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Opinion: Missouri deserves more film projects: Bring on tax incentives

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While thematically different, the engaging “Gone Girl” and “Winter’s Bone” films have a noticeable similarity. They both were shot on location in the Show-Me State.

Then there’s movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and TV show “Ozark.” The difference is that, while their plots are set in Missouri, the scenes were filmed in other states.

They even take their names from our area and state, and yet, Missouri did not reap the economic benefits associated with the productions.

So, why not shoot a piece of Hollywood magic in Missouri, even when it’s right there in the title?

The answer comes down to tax credits.

Film production tax credits expired in Missouri in 2013, and since then, the Show-Me State has lost out on some truly wonderful filmmaking that could have created a hefty economic impact and emboldened state pride.

“Gone Girl” and “Winter’s Bone” came before the 2013 cutoff. For “Gone Girl,” which was shot in Cape Girardeau, an initial $7 million boost to the economy was identified in 2014 by entertainment and media business publication The Wrap. That means hotel stays and restaurant check-ins. It means tax dollars in local Missouri communities. And locations shot in the movie still bring tourists to Cape Girardeau to this day.

Unfortunately, the latest effort in Jefferson City to renew the film production tax credits did not come to fruition during the most recent legislative session.

A bill sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, didn’t make it out of committee, according to Senate.Mo.gov. Missouri is one of roughly 20 states that does not have any kind of tax incentives for film production, according to an industry report from Cast & Crew Entertainment Services LLC.

“How has Missouri fared since the sunset of the film tax credit in 2013?” Hoskins said earlier this year, according to a report from the Missouri News Network. “Not very well. Missouri has not had any significant movies filmed in our state since the sunset of the film tax credit.”

The proposed bill, creating the Show Missouri Film and Digital Media Act, would have reauthorized expired tax credits. Specifically, the bill sought tax credits equal to 25% of qualifying in-state expenses, with further credits for out-of-state production and incentives determined based on the amount of film production that takes place in Missouri. The bill would have created a new sunset at the end of 2027, unless it was reauthorized by the General Assembly. The bill’s summary also pointed to two other film tax credit provisions contained in other legislation during the session, though those also did not make headway. Further, legislation sponsored in 2017-20 were not approved to reauthorize the tax credit.

Why should Missouri provide out-of-state film producers with tax credits? It’s a worthwhile question.

Going by the “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “Ozark” examples, it’s so that those projects aren’t awarded to competing states. “Three Billboards” was shot largely in North Carolina, while “Ozark” was filmed in Georgia.

As a film and TV buff, that’s so disappointing to me. I still enjoyed both those latter projects, but “Gone Girl” and “Winter’s Bone” are elevated because their settings were familiar. It gave the films a realness that is hard to come by. These projects, at least for me, create state pride, and that’s another notion that’s hard to come by.

I don’t know about you, but I would enjoy every minute of a gritty crime drama or political thriller shot in Springfield. And our economy, specifically tourism and hospitality, would welcome the economic impact.

I applaud Sen. Hoskins in his effort to renew film production tax credits in Missouri. It’s an issue I’ll be watching in future legislative sessions. It has a real, tangible impact created by imaginary characters, dialogue and plot lines. That’s a beautiful thought.

Springfield Business Journal Digital Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at gpickle@sbj.net.

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