- BY GINA KINSLOW firstname.lastname@example.org
CAVE CITY — The film industry is important to Kentucky because of the economic impact it has on individual communities, as well as the entire state.
Jay Hall, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Film and Development, spoke about the importance of the film industry during the Caveland Marketing Association's Legislative Luncheon on Monday at the Cave City Convention Center.
“In 2016 and 2017, we made 23 film projects in Kentucky. That brought in $31 million in direct spending in Kentucky. That was in Louisville, Lexington, Mayfield, Springfield, Horse Cave and Glasgow. It just wasn't in one area of the state. It was all over the state,” he said. “That $31 million translates to a $47 million economic impact.”
Filmmaking is such a big business in Kentucky right now due to the incentives the state offers film production companies.
Kentucky first began offering a tax incentive to film production companies in 2009, but at that time it was a 20 percent refundable tax credit.
In 2015, the tax incentives increased thanks to the passage of House Bill 340.
Kentucky now offers three refundable tax incentives ranging from 30 to 35 percent to film production companies if they choose to do their projects in the state and to hire local labor.
Film production in Kentucky returns 1.52 percent on every $1 spent.
“We paid $9.2 million in incentives. That's a lot of money, but on that $47 million that was spent in Kentucky, state and local taxes equate to about 10 percent, so that's $4.7 million,” Hall said. “When you take $4.7 million off of $9.2 (million), you end up with $4.5 million in net costs to the state for $47 million of economic impact. That's not a bad return.”
The film industry not only brings money to Kentucky, it is also creating jobs.
“Anyone who has worked on a film production or been to a film set will tell you that the film industry is a very labor-intensive industry,” Hall said. “The investment the state has made has actually resulted in 372 full-time equivalent (jobs). That's why it's important.”
He continued that a film made in Louisville will only be “a blip” on that city's economic impact.
“But when a film (is made) in a local community like Horse Cave or Glasgow or Edmonson County, that's huge,” Hall said. “Your restaurants are full. Your hotels are full. This is about jobs and economic development and the film industry has done a very good job in spending its money in Kentucky and we want to thank them for it.”
Branscombe Richmond, a film producer and member of the Southern Kentucky Film Commission, also spoke during the luncheon. His primary job is to attract film production companies to Kentucky.
“So far, we've been really successful. You've got a great incentive and that is the biggest part of making my job easy,” he said. “You've got 30 to 35 percent, but you got to let people know there is an incentive out there because we have a big competitor.”
Kentucky's biggest competitor in attracting film production companies is the state of Georgia.
“They have been it at for a while. They had $7 billion of new expenditures last year in the motion picture and television industry. That's a lot of money. They are doing very, very well,” he said.
Kentucky competes with Georgia and other states that also offer incentives to film production companies by attending location expos.
The Southern Kentucky Film Commission participated in the American Film Market and Conference in November. Richmond, who represented the film commission at AFM, spoke to people from seven countries who are interested in filming at least part of their project in Kentucky.
“I'm really proud to be a part of you guys. The support we have in this state is fantastic. It outreaches, outstretches all the other states that I've worked in. We just need to let everybody know that the incentive and business is working here in the state of Kentucky. I truly believe it is,” he said.
The Southern Kentucky Film Commission is composed of 10 counties that are represented on the commission by their tourist commissions.
The Cumberland County Tourist and Convention Commission recently became one of the newest members of the Southern Kentucky Film Commission.
“Southern Kentucky is full of tourism and the film industry ties right into that. What better way for us to feature what we've got in southern Kentucky than with the film industry?” said Cumberland County Judge-Executive John Phelps. “The tax incentive — it makes it so much affordable for these producers and directors to bring their productions to Kentucky. It makes us much more competitive as a state and an area with other states.”
While Cumberland County is a small county, Phelps said getting a film production company to come and do a project there will result in people spending money at restaurants and staying at local hotels, as well as the creation of jobs for local residents.
“They need carpenters and electricians to help with sets. It will have a very big impact on our local economy and … help promote tourism that we have with Dale Hollow Lake and the Cumberland River,” he said.
David Risotto, director of “The Silent Natural,” a film about Dummy Hoy, a deaf baseball player, also attended the luncheon.
Risotto chose to make the film about Hoy, he said, because he was an underdog.
“Back in the 1880s, deaf people were pushed aside to be either a cobbler or to work in a factory. He had a dream to play baseball and he succeeded. He overcame many obstacles to succeed to become one of the greatest baseball players of his time.”
A casting call for the film took place Sunday at the convention center. About 150 people turned out for the event.
Another casting call took place in Hopkinsville on Monday.
The film is scheduled to begin production in March.