YOU Can Help Bring Film Incentives Back to Arizona -
by Randy Murray, AFMC Legislative Committee.
After years of research, town hall meetings and consultations with political leaders, the AFMC developed a multi-year grass-root legislative strategy designed to revive the Arizona Film and Media Industry. The objective is to bring permanent Film and Media industry jobs to our state, make Arizona a place for a young creative-class to prosper, and to build a local "homegrown" industry.
To accomplish these goals, we need your help, the help of everyone in the film and media industry, everyone who wants to be in the industry and everyone who supports it. We need thousands of voices. And we have made it super easy to be one of those voices. Please step up and make a difference in our industry by doing these two easy steps:
1. Go to Go Fund Me, The Future of Film in Arizona (https://www.gofundme.com/f/future-of-film-in-arizona-campaign) and make a donation. Please help us with ten dollars, $25 or whatever you can, we need everyone in the film community to pitch in. We have hired one of the most prestigious lobbyists in Arizona, The Aarons Company, to represent us. They have cut their fee by more than 50% because they, too, love the film industry and want to see it prosper here in Arizona. But we still need to raise $20,000 this year and again next year. Together, we can do this.
2. Get on the mobilization list. Sign up at https://azfilmandmedia.org. Once you are on the mobilization list you are part of the grass-roots movement. When the time is right, we will send you an email with "cut-and-paste" talking points and who to send them to. This is so easy and so powerful. Raise your voice. We will be organized, focused and loud. Together we can make a huge difference. So please get on the list now.
Last year was the first year of the three-year plan, and it was a great first year. The Arizona Office of Film and Digital Media, housed in the Arizona Commerce Authority, was scheduled to close in June, and we got it extended for six more years! We showed up in force at the state capital and testified before the Technology Committee. We had three advocate training sessions, two in Phoenix and one in Tucson, and we now have nearly one hundred trained grass-roots activists in contact with their legislators. Over the summer these activists personally met with and got support from legislators from both sides of the aisle in both houses. We are now ready to pass our first two bills!
Arizona needs to become a "film-friendly" state again. This means Arizona needs to get back on the lists of states that offer a "Film Incentive." However, this does not mean taxpayers should pay for it. Our first goal, House Bill 2385, reimburses just the taxes spent in Arizona on an approved project.
Tax Reimbursement Bill, HB2385. Entertainment creators can apply, on a per-project basis, to the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media for a Sales Tax Reimbursement for business activities required for creation of original content. These activities include development, pre-production, production, post-production, distribution (exporting), and building or improving industry infrastructure. Upon completion of the project the Department of Revenue will reimburse the production company the sales tax they paid on the project.
Without spending a single taxpayer dollar, the international film industry will perceive this reimbursement as something similar to the $1 million tax give-a-ways offered by other states.
Our second bill, HB2379, restructures the bidding process for tax-funded productions, like lottery and tourism commercials, so that the procurement office provides a bidding advantage for Arizona-based Film and Media vendors. This simple law will help stabilize the local suppliers and help keep our tax dollars in the state. This bill also sends the clear message that Arizona values and supports its local film businesses.
While the following goals are not on the 2020 agenda, they are so important and so innovative, we have started working with leadership now to have them ready for 2021.
In 2021, we are proposing that the Arizona Commerce Authority, ACA, create the Arizona Content Investment Fund. This innovative program is a blend of a state-run endowment designed to fund projects created in Arizona, and a private investment fund designed to be self-sufficient and grow. Starting with $25 million (a one-time allotment or five $5 million allotments over five years) this ACA fund will be managed by a volunteer board of retired industry executives at the direction of the ACA. This board will select projects based on potential return on investment. The fund will invest up to $1 million "first dollars in/first dollars out" committed "completion funding" in approved projects by Arizona-based entertainment content developers. The ultimate objective of the fund will be to become self-sustaining and repay the $25 million.
This innovative program will have a huge effect on the local filmmaking and creative development community. Local projects proven worthy will be able to secure that first funding, which will be a game-changer for local independent producers. Arizona will be the home to the new creative class. And with the success of the program the $25 million investment will be repaid to the state or ACA.
Also in 2021, The AFMC is planning to introduce a bill that will create the Arizona-based original content development "seed incentive." A 40% rebate of expenses spent in Arizona by emerging Arizona-based entertainment content developers on approved speculative "proof on concept" projects. These projects could include the building of software prototypes, pilots or sizzle reels for TV shows or short film treatments for feature films. We will explore the possibility of working with the Arizona Commission on the Arts to administer part or all of this program for recent graduates of the local universities and colleges.
Helping small independent producers, entrepreneurs and students start their projects will establish Arizona as the place for young creative people to start new creative businesses.
And the final objective of our legislative push is an incentive we are calling the Arizona Jobs Program. Arizona-based independent entertainment creators can apply for a 20% rebate for projects under $10 million for expenses on a film, a TV production, or media project that is developed and produced in Arizona. These projects must include Arizona-based development, production and post-production.
This ambitious strategy will create film and media jobs in Arizona, but to succeed, we need you. We need you to pitch in at the Go Fund Me site and we need you to be a voice for the film community by getting on the mobilization list at the AFMC website.
Do these two easy things and together we will make a huge difference in Arizona's Film Industry. Together, we can do this!
Editor's Note: You can also track the status of the two House Bills by visiting https://www.azleg.gov/ and typing the bill numbers (HB2385 and HB2379, one at a time) into the Bill Search Box in the upper right corner of the home page.