Efforts to boost Virginia’s film industry spur proposed legislation in General Assembly

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s film industry is hoping to grow thanks to a series of bills proposed in the 2023 General Assembly session.

“I got into it after working as Michael Keaton’s assistant Illness” said Bo Cribbs, a representative of the Virginia Production Alliance. “Working on this production (…) I was shocked by the number of people from Virginia.”

There are many colleges and universities in Virginia that offer film and new media programs. However, Cribbs says that because the state is underinvesting in these industries, many skilled workers are being lost to other states.

“One production can bring hundreds of jobs,” Cribbs said. “We [Virginia] are in a very disadvantaged economic position.”

According to Cribbs, 40 US states currently offer some form of incentives for film and television productions. With a combination of $10.5 million in tax credits and grants, Virginia currently ranks 32nd. By comparison, North Carolina is offering $31 million in incentives. Georgia is No. 1, offering $1.2 billion in benefits.

What is in the legislation?

Senate Bill 937 — sponsored by Sen. Ghazala Hashimi (D-Powhatan) — would establish the Television Production Development Grants Program and Fund to award competitive grants of up to $25 million annually to television companies doing business in Virginia. On February 1, the bill passed the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee unanimously.

Cribbs says that television productions top priority at the momentas they provide greater stability for workers and create longer production cycles with multiple seasons compared to the shorter production cycles of film productions.

House Bill 1767 — sponsored by Reps. David Reid (D-Loudoun) and Glenn Davis Jr. (D-Virginia Beach) — would increase the annual cap on Virginia motion picture tax credits from $6.5 million to $10 million. A House subcommittee voted 5-3 to “table the bill” on Jan. 16, a soft way to kill the legislation, leaving open the possibility of revising it later.

Cribbs says he hopes the bill will be revived after those who voted against it called for more economic data. He also said the law could end up being an amendment to the House budget.

Item 113 of the domestic budget — with an identical item in the Senate budget — increase funding for the Governor’s Film Fund from $10 million to $15 million for fiscal year 2024.

House bill 2376 — supported by Del. Jackie Glass (D-Norfolk) — Creates the Virginia Creative Economy Grant Fund to provide up to $20,000 in funding to creative entrepreneurs, such as independent filmmakers and content creators. On January 26, a subcommittee of the House of Representatives voted 4-2 to “put the bill on the table.” Corresponding budget amendment – Item 125 of the domestic budget — would award $750,000 to the Virginia Creative Economy Grant Fund.

Item 126 of the Senate budget provide $150,000 to expand the Virginia Film Office’s Workforce Development Initiative for education, training and training programs for people interested in working in film, television or related fields.

Cribbs said that even though many of the proposals are sponsored by Democrats, the legislation is not partisan. Pointing out that it was former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell who originally passed Virginia’s motion picture tax credit in 2013.

“It’s not exactly Democrat-Republican,” Cribbs said. “It’s a matter of economic development.”

As an example of the importance of this bill, Cribbs cited recent events in West Virginia. In 2018, the state completely canceled the state film policy, including a tax break for the film industry. However, after failing to ensure a positive return on investment, the state in 2022, the tax credit was restoredwhich makes it open.

“States that choose to roll them back realize that’s a mistake,” Cribbs said.

Research from Mangum’s Economicsa Richmond-based economic research firm, found that the total economic impact of Virginia’s film industry in 2019 was $862 million, employing 5,629 people that year.

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