No More Tax Exemption for Hollywood


RICHMOND, Va. -- Suggestions from a report by Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission could lead to the commonwealth’s film-tax incentive programs being cut or altered, which would impact the local film industry.

     Virginia has been the backdrop for many major motion pictures and TV series. Including Sony Picture’s 2012 film “Captain Phillips” and AMC’s “Turn.”

     The commonwealth has two different incentive funds. The Motion Picture Opportunity Fund provides grants, and the Virginia Motion Picture Tax Credit Fund provides refundable tax credits. Companies also receive tax refunds on equipment and supply purchases.

     “Nearly all (95 percent) productions that received a Virginia film-tax credit or grant would not have filmed in the state without the incentive,” the JLARC report states.

     Under Gov. Terry McAuliffe, spending on film incentives doubled the past two years. In 2014, the commonwealth’s spending on tax exemptions, grants and tax credits totaled $7 million. While in 2016, Virginia spent $14.3 million.

     “The return in state revenue from the incentive for every dollar spent in incentive awards is also low for both the tax credit and the grant,” the report states.

     The commonwealth only received $0.20 for every $1 it spent on tax credits and $0.30 from grants during the past four fiscal years. The JLARC report suggests eliminating the two programs or improving on the current ones to be more beneficial economically.

    Nikita Moyer, the administrative coordinator of the VCU Arts Cinema Program, says this change negatively could impact the cinema students and the local industry.

     “Fewer film incentives means less big budget films and television shows (are) interested in filming in Virginia,” Moyer stated in an email. “And this translates into fewer entry-level jobs and career growth opportunities locally.”

     The JLARC report states Virginia is home to less than one percent of the total film employment across the country. In comparison, California and New York make up 67 percent.

    The cinema program has in the past worked on other large-scale productions such as “Macbeth” and Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln.”

     According to Moyer, there are 22 current and former cinema students working on “Homeland,” a thriller series filming it’s seventh season here in Virginia.

     Moyer says prior to the work of the Virginia Film Office to increase the commonwealth’s film incentives, finding a sustainable career in film in Virginia was near impossible.