As you all know, the 2011 Washington State Legislature failed to take the necessary action to renew the motion picture competitiveness program. As a result many questions have been raised about the continuation of the program. On behalf of the Filmworks board and staff, I hope to clarify the status of the program with this communication and to outline our plans for renewing the program.
Over the years of its existence, Washington Filmworks has had two major functions. It serves as the Washington State’s film incentive program and it serves as the film office for Washington State. The legislature’s inaction means that the tax credit that that provided funds for the incentive terminated on June 30, 2011, it does not mean that the functions of the film office terminated on that date.
Status of Incentive Funds. As you may recall the law provided that each calendar year Washington Filmworks could collect up to $3.5 million in funds from donors who were then entitled to a B&O tax credit. The Filmworks board was able to collect this entire amount before the tax credit expired on June 30 of this year. This has enabled us to provide incentive funds for 11 projects in 2011, which has made for a very busy shooting season. Because of these previously approved productions, there is approximated $500,000 of uncommitted funds available for production incentives.
What this means is that we will continue to accept applications until we have committed all available incentive funds. The Board has decided not to provide funds for commercial production until the legislation is renewed. The focus is on our first priority which is motion picture production which generates the most employment opportunities for Washington workers.
Film Office Activities. Knowing that the renewal of the program was not certain, the board of Washington Filmworks developed a contingency plan that would allow the portion of the program that serves as the state’s film office to continue to function although on a limited basis through June 2012. After reviewing the budget, the board took action to reduce staff and all other expenses. We believe this budget will still allow for meaningful assistance to filmmakers who are interested in coming to Washington State.
Future of Incentive Program. Please be assured that we will pursue legislation in the 2012 legislative session that will re-instate the tax credit so that we can continue the incentive program. The board believes that the current filming activity – four feature films currently in production that are generating $8.5 million for our economy – is clear evidence that this program works.
You will recall that the extension of the program passed the Senate with a sizable margin but failed to pass the House in the waning hours of the 2011 legislative session. Although we believe the votes were there, discussions about tax credits and other issues prevented the bill from making it to the House floor for a vote.
A legislative committee headed by Filmworks board member Don Jensen is already beginning to discuss strategy and plans for the 2012 legislation session. Just last week, the Washington State Labor Council adopted a resolution supporting reinstatement of the incentive. With the current financial situation of the state budget, it will not be easy to renew this program. However, we are working to show its effectiveness and widespread support not only in the film community but in the general business community.
We welcome your ideas about these efforts and participation in them. Please contact Amy Lillard expressing your interest and your ideas.
In conclusion, please be assured that Washington Filmworks is still “open for business.” We are working with filmmakers currently in production and we are accepting applications for the use of the remaining incentive funds. And, most importantly, we will continue efforts to get this program renewed. It continues to be our ongoing interest and intent to be transparent and communicate on a regular basis with the film and production community. Should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let us know.