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Chafee Budget Threatens RI Film Industry

Thursday, March 10, 2011

 

Governor Lincoln Chafee’s budget would eliminate the state motion picture tax credit—risking the future of the fledging film industry in the state.

“If they do away with it will be a substantial effect on job destruction, not job creation,” said Ed Mazze, a business professor at the University of Rhode Island.

A 2010 study of the program authored by Mazze shows that every dollar in film tax credits results in eight dollars of economic activity. Overall, between 2005 and 2009 production companies received $56.7 million in motion picture tax credits and, in return, Rhode Island saw $465.51 million in economic activity. The credits also created 4,184 new full-time jobs, according to the study, which was commissioned after then-Gov. Don Carcieri suggested scrapping the credits.

Mazze wondered why Chafee was picking on the program, saying it might just be the only state tax credit with a comprehensive study showing its economic benefits. Just $15 million a year is available in credits—out of a budget of more than $7 billion.

General Assembly leaders silent on future of program

Yesterday, Governor Lincoln Chafee’s office declined to respond to a GoLocalProv inquiry as to why the film tax credit repeal was included in his budget.

Created in 2005, the program has brought stars like Steve Carrell, Wesley Snipes, Dana Delany and Jeri Ryan to Rhode Island. At a press conference last December announcing the new ABC series “Body of Proof”—which stars Ryan and Delany—state leaders heaped praise on the film tax credits.

But yesterday Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and House Speaker Gordon Fox were mum about what they thought of Chafee’s plans for the future of the program. “Speaker Fox is still reviewing and digesting all of the budget proposals and has no comment on that tax credit at this point,” said spokesman Larry Berman. “He looks forward to the testimony in House Finance Committee on this proposal.”

‘It’s very devastating’

One recent Rhode Island College grad said doing away with the program would have a devastating effect on the film industry here.

“I think it’s very devastating,” said David Angell, a freelance videographer who has worked on production for about three films and one TV series that were made in Rhode Island, thanks to the tax credit. “If there’s not going to be a film tax credit, there’s not going to be a film industry. That’s going to be completely devastating to anyone in the industry who lives in Rhode Island.”

Angell, a Rhode Island native and Rhode Island College graduate, said the program allowed him to stay in the state after graduating—and has helped his career along ever since. “It was nice … just to be getting industry experience right out of college,” Angell told GoLocalProv.

Steven Feinberg, the director of the RI Film & TV Office, declined to comment.
 

 

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