Oklahoma officials focus on film incentives

BY PAUL MONIES Modified: March 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm •  Published: February 28, 2010

A controversial tax credit used to produce films in Oklahoma such as "The Killer Inside Me” faces an uncertain future as lawmakers take aim at state incentive programs.

Just one company, Tulsa’s Indion Entertainment Group, has qualified to take advantage of the rural small business venture capital tax credit for film production.

Indion’s owner, Chad Burris, said six films, including "The Killer Inside Me,” have used the tax credits to provide financing. Another four films are expected to begin shooting by late summer.

But the films in the pipeline face an uncertain future after Gov. Brad Henry’s budget proposal recommended elimination of that tax credit. The budget projected additional revenue of $37.4 million if the tax credit is eliminated.

Burris said he is notifying investors and producers about the possible elimination of the tax credit, which provides financing of 12 percent of a production budget.

"There are a few big movies that have been working for many months prepping to bring large productions here to this state, founded in large part on the belief that Indion will be investing,” Burris said in an e-mail. "Producers will not risk taking a movie somewhere if the incentive may go away once they arrive.”

Rebates and tax credits
Indion’s tax credit is separate from the state’s film rebate program. Lawmakers last year increased the film rebate to 35 percent, up from 15 percent. Producers can get an additional 2 percent rebate if they use Oklahoma music in their films. The state put a cap on the film rebate at $5 million per year.

There are no barriers against producers using tax credits and cash rebates to finance films made in the state. The combination of those incentives can help defray up to 49 percent of the qualified expenses of movies and TV shows shot in Oklahoma.

Jill Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, said producers for "The Killer Inside Me” planned to shoot in New Mexico and Texas.

"At first blush, they were going to take everything to New Mexico except for a couple of locations,” Simpson said.

"We just kept after them and kept after them. What we had to offer was customer service, so if they ask for one location, we gave them 10 options.”

That effort paid off for Oklahoma, Simpson said. The production spent almost $3 million in the state last summer on hotels, labor, equipment and other expenses.

In return, producers of "The Killer Inside Me” stand to get a rebate payment of more than $440,000 in July.

Other projects that have qualified for the rebate include "Pearl” and the reality TV show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which has shot two episodes in Oklahoma so far this year.

Incentive competition
Incentives for film production have become increasingly competitive in the last decade.

In 2002, Oklahoma was among just a handful of states that had some type of incentive to attract Hollywood productions as well as spur local filmmakers’ efforts. Search for Oklahoma claimants of the Rural Small Business...


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Oklahoma film incentives

1. The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate offers producers up to 37 percent in cash rebates for what they spend filming in the state. It applies to film, television and national commercial productions. The rebate program is capped at $5 million per year. Payments are not made until all producers’ bills are paid.

2. Indion Entertainment Group Tax Credit uses the state’s rural small business venture capital tax credit. Indion can provide 12 percent of a production’s budget in up-front financing. The financing comes from qualified Oklahoma investors who are seeking tax credits.

Sources: Oklahoma Film and Music Office; Indion Entertaintment Group

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Online at NewsOK.com
Video: To watch Jill Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, discuss the state’s film rebate program and to check out rebate expenditure reports from recent films shot in Oklahoma such as "The Killer Inside Me” and "Pearl,” go to NewsOK.com and search for "film incentives.”

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