After watching Big Cable remote-control the Tennessee legislature this session, while Big Liquor put a cork in legislation that would have permitted wine sales in grocery stores, it’s apparent that the clearest way to make your voice heard by lawmakers is through a bullhorn of money—by ofﬁcially becoming a special interest. So move over, Big Tobacco…and say hello to Big Picture.
An organization called the Association for the Future of Film and Television (AFFT) intends to become the legislative arm of Tennessee’s ﬁlm and TV industry. Using funds raised through $25 yearly memberships and corporate underwriting, the group plans to hire a lobbyist, Reina Reddish, to push for pro-industry legislation, and form a political action committee to elect sympathetic candidates. Made up of industry professionals from across the state, representing regions that sometimes compete for the same work, AFFT seizes upon the one issue that galvanizes ﬁlm and TV workers whether they’re in Memphis, Nashville or Bristol: production incentives.
“This is the ﬁrst time the entire industry in the state has been united,” says Jan Austin, former deputy director of the Tennessee Film, Entertainment and Music Commission, who has worked to get AFFT running since April 2007.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” says Linn Sitler, the respected longtime Memphis & Shelby County ﬁlm commissioner, who was part of a grassroots group that made the case for temporary incentives in 2006. “It’ll show just how much support there is for the industry statewide.”
Production incentives are more than a buzzword: They’re the buzz itself—the principal factor, in most cases, that determines where a ﬁlm or TV show will spend its production money. By offering whopping double-digit tax credits, states such as Louisiana have been able to parlay ﬁlm and TV work into hundreds of millions’ worth of jobs and in-state spending. So your ﬁlm is set in Tennessee? Big deal. To name just one example, the horror movie An American Haunting, based on the Bell Witch legend, found it cheaper to shoot in Romania than in nearby Adams, Tenn.
Film and TV work has accelerated noticeably since 2006, when Tennessee created a pool of $10 million for rebates to production companies that shoot here, hire local crew and/or set up headquarters within the state. Still to come is the most ballyhooed Tennessee feature of all: the much-anticipated Hannah Montana movie, which the state, its ﬁlm commission and TFEMC executive director Perry Gibson wrested away from Louisiana after white-knuckle negotiations with Disney.
But even though another $10 million was added to the pool last year, there are no signs it will happen again—and no other major lures to replace it. “We want to be sure we don’t lose work,” says AFFT President Roger Hodges, executive producer of Nashville-based Fireﬂy Film & Video, who explains that production companies want to see incentives written in stone before they commit future work to a state.
Gibson, who heads up Tennessee’s ﬁlm commission—and is not connected to AFFT—says that permanent incentives are a goal for the state, but only in a “long-term, systemic, make-sense” plan. “The governor doesn’t care about stars in limos,” Gibson says. “He wants to make sure every dollar makes an impact.” For now, at least Hannah’s not in Montana.
"I used to be terribly relevant. I won scads of awards for being smug and…
The show is coming back. End of story.
The old Nashville Banner column was "Why do the heathen rage" or something like that.
Google the George Strait 60 for 60 campaign. It worked.
Reading comprehension hasn't informed yours, Fool.