Ken Ferguson points into his empty Boeing 747, a grounded passenger jet that provided the scenes for several scary Hollywood productions. But not any more. 'We have a pretty empty slate staring at us in January,' said the president of Toronto Film Studios. For many years, Hollywood directors such as Steven Spielberg, looking to save money on productions, were drawn to Canada not only by generous labour tax credits, but also by a Canadian dollar that was weaker than the greenback. That is changing dramatically. The British Columbia film industry reports that shooting days in August have fallen by 25 per cent year on year, mostly due to falling demand from the United States. The fast-rising Canadian currency - nicknamed 'loonie' for the loon on one side of the one-dollar coin - is hurting the country's C$1.4 billion ($9 billion) film industry. To protect his business, Mr Ferguson now offers a fixed exchange rate for his US customers at 78 US cents for one Canadian dollar - a 6 per cent discount based on yesterday's rate of 83 US cents. The loonie has been cruising above the 83 US cent mark for two weeks in a row, on a 12-year high. Driven by a deteriorating greenback, a ballooning trade surplus on the back of accelerating demand for commodities and by a federal budget surplus, the Canadian unit has climbed 9 per cent in the past three months and 15 per cent since June - making it the best performer among the world's 16 major currencies. While Canadian consumers are enjoying their spending power when they travel south of the border to the US, Canadian companies - especially those from the manufacturing sector - are starting to complain bitterly about the damaging effects of the sizzling loonie, especially since Canada sells 82 per cent of its exports to the US. In a report to the Council of Forest Industries, PricewaterhouseCoopers calculates that Canada's forest and paper industries are losing C$150 million for every one-cent gain against the greenback. The loonie's five-cent gain in the past 30 days alone has sliced C$750 million from this industry. The same applies for Canada's high-technology community. 'Prudent people have to begin to plan dramatically for changes in their business practices that will give them higher productivity,' says George Hunter, president of the British Columbia Technology Industry Association. One of those who have already started to get creative is John Rose, president of Nuheat Industries, a maker of blankets for heating tile floors. The company from Delta, British Columbia, sells 75 per cent of its production to the US and has doubled its sales in the past three years to more than C$20 million. To hedge his business, Mr Rose has hired a US sales force and buys most of his raw materials and components in the US. 'Most manufactured exports now have an import content of 40 per cent or more, creating a kind of natural hedge,' says Conference Board of Canada chief economist Glen Hodgson. That may buffer some of the negative effects of the rising loonie. But more and more Canadian companies are feeling the pressure. Ron Richardson, executive editor at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, expects cheap Chinese exports to increasingly challenge Canadian products in the US market. 'We wouldn't be surprised to see considerable auto investment in China from Canada in the next three to six years, for exports back to North America, for better competition in the US against Chinese competitors,' Mr Richardson said. Canada's service industry is also feeling the pressure. For instance, the Victoria Regent Hotel in Vancouver saw the number of American guests - which make up 60 per cent of its business in the peak season - dropping by 10 per cent in the year to last month, according to general manager Earl Wilde. As the pre-Christmas season gets underway, the domestic hospitality industry is worried. 'We've seen fewer licence plates from across the border than we'd like to see,' said Crown Plaza Hotel Georgia general manager Smith Munro. Surprisingly, the loonie's strength has not triggered a flood of Canadian shoppers travelling south to the US. The flow of shoppers to Washington from British Columbia is still at a mere 25 per cent of what it was before the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. This is partly because many US retail chains have since opened outlets in Canada. Also, many Canadians see tighter border security as a hassle not worth enduring.