Missouri lawmakers are debating whether the amount of money that comes into the state when movies and TV shows are filmed here is enough to merit giving producers a tax break in return.
Cape Girardeau representative Kathy Swan (R) says it is. She’s proposing in House Bill 923 that the tax credit for production of film projects in Missouri be reinstated. It was eliminated in November, 2013.
Swan’s district is where the major motion picture Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck, was filmed in 2013. She says one need look no further than how that benefited her region to see these credits are worthwhile.
“With a $7.9-million boost to the regional economy of Cape Girardeau … the state redeemed $2.3-million in tax credits, generating a net of $4.7-million in economic activity in the State of Missouri,” Swan said. “116 Missouri crew members were hired, 1,400 local extras, 7,000 hotel room nights paid for and secured, cars rented, set supplies, office supplies were all purchased from local businesses, and food was catered for workers. In addition, university students had the opportunity to apprentice alongside professionals.”
Swan said since the film tax credits were allowed to expire the state has missed out on more than 10 projects that could’ve carried more than $150-million of economic impact. That includes projects that are set in Missouri, such as the Netflix series Ozark, starring Jason Bateman.
That series, a dark drama about drug money laundering that has been renewed for a third season, is set around the Lake of the Ozarks, yet is mostly shot in Georgia.
That frustrates Lake Ozark Republican Rocky Miller.
“The Ozarks happen to be in Missouri … they are not in Georgia,” said Miller. “The beautiful Lake of the Ozarks doesn’t have a whole lot of pine trees, nor a muddy bottom, nor a lack of fun stuff that goes on in the Ozarks, and I know for a fact that if it were not for the lack of this film credit we would have greater exposure for the actual, beautiful, bluff-laden Lake of the Ozarks rather than the pine tree surrounded lake from somewhere in Georgia.”
Miller said for a series like Ozark to have filmed at a site already so popular with tourists such as the Lake of the Ozarks would have brought tourism dollars to Missouri for years to come, exceeding the $150-million impact Swan referenced.
Not everyone is sold on the proposal. St. Louis Republican Jim Murphy said to vote for this bill would be a “vote for shiny objects.”
“What we’re talking about here is spending $45-million over the next ten years, or $4.5-million next year for a shiny object – to bring in a [transient] film crew to film a film just to make us feel good,” said Murphy. “Would that $4.5-million be better spent bringing a factory here that year after year will employ Missourians? That’s what tax credits are for. Not for shiny objects.”
Amendments to the bill would require applicants for the film tax credit to disclose any political contributions in excess of $25 made to a Missouri candidate or party; allow municipalities where a project is being filmed to offer a local one-percent tax credit that would trigger a greater tax credit from the state; and require a film receiving the credit to include a logo and statement in its credits indicating it was shot in Missouri.
Another favorable vote would send Swan’s proposal to the Senate.