Bill hopes to draw filmmakers to R.I.

Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Correction appended.

In an effort to bring more drama to the economically stagnant Ocean State, Sen. Joshua Miller, D-Cranston, Warwick, introduced legislation Feb. 1 that would repeal existing film production tax credits and create a new system of incentives to attract filmmakers to the state. 

The act will alter current tax law by making more tax credits available to smaller film productions and requiring companies to employ Rhode Islanders, said Steven Feinberg, director of the Rhode Island Film and Television Office. It will “stimulate people to establish roots in Rhode Island,” he said, adding that the bill would improve infrastructure and provide jobs for Rhode Islanders in a “lucrative and ground-breaking business that thrives in all economic seasons.”

The plan will also introduce new tax credits to help independent filmmakers working in the state. The minimum budget for a film to receive tax credits would be lowered from $300,000 to $100,000, and state funding for these incentives would increase from $15 million to $40 million. Credits would also be available to theater and video game productions. To qualify for credit, 5 percent of a production’s payroll must be allocated to Rhode Island residents.

Productions have been known to move out of the state because of more generous tax credits available elsewhere, Feinberg said. ABC’s crime series “Body of Proof” was formerly filmed in Rhode Island. But when the governor proposed suspending the film credit last summer, the production moved to Los Angeles. While the proposal was never enacted into law, the production team moved because they were not sure the credit would exist when they began filming again, Feinberg said, adding that “consistent policy stimulates investment.”

According to mathematical modeling done by Ed Mazze, professor of marketing and supply chain management at the University of Rhode Island, every $1 spent on film production stimulates $8 in economic activity. 

But the cash influx from attracting productions to Rhode Island is not instantaneous, Mazze said, which may deter lawmakers from supporting the legislation. 

Mazze’s study did not take into account tourism attracted by filming done in Rhode Island. “People come and want to watch a film being made,” Mazze said.

Local productions “are spending an infusion of money on small businesses,” Feinberg said. He said he rejected the concern that the state cannot afford new tax credits given the current economic climate. 

Stimulating the film industry can also provide opportunities to students enrolled in film programs at state schools. Several students at the University of Rhode Island who had taken a course on Wes Anderson later had the opportunity to intern on a film Anderson produced in Rhode Island, Feinberg said.

“Culture for our state is so important,” Feinberg said.  “The state of Rhode Island needs jobs badly, and we need to feel good about ourselves.”


A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that the budget for film tax credits would increase from $1.5 million to $4 million. In fact, the bill would increase the budget from $15 million to $40 million. The Herald regrets the error.

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One Comment

  1. The new legislation proposes raising the cap from $15M to $40M, not $1.5M to 4M.

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