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Here’s How A State Tax Credit Is Boosting Kentucky’s Film Economy

Wikimedia Commons/Twin Lion Folms

Soozie Eastman, the executive director of the Louisville Film Society, says for decades Kentucky had the reputation of being “flyover country” for filmmakers. In fact, that’s where the society’s annual film festival gets its name.

But this year, as preparations are being made for the 9th Annual Flyover Film Festival, things are feeling a little different for Kentucky's film-making community -- thanks to a relatively new state tax credit.

Eastman says until 2015, Kentucky’s tax credits for filmmakers weren’t very competitive when you put them up against what other states in our region offered.

“If you looked at Atlanta or Louisiana or several states in the area, they had much more lucrative incentives,” Eastman says.

The state's previous program awarded a tax credit of 20 percent to production companies that spent $50,000 for documentaries, $200,000 for commercials and $500,000 for films and television productions.

In 2015, the value of the tax credit increased to between 30 and 35 percent, depending on the film location and how many local crew members were hired.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say you have a movie with a million-dollar budget and you choose to bring it to Kentucky to film and produce.

“If you spend one million dollars in the state on qualified expenditures, you can then submit them to the state film office,” Eastman says. “You will get a 30 percent credit towards any kinds of tax liability you might have, and anything above and beyond that comes back to you in a check.”

And Eastman says it’s paying off.

Between 2009 and 2015, production companies invested about $44 million into in-state film projects -- that's six years’ worth of productions. In the past year and half alone, companies have already invested $32 million.

Additionally, during that six-year period before 2015, there were a total of 41 film incentive applications submitted; from 2016 to present, there have been 124 submitted.

Eastman says the 2017 Flyover Festival is a “testament to the Louisville Film Society’s original vision to celebrate local film and help stimulate the film economy.”

Three of the films that will be screened at the festival -- “And Then I Go,” “Tragedy Girls” and “Beauty Mark” -- were shot entirely in Kentucky.

This, Eastman says, sends an important message to the state’s arts community about the value of film.

“This community has been hugely supportive of the opera and Actors’ Theatre and our wonderful orchestra,” Eastman says. “And, with these numbers, we really think that film does have a place at the table.”

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