Home Book trading Editorial: Exchanging money for screens | Editorial

Editorial: Exchanging money for screens | Editorial


While there isn’t the urgency of pressing issues like mental health care or public education, the Commonwealth’s approach to attracting film production deserves more attention from lawmakers – in taking into account strategic improvements in tax relief and other incentives.

Film production can be a real economic stimulus, generating expenditure and investment outside the state. It also creates good jobs, many of which are filled by locals. Movies or TV shows shot in a particular location can boost the lucrative tourism industry.

Virginia has had some recent film successes. The Hulu series “Dopesick,” based on the nonfiction book and starring Michael Keaton, was filmed largely in Richmond and Clifton Forge. Production started in December 2020 and continued into 2021. More than 150 people have been involved in the project, in all kinds of supporting jobs. Many of them were Virginians.

A few years earlier, all four seasons of the AMC Revolutionary War drama “Turn” were shot in the Commonwealth, primarily in the Richmond and Williamsburg areas. This series, on the Culper Ring, made good use of Virginia’s cultural assets, as scenes were filmed in locations such as Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, the historic campus of the College of William and Mary, and the plantations of Shirley and Scotchtown.

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In reality, the spy ring operated in Setauket on Long Island in New York. But Virginia was able to earn that production thanks to our scenic locations and some state incentives.

As part of the deal, AMC, a cable television network, aired more than 80 commercials promoting Virginia as a tourist destination.

The Commonwealth was also on the losing side. The 2017 Oscar-nominated film ‘Hidden Figures’, based on the non-fiction book, told the true story of three black women who worked as mathematicians at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton in the 1960s , preparing for astronaut John Glenn’s pioneering orbit around Earth. . The inspiring film depicts both women’s historic contributions and their struggles against racial segregation, even at work.

This one was not filmed in Hampton Roads, where the events happened. The film was made in Georgia, which offers much more generous tax incentives for such productions than Virginia.

This affront to Virginia prompted Pharrell Williams, the film’s co-producer, to raise the intriguing idea of ​​creating a film and sound campus here. Williams spoke aspirationally about what it could mean for her hometown of Virginia Beach and the greater Hampton Roads area, and made a video in 2018 that was widely shared in Richmond that argued the merits of investing in the film and television industries.

None of this is to say that Virginia should throw caution to the winds. The jury is still out on how much states actually get on their investments in tax breaks for filmmakers.

Virginia is one of 34 states offering film and television incentives. Attracting such productions is a very different game than building a new factory or a new distribution center here. If a filmmaker sees more benefits elsewhere, it’s fairly easy to move production to another state. Film and television companies can and do play one state against another.

The bidding war could spiral out of control. Even California has lost production to more generous states. Leading the pack is Georgia, which has no annual limit on movies and tax credits and gave away $1.2 billion last year.

But Virginia’s current $6.5 million cap on tax credits, supplemented by a grant program, is too far at the other extreme, far behind those of its neighbors. North Carolina, for example, has a cap of $31 million, and Maryland and Tennessee both offer more than Virginia.

Virginia’s cap on movie tax breaks expires this year. Lawmakers should find creative ways to make the incentives offered by the state more competitive with others in the region without being excessive. We need a smart approach, designed to attract more film productions here in a way that will truly benefit Virginia.

– Virginian-Pilot & Daily Press Editorial Board