UPDATE: Regional film alliance planned | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

UPDATE: Regional film alliance planned

Posted By on Tue, May 29, 2012 at 8:59 AM

An announcement is scheduled today about a new "public-private" alliance to encourage Arkansas as a place for film and "digital content" production.

Players: Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, Arkansas Film Commission, Northwest Arkansas Council.

I await details with interest. In Arkansas, the invocation of the magic words "public/private" generally means taxpayers soon will be asked to provide the money while private interests will soon start calling the shots, often with scant accountability.

Louisiana's popularity for film production is invariably mentioned when movies come up. It's been driven by enormous taxpayer handouts. Some think they cost far more than they produce in benefit to the state. There's no doubt there's been some wild exaggeration about the Louisiana work.

Just for the record: The Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank whose rankings are generally taken as gospel by those who think income, sales and property taxes are too burdensome, has something to say about film industry incentives.

Film tax credits fail to live up to their promises to encourage economic growth overall and to raise tax revenue. States claim these incentives create jobs, but the jobs created are mostly temporary positions, often transplanted from other states. Furthermore, the competition among states transfers a large portion of potential gains to the movie industry, not to local businesses or state coffers.

I could be getting ahead of myself. It could be that Arkansas's new alliance won't be looking for public money or public subsidies through preferential tax treatment. Maybe private industry has raised a substantial sum of venture capital to spur economic development (think Silicon Valley) and the state has promised to be as encouraging as possible with quality education for a digital world and public infrastructure attractive not only to the movie industry but the world at large. Yes, maybe that's it.

UPDATE: Looks like the headline news is a website with information on locations, incentives, available workers and other info friendly to film production.

News release follows:

The two largest urban regions in Arkansas have partnered with the Arkansas Film Commission to create the Arkansas Production Alliance (arfilm), to keep, attract and grow a competitive film and digital content production industry in Arkansas.

The announcement was made at a 2:00 p.m. news conference hosted by Martin M. Rhodes, chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and featuring Grant Tennille (Director, Arkansas Economic Development Commission), Christopher Crane (Arkansas Film Commissioner), Mike Malone (President and CEO, Northwest Arkansas Council), and Elizabeth Small (President, Fifty for the Future).

The Alliance’s new web presence – ArkansasProduction.com – will empower every property owner, community, chamber, visitors bureau, county and region in Arkansas to submit, maintain and market locations to the production industry. Submitted Arkansas locations will now also be a part of a global database powered by Reel-Scout™ (Reel-Scout.com), the industry’s leading content management system.

For the first time in Arkansas’s history, qualified resident crew and ex-patriots will have the opportunity submit and update their contact information, credits and resumes for consideration by productions shooting in Arkansas.
While the Locations Directory is immediately searchable, qualified crew will have thirty (30) days to submit – until June 30th – before that directory goes live.

“We want our growing talent pool to have the opportunity to fully populate our crew directory before sharing it with the world,” said Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane. “Ultimately, our Alliance will provide producers with seamless, single contact access to everything and everyone our state has to offer.”

“The Arkansas Production Alliance and its private/public partnership is unique in the nation in leading its state’s film industry,” said Reel-Scout President & CEO Ed Henegar. “The Alliance’s turnaround time in creating a unified, statewide, site locations, crew and support database powered by Reel-Scout™ was one of the fastest in our company’s history and puts Arkansas well on its way to becoming a major destination for film and digital content development ”

According to Mike Malone, President and CEO of the Northwest Arkansas Council, the Alliance is the “first fruit” of the historic, two-day meeting of leaders of Central and Northwest Arkansas hosted in Fayetteville in February of this year. Another gathering is being set for Little Rock later this year.

“With this single effort, we’ve demonstrated that our regions can partner in building an important, but largely overlooked industry,” said Malone. “Just imagine the possibilities when we turn our collective sites to other pressing needs of our state such as economic development, education, transportation and infrastructure.”
Elizabeth Small, President of Fifty for the Future, the Central Arkansas CEO group which partnered in the summit with the Northwest Arkansas Council, elaborated on Malone’s comments.

