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Missouri considers bills that would lure film productions to the state

Although the cable series “Ozark” helped put the Lake of the Ozarks on the national map, it was filmed in Georgia. Production companies look for a state that offers generous tax incentives.

There have been several big Hollywood movies filmed partly or entirely in the state. Among them are “Escape from New York”, “The Informant”, “The Abyss”, “Gone Girl”, “The Day After”, “National Lampoon’s Vacation”, and “Paper Moon” in addition to dozens of indie productions.

But the state remains on the “B” list of film locations because of unfamiliarity.

Missouri lawmakers hope to change that. A Senate committee this week heard several proposals that would provide incentives for studios and production companies to film on location in the state, as well as hold rehearsals and live performances. Similar tax credits have been proposed in previous sessions but failed to make it to the governor’s desk. A previous Missouri program providing tax credits to the film and entertainment industries expired in 2013.

Showtime’s hit “Above Ground” was filmed in Missouri.

“We’ve had no major film projects filmed in the state of Missouri (since 2013),” said Sen. Denny Hoskins, a Warrensburg Republican sponsoring one version of the legislation.

Two other proposals are directed toward live entertainment events. Senate Bills 170 and 94, sponsored by a Republican and Democrat, would reimburse 30 percent of expenses for rehearsal and tour expenses. The credits are not refundable but can be transferred or sold, and the total amount of tax credits awarded annually can’t exceed $8 million.

People within the industry urged lawmakers to pass the measures, which they said could open a path for a new workforce to emerge in the state. They could also funnel money into already established businesses and regions. Filmmaker Cole Payne, a filmmaker said that during a recent feature film production in Kentucky, he hired 12 off-duty police officers, six firemen and five EMTs, as well as rented an old church.

“There’s all kinds of income tax that’s coming out of this, not just production,” he said. “It touches so many small businesses and so many areas.”

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Steph Shannon, the director of the Kansas City Film Office and KC Film Commissioner, said the first thing production companies ask about when pitched on Missouri is “what are your incentives?” They currently are enough to attract commercial and small-project work, she said, but not enough to seal the deal on the next “Gone Girl.”

“We just don’t have the level of industry that we deserve, that puts on screens around the world often, and gets our workforce working at a good wage, all the time,” Shannon said. She said the state had lost out on an estimated $800 million in direct spending from projects that are set in Missouri but did not film in Missouri;

Americans for Prosperity for Missouri testified against the proposals, arguing that the program would play favorites and asked lawmakers to prioritize policies that benefited all businesses.

–Dwight Widaman | MV

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