Mon, May 20, 2024

Georgia film tax credit survives legislative review

The Georgia Legislature passed hundreds of bills, both statewide items and those addressing local concerns, in the just-ended 2024 legislative session and sent them to Gov. Brian Kemp (R) for his signature.

House Bill 1180 was not among them which is good news for movie-making in Georgia.

The bill would have revised one of the state’s most popular tax credit incentives, the one available to filmmakers to entice them to film productions in the Peach State.

Productions are eligible for a tax break of up to 30%. Randy Davidson, Founder and CEO of Georgia Entertainment, an online source for news about the entertainment industry, told ABD that the percentage was not in dispute.

“So, the fact there was never a discussion about whether that percentage was going to be, that’s a big victory that I think we all need to be happy about,” he said. “What we were doing was trying to just figure out how to navigate around that, but I think the fact that debate was not around the 30%, which it had been in years past, I think that that’s one victory.”

As it currently stands, credits can be granted to any production of at least $500,000. Productions receive a 20% credit for filming within Georgia and making purchases from vendors within the state. An extra 10% credit can be earned by using the Georgia Peach logo on the project and including a link to the Georgia film website.

The requirements to receive that additional 10% are what lawmakers sought to change.

HB1180 would have required the use of more Georgia-based employees and contractors. Currently, producers can hire out-of-state production staff and talent and bring them to Georgia to work on the production.

Another of the additional requirements if HB1180 had passed and been signed into law would have required filmmakers to use locations in rural Georgia.

Davidson said that has opened a dialogue he has never experienced, and that is a good thing.

“One of the biggest pushes that everybody seemed to be on board with, outside of Atlanta, was the need for additional support of film and creative industries outside of the Atlanta metro area. So, while nothing passed, I have never personally seen more conversation and dialogue around the benefits of exploring ways to expand the state’s stance through additional incentives or other programs,” he said.

The film tax credit was one of several that were discussed during a 2023 statewide tour by a legislative commission, seeking to determine the efficacy of the credits.

During the November pre-legislative breakfast sponsored by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce, state Senator Max Burns (R-District 23) said he believes reviewing all the tax credit incentives every few years is wise.

“Our objective is not to reduce or eliminate tax credits. Our objective is to understand the return on investment of those tax credits,” he explained. “At the end of the day, the objective is to attract jobs to employ people to enhance the tax base.”

The film tax incentives were enacted in 2015. Since then, particularly in metro Atlanta, Georgia has seen a booming increase in the number of productions flocking to the Peach State. Films including “The Hunger Games” and the Marvel movies, along with “The Walking Dead” and other television shows, all carry the made-in-Georgia logo.

While the tax breaks are the draw, an even larger factor is that Georgia is one of fewer than 10 states that do not have a cap on how much production can earn. For example, California has a cap of $330 million a year. In New York, the Empire State Development office has a $700 million a year cap through 2034.

Another unique feature of Georgia’s program is that it covers feature films; television films, pilots or series; televised commercials; and music videos.

Part of The Hill was shot at Lake Olmstead and the Wrightsboro Church.

In New York, the program is limited to: “Feature films, television series, certain relocated talk/variety television series, certain eligible narrative television series, television pilots, and films for television. Qualified film shall not include … commercials, music videos or “reality” program.”

Georgia has also made a commitment to the industry, particularly with educational programs.

The state has the Georgia Film Consortium and the Georgia Film Academy.

“We have embedded in the Technical College System of Georgia, University System of Georgia, and through the Georgia Film Academy (GFA), there is a cadence of education that Georgia has bought in. It’s even into the elementary,” he explained. “Those things are being built, stood up all over the state of Georgia. So, to turn our back on it is awful timing.”

Augusta Technical College offers Introduction to Film Television Production and On-Set Film Production as a participant in GFA. The certification program introduces skills needed by the film industry. It also includes hands-on training on equipment used in productions.

While revisions to the program were not approved in the 2024 session, Davidson anticipates attempts will be made in future legislative sessions.

“There’s always going to be something, but this year, there is no study committee that was created or stood up, there is no review of credits, at least as of this moment. That happened last year,” he said. “There’s a new election coming up, there’s new people, there’s always going to be something, but I do feel like we passed a milestone with this in the sense that the 30% was never at risk.”

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