FilmDayton fights for Ohio motion picture tax credit

FilmDayton is asking citizens to contact lawmakers, urging them to preserve a state tax credit for film-making in Ohio.

The organization is planning a press conference this afternoon at the Wright State University Tom Hanks Motion Picture Center.

The Ohio House of Representatives’ version of the state budget presented last week eliminates the tax credit, which has drawn movie productions to Dayton, Cleveland and other Ohio cities.

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Lisa Grigsby, executive director of FilmDayton, said the credit needs to be protected.

“We spent 10 years building the film industry in the state of Ohio, and we’re just starting to see returns from it,” Grigsby said Tuesday.

Liberty Tower in downtown Dayton won new exposure — and new leases — based on its star turn in the 2018 Robert Redford film, “The Old Man and the Gun,” Grigsby said. The movie also featured a scene on the roof of the Talbott Tower downtown.

She recalled watching that film in a full house at the Neon. When downtown Dayton appeared on the screen, the audience erupted.

“The number of people clapping when they saw Dayton on the big screen,” she said. “That’s just pride in their city.”

She said “American Factory,” a locally made documentary on Moraine’s Fuyao Glass America, was able to take advantage of the credit.

“Think about what that does for our region, to get national attention from filmmakers,” Grigsby said.

She recalled receiving an email from a Dayton dry cleaner that won business from the crew behind “The Old Man and the Gun.” She said that business made the owner’s “year.”

“It’s those little guys,” Grigsby said. “It’s all kinds of jobs out there.”

Other Dayton-made films -- or films with local connections -- include Don Cheadle’s “Miles Ahead,” “Marauders,” Cate Blanchett’s “Carol,” and “The Avengers,” part of which was shot at Wilmington Air Park.

And there’s plenty of film-making that goes on locally that doesn’t create a lot of attention, she added.

Most of the filming of the upcoming Netflix film “Hillbilly Elegy” will take place in Georgia, not Ohio, because Ohio film tax credits are already allocated for the fiscal year, and new credits are not available until the state’s next fiscal year, starting July 1, according to reports.

Director Ron Howard has scouted out locations for the movie in Middletown, and some of the work will be shot there, but not the bulk, Grigsby said. The movie is based on J.D. Vance’s memoir of growing up in Middletown.

Howard was photographed twice last year at the Triple Moon Coffee Co. in downtown Middletown.

Recently, the Middletown Visitors Bureau sent the Academy Award-winning director a video touting Middletown as the best location for the movie. 

The tax credit does have its opponents.

Some 19 states have motion picture tax credits, Wendy Patton, senior project director at Policy Matters Ohio, a labor-focused think tank, testified before the Ohio House last year.

Citing a Cleveland State University study, Patton testified that between 2011 and 2015, the state spent $32 million on the tax credit, and total taxes generated by the economic activity amounted to just $22 million.

“Ohio’s Motion Picture Tax Credit fell far short of paying for itself in terms of tax dollars returning to the state,” she said.

“The success of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit is real and demonstrable,” FilmDayton says in a new statement on the issue. “The Motion Picture Association of America recently reported that nearly 35,500 people are directly and indirectly (hotels, caterers, carpenters, dry cleaners, etc.) employed by the motion picture and television industries in Ohio, with total wages earned exceeding $1.2 billion.”

The state must pass a new budget before the end of June.

Visit FilmDayton's Facebook page to see a post and more information on the issue.

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