Returning Arizona to Its Silver Screen Glory?
Prescott Film Festival discusses new AZ tax credit’s implications Sept. 28
Even as it celebrates the movies’ historic past and the best of its present-day offerings, the Prescott Film Festival keeps its eye on the future of filmmaking – including a new Arizona tax incentive that may revive film production close-to-home. Learn about a possible legislative game changer at: “We Have a Film Tax-Credit (What Does That Mean?)” an expert discussion Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 2:30 p.m. at the Prescott Film Festival, on YC’s Prescott Campus.
“It’s happening, it’s real.” Filmmaker Greg Paul said of the Arizona Motion Picture Program, passed by state legislators in July. Paul, an actor, director, and Resource Liaison for the Arizona Film Office, will lead the PFF forum. “Legislators have agreed in principle on the tax credit. It’s based on state initiatives in places like Massachusetts and Georgia. There’s still work to be done – tailoring the program to Arizona, getting the film office ready – but it’s going to be law as of January 2023.”
The Arizona Motion Picture Program is a tiered-incentive program, offering a 15% tax credit to qualifying filmmakers who spend $10 million shooting movies or television shows in Arizona. Filmmakers spending $10 – $35 million in the state will receive a 17.5% tax credit, and those spending more than $35 million will enjoy a 20% tax credit. The state will also offer 2.5% tax reduction on labor costs to production companies that hire Arizona workers. Paul says, with proper implementation and promotion, the program can open Arizona back up to a sizable influx of Hollywood money.
“We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars,” he explained. Other Western states, like Wyoming (Yellowstone) and New Mexico (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), have used similar incentives to lure production companies to their states and enriched their economies. “Arizona has had a great filmmaking history – with the Grand Canyon and all its natural wonders – but it fell out of favor with politicians.” Although Arizona maintains a determined roster of small independent filmmakers, major studio production deals dwindled after the State Film Office fell victim to recession-era budget cuts in 2010. The Arizona Motion Picture Program is the state’s chance to recapture the momentum. “Prescott is one good place for that. It’s economical, it’s in the center of the state, offering access to places like Flagstaff, and Sedona. We need to start developing the infrastructure, like studio and office space, which make it more accessible.”
Arizona’s film history dates back nearly as far as the industry itself. Since Monument Valley defined John Ford’s 1939 classic Stagecoach, Arizona canyons, red rocks and vistas have wrapped around many a Western; from Tex Ritter – who ‘crossed the Rio Grande’ in Watson Lake – to Glenn Ford to John Wayne. The state’s latter-day resume includes everything from kitschy horror films (Tarantula and Night of the Lepus) to cinematic time capsules like Planet of the Apes, Billy Jack, Thelma & Louise, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Jerry McGuire. The tax credit may signal a new area, where the legislatures, local communities and Arizona artists work together to see Arizona’s cinematic hey-day ride again.
“We’ve got plenty of good organizations, like the Arizona Film Commission and the Arizona Commerce Authority, working behind the scenes on this,” Paul said. “We have a lot of talented filmmakers and production people in the state. I’m feeling positive about it. It’s all a step in the right direction.”
Greg Paul’s discussion, “We Have a Film Tax-Credit (What Does That Mean?)” will be held Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 2:30 p.m. in Building 3, Room 119 of Yavapai College’s Prescott Campus. The discussion is part of the Prescott Film Festival, and admission is free. Other PFF events, such as movie screenings, are ticketed events that can be purchased separately or as part of a festival package. For more information, please visit the Prescott Film Festival website, www.prescottfilmfestival.com, call the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center Ticket Office at (928) 776.2000, or visit us online at: www.ycpac.com.