Florida Film Tax Credit Goes Away!

By Richard DeAgazio

Richard DeAgazio
Richard DeAgazio
Another battle by the US film industry has come to a close. Florida’s Film Tax Credit has been around since the program was created in 2004 has been allowed to sunset by the Florida Legislature. This incentive was created to provide rebates to approved films, TV shows and other projects to be made in Florida.

Historically it has been a success for the state. Following the blockbuster TV series Miami Vice, the Florida legislature recognized the collateral benefits for the state. Not only the economic benefit of the jobs created by the production, but more the public relations aspects that created a major boost for tourism.

As the 2016 Legislative session came to a close recently, the existing Entertainment Industry Financial Program was allowed to sunset after the Herculean efforts of the in state movie industry efforts failed to pass an extension or get a new bill. The industry has been working for four years to convince members of the legislature to support a program that has numerous benefits, including job creation, economic development, and proven increases to tourism.

The Florida’s Movie industry has worked tirelessly to convince legislators that this tax incentive should be continued. The same battle is going on in other states most notably Massachusetts. In both states, the industry has developed highly trained professionals who deserve to be supported by their elected representatives in their efforts to build a serious entertainment infrastructure.

In the last three years, more than $650 million in projects has been lost. These projects would have created over 110,000 hotel nights and an estimated $1.8 billion in economic impact for the State of Florida. Not to mention that the skyline, familiar venues and buildings appearing on TV and the big screen to showcase the state to entice tourists to come and visit.

Florida also is a center for education with more than thirty colleges and universities offering degree programs in media, filmmaking and other associated skills. It is estimated that over 5,000 students graduate each year with these industry degrees.

In the same vein, Massachusetts has similar statistics to back up their case. Over the past 10 years 99 major motion pictures have been produced in the Commonwealth.

The success of the Film Tax Credit in the past has created a skilled work force that will be hard pressed to utilize their craft and skills in other industries. That creates unemployment and other economic distress. Many will move to more fertile ground.

The effect of the mere discussion of Tax Credit incentive change has ensured that families and businesses will continue to face a worsening crisis in which jobs and projects will flow to competing states. Massachusetts industry participants and their partners will need to address what urgent measures must be taken to preserve the industry and create a dynamic, universal change in the approach moving forward.

Finally, the Massachusetts Film industry (and Florida) has not asked for excessive support but seeks to maintain a program that would allow it to continue to grow and continue to be recognized as a global hub for film, television and digital media production.

Richard DeAgazio is an industry professional on assignment for IMAGINE Magazine in Florida.

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Saving the Mass Film Tax Credit

First the good news: I am happy to report that my surgery early in March was a complete success! Cancer free and pathologies negative. It has been a long battle for me, but failing has never been an option in my mind. I still have radiation to go, but for now, I’m feeling great and have rolled up my sleeves to defend the Massachusetts Film Tax Credits against H62.

You may recall that IMAGINE Magazine introduced Film Tax Credits to New England in the early 2000’s and I wrote the first definitive piece on why we should pass film tax credits in 2004. As soon as that issue of IMAGNE hit the street, my office got a call from the Governor Romney’s office asking for twenty copies. That changed the nature of our struggle. The rest is history, we were able to introduce legislation, educate all the elected class and pass the Massachusetts Film Tax credits in 2005; and we made them better in 2006!

Since our inception in 1998, film tax credits and growing this industry has been our #1 mission. We have been defending them ever since. It’s a 24/7/365 responsibility, which is why IMAGINE has a full time Director of Government Relations. We need to know where our elected officials stand on our issues all the time.

We have always known that overnight our main attraction of major productions, both studio and independent, to bring their work to our state can be challenged. A recent case in point is Connecticut when in late June in 2013 the Connecticut’s Film Office awoke one morning to find the state’s tax credits for film had been suspended for two years!

Many people do not understand what tax credits are designed to do. What they are not designed to do is easier to understand. Tax Credits are not designed to put money directly into government coffers. Period. The end! Why is it always judged on that misconception?

Tax Credits, and particularly Film Tax Credits, are designed to pour money into an existing economy; money that would not otherwise be available with the purpose of, in our instance, of creating an industry, stimulating job creation and other desired results that hugely benefit the Commonwealth. For example the Commonwealth could not afford to buy the attention, awareness and attraction of the really special visitors to our state, including the productions themselves that create the industry of tourism. Countless new businesses have arrived. I wish we knew how much collectively they paid the state to do business here.

