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Wash. State Film Incentive Program Not Yet Dead

Marcie Sillman

State film industry advocates were in Olympia yesterday. They want lawmakers to pass a bill that extends the life of a filmmaking incentive program. Although today is the deadline for bills to make it out of legislative committees, supporters say their proposal isn't dead yet. KUOW's Marcie Sillman has more.


Two weeks ago, the state Senate gave an overwhelming thumbs up to Senate Bill 5539. The measure would extend the life of the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program.

The program gives financial incentives to certain movie projects made in Washington. Projects that qualify can get up to 30 percent rebates on in–state expenditures. That can be anything from wages and benefits paid to state residents, to the costs of building a movie set.

The incentive program is administered by Washington Filmworks. That's a nonprofit organization that absorbed the old Washington Film Office. Amy Lillard directs Washington Filmworks. She says in this era of state belt tightening, a rebate program is an easy target for budget cutters.

Lillard: "It is such a splashy headline, you know? Washington state gives money to Hollywood."

But Lillard says the incentive program is really about keeping film industry money in Washington state.

Legislative analysts found the program has generated almost $70 million for Washington workers and businesses since it started in 2007. Lillard says if lawmakers kill the Competitiveness Program, that money will go someplace else.

Lillard: "And film workers will either be forced to live away from their families, or, alternatively, move their families to other places where film work is happening."

Right now, 39 states offer some kind of incentive to attract big movie projects.

The Oscar nominated best pictures "Tree of Life" and "The Descendants" both benefitted from this kind of program.

Although the measure to extend Washington state's incentive program hasn't made it out of the House Ways and Means Committee, it's not dead yet.

A quirk in state law allows measures that don't get out of committee to be designated as necessary to implement the budget. Those bills are tacked on to the large budget proposals. Supporters hope to see the film incentive measure when the budget package is released.

I'm Marcie Sillman, KUOW News.

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