Hallmark and Canada: The Start of an International Friendship

On WordPress, I’ve gained a reputation among fellow bloggers as being the “Hallmark expert”. While I personally don’t see myself as an expert in this blogging space, I do appreciate people’s high regard toward my knowledge of Hallmark productions. During my years of watching Hallmark films, I’ve learned that a good number of movies are filmed in Canada. Also, every scripted television show from the network either currently films in Canada or has filmed in Canada before. Production websites like What’s Filming and Creative B.C. continually feature Hallmark titles on their websites, with productions for movies usually taking place within a month’s time. Others have taken notice of this particular creative choice, with publications like Refinery29 bringing it up in one of their Hallmark related articles. But what causes the company to choose Canada as a prime filming destination over other locations? How beneficial is it anyway? This editorial will explore some reasons why Hallmark has chosen Canada as their best friend when it comes to movie and television production. Negative results that could be caused by Hallmark’s choice will also be discussed. Hallmark has filmed their movies in a variety of locations, but Canada seems to be their favorite.

O Canada Blogathon banner
The 2020 O Canada Blogathon banner created by Ruth from Silver Screenings and Kristina from Speakeasy. Image found at https://silverscreenings.org/2020/01/15/announcing-the-o-canada-blogathon-2020/.

Saving Money in Order to Spend It

Every movie or television show has a budget that a creative team is required to work within. If there is an opportunity to save money, any creative team is likely to take advantage of it. With the creation of tax incentives, certain states or countries can appear more viable to companies and studios than other locations. Canada first introduced their tax incentives for the television and film industry in 1995, with more tax incentives coming into existence two years later. While it’s unclear when Hallmark started to film their programs in Canada, recent trends would indicate the company first made this decision sometime around 2010. In the past few years, Hallmark has created more than fifty movies a year. These projects, according to Shane Snoke and Kays Alatrakchi from quora.com, can carry a price tag between $300,000 to $2 million. To figure out how much Hallmark would likely pay annually for their films, let’s look at the amount of films the company created for Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries last year. On the first network, Hallmark released 64 films. The second network aired 41 films. Let’s say that each movie cost $1 million to make. In total, Hallmark would end up spending $105,000,000 each year among both channels. With this big of a price tag, it makes sense for the company to look for ways to save any amount of money they can.

 

Because every province of Canada has their own tax incentives for the film and television industry, it’s difficult to determine the exact amount of money Hallmark saves on each Canadian filmed production. But there is no denying that wherever a movie or television show is created, Hallmark ends up saving a significant amount of money. The company can apply those savings toward other programs. One example of how this money could have been used is for the creation of Hallmark Drama. Coordinating a television channel is a time-consuming and costly endeavor. Because Hallmark’s third channel first aired in late 2017, it’s likely that Hallmark collected these funds over time in order to fund that project. Another time-consuming and costly endeavor are television shows. A deciding factor for a show’s renewal is whether its respective network can afford to keep it going. With three continuing series on Hallmark Channel, Hallmark needs all the money they can get to keep these shows running. All three series have chosen Canada for their filming needs. This makes Hallmark’s financial goals more attainable.

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Creating a Unique Experience

The longest running and one of the most popular television shows in Hallmark history is When Calls the Heart. Ever since the show about the Canadian Frontier first premiered in 2014, it has cultivated a loyal and devoted fanbase famously known as the “Hearties”. The success of the series has inspired fans to create a special event called “Hearties Family Reunion”. Started in 2016, this event gives “hearties” an opportunity to celebrate their favorite show. It has also given them a chance to travel to the show’s Canadian roots. Some of the activities that took place at last year’s event include a Q&A segment with the cast, a tour of the Hope Valley set, and even a special movie night. While “Hallmark isn’t officially involved” with the formation of the “Hearties Family Reunion”, according to Meghan Overdeep from Southern Living, Crown Media was one of the sponsors for the 2019 event.

