A special House Finance subcommittee opened hearings today on a bill to continue and expand a program offering tax incentives for production companies making movies in the state.
Anchorage Democrat Johnny Ellis sponsored the bill that passed the Senate with no opposition. He said the state subsidizes other industries and told the subcommittee that the goal is to diversify the state’s economy – saving specialized jobs that are now leaving the state.
This was not my idea. It came from the private sector – businesses here is Alaska large and small – who see an opportunity, not to recreate Hollywood in Alaska, but to have a small incremental, sustainable new effort in this exciting new industry.
Currently, movie and television producers can get up to forty-four percent of their production costs as transferable tax credits. The current law also allows the state to issue $100-million in credits every year. The Alaska Film Office says it has qualified seventy seven productions – and set aside $67-million dollars in credits. S-B 23 would increase industry participation by allowing $200-million in credits.
Wanetta Ayers, the Director of Economic Development says forty one of the productions on the books right now are for non-fiction television programs, twenty one are for feature films with the rest described primarily as commercials, documentaries or fictional TV. She said one of the goals is to have productions that focus on Alaska actually made in Alaska.
There are a number of Alaska-centric productions that have looked at Alaska. But we need to actively pursue those to make sure that we win some of the productions that have such specific content with specific stories to Alaska that it would be very disheartening to see them choose other locations over Alaska.
As an example, Ellis mentioned a film called The Cruelest Mile about the Iditarod that has scouted several locations in the state, but has not agreed to shoot here. Ellis said the movie still could be shot in Romania or British Columbia.
The bill will come up again next Tuesday before the subcommittee.