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As the value of the U.S. dollar has dropped over the past year, runaway production to Canada has eased somewhat. But it still remains a factor, and a turnaround in the greenback’s fortunes could once again drive more American productions to Vancouver, Toronto and the prairie provinces. With this in mind, some members of the U.S. below-the-line community have pondered making a move up north.
IATSE members familiar with immigration issues say such a move is not as simple as it sounds. According to Mimi Wolch, business agent for IATSE Local 873 in Toronto, those who succeed usually have compelling reasons for moving to Canada, such as family connections. Others apply for residency, thinking they will be able to move back and forth with the jobs. But keeping one foot in each country is hard to do, despite the claims of breezy ads in the trades by Canadian immigration lawyers.
Those who want landed immigrant status—the Canadian equivalent of a U.S. green card—have to submit to strict residency rules. It may not be possible to fly back to Hollywood when an interesting six-month project comes up. And new ID cards issued in January will let Canadian authorities monitor exactly how much time a landed immigrant is spending outside the country.
“I think it’s probably difficult to straddle both countries, particularly below the line,” says script supervisor and director Lina Shanklin, who is still waiting for her new permanent resident card. “You’re having to deal with two currencies, two tax systems, two union systems and benefits and hours. It becomes quite a thing. My sense is that you have to commit.”
And a rising Canadian dollar means higher wages for Americans working north of the border, it also signals a drop in production. Vancouver, in particular, has seen a notable slowdown in television work over the past year.
“The dollar factor now has sort of eliminated the [Canadian government’s] labor tax credit,” says James Margellos, a Vancouver-raised production manager.
Having a union card can help, but not much. Hours don’t transfer to Canadian locals, so it is wise to be vested and assured of health and pension benefits in case you return to the U.S.
Editor Joanne D’Antonio was vested when she got an offer to work on MOWs in Calgary. She ended up turning it down because it would have required uprooting her whole family. She says she also found that “people are not very interested in Americans coming up there to work.”
Wolch disagrees. She says Canadian locals would acknowledge an American member’s credentials when assigning work. “You certainly would be looked at sooner than people with no experience and no status in an IA local. You would go right to the top of the list,” she says.
But she also notes that she has not noticed a big influx of below the line talent from the U.S. “Quite honestly, people like to stay at home.”

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