“Regionalism works because the best location(s) are presented, regardless of jurisdictional or geographic boundaries. With this Alliance, Arkansas is now truly super-regional. We don’t care where in the state a production goes – just as long as it comes to Arkansas.”

Grant Tennille, Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, said the regional cooperation is the state’s quickest path to success.

“Today, marketing isn’t about 30-second commercials. It’s about product placement,” said Tennille. “The film and digital production industry offers Arkansas product placement in perpetuity. Just as the Northwest Arkansas and Metro Little Rock regions have demonstrated that they can work together, so too can the AEDC, Parks and Tourism, Game and Fish and every other state and local agency that has a vested interest in marketing all that our state and communities have to offer.”

“Further, our Support Services Directory offers the private sector the opportunity to match the state’s 15% rebate for qualified productions with their own 15% discounts as preferred vendors,” said Tennille. “Now, if we truly want to be competitive in the production industry, everyone – public and private – has the opportunity to put skin in the game.”
Martin M. Rhodes, Chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber, said that the Alliance is a logical extension of how the Chamber’s Little Rock Film Commission has been working.

“Our efforts have always been in lock-step with the state,” Rhodes said. “Five years ago, Arkansas was simply not in the production game. We were one of two states without production incentives.”

“Today, we have modest, but competitive incentives, we’re growing our crew base with expanded training at Southern Arkansas University Tech, Pulaski Technical College, University of Central Arkansas and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and thanks to our partners in Northwest Arkansas, we now have the most powerful locations, crew and support content management system in the business.”

Rhodes also thanked Malone and Tennille for their partnership.

“With this alliance, we have demonstrated that there is no limit to what we may accomplish when we cooperate. Our wish is that all of the regions and communities in Arkansas will join us in this effort to make our state a leading production destination.”

“Piggott’s A Face in the Crowd, Fort Smith’s A Soldier’s Story, Fouke’s Legend of Boggy Creek, Benton’s Sling Blade – Arkansas’s past is rich in cinematic history,” said Crane. “In 1929, Hallelujah – Director King Vidor’s first talking picture and the first Hollywood film with an exclusively African-American cast, was partially shot just outside of West Memphis. This past fall, Arkansas’s own Jeff Nichols’ wrapped Mud, the largest production to ever shoot in Arkansas.”
“The Arkansas Production Alliance’s arfilm logo will make its debut in the closing credits of Mud, as the unified brand for our state’s film economic development,” said Crane. “Our intention is that it is just the first of many, many more.”

The Arkansas Production Alliance is an initiative of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce and Northwest Arkansas Council, in partnership with the Arkansas Film Commission. For more information, visit ArkansasProduction.com.

UPDATE from Cheree: The new Production Alliance was explained a bit further in today's press conference, and it seems to be a threefold plan. The most tangible change is the $24,000 website Max mentioned, which is funded by state allotments and donations from various private business chambers and councils. This website allows filmmakers to search Arkansas locations, crew resumes and vendor services from afar, with the goal of selling the state as a geographically diverse, affordable place to shoot. There will also be a preferred vendors program, where vendors willing to match the 15 percent rebate by offering productions a 15 percent or greater discount on their services (equipment rental, housing, catering, etc.). The third aim is to increase and coordinate filmmaker outreach throughout the state, soliciting the help of corporate membership organizations in filling and maintain the new locations databases and encouraging them to function as regional outcroppings of the Film Commission. Higher education programs were also named in the Alliance. In the three years since Arkansas's Digital Product and Motion Picture Industry Development Act was adopted, Pulaski Tech has initiated a production program and UALR has expanded its media arts program.

All of this sounds grand, and productions do seem to enthrall local communities, sometimes providing significant local economic boosts and nearly always rallying morale. But Max mentioned earlier that the cost of issuing these rebate credits often outweighs the income generated from production taxes. Since 2009, Arkansas has paid $1.6 million in incentives according to the Department of Excise Tax, but the state doesn't keep up with the total amount of tax revenue generated from these productions. Arkansas productions receive qualified cost rebates of 15 percent and additional Arkansas resident payroll rebates of 10 percent. According to this state-by-state analysis by the Motion Picture Association of America, Arkansas's incentive falls somewhere towards the modest end of middle.

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