 

One of the reasons why When Calls the Heart has lasted as long as it has is because of the community that formed among the fans. The “Hearties Family Reunion” official website acknowledges this by stating, “Hearties are a community”. To recognize this sentiment, regional mini-parties were a part of the schedule at last year’s event. These parties were intended to help fans connect with other fans from their geographical location. One example is a regional party dedicated to the fans who live in the Southern and/or Midwest regions of the United States. Based on the website’s photos and the continuation of the event, it seems like it has been met with positive responses. One testimonial comes from Ruth, who is the creator of the blog, My Devotional Thoughts. She attended the event in 2017 and even wrote an article about her experience. The focus of that blog post was to highlight her interviews during the event. By reading Ruth’s article, you can hear the enthusiasm in her writing. In fact, when recounting her time at the “Hearties Family Reunion”, she says,I am forever grateful to everyone who worked to make this a weekend I shall never forget”. With responses like Ruth’s, I wouldn’t be surprised if this event returned in 2020!

When Calls the Heart Season 7 poster
When Calls the Heart poster created by Crown Media Family Networks and Hallmark Channel. Image found at https://www.crownmediapress.com/Shows/PRShowDetail?SiteID=142&FeedBoxID=845&NodeID=302&ShowType=series&ShowTitle=When%20Calls%20the%20Heart%20Season%207&episodeIndex=7001.

Making Careers for Canadian Stars

Actors and actresses come from various locations of the world. When a state or country has tax incentives that benefit the film and television industry, performers from those locations can sometimes find success with the companies that film there. Hallmark’s decision to film in Canada has helped several actors and actresses grow their careers through their involvement in Hallmark’s productions. Andrew Francis is an actor from Vancouver, British Columbia. He made his Hallmark debut in the 2011 movie, Trading Christmas. In that nine-year time frame, Andrew starred in twelve Hallmark movies, had a recurring role on Cedar Cove, and is a regular cast member on Chesapeake Shores. Another British Columbia native, Pascale Hutton, has also achieved success through Hallmark. After her first Hallmark movie, A Family Thanksgiving from 2010, she has gone on to star in a total of twelve Hallmark films. Similar to Andrew, Pascale became a regular cast member on the aforementioned show, When Calls the Heart. She also made a guest appearance on Hallmark’s first spin-off, When Hope Calls.

 

Canadian actors are not the only talents that have developed on-going careers through Hallmark. Crew members who work behind the camera have also benefited from Hallmark’s partnership with Canada. Michael Robison is a director from Toronto, Ontario. According to his filmography on IMDB, he has been directing since the late ‘80s. Despite working with Hallmark for only three years, Michael has directed thirteen movies, including the upcoming Hallmark Movies & Mysteries film, Mystery 101: An Education in Murder. These opportunities have allowed him to grow his career as a director. Another Ontario talent whose career has excelled with Hallmark is Ivan Hayden, who is from the London area. A multi-talented individual, Ivan currently has twenty-six producing credits on IMDB. Fifteen of these credits are for Hallmark films, including the 2020 “Spring Fever” film, Just My Type. Like Michael Robison, Ivan has been working on Hallmark projects since 2017. Also, like Michael, Ivan accomplished so much in such a short amount of time.

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Star on red carpet image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

Missed Opportunities for Other States and Countries

As I have been mentioning in this editorial, states and countries besides Canada may have tax incentives. This factor can encourage companies and studios to work in those locations. By Hallmark continually choosing to work with Canada, it means that other states and countries with tax incentives miss out on beautiful business partnerships. Michigan is just one example. On Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s official website, an entire division of the state’s economy is shown to be dedicated to the film industry. Hallmark rarely creates their programs in the Great Lakes state. Because of this, the state isn’t able to work with a well-known client like Hallmark. Hallmark’s decision also denies the company the chance to take advantage of Michigan’s tax incentives. This situation causes both parties to lose out on great business opportunities.

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Hallmark’s Channels aren’t Available in Canada

Even though Hallmark films a lot of their programs in Canada, there are few opportunities for Canadians to see these programs. That’s because all three of Hallmark’s channels are shown exclusively in the United States. Despite Canadian fans asking Hallmark’s business leaders on social media for access to their networks, nothing has been done about this specific situation as of March 2020. There have been some solutions made to alleviate this problem. Released in 2007, the Super Channel is a Canadian network that has given its viewers an opportunity to watch some of Hallmark’s programs. This is made possible through one of their divisions; Super Channel Heart & Home. Another current solution has been the invention of the streaming service, Hallmark Movies Now. This service can be accessed on various devices and through different media outlets.

