A proposed bill may bring more filmmakers to Arizona, potentially creating jobs and opportunities for students in the state.
House Bill 2127 aims to reinstate Arizona’s motion picture tax-credit program, which expired two years ago. If passed, the program would be in place for 20 years. The bill would allow for an income-tax credit equal to 20 percent of a production company’s costs that exceed $250,000. The tax credit’s limit would be set at $15 million for any given production, and set a $70 million ceiling for the amount of total credits awarded in a year.
It also includes an incentive for the construction of sound stages, which is said to be critical for attracting people to the industry. The incentive would bump the tax credit to 25 percent if a company films at least half of its production in a facility that cost at least $50 million to build.
Supporters of the bill say the program will definitely attract film productions to Arizona.
“We have been losing projects that were interested in filming here to New Mexico, California and Utah — all of which provide incentives,” said Shelli Hall, director of the Tucson Film Office.
Hall said Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained” and “The Lone Ranger,” starring Johnny Depp, both had the chance to be filmed in Tucson.
The bill, she said, could provide hundreds of jobs for college students as well as Arizona residents. Students would receive on-the-job training while interning on location with professionals, she said, and upon graduation, these same students would not necessarily have to leave Arizona for California or New York to find “viable work” in the industry.
Hotels, restaurants, flower shops, hardware stores, furniture stores and clothing stores could also benefit from film production in the state, she said.
Lisanne Skyler, an assistant professor in the School of Theatre, Film and Television, said she hopes the bill will pass.
“On my own projects, my producers will only let me consider shooting in states with incentives,” Skyler added. “It is that critical to a production to have these tax savings, particularly in the current economy and the lower budgets many films are being made for these days.”
Marshall Vest, director of the economic and business research center, said his research suggests that the bill in itself is a bad idea.
“The analysis that was done a couple of years ago showed that these tax breaks for film makers really didn’t pay for itself and that’s why these tax breaks went away,” Vest said.
But Sen. John Nelson, the bill’s sponsor and a Republican who represents Litchfield Park, said HB 2127 differs from the earlier program because it no longer grants a sales tax break. It would cut the income-tax credit to 20 percent from 30 percent and prevents unused tax-credit dollars from rolling over from one year to the next.
The bill, which needs a final vote in the House of Representatives and could be decided on this week, is also creating a divide in the Republican party at the state level.
“Most taxpayers probably thought $10 a ticket was too much for a movie, and now this,” said Steve Voeller, president of Arizona’s Free Enterprise Club, said in a news release.