Simple tax incentive could make Minnesota leader in TV, film production

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Why would FX Productions decide to spend $40 million filming “Fargo,” the iconic TV series set in Minnesota, in Alberta, Canada?

And why would Walt Disney Studios choose Portland over its first choice, the Twin Cities, to produce “Timmy Failure,” a venture that could have poured an estimated $40 million a year into Minnesota’s economy?

By all rights, the nation’s TV industry should be flocking to Minnesota. We have almost everything it needs: varied and stunning locations, four distinct seasons, brilliant and talented actors and crews, a world-class airport with nonstop service to almost everywhere, a highly educated union workforce, and famously nice people.

What we do not have is a simple, cost-effective tax-credit program designed to attract and keep long-running, big-budget TV series. Think “Blue Bloods,” shot in New York City, or “Chicago P.D.” in Chicago. Such shows can generate good-paying local jobs over many years.

Minnesota’s legislators need to fix that. Hundreds of producers, writers, designers, and industry leaders are set to descend on Duluth in October for the annual Catalyst Content Festival (formerly ITVFest). A new tax incentive program would give them one more good reason to return and stay.

Big opportunities await. RT Features is considering Hibbing and Duluth as locations for “Blood on the Tracks,” a feature film inspired by the Bob Dylan album partially recorded in the Twin Cities. Warner Brothers has given the green light to “Clouds,” the true story of Stillwater, Minn., teenager Zach Sobiech, his battle with cancer, and the song he wrote that inspired the world. They can begin shooting in Minnesota if incentives are available — or in Canada if they are not.

See more at Duluth News Tribune.

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