What’s the latest from Salem and Olympia?
In Washington State, Senate Bill 6027 (SB 6027) aims to increase the funding for the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program. The bill was introduced in the Washington State Senate on February 17, and was subsequently referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where it remains.
On April 29, it was reported that Washington State is in for at least one 30-day special legislative session, where the House and Senate leadership will negotiate the final budget. According to Washington Filmworks, which oversees the state’s film production incentive program, SB 6027 will “likely remain in the Senate Ways and Means Committee until the major components of the budget have been negotiated (education funding, revenue, etc).”
With a cap of $3.5 million per year, Washington currently has the fifth smallest incentive program in the country. SB 6027 would double the size of the production incentive program over the next two years to $7 million and increase the fund incrementally each year until it reaches $10 million in 2019. The sunset date for the program would also be extended to 2022.
In 2015, the $3.5-million cap was met by mid-April. Washington Filmworks announced that it had approved funding for season two of Z Nation, which began filming this spring, and a feature from director Todd Rohal (The Catechism Cataclysm) called Sweet Cheeks, which will begin filming in June. Filmworks also awarded a portion of the funding to two Innovation Lab recipients, and is holding another portion in reserve to accommodate commercials for the Commercialize Seattle program.
“These commitments exhaust the 2015 fund, less than two months after opening the application window,” said Washington Filmworks Board Chair Don Jensen. “As the Board considered the applications, there were an additional four projects that were interested in filming in Washington State over the summer months. These projects would have generated an estimated $66 million of economic impact in our state, and it is maddening that we had to tell them not to apply.”
Currently, Washington Filmworks is working on getting the adaptation of the best-selling book Boys in the Boat to film in the state. Filmworks’ executive director Amy Lillard, along with several film-friendly senators, recently joined author Daniel James Brown for a book signing event in Olympia. Brown not only discussed his book—which tells the story of the University of Washington crew team and their path to gold—but also his thoughts on the importance of filming the upcoming motion picture at the University of Washington and in Seattle.
Filmworks is quick to point out that without the passage of SB 6027, Washington will “miss the boat” and the film, which is being produced by The Weinstein Company, will likely film in Vancouver, BC, instead.
A planned lobbying meeting at the capitol on May 27 was postponed, but Filmworks urges all members of the film production community to continue to reach out to key legislators—including Speaker of the House Frank Chopp, Rep. Pat Sullivan, Rep. Eric Pettigrew, and Rep. Larry Springer—in this final push before the budget is set.
By Mary Erickson Oregon Editor
The Oregon State Legislature is currently reviewing three bills to increase economic support of the film and media industry in the state.
Senate Bill 872 proposes raising the amount of maximum total tax credits from $10 million to $14 million. It increases the limit on reimbursements for local film and media production companies, and limits the reimbursement amount for non-local filmmakers.
A public hearing was held on April 1, with speakers coming from various corners of the state to submit statements in support of SB 872. Testimonies came from Portland Mayor Charlie Hales, the Oregon Film Office, Southern Oregon Film and Media, the City of Eugene, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce, as well as representatives from various production and post-production houses in the state.
The Senate Committee on Business and Transportation recommended the bill for approval on April 20, with committee members voting 4-1 in favor of the bill (Sen. Fred Girod voted against the bill). The bill is currently being reviewed by the Senate Joint Committee on Tax Credit.
House Bill 2072 requests an increase to the program tax credit cap, from $10 million to $20 million. It also proposes a reappropriation of the funds, shifting reserve funds for i-OPIF from 5 to 7.5 percent and creating a reserve of funds for projects outside the Portland Metro area. The bill includes a provision to establish a task force on Oregon film and media production, as well as a few other minor policy changes and clarifications. The bill would take effect in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
The main thrust of House Bill 2898 extends the sunset date of the tax incentive program from January 2018 to January 2024. As Nathaniel Applefield, Interim Executive Director of OMPA, notes, “As we get closer to 2018, TV production companies are getting worried. They can film Season 1 here, but what about Seasons 2 and 3?” The extended sunset will reassure productions that they can be rooted in Oregon for a longer duration. This bill also increases the amount of reimbursement allowed to a local filmmaker or production company from $1 million to $2 million. The bill would take effect in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.
A public hearing for the two House bills was held on April 27, with numerous stakeholders submitting statements in support of the bills. These included Tim Williams of the Oregon Film Office, Lana Veenker of Cast Iron Studios, Gretchen Miller of HIVE-FX, Jose Behar of Electric Entertainment, and others.
Both House Bills 2072 and 2898 are currently awaiting action in the House Committee on Revenue.
For more information, visit www.oregonfilm.org.