State film tax credits on the chopping block

Tax incentives are often the saving grace of film productions. If a local film board gives you incentive to film your upcoming production on-site, you’d be silly not to at least consider its possible budget alleviation. That’s why House of Cards films many of its scenes in Baltimore. It brings commerce and attention to states and helps filmmakers stay afloat, but many argue that like the Olympics, these productions cost more in goodwill and hassle than they bring in.

Perhaps those criticisms have become the consensus, as multiple states are now considering cutting their film credits. MinnPost reports that Minnesota legislators are now considering rescinding the state’s $10 million film incentives. The state has apparently struggled with its budget in recent years, and with competing incentives from Canada attracting productions like Fargo, lawmakers don’t easily notice the return investment of luring film crews. (Minnesota’s film board says $4.6 million of credits brought nearly $30 million into the state.)

A similar conflict is underway in Massachusetts, where Governor Charlie Baker wants to put those credits into income tax rebates rather than supporting out-of-state businesses. As with Minnesota, this is a difficult argument to suss out, as the impacts of film production (positive or negative) are challenging to determine.

The shuttering of some local credits may not have a noticeable impact on the quality of films and television shows; those will still get made somewhere. But California and New York’s unquestioned dominance of the production industry would have a negative ripple effect throughout the business. Local film board and production houses would struggle to stay afloat, and we’d have to get used to seeing more palm trees and New York skylines in all of our media.

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