Many world-famous movies and television shows are set in Washington State– recent examples include Twilight, Grey’s Anatomy, and AMC’s The Killing. But, most viewers likely don’t realize these have been filmed in Canada, Oregon, or California, where stronger tax incentive programs are in place than Washington’s to attract the film industry, along with its money.

Legislation to reauthorize our state’s incentive program co-sponsored by Sen. Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, passed the Senate today by a vote of 40-8. Senate Bill 5539, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, follows the recommendations of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) to renew a tax incentive set to expire this July aimed at maintaining Washington’s position as a competitive location for filming.

Proponents say that Washington is already home to many talented actors, directors, costume and set designers, make-up artists and other professionals in the motion picture industry and that bringing film projects to the state would provide a big boost for these local professionals, as well as help to keep Washington a renowned hub for arts and culture.

“This is about providing sustainable jobs year-round,” said Brown.  “This legislation provides local filmmakers, such as Spokane’s North by Northwest, the ability to market themselves.  If we can offer sustainable employment, those associated with the film production keep the workforce in Spokane – not to mention the multiplier effect from the ancillary businesses, such as hotels and restaurants,” Brown added.

According to JLARC’s 2010 report, $72 million in economic activity was generated in Washington between 2007 and 2009 from the film industry. When the state first adopted the film incentive program in 2002, originally sponsored by Sen. Brown, Washington was one of 14 states with such a program. Now 44 states have similar programs.

“We have tourists from all over the world going to the town of Forks because it was the setting of the hit vampire movie series, Twilight,” Brown said. “That’s great, but imagine the economic impact the region would have seen if the movies had actually been filmed in Forks, with locally-hired crew members and all food and lodging expenses going straight into the local economy.”

Brown says renewing the competiveness program will continue to spur job creation and have a multiplying effect for every dollar invested throughout the economy.

“It’s about keeping our local economy competitive,” said Brown.  “These missed opportunities are occurring in Forks, Seattle, Spokane and across the state because, while Washington’s beautiful scenery and infamous cities make excellent locations for film and television settings, we are being out-bid by incentive programs in Vancouver, B.C., as well as in Idaho and Oregon,” Brown said.   “This bill will keep us in the game so that we can keep jobs– and the film industry’s money–here in Washington.”

The legislation now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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