit.

REGINA – The Saskatchewan government is creating an agency to help support the film industry after cuts last year that caused an outcry.

Culture Minister Kevin Doherty says legislation is to be introduced in the spring to establish Creative Saskatchewan. It’s meant as a replacement for the film credit, but it will help other artists too, he said Friday.

“I don’t want to focus just on film,” Doherty said.

“This is for the benefit of musical artists, visual artists, theatre, dance, arts, crafts people, publishers — all of our different creative industries who never had access to this kind of money before.”

Doherty said companies or artists who are based in Saskatchewan could get up to $60,000 in grants for projects.

The province faced much hue and cry when it cut a film employment tax credit in the budget last March. Premier Brad Wall said at the time that Saskatchewan was not going to participate “in the bidding war” between provinces with respect to grants for the film industry.

The Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce said the move kicked the film industry out at the knees. Several production companies — including Verite Films which was behind the hit TV comedy series “Corner Gas” — left the province.

“The process there was lacking. The premier has acknowledged that publicly. I’ve said that privately to the film industry,” said Doherty.

“I told them that we ought not to have to put them and their families through the consternation that we put them through as a government … (and) that we were going to work hard to find a model that can benefit not only the film industry, but all of our creative sector.”

The Saskatchewan Media Production Industry Association said it took part in the Creative consultation. But the association said it soon became clear that the needs of the film and television industry were not going to be addressed.

“The transition plan they have is not a working solution for the majority in our industry and it doesn’t even begin to allow producers to compete with the rest of Canada,” said association president Holly Baird.

A $1-million transition fund is to back projects until Creative Saskatchewan gets running later this year.

Doherty could not say how much money will be allotted to the agency in the upcoming March budget.

The minister said the province will also continue to fund a production facility in Regina. But the government would like to see one of three sound stages at that facility repurposed for multi-use, possibly for dance or theatre, he said.

The government will eliminate just over $1 million that it gave to SaskFilm. The money will “transition” into Creative Saskatchewan.

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