You can wait for Hollywood to come to you, or you can go to Hollywood and bring some home. In February, executives from the Canadian province of Ontario’s talent-rich tech cities went to the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles promoting pixel-perfect business conditions for expanding entertainment companies. A successful meeting with American United Entertainment LLC’s CEO Robert Rodriguez (Managing Director of American United Media Fund, LLC.) has quickly created a $40 million investment in media, film and television production infrastructure representing three to four upcoming feature films, television and/or digital media projects.
Pleased to discover Ontario’s open-arms approach to the film production and digital media industries, Rodriguez, whose backers include a who’s-who of Hollywood heavy hitters including Bill Mechanic of Pandemonium Films (former Chairman and CEO of Fox Filmed Entertainment), Arnold Rifkin of Cheyenne Enterprises (Producer of “Die Hard”), Toronto-based Kevin Hicks, and Thomas Sherak of Revolution Consulting (currently President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences), who’s in charge of distribution for the company. One of American United Entertainment’s upcoming feature films is “Your Perfect Angel,” directed by comedy director Donald Petrie, who also directed Sandra Bullock in “Miss Congeniality” and Kate Hudson in “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.”
“Toronto’s an incredible city to do feature films and digital media, and thanks to the Ontario Technology Corridor and their many government and private sector partners, we’ve had our eyes opened to the possibilities for American United Entertainment expansions in gaming, special effects and social media,” says Rodriguez. “The fact that our industry is a provincial priority and there’s a wealth of graduates from colleges and universities as well as veteran production talent and companies makes Ontario a very compelling place to expand our business.”
“We are thrilled to welcome American United Entertainment to Canada’s digital entertainment heartland,” says Gerald Pisarzowski, Vice-President Business Development with the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance (GTMA), an Ontario Technology Corridor partner. Pisarzowski and his Ontario Technology Corridor colleague Blair Patacairk, Senior Director, Investment, for the Ottawa Centre for Regional Innovation, met with Rodriguez last February on a foreign direct investment trade mission that also included meetings at San Francisco’s Game Developer’s Conference 2011.
“This was a total team effort,” says Pisarzowski. “We also want to credit this investment win to follow-up collaborations from the Entertainment and Media Practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and RBC, the major sponsor of the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as Ontario’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, City of Toronto and Invest Toronto.”
In Ontario’s collaboratively linked technology regions of Toronto, Ottawa, Waterloo Region, London and Niagara, 22 universities and colleges are pumping out more than 18,000 graduates per year. They come from 174 specialized digital media programs including 3D animation, film studies, advanced computer programming, math, and hardware engineering.
Ontario’s Media Development Corporation (OMDC) is the central catalyst for the province’s cultural media cluster — to date the OMDC IDM Fund has contributed $7.7 million to support 76 projects with budgets totaling $32.7 million — and continues to offer the following incentives, including:
- Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit — refunds 35-40 per cent of eligible production costs
- Ontario Computer Animation and Special Effects Tax Credit — refunds 20 per cent of labour costs
- OMDC Interactive Digital Media Fund — up to $150,000 in project production funding, up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the project budget. So far in 2011, the OMDC has announced $2.0 million in funding support.
In addition to American United Entertainment, Ontario’s digital media and entertainment tech talent bank has attracted other international companies including Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Capcom Entertainment. Animation, special effects and mobile apps talent from homegrown firms such as Starz Animation, XYZ RGB, Digital Extremes, Silicon Knights, and RIM also help create exciting cross-platform entertainment products. These products run on everything from gaming devices to smartphones to Internet tablets to personal computers and 3D cinema screens.