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Limited Recognition Toward Canadian Businesses

As I just mentioned, Hallmark’s channels are shown exclusively in the United States. This means that businesses based in the United States have an advantage when it comes to product placement and sponsorships. One of Hallmark’s sponsors has been the coffee company, Folgers. Even though this particular product is available in both the United States and Canada, the company is headquartered in Ohio and was founded in California. This makes Folgers a United States based business. It also provides more opportunities for Folgers to advertise with Hallmark. Canadian stores like Chapters/Indigo and services like Pizza Pizza haven’t had commercials featured on any of Hallmark’s channels or their products showcased in any of Hallmark’s programs, as of March 2020. Hallmark’s partnership with Canada seems to have overlooked Canadian businesses.

Painted Cup of Coffee with Natural Coffee Beans on a Chalkboard.
Coffee cup drawing image created by Valeria_aksakova at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Valeria_aksakova – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/painted-cup-of-coffee-with-natural-coffee-beans-on-a-chalkboard_1013935.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

There is no such thing as a perfect business. The decisions that any business makes are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Even when a business does make a good choice, it can sometimes lead to undesirable results. This is the case with Hallmark and their partnership with Canada. There have been positives that have come from this choice where both parties have benefited. Canada’s tax incentives have the power to fund the country’s economy and help Hallmark save money. But, after evaluating the pros and cons of Hallmark’s business decision, it appears somewhat one sided. So many of Hallmark’s programs are filmed in a variety of Canadian locations. Yet, Canadians are not able to watch most of the programs that are created in their home country. As I mentioned in this editorial, there are ways for Canadians to watch Hallmark’s movies and shows. However, they aren’t able to watch the newer productions from Hallmark, especially the mystery films from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. Hopefully, as time goes on, Hallmark will recognize Canada as more than just a pretty filming location.

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

 

Sources for this editorial:

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/2019/12/9008033/hallmark-christmas-movie-filming-locations

https://www.bccpa.ca/news-views-kb/browse-news-views-knowledge-base/taxation/taxation/articles/an-overview-of-film-and-television-tax-incentives-in-british-columbia/

https://www.quora.com/Whats-the-average-production-budget-for-the-typical-Made-For-TV-Hallmark-channel-type-movies

https://www.quora.com/How-much-does-it-cost-to-make-a-Lifetime-movie

https://www.heartiesfamilyreunion.com/

https://www.southernliving.com/news/hearties-family-reunion-2019

https://mydevotionalthoughts.net/2017/11/hearties-family-reunion-friday-interview-with-cast-members-of-when-calls-the-heart.html

https://www.michiganbusiness.org/industries/mfdmo/

https://www.superchannel.ca/HeartandHome

https://www.hallmarkdrama.com/about-hallmark-drama

https://www.hallmarkmoviesandmysteries.com/about-us

https://www.hallmarkchannel.com/about-us

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Channel_(Canadian_TV_channel)#List_of_channels

https://www.folgerscoffee.com/our-story/history

https://www.folgerscoffee.com/contact-us

https://www.folgers.ca/en/index#default

You can find Andrew’s, Pascale’s, Michael’s, and Ivan’s filmographies  by typing their names into IMDB’s search bar.

12 thoughts on “Hallmark and Canada: The Start of an International Friendship

  1. I want to thank you so much for quoting me in your editorial and as I was reading through, I agreed with many things you stated. But I was surprised that you didn’t mention the cooperative agreement Hallmark & the W Network have. This happened a couple years ago and was actually announced at the Hearties Convention. While there is no Hallmark Channel in Canada (which is not the sole fault of Hallmatk by the way…there is so much more involved in these decisions), almost all Hallmark shows & movies on all 3 networks are available in Canada. It’s been a very happy thing for my Canadian friends. And in the flip side, there are plenty of programs & movies that Canada sees that we have to wait years to see. So it happens on both sides of the border.

