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Filmmaking in Ohio: Good News

By Ron Rollins | Wednesday, January 28, 2009, 12:47 PM

This just in: Gov. Ted Strickland just announced in his State of the State address in Columbus that part of his plan to boost economic development and jobs in Ohio will be some sort of tax-incentive program for filmmakers. Among several other initiatives, he said, “We will create a Film Tax Credit designed to spur the growth of the film industry, bringing new jobs and creative energy to Ohio.”

In a speech that was full of major programs and potentially game-changing proposals in everything from education to health care, this is good news in an unusual package that might not be that familiar to most people.

Here’s the background: Most states, for several years, have had in place incentives that make it easier for out-of-state film companies to shoot pictures on location, creating real competition in the last few years for film production that brings with it a lot of decent-paying jobs for actors, producers and crew members.

The main success stories on this front have been New Mexico, Louisiana and North Carolina, where film and television work has been a boon to local economies, especially in Albuqurque, Shreveport and Wilmington. The incentive programs vary from state to state, but generally they take the form of a forgiveness of sales tax or a return on investment from the state of 10 to 25 percent — the producers spends $1 million, say, and the state rebates them $100,000. When film budgets are being hashed out, that’s a big deal.

Ohio is one of about 10 states that hasn’t gotten in on this, and so has been out of the running — until now, apparently. The issue of filmmaking tax incentives has been discussed for a years, but moved to the front burner in Columbus in 2008, as the Cleveland Film Commission pushed heavily for a program in the hopes of luring a large-budget film starring Matt Damon whose producers wanted to shoot in that city, but ended up going to Michigan, which instituted tax breaks recently and got the movie instead.

The Cleveland group prodded legislators, along with help from FilmDayton, which sent representatives to lobby and speak on the subject last December (most notably, local film producer Karri O’Reilly, an expert on the subject). The Ohio legislature passed a bill approving film incentives right before year’s end. Strickland vetoed it over concerns he had with the structure of the bill, but now he seems on board.

If this works out right, incentives would open the door for Ohio to aggressively promote itself as a location for all kinds of film work. We have a lot to offer, too: urban and rural settings, rivers, coastline, forests, four seasons, empty factories that could serve as backdrops or sound stages — and a surprising number of talented film makers and crew who already live here and are ready to work.

A lot of them live right in the Dayton area, and have been working with FilmDayton to promote and encourage film culture and the idea of using filmmaking as a way to stimulate our sagging economy.

It’s a new group, not quite a year old — an outgrowth of the DaytonCREATE initiative that is trying to build activities that appeal to the young, professional “creative class” as a way to bring in new business and industry. Make an area more attractive to artists, engineers, filmmakers, immigrants and other so-called “bohemians,” the thinking goes, and you make your area more lively and attractive for development. What would Austin be, for instance, without its great, booming live-music scene? Just another Texas town.

FilmDayton imagines a future in which small and medium-sized producers, working closely with the great film program at Wright State University, travel regularly to our region to take advantage of our locations, talent and welcoming environment. We see cameras rolling and dollars flowing. As unlikely as it may sound, it’s possible with hard, concentrated work.

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One Response to “Filmmaking in Ohio: Good News”

  1. sarah says:

    Good day everyone. I think this is a fantastic idea. I am currently 17, about a week away from becoming a senior in high school. Being at that age, the whole “college majors and career options” subject is brought up a lot. I know I have time, but I feel like I need to start narrowing down my options. I am undecided. Everyone is always telling me to do what I love, not just because of the money, but the thing is, I’m afraid I can’t do what I love. Movies and film have always been towards the top of my favorites list. A career in film would be a dream come true. However, I highly doubt that a middle-class kid from a small town in Ohio has the chance to do that without becoming a starving artist, so to speak. Everyone agrees with that idea, too. It seems that you have to live in California, New York, or even Florida to make it in film. Anywhere else, well you’re screwed. This new tax credit plan seems fantastic for generations past me. I do not believe that Ohio will advance that much in the film industry before I am at the point where I need to decide on a career for sure. Still, I hope this idea works out, and sends a little bit more hope to everyone else out there like me. Thanks for your time, and I’m sorry if this just seemed like a sob story, because I really wasn’t trying to make it one.