Hollywood asks lawmakers for tax incentives
By LAUREN GAMBINO
Of the Associated Press
SALEM — Fake snow fell on the Capitol steps and an Oregon senator got a Hollywood-style makeover Thursday as film crews trouped to Salem in a bid to persuade state lawmakers to bump up spending to lure filmmakers.
Actors and executives from NBC's “Grimm,” TNT's “Leverage” and IFC's “Portlandia” — all filmed in Portland — were on hand for the high-tech show and rally.
“This is an industry that's perfect for this state,” Gov. John Kitzhaber told industry supporters who gathered at the Capitol. “It's a clean industry, it's a green industry, it's a union industry ... and it's going to be a real job creator for us now and in the future.”
The Legislature is considering a bill that would double the funding available for production crews that make movies and television shows in the state. Producers said state incentives weigh heavily in their decisions about where to film new productions.
Chuck Sheketoff, director of the left-leaning Oregon Center for Public Policy, said the state's investment would be better spent on programs affected by automatic federal budget cuts — not the film industry.
“I hope our legislators are not wowed by the glitter of Hollywood,” Sheketoff said.
The fake snow, Sen. Ginny Burdick's makeover and the set installed outside the Capitol were intended to highlight the variety of workers needed on a film set.
Kitzhaber proposes doubling spending on film and video incentives to $12 million a year and allowing video game and post production companies to apply for funding. The measure has passed a House committee and is awaiting action in the Joint Tax Credits Committee.
“If the caps are raised, literally the next morning production will flood here,” said Dean Devlin, executive producer of “Leverage,” a drama series about a team of do-gooders who fight corporate and governmental corruption. The show was canceled last year.
Devlin said the state tax incentives persuaded him to film in Oregon instead of Vancouver, British Columbia, which is known for valuable film incentives.
The Legislature voted two years ago to extend the film and video tax credits until 2018, but they cut the value from $7.5 million a year to $6 million.
The Oregon Production Investment Fund reimburses filmmakers and production crews up to 10 percent of what they spend on wages and benefits for Oregon-based workers, and 20 percent of other expenses incurred in Oregon. Production companies must spend at least $750,000 in Oregon, and the cash rebates are limited to the total funds available.
The legislation would require production companies to spend at least $1 million in Oregon, up from $750,000 they have to spend now.
Money in the fund comes largely from individuals, who get a tax credit to offset their donations.
Industry supporters say the expanded film incentives would create production jobs and lure Hollywood stars to local hotels and restaurants.
“I'm a specialist and there's not enough work for me to be full-time,” said Christina Kortum, a special effects makeup artist in Portland.
Kortum, who has worked on shows such as “Grimm,” is certain she'd have more work — and possibly a full-time job — if lawmakers agreed to expand tax incentives for film and productions companies.
“If this passed, I'd be able to work full-time,” Kortum said, as she worked on an ape-like mask that her husband had on as part of a sasquatch costume.
In 2011, $110 million was spent on projects that qualify for the film incentives, according to a legislative staff report.
Rep. Jules Bailey, a supporter of the measure, said it's a point of pride for him to see Oregon appear on the big screen.
“The first time that I saw ‘Portlandia,’ it took me a little bit of time to realize that I wasn't watching a documentary about my district,” the Portland Democrat quipped. “I'm really happy to have that show filming in the community.”