A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Sandra Wilson: Kentucky film incentives are a success story and a great recipe for success

The Kentucky film industry is a success story in the making.

Since the General Assembly adopted a new incentive structure in 2015, Kentucky has benefitted from a 900% increase in the number of productions shot in the Bluegrass State.

Click image for Kentucky Film Association website.

Those productions have led to the creation of hundreds of new jobs and millions of dollars in direct investment in local economies. For instance, the Kentucky Film Office recently stated that over $31 million has been spent in Kentucky by production companies in 2016-2017, resulting in an overall estimated positive economic impact of $47 million. In other words, for every $1 that Kentucky has spent on film incentives, it has produced $10 in economic activity.

That’s great news.

The film industry is growing and the film incentive program is achieving each and every objective set by legislators when they wisely expanded the program three years ago. We are witnessing a significant investment in a skilled workforce as Millennials enroll in the state’s growing number of visual arts programs and new opportunities are offered for displaced workers to adapt their technical skills to a new industry.

Small town are benefiting from increased traffic and investment that comes with a film production.

Kentucky is also likely to announce private investment in what would be the first full size production studio in 2018.

In many respects, Kentucky is the envy of many other states whose film industry has stagnated or is declining.

Despite all the good news, the film industry has its critics. A few individuals have taken to the airwaves and newspapers to complain about the film incentive program. Some have even gone so far as to label it a waste of taxpayer money. These charges are simply not credible and, when given appropriate scrutiny, they fall flat.

What is lacking in much of the coverage is any sense of proportion.

The entire film incentive program amounted to just 0.0001% of tax expenditures in 2016-2017. That’s such a small portion of the state’s overall budget that it gets lost in the rounding. And what the initial numbers suggest is that Kentucky would do well to spend more on the film incentive in light of the positive economic activity and job growth that it creates.

It also bears mentioning that the source for the most critical coverage of the film incentive is an out-of-state professor whose own home state has a lot to lose if production companies continue the exodus from the traditional center of the film industry. That particular professor’s work has been significantly criticized by industry stakeholders and peers, which calls into question its legitimacy even if it is not rooted in bias.

The bottom line is that Kentucky is a good place to make movies because we have beautiful scenery, a favorable climate, a skilled and ready-to-work labor force and, now, an incentive program that allows us to compete with any other state. This is a great recipe for success and the initial reports are all highly favorable.

Naysayers aside, the Kentucky film industry is poised for even greater growth.

All we need to do is to preserve and protect what the General Assembly has already accomplished. If we can do that, it won’t be long before a movie is filmed in your hometown – if it hasn’t been already.

Sandra Wilson is the President of the Kentucky Film Association and the Secretary of the Southern Kentucky Film Commission.

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  1. Tom Coe says:

    What bullshit… Where did she come up with the numbers? Should be in op-ed section at best…

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