Tennessee's embattled film community got a shot in the arm Wednesday with the announcement that the state's shrinking film/TV incentive fund will get an extra $2 million in funding, after changes to the state's incentives program.
As part of a budget implementation bill, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, the change does away with the refundable tax credit available to film productions and "ends a complex system of incentivizing productions through both Tennessee Film Entertainment and Music Commission (TFEMC) grants and refundable tax credits issued by the Department of Revenue," according to a release from the state Department of Economic and Community Development.
"We recognize the importance of the film industry not only to the economy of the state but to the welfare of countless Tennesseans whose livelihoods depend on it,” said Norris in the release. “This new program simplifies, streamlines and strengthens our commitment to the film industry."
Norris was the Senate sponsor of a stand-alone incentives proposal filed this year, but the bill stalled in both chambers.
Jan Austin, founder and executive director of the Association for the Future of Film & Television in Tennessee, tells Pith that while she always wants more money for film work, the funding boost is "absolutely positive news" and praised Norris and the Haslam administration for working together on the issue.
"It gives us a place to start in this state," she said. "Wonderfully thought out by all the parties. As the economy improves, I expect we’ll continue to look at that. I don’t find negatives in it, whatsoever."
She adds that she has heard "nothing but thankfulness from members" around the state, who have been pleading for a life line to keep them from leaving the state in search of work.
The full text of the ECD release, with more details on what the news means for film work in Tennessee, is after the jump.
Changes to state law made during the 107th General Assembly will mean $2 million in anticipated funding for the state’s film incentive program, administered by the Tennessee Film Entertainment and Music Commission (TFEMC).
In addition, reforms to the state’s film funding grant formula will give smaller, indigenous film productions access to a larger share of available grant dollars.
Sen. Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville) sponsored a repeal of the refundable tax credit available to film productions under TCA § 67-4-2109(j). The repeal will mean an additional $2 million in funding for the Tennessee Film/TV Incentive Fund .
Norris said the move makes TFEMC the “one-stop shop” for film incentives in the state and ends a complex system of incentivizing productions through both TFEMC grants and refundable tax credits issued by the Department of Revenue.
"We recognize the importance of the film industry not only to the economy of the state but to the welfare of countless Tennesseans whose livelihoods depend on it,” Norris said. “This new program simplifies, streamlines and strengthens our commitment to the film industry."
Changes made to the Tennessee Film/TV Incentive Fund grant formula by the TFEMC are designed to promote the development of indigenous production and attract independent filmmakers by streamlining the incentive delivery process.
Under the new program, projects with budgets over $200,000 will be eligible to receive grants equal to 25 percent of their qualified Tennessee expenditures. Previously, the combined grant and tax credit system awarded a 17 percent grant and 15 percent refundable tax credit only to productions with budgets over $1 million.
“As part of Governor Haslam’s Jobs4TN economic development plan, the entertainment industry was identified as one of the key industries in which the state has a clear competitive advantage,” Bill Hagerty, commissioner, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said. “I would like to thank Sen. Norris for his vision on this bill and members of the General Assembly for their support.”
The TFEMC is part of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.