Film Tax Credits Are Bad for States
The new George Clooney film, Up in the Air, premiered at the Tivoli in Saint Louis over the weekend. Many are using the event as an opportunity to promote film tax credits, to be used as a means to bring more film productions to Missouri. John Combest links to a video on KMOV about the subject.
I could support the film tax credits if they actually did attract money from outside of Missouri. But, as I have blogged previously, this just doesn’t happen; states tend to spend more attracting filmmakers with tax credits than the filmmakers generate in the state. I have not been able to find information about how much money Up in The Air generated for Missouri, but I would not be surprised if that number is less than the $4.5 million in tax credits that it was awarded. I will continue to look for this information.
Instead of film tax credit programs, Missouri should spend its money on programs that create jobs that are better-paying and longer-lasting. We see from the KMOV video that these film tax credits do not result in sustained job creation. Certainly, many St. Louis residents are cast as extras in these films, but these jobs are low-wage and temporary. According to the casting call for Up In the Air, extras were compensated only $7.05 per hour (before taxes) and they were asked to work for just one day. Aspiring actress Adrienne Lamping was quoted in the video saying that she got to work on set for a week, but discloses that she does not have an acting job lined up in the future.
I understand why states like Missouri want to attract filmmakers. Certainly, it’s exciting for the hoi polloi to recognize their local haunts on the big screen and to spot celebrities like George Clooney. Unfortunately, however, almost nobody discusses the sheer cost of these programs.