By Megan Poinski
Tripling the annual amount of the state’s tax credit for film production will create thousands of jobs and add tens of millions to the local economy, supporters of a bill to increase the tax credit to $22.5 million told a Senate committee Wednesday.
A bill approved by the General Assembly last year recharged the tax credit, which had fallen to $1 million a year. That legislation keeps a $7.5 million tax credit going each year until 2014.
Budget and Tax Committee Chairman Edward Kasemeyer, the lead sponsor, said that last year’s bill was so successful, he wants to expand the program.
“We’ve been so successful that frankly, the shows that want to come here, in order to meet our commitments to them, we have to increase the credit and try to extend the sunset,” Kasemeyer said.
His bill increases the annual credit amount to $22.5 million, and extends the program until 2016.
The bill had no opposition during the hearing at Kasemeyer’s committee, and senators asked no questions.
Luring film productions
Film production tax credits are designed to lure different production companies to Maryland to film movies, television programs or commercials, or to work on digital or animated projects. The money Maryland invests in the program are expected to create larger revenues for the state as a whole through salaries, local trade, tourism, and international exposure.
Hannah Byron, assistant secretary for tourism, film and the arts at the Department of Business and Economic Development, said 2011’s tax credit increase brought the state five productions. These include seasons 1 and 2 of the not-yet-aired HBO comedy show “Veep,” seasons 1 and 2 of the still-in-production “House of Cards” series to be released by Netflix, two independent films, and “Game Change,” an HBO original movie about Sarah Palin and 2008 election campaign.
These productions, Byron said, brought the state $185 million in additional spending. They also created about 5,500 new jobs for film crews and actors.
Maryland has become a “go to” place for film production, Byron said, and the industry is likely to keep growing. However, she said, it needs money to keep expanding.
Filming in Harford County
Writer and producer Beau Williamson, who wrote the recent movie “The Ides of March” and who is working on “House of Cards,” said that Maryland’s tax incentive was what ultimately brought the series here. Most of the filming is being done on a Harford County sound stage.
“Maryland allowed us to maximize our budget and put money on the screen,” Williamson said. “Without those incentives, we could not afford to do it.”
In making just the first season of “House of Cards,” Williamson said that producers expect to spend $70 million in Maryland. He estimated that the state is nearly quadrupling its investment in the series. For every dollar in tax credits given to “House of Cards,” the production is spending $3.70 in the state.
Representatives from unions, actors and stunt performers, and local businesses also spoke in support of the bill.
John Latenser, a Maryland-based film location manager, said that he spent years working in other states when Maryland did not have a robust film incentive program. The re-energized incentive program enables him to work close to home, he said. And if the program is increased to $22.5 million annually, Latenser said that he and other professionals who work in film would get more work and do more for the state.
“We could make this state what it can be,” Latenser said.