Stephen Weizenecker and others provide comments to legislators reviewing film tax credit

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Those at the hearings this week at the capitol were encouraged by the discussions. One legislator stated “I think we are close” meaning that a deal that both sides want could happen. This would provide more structure and assurances around the tax credit without a cut or cap limit that would certainly slow our momentum.

Several key individuals gave brief testimony including Peter Stathopoulos, Mike Adkins, Dr. Richard Baxter and others. Below, see Stephen Weizenecker’s talking points from his comments. We are very encouraged by the progress being made on all fronts.

Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of this working group

I appreciate the time to speak to you as an entertainment lawyer and GA taxpayer. I want to thank you Mr. Chairman for the time you have personally invested in this meeting with folks and the hearing yesterday.

As you know, I was here yesterday with DOR but we did not have time to get into everything that I thought should be addressed. We had great testimony from GDEcD by Andrew Cappazuto Also, Chester Cook was very illuminating. Our state agencies in charge of this program have been doing great work to keep up with unprecented growth.

GA is a world player in the film tv video game music market. As part of the growing pains, they are trying to keep up with limited budgets Mr. Cook talked briefly about this but I wanted to explain it more:

DOR

When Commissioner Curry was first appointed he decided to continue the progress that DOR has been making to improve the administration of the film tax credit He decided to create a Film Tax Credit Advisory Board.

It is made up of Accounts, Lawyers, Industry representatives and folks from the DOR.

This is a working group that works to improve and create integrity in the system. This Board listened to each other and provided an enhanced level of communication between the administration and implementation of the system.

As a result of just this first meeting, we are seeing results. AUPs will be created so that all audits of tax credits will have the same rules. The DOR will provide more specific guidance on various qualified expenses. 3rd party auditors will be utilized so that GA CPAs can be the first level of screening on tax credits. The best part of this system is that it will be paid for by the production companies and not tax dollars.

Georgia Film Academy is providing education across the entire state to make the film workers of the future. This is occurring in Columbus, Savannah and elsewhere in the state. They have expanded their program to include the above the line education which is the highest paying jobs in the filmmaking process.

They are training the next Tyler Perry who is waiting to create the content for future generations.

Outside of these Governmental agencies production remains at an all-time high with film and tv content being created by all the major studios and the streaming companies like Netflix as well as local and international independent entities. Our mega churches are also creating content that is being viewed around the world. This content is happening all over the state.

I have this book which will be provided to all of you. It was created by the Georgia Studio and Infrastructure alliance. It tells the story about the people working in this industry across the state.

Conclusion:

We are a worldwide player in the content creation game.

We have invested millions of dollars in this endeavor.

We have hard working Georgians employed in this industry.

As the agencies discussed yesterday we can improve the system through mandatory audits and further regulatory improvements that are already underway.

We should look forward in our efforts to support the continued growth in the entertainment industry.

Stephen is a partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP

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