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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: AZ film tax credit could bring back Old Tucson

Tucson is a cinematic town. The retro lanes of Congress Street, the winding hills of Oracle Road, the great eerie washes. It’s a shame, then, that this state doesn’t have a film tax credit to draw filmmakers here.

Yes, while New Mexico supports productions like “Breaking Bad” and “The Avengers,” we are stuck with no such incentives. We formerly had one, attracting productions like “Rio Bravo” and “The Outlaw of Josey Wales,” but it got the axe like so many other tax breaks in 2010 thanks to the Great Recession.

Tucson film director Shelli Hall mourned the loss.

“The [U.S.] Department of Commerce, where the program was housed, did a study a couple years into the five-year program that said the incentive program cost the state money,” she said.

But she also noted that an impact study done by the local industry indicated “the program brought money into the state.”

“I heard on the radio this morning that Arizona came in dead last of all 50 states for construction jobs,” Hall said. “Just one TV series would easily employ 100-200 construction workers to build and maintain sets for several months every year.”

Putting Hall’s statement about the advantage of film tax credits into effect, New Mexico reportedly gained $90 million of film production spending injected into its economy, New York had $7 billion pumped into its state, and the number of film jobs in Louisiana quadrupled.

Even a study in Maryland, which is actually considering axing its own, said the state was receiving $1.03 for every dollar put into the program. You’d think Arizona would want a slice of that cash pie.

Of course, it would help if Arizona had a state film office to even negotiate with the small quantity of productions that do want to film here without a tax credit.

The old state film office was another thing axed with the recession in 2009, which makes it an awful pain to coordinate shooting, though state legislators like Carlyle Begay are trying their hardest to bring it back. Tucson has created its own smaller, local tax incentives to help as well.

But the legislation to bring the tax breaks back has a long road ahead of it.

“All the Tucson and Southern Arizona legislators have supported our motion picture incentive bills in the past,” Hall said. “But there is a small, very vocal minority, some of whom hold the most powerful positions in our House and Senate, who have blocked the bill from getting a hearing by not assigning it to a committee.”

These organizations include the wonkishly conservative think tanks of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club and the Arizona Tax Research Association. So, if anyone wants to send large quantities of pizzas and black faxes to these jerk-offs, it’s unlikely anyone would judge.

While this is a start, we need the film tax credit if we are truly going to become a filmmaking state. Keep in mind that a filmmaking state is also a money-making, tourist-attracting, well-off state.


Tom Johnson is a film & television studies junior. Follow him on Twitter.

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