Extend tax breaks for film productions in state

With the Oscars airing today — 4 p.m. on ABC, 2 p.m. if you’re into the red carpet stuff — let’s take a moment to consider Washington state’s film industry. And zooming in for a close-up, let’s consider Snohomish County’s supporting role.

Among the recent feature-length movies that have done at least part of their filming in the county are “7 Minutes,” starring Jason Ritter; “Captain Fantastic,” with Vigo Mortensen; “The Architect,” starring Parker Posey; and “Laggies” with Keira Knightly and Sam Rockwell.

Those four films brought actors, camera operators, directors, support crew and others who ate meals catered by local restaurants, bought lumber at hardware stores, spent nights at hotels, maybe enjoyed a Silvertips game and more. The additional business is temporary, a few days, maybe a few weeks, but ask a small businesses owner if they’re happy to get that and would like to see more of it.

That might be possible with a bill now in the Legislature that would increase the pool of tax incentives the state can provide to the film industry, including feature films, TV shows and commercials, Internet productions, still photography and more.

“We like to say, if you’re holding a camera in your hand, we can help,” said Amy Lillard, executive director of Washington Filmworks, a nonprofit that took over the duties of the state film office in 2007. The agency helps with filming logistics, scouting locations, getting permits and connecting productions with resources and businesses.

But one of the things Filmworks does is currently limited. It now has authority to administer $3.5 million in tax incentives for such productions. Last year, that funding ran out by May.

“I won’t be surprised if we reach that more quickly this year; we’ve already got six applications that would shoot right now that would qualify for $11.6 million,” Lillard said.

Senate Bill 6027 would increase the pool of tax breaks to $7 million by 2017, and then, incrementally to $10 million by 2019. It’s well within line of other states’ similar incentives. Oregon provides up to $10 million, and of the 39 states that provide the tax breaks, Washington currently provides the fifth lowest amount, Lillard said.

Such tax breaks do represent a taxpayer-funded subsidy, but Lillard says Filmworks is meticulous about tracking and reporting to the Legislature how much and on what these productions spend in the state, down to the last half-eaten doughnut on the craft services table.

And the investment offers a significant return. Since Filmworks took over the state film office duties in 2007, the program has generated $96.3 million in direct spending in the state, $44 million of that in jobs. Indirect spending adds another 2.75 times that amount to local economies.

The marketplace for film productions is competitive, and most producers have worked the tax incentives into their business plans, which makes it difficult for a state to land a production if it can’t offer the tax breaks.

There is growing interest in bringing productions to Washington state and Snohomish County, Lillard said. Everett in particular has built a reputation as a city that works hard to accommodate movies and other productions, she said.

There are exciting projects ahead. Lillard is hopeful that a continuation of the TV series “Twin Peaks” will return to the state to film.

The state should help make that happen. That’s a lot of slices of cherry pie and “damn fine” cups of coffee that can be sold.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Sunday, May 16

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Zoe Charlebois, 10, left, and Makayla Goshen, 10, laugh as they make their friendship first aid kits during the InspireHER event at Snohomish Boys & Girls Club on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 in Snohomish, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: For 75 years a safe place to hang out and more

The Boys Girls Clubs of Snohomish County have served the needs of kids and families for 75 years.

FILE - In this July 31, 2013, file photo, tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest are reflected in a pool of water as they make their way to Nugget Falls in Juneau, Alaska. The U.S. Forest Service announced plans Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, to lift restrictions on road building and logging in Tongass National Forest, a largely pristine rainforest in southeast Alaska that provides habitat for wolves, bears and salmon. Conservation groups vowed to fight the decision. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Viewpoints: Nature priceless, but it should have a price

Would we be more likely to protect the natural world if we understood its value economically?

Comment: Medicare for All could have saved lives during covid

By assuring life-saving medications and care, a single-payer system would save 69,000 lives a year.

Comment: Covid is refuting the case for Medicare for All

Medicare didn’t improve outcomes for seniors during the pandemic; it won’t for the rest of us.

Support for 988 suicide hotline needed in state

May is Mental Health Month. By urging my public officials to prioritize… Continue reading

Island County not responsible for wreck on Camano Island

A recent lawsuit settlement will be struck down by the state Supreme… Continue reading

RGB version
Editorial cartoons for Saturday, May 15

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

In this Wednesday, March 24, 2021 image from video provided by Duke Health, Alejandra Gerardo, 9, looks up to her mom, Dr. Susanna Naggie, as she gets the first of two Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations during a clinical trial for children at Duke Health in Durham, N.C. In the U.S. and abroad, researchers are beginning to test younger and younger kids, to make sure the shots are safe and work for each age. (Shawn Rocco/Duke Health via AP)
Editorial: Parents have decision to make on vaccinating kids

With one vaccine now approved for kids 12 and older, parents shouldn’t wait for a school requirement.

Most Read