    Secondly, I fully understand what you’re saying about other countries and states being overlooked for filming. What I think we have to understand is that if it’s been at least since 2010 (I think they started before that but it may have been hit & miss), they have developed a relationship with the film industry. It’s easy for us not in the film industry to suggest that Hallmark go here or there because of the tax incentives. But we have to understand that when Hallmark goes to film in a new place, they may only be able to take their 2 lead actors and maybe the director. Everyone else might need to be local in order to get that incentive. If they have not established a relationship with that region, it can be tough. They may run into cast & crew members who don’t understand how Hallmark works. In Vancouver and now in Winnipeg & North Bay Canada, they understand how it works. They use the same crew & cast regularly. When Hallmark only has 3 weeks to film a project, who are they going to choose? The place where they have to teach everyone what is expected or the place where everything runs like a well-oiled machine? We can be grateful that Hallmark has been branching out a lot more in the past couple years. South Africa, Fiji, Mexico, Romania, and other places coming up that I know about but cannot mention. They planned to film a movie last year in WA state (my state) but the weather wasn’t right so they filmed in Florida. The tax incentives are constantly changing but Vancouver has been the one that has been the most constant.

    I really appreciate you highlighting the Canada America film partnership. I had the honor of witnessing the supportive Vancouver film industry firsthand when I attended a film screening in Vancouver last fall. There is something special about how supportive Vancouver is of film & TV productions. I’d always heard how great it was but to attend a sold-out screening & see the glittering array of talent I saw…amazing!

    Incidentally, interesting how your friends see you as the Hallmark Hallmark expert. I often get that too. But they actually think I work there because I know almost everyone & they know me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome and thanks for reading my editorial! I’ve never heard of the W Network, so their agreement with Hallmark is news to me. My editorial is meant to show the various ways that Hallmark’s decision has affected their programming, so I incorporated information that I’ve personally seen and heard. You brought up excellent point about filming locations that I was not aware of when writing this editorial. Like you said, Canada is familiar with the way Hallmark operates, so that becomes another factor in Hallmark’s decision. The point that I’m expressing in this article is that Hallmark’s partnership with Canada has been good, but there is more than can be done.

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      1. Thank you so much for posting this because you brought up such incredible points! I hope that more people come and comment because an editorial like yours is more fun when people comment! You honestly did a pretty great job!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You’re welcome! I agree, editorials are more fun when people share their perspectives! I submitted this article for a Canadian themed blogathon, so I’m pretty sure more people will see this.

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  2. Thanks so much for sharing all this fascinating research. It was interesting to look at the business aspect of this partnership, e.g. the tax laws. Like you said, the Hallmark movies have benefitted Canadian actors and crews, especially those in Vancouver. (I have a friend who studies acting in Vancouver, and she just got her head shots done – and one specific set of shots are geared to Hallmark casting directors.)

    Thanks also for joining the blogathon! I thoroughly enjoyed your essay. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome and thanks for allowing me to join the blogathon! Originally, I was thinking about reviewing a Hallmark movie that was filmed in Canada. But if I did that, I would be giving this topic a disservice. I hope your friend finds success in their acting endeavors!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A very thorough and extremely interesting article. Although the Hallmark channels do not air in Canada, the movies eventually do (sometimes within weeks of their original airing) on various Canadian channels such as W, Bravo, and others. And When Calls the Heart airs on CBC.

    It is a treat to see familiar Canadian actors on these programs, and those who will soon become familiar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading my editorial, Patricia! When I was writing this article, I was not aware of some of the other networks that also show Hallmark’s films. As I told Ruth, from My Devotional Thoughts, the information presented is based on what I’ve personally seen and heard.

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  4. The Flapper Dame

    I think When Calls the Heart is much better since DL left- and two Canadian actors got put on the show to be the co-leading men. I adore Pascale Hutton and am happy she’s now successful on the channel (and show) . It’s interesting Candace Cameron Bure and Lacey Chabert are some of the only reused American actresses on the channel !

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for checking out my editorial, Flapper Dame! I re-cap ‘When Calls the Heart’ and, so far, the writing has been pretty strong this season! You bring up an excellent point about Candace and Lacey. However, there are other popular American actresses who continually work with Hallmark. Jill Wagner is a great example. She has not only starred in several Hallmark movies, but, like Candace and Lacey, she is a co-lead in the ‘Mystery 101’ series.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re welcome, Virginie! I’m glad you found my editorial educational! If you’re interested in watching any of Hallmark’s films, you can check out the reviews on my blog, as I’ve reviewed several of their movies.

      Liked by 1 person

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