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February 7, 2011


Bill would give movie producers grants to film in Nebraska

by Deena Winter

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Sen. Colby Coash — who costars in the road trip comedy “Trunk’d” filmed last year in Nebraska — is pushing a bill that would give incentives to producers to film their movies in Nebraska.

Under the Nebraska Film Advantage Act, LB99, production companies that film in Nebraska could apply for grants from the state if they spend more than $500,000 in the state, have at least 10 Nebraska employees, provide matching funds equal to the grant. Each company would be eligible for up to $1 million in grants, but no more than $500,000 per project.

Money for the grants would come from the Local Civic, Cultural and Convention Center Financing Fund — which was created to help build and expand convention centers and arenas, including Qwest Center Omaha and Lincoln’s planned arena.

This seems like a harmless idea on its face — who wouldn’t want Johnny Depp to film his next movie in Nebraska? But states have been lining up to offer film incentives for a decade now, and some are beginning to question whether they’re worth the money being shelled out.

Canada started this craze when it began offering big carrots to get producers to film there in the late 1990s. U.S. states quickly followed their lead, and now, most states offer these incentives.

I was a reporter up north when North Dakota got into the game early. After all, they couldn’t allow the movie “Fargo” to be Hollywood’s only version of North Dakota.

Dakotans were thrilled when a movie called “Wooly Boys” was filmed in the Badlands, starring Peter Fonda and Kris Kristofferson. It was about an old sheep rancher who deprogrammed his big-city grandson.

North Dakota was believed to be the first state to finance a major feature film when it loaned the production company $3.9 million in 1999. And while lots of North Dakotans went out to see the movie when it showed in theaters there, it fizzled elsewhere. According to (Internet Movie Database), “Wooly Boys” grossed just $335,000 in the United States.

Money well spent? Not only did the state spend nearly $4 million financing a film that went nowhere, but I thought the film portrayed North Dakota as backwards sheep-herding country. Not exactly the image they were going for. But everyone pretended like it was a huge success anyway.

The New York Times wrote about how ga-ga states have gotten in their zeal to get on the big screen and questioned whether it’s wise to invest tax dollars in such a short-lived, albeit glamorous, venture that doesn’t create permanent jobs.

Louisiana is the poster child for overdoing it, financing a whopping $27 million of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” And Rhode Island moved to strengthen its incentives law after putting up $2.65 million of a $11 million budget for what turned out to be a straight-to-DVD movie.

The Times story is a must-read for any state lawmaker considering this bill.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Paul Mike Grieger
    Feb 7 2011

    Plse check with Iowa…they lost a great deal of money on this same concept.
    The state successfully filed suit to recover some miss used funds.
    New vehicles were aquired with movie money with no state sales tax being paid .vehicles delivered outside Iowa..

  2. J. Brown
    Feb 7 2011

    This same type of bill was already was introduced by Nantkes/Conrad before and shot down. What a joke, nothing better to do.

  3. Jane H Kinsey
    Feb 8 2011

    All we need is this when we have a budget crisis, possible loss of state aid to Lincoln and potholes in the streets.
    Where are people’s minds?

  4. Feb 9 2011

    Sen Coash has done his homework on this bill. It is VERY conservative as far as tax incentive bills go. Iowa’s program was abused and a disaster from the start. Nebraska will not reproduce those errors. This bill is a start to solving the brain drain of visual artists from our great state.

    Disclosure: I am the director of photography for TRUNK’D and a producer for AB PRODUCTIONS. I also volunteer for Nebraska Independent Film Projects 501c3 nonprofit. ( to be making movies in Nebraska, against all odds. We have ‘lost’ almost half the crew and cast that worked on our movie to California, New Orleans and New Mexico. Coincidence that those states have tax incentives for film and TV?

    Why would you turn down sales tax revenue from the crews that would be staying here, eating here, and building sets here?

    I urge you to research the bill, open your mind, and support LB99.

    Rhett McClure

  5. J. Brown
    Feb 9 2011

    Rhett, Ask the UNL Foundation for the money, and if any profit, split it with them.

  6. Dave Nickel
    Feb 13 2011

    Ok, , yes we have pot holes, etc. But do we have Jobs that help pay decent wages to workers in this State? The answer is no….how many workers are making a salary above the poverty line the Federal gov. considers poverty? I beg you to go to my facebook page or e-mail me for the facts in other states film incentive results. Please do not comment on issues that effect so many people if you do not know what most of us in the film industry know as being FACTS. yes iowa had problems….its called greed. And I bet all industries have some that have taken advantage of the good intentions. (I did not inhale) I did not have S==with that woman. etc. My point? Well there are always a few bad people in this country. But what about all the Good ones? We here in Nebraska have the lowest unemployment in the country. WOW! Its too bad that most of us have to work 2 and 3 jobs to make a living. If we don’t have money coming into the tax base, how is are the “pot-holes” going to be fixed? Do you realize what kind of wages these movie productions pay? It’s not to the “stars” but to US…NEBRASKANS the tax payers who will make more in 6 to 9 months than we make in 2 years working our right to starve state wages. Yeah, the same crew members that buy the cars, gas, washers, dryers, carpet, lumber, and everything else that gets a sales tax on it. Why are we facing a 1 BILLION DOLLAR budget shortfall in the next fiscal year? Maybe it is because people don’t make enough money to buy things to help the sales tax revenues to climb out of the depressed economy we have now!!! Of course the Agriculture Industry is thriving right now….and so will be the grocery store SUPPLIERS, passing an even bigger burden on the low-wage earner in this wonderful state that pays no decent wages to live on. I can safely say that most workers do not make over $20.00 per hr in this state. Do the math, and then you will see why the pot-holesa are not being fixed as soon as you would like. Maybe you should fix them yourself? Please e-mail me, and I will be glad to show you the FACTS and revenue that we are missing out on. It will make your head spin 4 certain! thanks for reading…
    Dave Nickel

  7. Feb 17 2011

    Updates on LB99. We encourage everyone to get out and voice their support for reasonable film and tv tax incentives.

    PS Dave Nickel is a smart dude. Enjoy his energy and spirit.


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