BATON ROUGE: Enhancements for Louisiana’s film program are being proposed to build on the state’s traditional strength in film and TV activity and to emphasize sustainable, long-term investment in the state. The proposed improvements not only reaffirm Louisiana’s standing as a leading U.S. film and television production destination, but also would strive to increase the number of permanent jobs in the digital entertainment sector. The plan would encourage more investment in full-time jobs via permanent operations in Louisiana while providing a more stable and competitive business environment.
Senate Committee on Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Chairman Sen. Jean-Paul “J.P.” Morrell has authored a package of bills providing an innovative path to a smarter film program for Louisiana. The bills are designed to improve state budget predictability, provide an opportunity for better return-on-investment for the state, support industry sustainability, and improve the statewide impact, while keeping costs within the program’s total credit issuance cap.
Last year, Gov. John Bel Edwards directed LED to review, analyze and recommend policy changes for the film program to be considered in the 2017 legislative session. Louisiana remains committed to the film industry, which has generated more than $6 billion in film and television production work in Louisiana since the modern-era program began in 2002.
“Louisiana is a top global production destination as a result of our program, and these changes will continue to attract film production and leverage that activity to develop stronger roots here and create a sustainable impact for the state and its residents,” LED Secretary Don Pierson said. “These smart policy recommendations will create a stronger program. By encouraging decision-makers in the entertainment industry to operate here and to invest more permanently in Louisiana and its talented people, we will cultivate a more dynamic industry that delivers more full-time, permanent jobs.”
To that end, LED undertook an extensive internal analysis and gathered broad input from stakeholders throughout Louisiana. Legislators and entertainment industry experts also were included to help identify recommendations for best practices and enhanced economic impact of the public’s investment.
Sen. Morrell’s bills incorporate those recommendations, including the following key provisions:
- The percentage of the credit transfer option, the method through which film tax credits may be redeemed directly with the state, would increase from 85 percent to 92 percent, 2 percent of which is a transfer fee dedicated to a fund for education and training programs for Louisianans interested in film industry careers and for grants for Louisiana filmmakers.
- Each year, 5 percent of the credits would be reserved for qualified entertainment companies that establish permanent operations and invest in full-time permanent, high-paying jobs in Louisiana. Those credits would be performance-based, meaning the qualified entertainment companies would need to create the full-time permanent jobs before becoming eligible for payroll rebates.
- The base tax credit would continue at 30 percent for film and TV production expenditures in Louisiana. An additional 10 percent credit would be available for movies written by Louisiana residents with budgets of no more than $5 million, and an additional 5 percent would apply to Louisiana-based visual effects services.
- For scripted, episodic television series filmed in the state, a 5-year initial certification would replace the season-by-season certification.
- Movies made outside the New Orleans area would be eligible for an additional 5 percent tax credit, creating greater statewide impact.
- The per-project limit on tax credits for movie productions would be reduced from $30 million to $20 million.
All of the changes would be made within a proposed $165 million annual cap for the issuance of tax credits, with no additional cost to the state.
Collectively, the changes represent greater investment in Louisiana content-producers and full-time permanent jobs, strengthening of the state’s significant film industry workforce, and adherence to the overall budget cap set by the state. The program would extend a commitment to education, training and resources for Louisiana filmmakers and residents who want to enter the industry and sustain it.