Bills propose to increase tax breaks for movie shoots

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Film recruiters in Virginia say there are lights and cameras, but not enough action. They say the state is losing out on millions of dollars of revenue and jobs because it does offer enough tax breaks to attract production companies to shoot movies here. Now two state legislators and the Governor are taking steps to change that.

When a production company shoots a film on location, it can spend millions of dollars at local businesses and hiring local workers. The "John Adams" HBO series spent $80 million in Virginia. That means revenue, explains Daniel Oakley, representing the Virginia Production Alliance, "for the local restaurants, the dry cleaners, the hotels, the rental car companies, and that's before you get to the carpenters, the electricians, and the other support services."

The Virginia Film Office and the Virginia Production Alliance say Virginia has been losing productions to states offering much higher tax breaks, citing films such as "Secretariat," about a Virginia horse that was filmed in Louisiana and Kentucky, and "The Box," starring Cameron Diaz, a story set in Richmond, shot in Boston. Said Oakley, "They replicated a Ukrops store, Main Street Station, and a two block segment of Monument Avenue to look like Richmond. You'll look at the movie, you'll see Richmond. But it's not, it's Boston."

Now two companion bills have been proposed in the General Assembly to increase tax credits for films, up to $10 million over two years. Said Delegate Ben Cline of Amherst regarding his bill, "It would provide them with a credit depending on how long they shoot and how much money they spend and how many people they hire locally."

But can the cash-strapped state afford to give up tax revenue? Cline says it's worth it. "You get a return of $14 for every $1 the state invests in the credit. Tourism in general returns about $5 for every $1 we spend on tourism. So you're getting a really big bang for your buck."

Governor McDonnell has also proposed giving $2 million to the state's Motion Picture Opportunity Fund. Explains Rita McClenney with the Virginia Film Office, "The Motion Picture Opportunity Fund is a cash performance based rebate and the award is based on spending in Virginia, hiring Virginians. A portion of what producers spend in Virginia is rebated back."

They hope these incentives will help land some films currently considering shooting in Virginia, such as Steven Spielberg's movie "Lincoln," a film called "1776," and "Lafayette," the story of the Marquis de Lafayette.

(c) 2010. WWBT, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.