When a production buys, rents or hires everything it needs here, cast and crew, talent trailers, equipment of all kinds, lumber, paint, hardware, hotel rooms, catering, transportation, waste management (yes, waste management, it’s a big ticketed item), chiropractors and much more, too numerous to mention, the desired results are achieved. The point being that every dollar the production spends ends up being business or personal income that will be taxed by the Commonwealth. In addition much of that money will be re-spent here creating more taxes for the state, cities and towns. Ultimately, all those dollars end up in a federal, state, or municipal coffer.

Consider this: As a result, Massachusetts has many very famous new taxpayers.

The film R.I.P.D spent a boat load of money here. Whether or not the film was a success or failure at the box office has nothing to do with the success of Tax Credits. The production was on location in and around Boston for six months, sometimes with five or six crews shooting at once. R.I.P.D. spent more than any other production in the Commonwealth’s history; they also didn’t break anything, they didn’t pollute or use any social services. They paid for everything before they left. Everyone who worked on R.I.P.D., no matter where they are from, paid taxes in Massachusetts! That includes Ryan and Bridges.

There is no exact formula for calculating the worth of a film tax credit. But, we are getting pretty close to being able to do that. I take great exception to being judged by anyone who apparently doesn’t understand what a tax credit is designed to do, particularly those who use the glamour of our industry to write head turning headlines, especially when they have no appreciation of the thousands of names in the credits at the end of the film, the countless businesses that provided services, or just how hard and yes, unglamorous, it is to make a film.

In my estimation there is no doubt we can prove our worth.

The next edition of IMAGINE puts a spotlight on this issue and we’ve designed a special section dedicated to our industry’s success and our importance to the state and region. I believe I am writing another definitive piece – a big one.

If you have an industry related business that began in MA after the tax credits were incepted or you are an individual that moved to MA or moved back to MA to work in this industry because of the tax credits, please drop me a note – I’d like to include your experience in our special section.

We are also focusing on NAB and the Massachusetts high tech industry that exhibits at NAB in Las Vegas April 11th – 16th. We’ll be there with a gigantic bonus distribution and huge presence. And we have Film Festival Previews for you.

If you would like to advertise in this edition please contact me. Ad Copy deadline is Monday, March 30, 2015. Please book space now.

Our latest edition of IMAGINE – the one that includes our New England Production, Resource and Location Guide is online. It isn’t too late to be a part on our online guide. You can do that by going to http://b19.a70.myftpupload.com/production-guide/submit-your-listing/ and if you haven’t renewed your 2015 subscription to IMAGINE in print delivered to your home or office visit www.imaginenews.com/subscribe.

Oh, yes, Happy Spring, and please feel free to forward this message to an interested friend.

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IMAGINE Publisher Carol Patton Receives RIIFF’s Crystal Creative Vision Award

Carol Patton and Steven Feinberg
Carol Patton and Steven Feinberg

Rhode Island International Film Festival presented their 2014 Crystal Creative Vision Award on their Opening Night, August 5th at the Providence Performing Arts Center. The award was presented by Steven Feinberg, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Film and Television Office. The citation reads: “Celebrating the passion of creativity within the world of cinema, the Rhode Island International Film Festival recognizes Carol Patton for her outstanding and memorable contributions to the art of filmmaking.

Past recipients have included Blythe Danner, Michael Corrente and Jonathan Katz.

IMAGINE Magazine publisher Carol Patton founded IMAGINE in April 1998 for the sole purpose of growing and nurturing the Film and Television Production Industry in New England. She introduced Film Tax Credits in 2002 and wrote the definitive piece in 2004 after which, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut passed (in that order) Film Tax Credit legislation bringing since then nearly $4 billion dollars to the region in economic development from studio and major producer productions that would not have come here otherwise.

Now she says, “IMAGINE’s most important mission is to keep the industry dots connected, make sure the tax credits stay in place, and to promote the region, its tax credits, locations, talent, crew, and other amazing amenities and charms New England has to offer to the rest of the world. Without Film Tax Credits there would be no film production in the United States. There just isn’t a major film being made without them.”

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Mass Studios: A Promising Cog in Wheel of Worcester Economic Development

Mass Studios invitational tour with Carol Patton & Kristen Lucas
Publisher Carol Patton with Mass Studios Marketing Director Kristen Lucas at an invitational tour new studios in Worcester, MA slated to open later this spring. Photo by Dee Wells.

