Review of Leading State Film and Video Production Incentives

Submitted by Kevin Cronin on Tue, 07/24/2007 - 20:53.

How and why do film and video production decision get made? A film trade group recently asked those questions, and the answers are not encouraging for Ohio, which continues to say “no” to the adoption of production incentives that other states now consider routine.

Bill Bowling, a locations officer with Warner Brothers Worldwide, commented, “in the past few years, financial incentives have overwhelmed the 'where to shoot' equation. Major studios and smart independents are going to locations that have the best incentives. It's as simple as that.” The leading states were grouped in two tiers by P3Update, a trade journal for those in the film production sectors.

Tier One Locations

New Mexico



Rhode Island


Tier Two Locations

North Carolina


New York



While attractive features, like size and skills of the local crew base, locations and weather, are certainly present here in Ohio in some degree, the skills base is not as deep and the talented local crews are not finding steady work, as in the leading states, as the amount of film and television work is simply not here. Ohio trails the leading states and is falling further behind due to its inability to pass the financial incentives that are growing in importance, missing an opportunity to move forward.

In Northeast Ohio, we can and should take important steps on our own. By making the Convention Center available as a preparation and warehouse area for film production, as was done for the “Spiderman 3” movie, Cleveland provided a financial advantage for the film industry working here. However, Northeast Ohio, on its own, can't match the power of those states offering tax and financial incentives to attract and keep the work and bring projects to their states.

Here are the leading states identified by the film and video professionals, some of the features that made them standout and the direction Ohio needs to move. The sooner, the better.

Tier One States

New Mexico:
Offers a 25% tax credit for all production expenses and New Mexico labor. The provisions have caused some concern that demand exceeds the labor pool, but a subsidiary of NBC Universal recently opened the largest equipment shop west of LA for TV, film and commercial productions.
The state offers a 25% credit for production expenses above 50% of the total production costs ($7 million maximum). For Massachusetts production companies, an income and corporate excise tax credit is also available, equal to 20% of the production payroll (excluding payroll over $1 million) and 100% sales tax exemption.
Connecticut: The state offers a 30% credit for production expenses. Equipment brought into the state can qualify, provided it is used in the state. By allowing non-residents to qualify, productions can use New York labor and avoid some housing expenses.
Rhode Island: A 25% credit applies to all in-state spending in excess of $300,000, provided 51% of the production is shot in state.
Louisiana: A 25% credit on all expenditures, including non-resident labor, for work done in state and a 35% credit for payroll for Louisiana residents. An additional 40% credit can apply to infrastructure projects.

Tier Two States

North Carolina: A comprehensive tax credit, offsetting purchases, leases in state and wages paid to residents and non-residents for work performed in the state, seemed to put this state in the first tier.
Illinois: A 20% transferable tax credit, for state labor and expenditures, led to an increase in film and television work. Further, the state waives a 14.9% hotel bed tax, if occupied for 30 days. Already deep with talented and skilled labor, the credit seemed to create more work.
New York: A new 5% city tax credit adds to the 10% state tax credit and the unique and historic backdrops help to overcome the higher expenses of working in New York City.
Hawaii: Weather, setting and refundable tax incentives help overcome the limited size of the local crew. The state offers a 15% credit for a minimum of $200,000 in production costs on the island of Oahu, rising to 20% for work on the smaller islands. In the alternative, a separate 100% credit is available to the investors.
Florida: Great weather and talented and skilled local crews, are offset by a less generous credit and hurricane season. Florida offers a 15% credit for Florida expenses, goods purchased or leased, but a minimum qualifying project is $625,000. with a maximum reimbursement of $8 million.

Ohio needs to adopt tax production incentives and add other financial breaks to make film and TV budgets competitive with the rest of the world competing for the business. Without the film industry, the creative talent in these sectors will move away, another sad example of “brain drain” and lost creative energy. That's a tough loss for a state that can't afford to squander anything.