Legislature votes to end Wisconsin’s film incentives

Wisconsin has seen the last of its filmmakers’ tax incentives.  They were eliminated once and for all by the State Assembly last Monday.  This should be no surprise since incentives have been waning since 2009.

That’s when Gov. Jim Doyle killed the 25% refundable tax on production costs and replaced it with a $500,000 cap. 

“It’s a head scratcher why an administration elected on the promise to create jobs wants to eliminate a successful program that has been creating jobs and quietly building the state’s high tech video gaming and film industry infrastructure these past few years,” said Michael Graf, a director at Madison’s Spot FilmWorks and Film Wisconsin board member, The Chippewa Herald reported. 

While there have been no projects as high profile as “Public Enemies,” Graf said that the incentives have been useful to smaller companies, such as Madison-based Tilt Media to build a soundstage in Madison, which took advantage of a 15% income tax credit for startup company capital investments.

“Tilt’s soundstage is a great resource that’s been used by filmmakers, local ad agencies and local businesses – and all because of the film incentives,” Graf said.  Without it, the work would’ve gone to Chicago.

Wisconsin had earned $75 million from entertainment projects by the second year of the tax incentives, thanks to the work of Film Wisconsin, a private-public organization that had worked for bipartisan passage, at a time when the state ranked very low in economic development.

Film production was going strong and meeting expectations when Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies” was the last Hollywood movie to film in the state and earn the tax refund in 2006.

While Wisconsin and Michigan have lost their incentives appeal, Graf noted that Illinois’ “robust incentives have are paying off big” and not just in bringing production business to Chicago.

The Smallville, Kansas scenes in the current “Man of Steel” were filmed in rural Illinois. Indie drama, “At Any Price,” starring Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron, was filmed in DeKalb in 2011 and released this past May.