In Massachusetts the missing piece in the infrastructure puzzle has been large studio space and stages – a place to build sets and stay awhile. Everyone knows that’s what a TV series needs like oxygen and the absence of this infrastructure is what the Commonwealth has held accountable for the absence of TV series locating here. The last major scripted TV series was Robert Parker’s Spencer for Hire for Warner Bros. Television starring Robert Urich in the ‘80s.

The Mass Studios concept has been spearheaded by Barbara Guertin who moved to Worcester sixteen years ago as a result of falling in love while working on a production at the Foothills Theatre. She married, stayed and fell in love with her new home, but didn’t lose her industry contacts.

After producing a film in Worcester in the late ‘90s she was cognizant that large studio spaces were nonexistent. That experience prompted her to begin looking for just that.

Guertin found and seized upon the opportunity to sign a long-term agreement to lease the former home of the Pullman Co., which had manufactured the still famous Pullman Sleeping Cars and at the height of the industrial revolution trolleys and buses in Worcester.

Now she and her team are rehabilitating the old Pullman Plant into studio space for film companies shooting movies in Massachusetts. She believes, “This project will have a major impact on Worcester.”

Barbara Guertin has surrounded herself with versatile leadership for Mass Studios. Anton Nel serves as CEO, Brian Crane DOP, General Manager and LA Film Industry Consultant, Ed Madaus, Government and Community Relations, Kristen Lucas, Marketing Director, Dan Benoit AIA, Architectural Consultant, Dee Wells, Videographer/Photographer, Timothy Loew, Gaming Consultant and Molly Oliver as Production Associate.

As work crews bring 30 Pullman Street up to code, Barbara and her team invited a group of industry leaders for a tour and the prospects of her “Pullman Project” now properly known as Mass Studios. Clearly what you see is what you get in their first phase. The doors will be opening this spring to productions and events “au naturale.” No frills, in “as in” condition up to code, of course.

What you will get is 44,000 SF of space with a 65’ceiling, 45’ with lighting grid and a 100’ span. Two hundred parking spaces, with additional unlimited parking adjacent or easily accessible. An additional 80,000 SF of ancillary space for food trucks and trailers inside the Main Building, which is monstrously huge (think Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose Hanger where AVATAR was filmed). Two-story production space adjacent to the main sound stage. 20,000 SF sound proof soundstage in #10 and an additional 119,000 SF of space for Mill production, design and construction.

Mass Studios has acquired $1 million of lighting and grip equipment. The facility offers a commissary area that can hold up to 300 actors and crew. There are lobby and ticketing areas. Hair, makeup and wardrobe trailers can be attached at the bays.

Mass Studios CEO Anton Nel, Founder Barbara Guertin, Ed Madaus, Government and Community Relations and Kristen Lucas, Marketing Director assembled on a freezing February day in Worcester, MA for a studio tour given to industry leaders from Boston and Worcester. Photo by Dee Wells.
Mass Studios CEO Anton Nel, Founder Barbara Guertin, Ed Madaus, Government and Community Relations and Kristen Lucas, Marketing Director assembled on a freezing February day in Worcester, MA for a studio tour given to industry leaders from Boston and Worcester. Photo by Dee Wells.

And onsite services include casting, location scouting assistance, catering, trailers, HVAC and more. It isn’t state-of-the-art built from the ground up, but everything a production needs is portable, attachable or can be moved in. The best example of successful use of this style of studio property is the Spruce Goose Hanger in LA. I visited the set of AVATAR and was suitably impressed. It’s a different approach, but each production can have and get exactly what they want.

The facility tour was also attended by members of the Worcester community, noticeably excited about the prospects of this building being renovated were the management staff at Worcester’s DCU Center, which hosts major sports, entertainment, convention and conference events. But even they aren’t always big enough to host some requests and they were eyeing this rehabilitated property as a possible extension of what they have to offer their clients.

Mass Studios expects to embark on Phase II to be completed in late 2014. In the second phase, they will raise the roof, literally, another 15’ making their sound stage the second largest in the nation. And they plan to add another 90,000 SF of space for editing suites, conference rooms, a 5,000 SF restaurant serving three mills a day and nightlife! A full service conference and meeting center including business services, a motion capture studio – the largest and most technologically advanced studio on the east coast and four fully outfitted sound proof stages,10,000 to 20,000 SF each.

The Mass Studios team is currently forging alliances with educational institutions for internships and outreach programs and sees the studio as a center for learning for local colleges and high schools as well as foreign students wishing to learn the American secret to content creation. Yes, this interest has already been expressed.

