Films Can-and Do-Get Produced without Government Handouts
Unless you're an avid fan of independent films, you may not have heard about the premier of a movie titled Trust Fund. It was filmed and produced in Kansas City.
The romantic drama grossed about $37,000 over five weeks, which in the realm of independent filmmaking is a pretty good showing. Sure, it wasn't a multi-million dollar box-office hit, but it’s not every day that a movie produced by local filmmakers is good enough to be picked up by anyone, let alone given several weeks of screen time.
But the best part for taxpayers? The movie was filmed and produced without any kind of film tax incentive. It's sad that it has to be said, but filmmaking can, and should, happen without government money.
That fact may be lost on some local and state officials in Missouri.
The state’s own film tax credit program has been gone for a couple years—it expired in November, 2013—but like the creatures in a bad zombie movie, forms of it keep getting resurrected. As I've written before, the last successful attempt was in the form of a film incentive directly underwritten by Kansas City, passed earlier this year. And just this past legislative session, state legislators tried to get in on the act with HB 1645, which would raise the now-dead state film tax credit from the policy graveyard. Although it wasn’t passed this session, there is little doubt that it will reappear in next years’ term.
We have written many times before that film tax credits simply don’t work. Just last week, Tennessee taxpayers learned this lesson when ABC’s “Nashville” was unceremoniously canceled despite having received a taxpayer-funded subsidy to the tune of $45 million dollars.
Instead of relying on taxpayer funds, Missouri should let the opportunity to film in the many architecturally, historically, and scenery-rich cities across the state be the state's contribution to the film industry.
If Missouri officials want to be trusted with taxpayer funds, they should focus on better and smarter investments: promoting a low-tax culture, maintaining state and local infrastructure, and building up strong schools. Anything else is just a costly and misguided illusion that states can successfully play the role of movie producer.