The Arkansas Cinema Society is celebrating the passage of the bi-partisan bill HB1592 to expand upon the film incentives available for film productions that shoot in Arkansas. This new legislation goes into effect August 1, 2023 and increases the base incentive for qualified productions and production costs from 20% to 25% and adds additional uplift incentives to help productions get to the maximum incentive available of 30%. These added uplifts apply to both the tax rebate and tax credits on qualified productions. While a film tax rebate has long existed, a tax credit was codified during the previous legislative session in 2021, as an available option alongside the tax rebate. Other than adding these increases, ACT 517 has no impact on either the rebate or the credit. Film incentives in Arkansas have played a part in recruiting films like Pursuit, starring John Cusack and Emile Hirsch; House of Darkness, starring Justin Long and Kate Bosworth; Hellfire, starring Harvey Keitel and Stephen Lang; and Mindcage, starring Martin Lawrence and John Malkovich, along with TV shows like Saved by Grace.
“Arkansas needs to be competitive with our neighboring states, and this bill is a step in the right direction,” said Senator Jonathon Dismang. “The proof is in the numbers, and we’ve seen the economic development data from other states on how impactful the film and television industry can be to local economies. It’s important to now gather the necessary data in Arkansas and work with AEDC and ACS to continue to make progress for our state.”
“Film and television productions have had a positive impact on the Arkansas economy over the years,” said Clint O’Neal, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “Producers and directors are drawn to Arkansas for the beautiful scenery, diverse topography and our experienced and hard-working crew base. We look forward to working with more productions and encouraging the growth of the film and television industry in Arkansas.”
“We are very grateful to Governor Sanders and the Arkansas state legislature, especially our sponsors Rep. Charlene Fite and Sen. Jonathan Dismang for seeing the importance of film’s role in economic development and passing this bill,” said ACS Executive Director Kathryn Tucker. “The Arkansas Economic Development Commission has done a lot to bring film to the table as a tool for economic development and tourism. States like Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Alabama have seen their film economies boom because of similar film incentives. This latest bill supports local production companies and makes us more competitive with surrounding Southern states when trying to recruit films to shoot in Arkansas which creates more, better paying jobs for Arkansas filmmakers.”
The original film incentive legislation was passed in 2009 and enhanced in 2013, followed by an update during the 2021 session. Act 797 of 2021 preserved the tax rebate for qualified productions while adding a baseline transferable tax credit of 20%. The 2021 law also created additional uplifts, or add-ons, that could enable filmmakers to boost the incentive, either rebate or credit, up to 30%. The primary difference between tax rebates and tax credits is how they are funded. Rebates are funded retroactively by Governors, typically through their Quick Action Closing Funds, which means they are not funded as part of the annual state budget. Tax credits, on the other hand, are funded prospectively, and the 2021 law set aside $4 million annually in tax credits for qualified productions. Act 797 of 2021 also streamlined the auditing process for productions submitting paperwork for the incentive.
Act 517 of 2023 has zero fiscal impact and builds upon the previous legislation by doing the following:
Filmmaking is more than just a means of artistic expression, it is a major industry in which Arkansans can find a multitude of high-paying jobs. Along with the more well-known positions on a crew like director, producer, or actor, Arkansans can create a career in film as makeup artists, caterers, lawyers, electricians, drivers, carpenters, accountants, and more. Major networks like HBO, Discovery Channel, and the Hallmark Channel are already producing films and TV shows in our state. The benefits of film production are undeniable. HBO’s True Detective Season 3 shot in the state in 2018 and an economic impact study showed a $100 million dollar economic impact on Northwest Arkansas in addition to the creation of over 1,000 jobs. Our Arkansas film community has grown exponentially over the last decade thanks to the current film incentive, and we will continue to see that growth as more studios and production companies discover and see Arkansas as a welcoming destination for film through the new process and incentives.
At ACS, we believe that if we provide filmmakers an arena to exhibit their talents, and film enthusiasts a healthy diet of quality programming, we can inspire more Arkansans to make and watch more films. By supporting filmmakers, festivals, theaters and young people interested in filmmaking throughout the state, we hope to create statewide network, pool Arkansas’s resources and be an umbrella organization that feeds all things film. We believe a rising tide lifts all boats.
To be a filmmaker, we have to connect to create. A painter needs a brush, paint and a canvas. A director needs a writer, a cinematographer, a sound mixer, production designer, editor, actors, distributors, and an audience. We cannot do it alone. This art form forces one to collaborate and thus, creates jobs. Filmmaking is unique in the arts in this way. It takes an army.