Yesterday I reported on a new study that shows Oregon's film incentive program wastes tens of thousands of dollars a year and says we could more efficiently fund film productions straight from the state rather than via tax credits. The current tax credit incentive program is up for renewal—a bill in Salem wants to expand it from $15 million to $40 million every two years—and Oregon Film Executive Director Vince Porter was in Salem yesterday testifying (along with people in the industry) that Oregon should expand the tax credit subsidies.

I talked with Vince about the program, but first! A map of film incentives across the US. Oregon is in the minority of states that give the most desired incentive: a cash rebate covering production costs. Click the map to make it big.

film_incentive_map.jpg

MERC: So why fund film incentives through a tax credit that gives some money away rather than directly through the state budget?
VINCE PORTER: If it went to a lottery or general fund situation, then basically what we would be stuck with is six months out of 24, we wouldn't be able to represent any sort of certainty to producers looking to come to Oregon. If a producer was to call me right now, I'd have to tell him, "I don't know what funding we'll get, call me in July." Sometimes it takes us a year to recruit certain projects and if in the middle of that process they ask, 'Where are you at with incentives?' and we say, 'We don't know,' they'll pick up the phone and go to another state.

MERC: How do Oregon's film incentives compare to others states'?
PORTER: There's other states that offer a lot more money, double or triple the size of what we offer: Louisiana, Georgia, Michigan. The best example is the Twilight series. The first one they filmed here, then the project just sort of blew up in terms of production, the actors were getting paid a lot more and all that. The second two moved up Canada, then the last one was shot in Louisiana. They're not filming in Louisiana because it looks more like the northwest, they're filming there because the incentives work better for them.

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Another example is Life Unexpected. The producer of that show really wanted to shoot in Portland, it's set in Portland, and I thought we really had them, but at the end of the day what closed the door is that our film incentives program sunsets. And they didn't want to pack up from Vancouver and move here with the chance that the program might run out.

MERC: What type of production do our incentives attract?
PORTER: We compete best for television pilots and television series right now. It's hugely beneficial to be connected to the other part of the industry. While you're shooting shows, they're often The fact that we are in close proximity and in the same time zone and we can connect very easily to LA, that's huge in television. We've been able to sell that as an advantage. It offsets the fact that they're not going to get enough money.

MERC: How many projects actually use the incentives every year?
PORTER: We had five projects turn in the paperwork after shooting here last year. We're still waiting for Portlandia's paperwork.

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