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More Movies Could Soon be Filmed in WA as Inslee OKs Film Incentives Passed by Legislature

The law will provide tax breaks for filmmakers looking to make movies in Washington
April 5, 2022
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As seen in The Olympian.

Legislation to incentivize more movie production in Washington state was signed into law last week, increasing tax breaks for those looking to film in the state from $3.5 million to $15 million annually. The Motion Picture Competitiveness Program is run by a non-profit organization called Washington Filmworks whose “mission is to create economic development opportunities by building and enhancing the competitiveness, profile and sustainability of Washington State’s film industry.” Gov. Jay Inslee signed the bill into law March 31.

In addition to the business and operating taxes that Washington Filmworks can now award, it also increases B&O tax credit limits for individuals to $1 million annually, up from $750,000 per year. Provisions in the bill aim to draw more film production to rural areas by committing 20 percent of funding to prospective filmmakers who wish to make movies in those places. Another 20 percent will be set aside for films about marginalized communities.

“Increasing the funding for the MPCP will make Washington a more competitive location to shoot films and our state will reap the economic benefits,” said Rep. Marcus Riccelli, who sponsored the bill. “By focusing on marginalized and rural communities, this bill helps ensure that the economic benefits of this program are fairly distributed around the state.” The Spokane Democrat noted that “filming locations are often chosen based on the incentives that states offer.”

Joe Chianese, Senior Vice President and Practice Leader of Production Incentives at Entertainment Partners, told McClatchy Tuesday that everyone in the state should see benefits from film productions. “Encouraging producers to go in more rural jurisdictions is definitely going to help those communities, as well as make sure the entire state feels the benefit.” Chianese said that Washingtonians can expect to see some immediate benefit of the new law because of the spending done locally by crew members, and spending by production companies who are trying to set up. In the long-term, he said more businesses could start relocating to those areas where filming is taking place, further helping local economies.

He also noted that the 2030 sunset clause on the bill will be especially attractive for television series because if a series becomes a hit, they don’t want to have to pack up and leave for other states that are providing those incentives, especially in the middle of production. There are currently not enough crew, locations, or studios for the “production boom” going on all over the world right now, Chianese added. While it is important for the Washington program to allow residents and non-residents, the program will be most beneficial for residents, he said.

The new law will go into effect in June, and filmmakers can apply on the Washington Filmworks production incentive program page. The Motion Picture Competitiveness Program initially became law in 2006 but funding was later axed in 2011. Several well-known movies were filmed in Washington state: '10 Things I Hate About You,' filmed in Tacoma; 'The Deer Hunter,' partly filmed in the North Cascades; and 'Sleepless in Seattle,' filmed in the city. David Lynch’s TV series 'Twin Peaks' also was filmed predominantly in North Bend.

Many other states offer programs meant to incentivize film production in their states such as California, Oregon and Colorado. California has the largest cap for incentives in the country, coming in at $330 million per year.

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