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Film commission services


By Susan Johnston
Below the Line recently conducted an informal survey among state film commissioners, asking them the question, “Why is it more cost effective to film in your state?” Here are the responses.
California-One main attraction: the Commission’s State Theatrical Arts Resources (STAR) partnership that puts surplus state-owned assets to work for motion picture production companies filming in California. The STAR partnership makes state properties such as health facilities and vacant office structures available to filmmakers at no charge or at a nominal fee.
Iowa-Local communities are savvy to the needs of efficient production. This, plus a low cost of living, makes it possible to get services, crew, cast and equipment quickly and inexpensively.
Kansas-Kansas is a right-to-work state. Communities gather resources to offer price breaks or in-kind services.
Kentucky-Eligible projects are entitled to recover the 6% Kentucky sales and use tax paid by the production company for expenditures made in connection with the project.
Missouri-Cost-effective because the state offers a film tax credit for up to 50% of Missouri expenditures, capped at $500,000. The production must spend at least $300,000 in Missouri to qualify. Diverse locations and a strong crew base.
Montana-A state of dramatic proportions, sweeping vistas, jagged snow covered peaks, quaint Norman Rockwell towns, western sets and city skylines—plus no sales tax and an experienced crew base.
New Mexico- A 15% tax credit on taxable expenditures in New Mexico (i.e. wages, equipment, lodging, travel, insurance, etc). To receive this credit, companies register with the New Mexico Film Office and then apply to the Taxation and Revenue Department prior to filing a tax return. If approved, the company then files a tax return to receive the credit. The Film Workforce Training Program provides a 50% wage reimbursement to film and multimedia production companies who offer on-the-job training to qualified New Mexico trainees.
Oregon-No sales tax. Lodging taxes are waived for rooms held longer than 30 days. Permit fees are waived at over 200 state parks and many state and municipal buildings. Many Oregon towns do not charge permitting or location fees. Portland offers rebates of parking fees. Oregon offers a soft light that DP’s love, and a long magic hour, allowing the squeezing of a lot of production value into each shooting day.
Pennsyvania-Feature film productions are not subject to sales tax at the point of retail sale or use by a producer of a feature-length motion picture distributed to a national audience. The exemption is not a rebate; it begins at the time of purchase. Free use of state-owned properties.
South Carolina-location diversity, short distances to locations, little travel time.
South Dakota-Varied locations. Relationship with Montana, Wyoming and Idaho for sharing resources.
Texas-Though Texas offers up-front sales tax exemptions to filmmakers regardless of budget, the big savings come from using the state’s experienced, professional crew, talent and support services. Locally hired workforce, hotel stays and per diem payments are tremendously reduced. Texas is filmed for other settings, including Africa, the American Midwest, South America and Afghanistan.
Washington-City property, services and vehicles rented for production are tax free. Ability to work on both sides of the border when using Washington crew base. DPs love the light created by mist in clear summer skies.
Susan Johnston is former Rhode Island Film Office Coordinator and Providence Film Commission Associate.

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