Written by Shona Smith on Jan 3, 2020. Posted in On Location

TLG talks to COPILOT about Quebec’s versatility as a filming destination

Jim Edward, Founder and CoPilot-in-Chief at COPILOTproductions, a dedicated production service company, notes that international productions “usually come to Quebec for the locations. Montreal and Quebec City – even the Laurentians or the Eastern Townships - all have a variety of architecture, looks and feel that you can find make Montreal look anywhere like Paris, London, New York, Boston, or “anywhere USA” for that matter”.

This mix of locations, and Quebec's base of studios and technicians makes it a top choice for international productions. The range of recent productions include Amazon Studios’ series The Bold Type and Jack Ryan, which double Montreal for New York or Washington, National Geographic’s upcoming 17th century TV series Barkskins in Quebec City, and Roland Emmerich’s Midway and superhero X-Men which both shot in Montreal’s studios. “We’re a busy, busy town” says Edward at COPILOTproductions, one of Canada’s dedicated production service companies that handles incoming international shoots, “it’s a good thing we have over 6500 dedicated techs available to support these productions”.

Montreal as Paris

For productions, “to be able to shoot a whole concept and get it all on screen here instead of having to do unit moves and travel around the world” is a pulling factor says Edward. He points to a commercial production that COPILOT handled where a waiter in Paris makes a coffee in France and flies to USA to deliver it to a woman’s kitchen. “We delivered both the look and feel of Europe and anywhere US suburbia” (pictured below).

On top of this location-transforming elements, such as set decoration are easy to access in Quebec. “We have wonderful variety of car wranglers” who can provide vehicles from the nineteen-sixties and seventies to modern cars says Edward. “We have yellow cabs to give the look and feel of New York City, and we also have access to Peugeot three-cylinder cars that give us the European flair as well”.

In terms of production value, while there are savings when minimising VFX work by shooting in actual locations, Edward also notes that “the exchange rate on the Canadian dollar is another great advantage of working in both American and European productions” and estimates that productions from the US can save up to 30-35% on costs by shooting in Canada, while the exchange rate is even more favourable for European and British clients.

Feature film and television work can also access the incentives for film and television productions at provincial and country levels. Quebec provides a refundable tax credit for feature, documentaries and TV series. The 20% basic rebate on production spend can be augmented by the 16% labour based VFX and animation bonus. Productions must meet the CAD250,000 minimum production cost. This is on top of Canada’s federal tax credit that provides a 16% refundable tax credit on Canadian labour expenditure for feature films with a total budget of CAD1 million – not necessarily spent in Canada, and CAD100,000 per half hour episode.

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