Independent film: could an economic report on cinema finally attract the attention of lawmakers?


The Maine Film Association hopes an economic report released this spring will bolster support for adopting incentives to get more Maine movies, like “Hangdog,” filmed here on Portland’s Eastern Prom in April. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

It’s been a few months since the fine folks at the Maine Film Association released what should have been an explosive report on the economic impact of Maine’s film industry. Well, my shell was bombed, anyway, and since this study is due to come into play during the next Maine legislative session, starting in less than a month, it’s my duty to see if I can bomb you too.

First, some raw numbers, as compiled by the MFA and unveiled in its May 24 report.

Film and video production in Maine, according to income data from some 128 professional businesses and individuals in the state, supports 312 full-time and part-time jobs. These companies generate more than $29 million in revenue per year and generate more than $16 million in salaries. When taking into account the economic impact on related industries such as hospitality, retail, trades and legal and accounting services, we are talking about 609 additional full-time and part-time jobs, salaries totaling more than $28 million in labor income, representing an overall economic impact of some $64 million in revenue for Maine businesses.

Plus we get great entertainment.

Now some readers may recall someone in this column ranting (OK, that was me) that the Maine Legislature in March of this year refused to pass the LD bill 1334. Titled An Act To Promote Economic Development through Augmentation Film Incentives, it was, on the face of it, a good way for the State of Maine to attract new film and video production to the state, to incentivize and ‘to encourage innovation and development of Maine’s already existing film industry, and to encourage young filmmakers – from Maine and away – to think of the state as a viable and attractive destination for filmmaking.

And, you know, I stand by that rant. Yes, even the part where I called lawmakers “stupid.” Even before the MFA’s May report, more than 10 years on Maine’s movie beat has given me a front-row seat to seeing just how exciting Maine’s movie scene is producing — and how even a modest economic boost from the state would mean to them.

The thing is, there’s a silver lining even in “dumb” decisions, like I was contacted by Louise Rosen, the chairman of the advocacy committee for the Maine Film Association, shortly after the publication of this article. Explaining that LD 1334 was actually not all that Maine tax incentive advocates had hoped for (in fact, calling it “a watered down version of what we actually offered” and “not worthy of support”), Rosen said advocates have bigger plans for the next legislative session, including priming the pump with a “major study of the overall economic impact of Maine’s film and video production industry.”

Mission accomplished there. (See above: “overall economic impact of approximately $64 million.”)

As Rosen explained further, there is growing support behind a revised (and significantly improved) bill, and the MFA and other concerned Mainers are counting on the economic report to reap even more. (Legislators like nice numbers.) Additionally, the plan is to expand the umbrella to encompass new and less traditional media creators in all forms “to be more inclusive” to what is a film scene in constant evolution. and encourage “cross-fertilization” among Maine filmmakers. As Rosen clarifies, that means “these can be productions for broadcast, streamers, businesses and nonprofits, as well as equity investors and self-funded projects. This work runs the gamut from narrative and documentary films and series, to podcasts, animations and visual effects; as well as YouTube influencers demonstrating “how to”. »

Again, as Rosen asserted, “This time around, we’re going to be able to get more traction with this, with growing awareness in the business community as a whole” Maine Film Production reports as much cold, hard money as Maine’s growth. the aquaculture industry, to cite just one highly publicized example. According to Rosen, “It would improve the opportunities for local directors and could encourage some smaller feature films and other projects that would love to shoot here but could use a little nudge to help them say ‘yes’. More of support to the local community (yes, with some additional work from out of state) would be money well spent, in a clean, green, technologically innovative and forward-looking sector that could help retain fresh Maine graduates.

Listen, the world is in trouble and our bank accounts are just as in trouble. Tax incentives for filmmaking may seem like a tough sell to some right now. But, as I’ve been saying for over 10 years, having a smaller percentage of a much, much bigger pie is far better than stunting the Maine film industry because of avaricious prejudice and short-sighted. And yes, I say “prejudice”.

Cinema is not a necessity. (I mean for you people – personally, I would shrivel up and croak in a week without a regular intravenous drip of movies.) But neither does sports. Or music. Or the gourmet cuisine that has seen Portland become one of the nation’s top foodie destinations in recent years (and brought in countless dollars for tourists in the process). Mainer’s gut-wrenching knee-jerk reaction is to look at those gas prices and frown at the thought of giving tax breaks to a foreign movie company.

Well, we could all do with a lot less frowning in general, especially when, as we’ve previously claimed, it’s for dumb reasons. Movies are already being shot in Maine. We have now seen the concrete economic benefits. So why not attract more business by doing the same kinds of economic incentives that have seen (much less photogenic) places like Georgia, Boston and Canada throw up a few rented lobster traps and pretend to be us. (Seriously, if I hear another Stephen King adaptation where people say “on the way,” I’m going to lose it.)

Maine’s new legislative session begins August 8. Here’s how to contact your representatives: You know what to do, Maine moviegoers.

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