Tax credits fund movies filmed in Mississippi, yet the movies rarely seem to make it to the big screen. The film tax credits are often used for commercials as well. The Sun-Herald questioned the film tax credit program in Mississippi earlier this week:
For the past six years, the state has been betting movies could give the state an economic development boost. And, it put together one of the country's most attractive packages of incentives to nurture the film industry.
The results have been mixed at best. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves says the industry likely has just one more year to prove its worth.
"The PEER report said it returns 49 cents for every dollar invested by the state," said Reeves. He said the Legislature extended the repealer in the movie incentives bill for another year but "it's got to return more to the general fund than it takes out."
The Film Office, which gets its almost $400,000 of annual operating money from the budget of Visit Mississippi, the tourism wing of the Mississippi Development Authority, spends about a third of that money on marketing. The rest goes to salaries and fringe benefits.
"The MFO is focusing on developing its film infrastructure from the ground up in a manner similar to the integrated approach used in Canada (where filmmakers went to escape the high cost of Hollywood)," the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review wrote in its report. "The Legislature has tailored the incentive program to attract lower budget and independent films. The MFOis hoping to expand the film industry workforce and infrastructure in the same manner as Canada by focusing on sustainable employment opportunities and creating a competitive edge by focusing on a specific market."
People trying to get the industry off the ground on the Coast say the state has neither the infrastructure nor workforce to attract a steady stream of films, independent or otherwise. And, independent movies don't have a big budget and salaries for the crew are generally low.
The only film studio on the Coast folded without ever landing a movie deal.
"The timing just wasn't right," said Paula Lindsay, one of the owners of Mississippi Gulf Coast Studios, which took over the old skate park in Gulfport but went out of business after less than two years. "We partnered with a gentleman named Michael DeLorenzo out of Santa Clarita Studios. He owns one of the largest studios in California.
"He has all the equipment and everything and he couldn't get anyone to come to the (Gulfport) studio. I think it's mainly because of the infrastructure here.
"We came in hoping we could work with the state and getting funding for education and we met a few times with the colleges and they were very helpful and very excited but we never could get anything to stick."
She said the smaller productions that are coming here don't require a studio. She said a lot of other people seemed interested but backed out before ever seeing the studio. And she said one reason is the state lacks enough people trained in the highly technical aspects of filmmaking.... Rest of article.