Deschambault bill promotes economic development through filmmaking

Posted: May 08, 2017 | Senator Deschambault

Legislation by Sen. Susan Deschambault, D-Biddeford, would promote economic development by encouraging filmmaking in Maine.

The bill — LD 1450, “An Act To Promote Workforce Development and Provide an Economic Stimulus for Maine-based Filmmakers and Supporting Businesses” — enhances and strengthens the visual media production certification process, reimbursement and credit for movies made in Maine.

The bill specifies that a visual media production expense must be for preproduction, production and postproduction work performed in Maine. It also increases the cap on wages that can be included as a visual media production expense to $75,000 per individual; increases the reimbursement rates for production and wage costs to 25 percent (making Maine more competitive with other states’ reimbursement rates); repeals the certified visual media production tax credit and caps reimbursement of expenses at $750,000; and specifies that a person claiming the Pine Tree Development Zone tax credit is not eligible to get the visual media production reimbursement.

“Last year I met filmmakers who had just finished shooting a movie in the Biddeford area. One of the filmmakers loved being here so much that he’s now living and raising his family here,” said Sen. Deschambault. “Work on the movie gave carpenters, electricians and other workers from the area new work that they’d never done before — work they want to do again.”

The film, Holly Star, was filmed in the Biddeford area in 2016. One of the film’s producers, Erik Van Wyck, spoke in favor of the bill.

“A film reimbursement program is no different than subsidizing any other business through corporate tax incentives,” said Van Wyck. “At the moment, Maine’s incentive program is one of the least competitive in the country. This bill would make Maine more competitive as a filming location.”

Maine has lost out on having a number of films that could have been shot in-state recently, including:

  • Tenure: which would have cost $800,000 more to shoot in Maine than Pennsylvania;
  • Gale: which was shot in Rhode Island because of its more-substantial incentive program;
  • Evening: which was also shot in Rhode Island because of its more-substantial incentive program;
  • The Mist: while set in Maine, by author Stephen King, was shot in Louisiana due its more-substantial incentive program;
  • Tumbledown: while set in Maine, was shot in Massachusetts;
  • And Charlotte’s Web: while the creative team wanted to shoot in Maine, it was filmed in Australia and Pennsylvania, due to their more-substantial incentive programs.

The bill is modeled after a successful filming incentive program in New Mexico. Due to this program, between 2010 and 2014, movie productions created between 2,500 and 4,000 above-average wage jobs of which about 74 percent went to New Mexico residents. The productions together also spent $514 million procuring local goods and services.

Biddeford’s Economic Development Director Daniel Stevenson also spoke in favor of the bill.

“Important considerations for communities in long term, sustainable growth is attracting investment that contributes to a diversified tax base, expands and retains existing businesses and increases job growth and payroll in the economy,” said Stevenson. “This bill would help Maine reach these important goals.”

LD 1450 faces further action in the Taxation Committee and votes in the House and the Senate.