THE PUBLICIST: Canada's rise in film industry gives LA publicists the chills

OK, I'll admit it. Until I began working in the film publicity biz, I'd never been to Canada. I wasn't even sure where Vancouver and Toronto were exactly. But as a unit publicist, I've come to know the country very well. Ditto many of my colleagues. Fact is, if you want to work on films, you better pack some cold weather gear, because chances are you'll be heading north. Pack even more if it's in the winter. (Ha! That's just a little joke. They can take it; they've taken our jobs.)

OK, I'll admit it. Until I began working in the film publicity biz, I'd never been to Canada. I wasn't even sure where Vancouver and Toronto were exactly. But as a unit publicist, I've come to know the country very well. Ditto many of my colleagues. Fact is, if you want to work on films, you better pack some cold weather gear, because chances are you'll be heading north. Pack even more if it's in the winter. (Ha! That's just a little joke. They can take it; they've taken our jobs.)

I'll also admit that I've loved working in Canada. Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal are fine cities. Great places to walk, clean, low crime rates, and excellent beer. And I've generally found Canadians to be friendly, funny, and courteous. Joke: How do you get a group of rowdy drunk Canadians out of your pool? By saying, "Everyone, please leave the pool." Despite its wonderful attributes, however, most LA-based film industry pros aren't thrilled with having to bring along a passport to work in a business that was created in California. Sure, travel to exotic lands may be great for per diem, but there's no place like home. Furthermore, those reluctantly schlepping to Canada are the lucky ones. Many industry pros have lost jobs altogether to the Canadian workforce. Publicists included. Ten years ago, there were few publicists up north whom the studios considered able to handle a major film. A perceived lack of familiarity with US press and Hollywood etiquette disqualified them for consideration, leaving us Yanks free to swoop in. Not anymore. Now there are many highly experienced Canadian flacks entrusted with the likes of a Robert De Niro or John Travolta. (One of them is a former Californian who saw the shift coming and managed to get himself Canadian citizenship through marriage. Do you promise to love, honor, and maintain your union dues?) Hollywood's resentment of our neighbor's job infringement worsened last week when the Canadian government announced it was increasing the tax breaks it offers film production companies from 11% to 19%. And unless Hollywood makes a similar effort, filmgoers will increasingly see cityscapes of Toronto and Vancouver in movie storylines set in New York or Anywhere, USA. (The Oscar - nominated Chicago, for example, was shot in Toronto.) Hollywood may have invented Hollywood, but Canada is the one rolling out the red carpet now.
  • Lawrence Mitchell Garrison is an LAYAWAY freelance publicist and writer

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