Will Minnesota’s New Film Tax Credit Work?

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There was a day not all that long ago that movies set in Minnesota were actually filmed here, too. FargoPurple RainGrumpy Old Men—they’re all films that helped put Minnesota on the Hollywood map. That is, until Canada pulled the Minnesota movie rug out from under us by offering hefty tax credits to movies willing to film there. Other states established incentives to compete with Canada, but Minnesota’s effort, a rebate, wasn’t enough to lure productions back.

A new bill passed by the Minnesota Legislature on June 30, however, may change that. The $5 million transferable tax credit is the first of its kind in the state—prior to this bill being passed, productions relied on a rebate, which, according to Minnesota Film and TV executive director Melodie Bahan, proved “unstable” from year to year. Incentives are the bread and butter of the film industry; they take a film like Sean Penn’s Flag Day (in theaters now), a story set in Minnesota based on a book written by a Minnesotan, and move it to Manitoba for cheaper production costs.

“A television or streaming series is not going to even consider a state that doesn’t have a long-term tax credit program in place,” Bahan says. “So, what that does is shuts Minnesota out from a huge amount of money.”

The chief author of the bill, State Representative Dave Lislegard from northeastern Minnesota, recognized the vital role incentives play in film production when he was cast as an actor in North Country in 2004. The movie was shot in Minnesota and then moved to New Mexico because of an incentive. Lislegard thinks the credit will “blossom into something very special for the state of Minnesota,” reigniting the local workforce and reintroducing a tax base. What’s more, the talent within our state and the diversity of locations that can emulate worldly landscapes create a groundswell of cinematic opportunity for Minnesota. See more here.

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