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The Film Wisconsin Clean-Up Bill

By - Mar 6th, 2008 02:52 pm
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As Major Film Project Announces $20 Million Investment in Wisconsin, New Bill Circulates to Speed Development of the Industry

Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton announced today that Senator Jeff Plale and Representative Pat Strachota circulated a bill to improve Wisconsin’s Film Production Tax Credit Services Program for co-sponsorship, and she asked the legislature to move it through the process with all due speed.

“Today, Governor Doyle announced that NBC Universal will bring Johnny Depp, Christian Bale and Michael Mann – not to mention $20 million – to Wisconsin,” Lawton said. “I see this as the lead edge of the economic development and jobs coming in response to our film incentives. This bill will improve our potential to capture more film industry jobs for Wisconsin, and I urge the legislature to move it forward to solidify Wisconsin’s competitive position nationally.”

The bipartisan bill would allow film production companies to transfer unused, nonrefundable credits to other taxpayers, such as other film production companies. It would also phase in residency requirements for eligibility of film production employees for tax credits as the talent infrastructure needed for productions fully develops in our state.

Currently, Wisconsin’s incentives are a hybrid of refundable and non-refundable, nontransferable tax credits. States experiencing the greatest success in the industry enhance the value of their credits by making non-refundable credits transferable. The language of the bill allows for limited transfers and includes important safeguards to prevent fraud in transfers. Administration of the program will be funded by a fee paid by both parties in the transaction to the Departments of Revenue and Commerce. The bill’s chief sponsors are State Senator Jeff Plale (D-Milwaukee) and Representative Pat Strachota (R-West Bend).

HOW YOU CAN HELP

A hearing has been scheduled for AB 907 before the Assembly Committee for Jobs and the Economy. Please take a moment to complete the following action items by no later than Thursday, March 6, 10 am. The Legislature will adjourn sometime in the next two weeks and they will not reconvene for this type of work until 2009.

Contact Assembly Speaker Michael Huebsch (R-West Salem) at: Rep.Huebsch@legis.wisconsin.gov. Ask Speaker Huebsch to support AB 907 and to schedule a floor vote this session, when it is voted out of committee.

Register your support with the members of the Assembly Committee for Jobs and the Economy and thank Representative Patricia Strachota, the Committee’s Chairperson, for holding the hearing.

Tell your legislator(s) why this bill is important to you as a member of the creative industries or to your business. Here are some talking points:

The purpose of these incentives has always been to grow the film industry in Wisconsin. The incentives have already increased the film industry activity here and therefore the opportunity for existing Wisconsin businesses and the small, talented Wisconsin film industry workforce. Already at work on the new film Public Enemies are Wisconsin Set Designers, Location Managers, Art Department construction crew members, Art Department coordinators and Location Scouts. New films including Dust and The Violinist are in pre-production or in the process of scouting locations. New studio facilities and sound record facilities are either completed or in progress. Major studios and television networks continue to scout Wisconsin using Wisconsin scouts.

Wisconsin businesses and workers have already been recommended to projects that have come from outside of the state. They have also been featured on high profile panels to discuss the incentives, the industry and its growth. Leading Line Producers in Wisconsin are currently using Film Wisconsin as a resource to put Wisconsin crew members to work on productions ranging from commercials, to television and feature films. Wisconsin companies have been doing panel discussions and networking with both in and out of state producers at such venues as the Milwaukee International Film Festival and Beloit International Film Festival.

As we expand the industry, we must also expand the infrastructure to service the industry. New businesses will open and creative class individuals will move to the state. Until we grow our own talent we will need assistance from our colleagues in Illinois, Minnesota, etc. The average production needs 80-120 qualified crew members, a number that Wisconsin alone at present can not supply at present.

The movement to expand the current worker tax credit to include those from outside of the state has been undertaken for two reasons: first, so that we may service the increased demand. If we are unable to service these productions in a seamless and professional way, they will choose shoot elsewhere. Second, if out of state crew members are not counted, producers will not view our incentives as competitive.

The proposed change to the incentives has a sunset provision. In five years, a suitable-sized workforce will be in place and the inclusion of out-of-state workers will no longer be necessary.

Film Wisconsin has always been about both small, home grown, independent films as well as Hollywood blockbusters. There is a difference in scale of support needed for different sized productions. Film Wisconsin, in collaboration with Marcus Theaters also made it possible for Wisconsin independent filmmakers to have access to over 600 screens for exhibition.

Those interested in protecting the small amount of work in Wisconsin for just a select few to benefit are working at cross purposes with both those who want more opportunity to work, and with the state that wants more economic activity. They also risk destroying their own opportunities to work in our neighboring states and our own.

This bulletin came to us from our friends at Arts Wisconsin. Visit their site for more information about arts advocacy in the state or how you can become involved.

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