Mass Studios is exercising a different approach to studio and set production than what most are accustomed to, but they exhibit an avid degree of confidence quoting the need for viable space, the Massachusetts’ lucrative and solid Film Tax Credit Program, the City of Worcester as a backdrop along with all the amenities it has to offer including a major airport, train service, inviting hotels and restaurants close at hand and the growing community of production related cast and crew members in the central region of the state.

The entire project is expected to cost $8 million. When completed, the Mass Studio complex will be only the second studio facility in Massachusetts, outside of Boston. For more information visit www.massstudios.com.

Carol Patton is the founder and publisher of IMAGINE Magazine. She introduced film tax credits to the region in early 2000s, writing the definitive piece in October of 2004. By the end of 2005 film tax credit legislation passed in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut in that order.

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Filming in Rhode Island

<h2>Finding Tax Incentives & Locations in the Smallest State with the Greatest Backlot</h2>

By Steven Feinberg

“Location! Location! Location!” The important magic words in a private conversation as to where a potential movie will be shot right after we’ve discussed the first question about what’s available for tax credit incentives.

The next questions that come up are often like these: “Do you have an abandoned high school where we can have zombies eating up people in the corridors?” “We need a small town train station we can control for a week because a loyal dog will be waiting for his master.” “Do you have any government buildings that can double as Washington, DC?” “Is there a boy scout camp anywhere?” “How about an idyllic lighthouse?”
RItheelmsFor over forty years, I’ve been making movies and whenever a conversation comes up about a movie searching for a home, it’s time to put on my “director’s cap” and try to anticipate the needs of the filmmaker by capturing photographs of the main locations or “anchor locations” which should best represent the production’s concept. For example, when Disney was looking for a home with UNDERDOG, the Rhode Island Film & TV Office spent a weekend taking approximately 250 photographs of the Rhode Island State House, downtown Providence, Hope High School, an affluent neighborhood in Cranston, and a lower income residential neighborhood in Providence, and photographs of the interior of the Cranston Street Armory and its vast marching hall, which ultimately housed the sets of the production. Ninety percent of those initial locations were used on the final film.
It comes down to the right aesthetic, along with the availability of the location and of course, is the price right?
Sometimes we only have a half day to find the spots. On other occasions, we may take days or a week to find locations which we hope will tickle the creative minds of the director and writer while also soothing the practical minds of the producer, line producer and production manager.

Confident that we’ve done our best, we send the images to the director and producer and creative team via email, or secure website and/or binders sent overnight, the creative team will typically come to the state for an on the ground visit. Because Rhode Island is only 48 miles long and 40 miles wide, we can cover lots of ground in a relatively short period of time. My office will typically be the first to contact the targeted location representative to discuss the potential opportunity and gauge their interest for making a movie on their premises.

As soon as there is major interest in the area, and the filmmakers are sparked to the idea of making their movie in Rhode Island, and mentally connect with the anchor locations they’ve seen so far, we often hand off the potential client (filmmaking team) to an experienced, local location scout who can dedicate their full-time energy on this one project, and provide additional locations and follow up with specific details regarding the production and required dates for filming.
When an owner of a location likes the idea of filming at his or her establishment, then comes the important negotiation. How long does the production company need the space? How much are they willing to pay? What are considerations required to ensure that the place will be returned to its previous condition or better?! These are things that are privately discussed, along with insurance policies and legal paperwork.
It’s essential that both filmmakers and owners protect their interests. Do not take this lightly! Accidents happen! Rules and regulations about a particular location should be made in writing! Anticipate worst-case scenarios so you each can protect yourselves. You don’t want any surprises. I cannot stress that enough. If there is a particular stone surface that could be damaged by a vehicle’s weight, etc, that area should be protected and both owner and filmmaker should be responsible to ensure that this is a positive experience. Remember: When you are making a movie, you don’t just represent your one production, but you represent the overall film community and if you screw up, you make the entire film world look bad. Be the best you can be and always strive to leave a positive footprint behind.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, please ask a professional location scout or call your local film office for advice. We’re here to help you!
Now beware the frenzied zombies stalking the corridors and go play among the marble pillars of the Newport mansions or the wondrous Woonsocket train station or Wes Anderson’s favorite campgrounds or even better…. simply discover your own, hidden, movie magic jewel and shine!

Steven Feinberg is the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Film Office, serving the Ocean State where he was born and raised and to where he returned after becoming a veteran filmmaker in LA. He fired up the film community and the legislature in 2004 to be the first New England State to offer significant Film Tax Credits.

All photos by Lew Place , courtesy of the Rhode Island Film Office.

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