July 29, 2016

Indiana Film Industry Zooms In On Tax Break Proposal

Filmmaker Angelo Pizzo says the iconic film Hoosiers would not have been shot in Indiana without tax incentives. - Huw Williams, public domain

Filmmaker Angelo Pizzo says the iconic film Hoosiers would not have been shot in Indiana without tax incentives.

Huw Williams, public domain

A bill planned for the upcoming legislative session aims to bring more film business to Indiana. It would create the Indiana Film and Media Production Incentive program, offering tax breaks to productions made in the state.

Now, filmmakers and lawmakers are ramping up lobbying efforts to back the bill. Jon Vickers, the founding director of the Indiana University Cinema, said it wouldn't be the first program of its kind for Indiana -- another version lasted from 2007 to 2012.

"I don't think it was advertised very well to get it out there for producers and production companies,” he said. “But also the percentages were very low, and the cap was very low, so I think the combination of those three probably helped it die."

The new proposal would apply to projects with a budget over $50,000, where at least half of the production work occurs in Indiana. They could get a tax break on up to 30 percent of in-state labor expenses and 20 percent of other production costs.

Film producer and Indiana native Angelo Pizzo helped make the high school basketball classic Hoosiers in his home state 30 years ago. He said the new proposal would offer the same or better incentives than neighboring states.

With no tax breaks in Indiana right now, he said he couldn’t have made Hoosiers in the Hoosier state.

"In today's environment, with states like Illinois with a 25 percent tax credit, Ohio with a 35 percent tax credit, we would not have been allowed -- nor would we feel that it was fiscally responsible -- that we would give away 35 cents out of every dollar to shoot Hoosiers in Indiana,” he said. “We would have had to shoot Hoosiers in Illinois, or Ohio."


Under the new program, benefits would be capped at $10 million a production. And the state would be limited to $15 million total in credits each year. If that cap was met two years in a row, the legislature could vote to increase it to $20 million.

Rep. Christina Hale (D-Indianapolis Northside), who is also John Gregg’s gubernatorial running mate, said the program would combat brain drain and help grow the state’s creative economy.

"We're right now leaving money on the table, we're leaving business on the table, and opportunities for students and workers in our state to have meaningful job opportunities,” she said.

The bill will go before the legislature next session.

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