What you probably don’t know is that the
film industry in Oklahoma is growing at a rapid pace, bringing jobs and
money to our state, largely thanks to a $5 million tax rebate program
our state has. That rebate program has recently come under attack with
the introduction of Senate Bill 1623, which aims to do away with most
tax incentives that Oklahoma offers.
According to Chris
Freihofer (member of the Casting Society of America, owner and operator
of Freihofer Casting in Norman), he cast seven feature films out of his
office in 2011 alone. Freihofer supplied dozens of principal roles and
thousands of paid extras. The Motion Picture Association of America
reports that Oklahoma film generated $168.5 million in wages over the
course of 2009-10, and a 2010 economic study by Oklahoma City University
reported that the state’s film industry generated $11.8 million for 157
full-time positions. The MPAA also reports that 4,699 people were
employed by films in Oklahoma.
Should Oklahoma film
incentives be cut, it is estimated that the state will lose most of its
film industry. According to the Oklahoma Film & Music Commission,
the state lost out on six films, including the Warner Bros. production, Thunderstruck, due to the incentive cap having been already met. Many more films will pass us by if the rebates are cut entirely.
A quick look at the upcoming films in Oklahoma brings excitement to members of the industry in Oklahoma. The film adaptation of August: Osage County is
set to begin scouting for locations in Oklahoma soon. A film about
Oklahoma native and World War II paratrooper Jake McNiece is currently
in pre-production, with the producers rumored to be scouting Oklahoma
locations. The producers of Just Crazy Enough are in talks to
produce another movie in Oklahoma in 2012, and many low-budget
independent films are set to begin production in the coming year. If the
tax incentive program is repealed, Oklahoma will lose out on these
productions, as well as many national and regional commercials.
MPAA reports that Louisiana, which has no incentive cap, generated
$308.7 million in wages and 7,632 jobs over the course of 2009-10. North
Carolina, sporting a $20 million per feature cap, reported 9,280 jobs
and $200.5 million in wages. Texas reported $1.5 billion in wages and
41,269 jobs in the same period. In stark contrast to these three states,
Arizona — which generated $329 million over 2009-2010 — has reported a
sharp drop in its revenue from film since cutting its incentive program
in 2010. Though exact numbers are still lacking, some estimates put the
decline at more than $100 million in lost wages.
1623 passes, the 157 (and growing) permanent jobs in film production
will shrink dramatically, and the $168 million will all but disappear.
Despite Oklahoma film growing steadily, our lawmakers are poised to
throw away $168 million industry to save $5 million. No matter how the
math is done, this doesn’t add up.
—J. Alan Davidson, Tulsa
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