Louisiana Tax Incentives at Risk?

Louisiana Tax Incentives at Risk?

from: Briana Rodriguez, Backstage.com

Hollywood South might be losing some of its luster. Louisiana lawmakers are considering pulling back on the state’s tax credit incentives that have encouraged television shows like “True Detective,” “The Walking Dead,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” and “American Horror Story: Freak Show,” and Oscar-winning movies “Dallas Buyers Club,” “12 Years a Slave,” and “Django Unchained” to film everywhere from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.

They’re concerned because of the minimal income that is directly generated from the film industry when compared to how much is given to moviemakers in tax breaks. But president of the Louisiana Film Entertainment Association Will French outlined the benefits of the program at the Baton Rouge Press Club Feb. 23, highlighting the potential of economic diversification; the possibility of further growth for the in-state industry, capturing Los Angeles’ runaway production; and increasing the number of people who return or stay in-state, as well as those who visit. He argued the film industry inadvertently brings in tourism dollars, an overlooked benefit of the program.

“You get 14.5 percent of pleasure tourists to Louisiana over the last two years who were visiting because of what they’d seen in film or TV,” he said, quoting numbers from a Louisiana Film Entertainment Association–sponsored survey completed by the New Orleans–based Federated Sample.

Oft-visited Louisiana sites made famous by films include the Nolan House, featured in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” starring Brad Pitt; the Steel Magnolia House, the bed and breakfast where much of the 1989 film starring Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Daryl Hannah, and Olympia Dukakis was shot; the now-closed Kermit’s Treme Speakeasy, featured on the TV series “Treme”; and others.

Currently, Louisiana’s Motion Picture Investor Tax Credit gives productions one of the best deals in the country: a 30 percent break on in-state spending with a minimum spending requirement of $300,000 and no cap, which directly competes with New York’s 30 percent. Productions using Louisiana’s local talent to staff their films receive an additional 5 percent payroll tax credit.

California, where film production is no longer the No. 1 business, only offers between 20 and 25 percent. Other Southern states like Georgia offer 20 percent (with an additional 10 percent if films include a made-in-Georgia logo), while Alabama offers 25 percent. Thirty-nine states and Puerto Rico had incentives on the books for 2014.

According to French, Film Production Capital is currently investigating how many people work in the film and TV industries in Louisiana to determine how much payroll revenue the state would lose should the credits be trimmed.

Another state considering tax break reform is Montana, where “Nebraska,” starring Oscar nominee Bruce Dern, was filmed.

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