Silver-screen investments will be economic gold

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Creating jobs for Islanders

Prince Edward Island accountant Emma Fugate was excited when she learned that government will invest $3.5 million to grow the Island's cultural sector over the next five years.  

The Island film industry is one of the sectors that will benefit. When a movie is shot in a location it means jobs for local residents – not just for actors, but for everyone from carpenters and, yes, to accountants.

Fugate, who emigrated from another island (England) to PEI 13 years ago, owns her own accounting business. Over the past few years she has gotten involved with film projects and wants to see her career move in that direction.

“Every time you watch the credits roll after a movie you see the ‘production accountant’,” she explained. “That’s what I want to do.”

The new cultural strategy – aimed at growing the island’s creative businesses and finding new markets -- is a much-needed shot in the arm for the film industry, she says.

Culture shapes who we are: it’s the things we make such as art, writing, and crafts; it is the words we use; it is our buildings, our monuments, our fields and our beaches. It also contributes $123 million annually to our provincial GDP.

And when creative industries are developed, Fugate says, everyone wins.

“Each project in the film industry is like a startup company - you have to pitch your idea, raise the money, build the team. With this incentive, more money can now be leveraged to raise money to have projects made here,” she said.

That means jobs – on the creative side with actors and writers; on the technical side with set designers, costume makers, lighting and technicians.

Film shoot locations see spinoffs that are hard to even comprehend, everyone from electricians to caterers can get a piece of the action.

Fugate is a great example. When she studied to become an accountant, she said the film industry wasn’t even on her radar. One of her clients had a production company and asked her to work on a project with him, and she fell in love with the industry. “I said ‘I want to work in that.’” 

People with artistic talent have to function in entrepreneurial ways, says Michelle MacCallum, the province’s director of cultural development. For example, a musician may work as a pit musician at the Charlottetown Festival in summer and then teach music during the school year.  You have to be an optimist working in this sector, says MacCallum.

“Many artists often have hybrid careers and have to be comfortable with uncertainty, for instance, ‘barista by day, painter by night,” she explains.

“These are people who hustle, they’re hard workers who contribute to our economic growth but also to the social and cultural investments in the province as a whole.”

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