Municipal officials tout film tax credit
With sunset looming, they tout jobs, money, and tourism
A GROUP OF MUNICIPAL OFFICIALS on Tuesday stepped up the drumbeat of support for the state’s film tax credit, which is set to expire in three years unless the Legislature intervenes to eliminate the law’s sunset provision.
At a State House event, officials from Lawrence, Worcester, Concord, Malden, Salem, and Cape Ann interspersed tales about movie stars and sets in their local communities with testimonials to the jobs, money, and tourism that film productions bring in. Even though the law won’t sunset until the end of 2022, the officials said, the Legislature needs to act long before then.
“Yes, this legislation has two years to go, but these projects take quite a long time in the planning stage,” said Erin Williams, the cultural development officer in Worcester.
Ryan Cook, a location manager, said time is particularly sensitive for TV series that can run for years on various streaming services. He noted Castle Rock, a Hulu series that is coming back to Massachusetts for season three, wants to run for many years. The production stores all its props and sets in local warehouses when it takes a break from filming.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said movies shooting in his community have brought significant spending to the area but also provided a “brand lift” for the city. He said photos of Ben Affleck and his mother having coffee in Lawrence did wonders for the city’s morale.
Erin Stevens, the communications manager in Concord, said Little Women gave a boost to the local economy and attracted a lot of tourism to the area.
Most of the officials talked up the benefits of the film tax credit and left the politics alone. The tax credit launched in 2006 with a scheduled sunset date of December 31, 2022. There have been a number of attempts to eliminate the tax credit or pare back its benefits, but all of them have failed because of the tax credit’s strong support in the House. But now tax credit supporters have to themselves get a measure passed to eliminate the sunset, and that may not be easy.
Sen. Michael Rodrigues of Westport, the chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said recently that he has concerns about whether the benefits from the film credit exceed the costs.
The film tax credit offers anyone shooting films, TV shows, or commercials in Massachusetts a credit equal to 25 percent of whatever they spend. The credits can be converted into cash by either selling them back to the state at 90 percent of their face value or by selling them to a corporation or individual with a large tax liability in Massachusetts.“The data seem to prove that it’s very expensive, that it does not create many full-time equivalent jobs. There’s a burst of activity during a particular filming and then activity ceases when the film goes away. The credits tend to benefit out-of-state residents,” Rodrigues said.
Cook did not address those issues directly, but he indicated the film industry in Massachusetts would fade away if the tax credit – which he repeatedly described as an “incentive program” – were to expire. Cook noted a number of his colleagues have purchased homes and started families recently, but he said he and his wife haven’t done so yet.