Taxing Film Out of Massachusetts

If you have been watching the local news lately or at least following the local news on Twitter, you probably know that Governor Charlie Baker’s first budget proposal while in office is to get rid of the Massachusetts film and TV tax credit. Massachusetts gives film and TV productions spending over $50,000, with tax incentives such as a 25 percent production credit and a 25 percent payroll credit, according to the Massachusetts Film Office. In order to qualify the production, they need to shoot 50 percent of their principal photography in MA or spend at least have their budget here.

As a Media Production major myself, I, of course, want to see films and TV shows shoot in Massachusetts, because of the potential opportunities it could provide me while in school. However, the real reason I’m passionate about keeping the film tax incentive is because it provides good jobs to people in Massachusetts. At first, people may assume that the film tax incentive is simply lining the pockets of “big hollywood” producers and while that may be partially true, a lot of people have neglected to see that these productions coming to Massachusetts create jobs for hard-working middle class citizens.

The state argues that each job created costs them money, which is true but shouldn’t the state’s money be invested in creating jobs for its citizens? The budget saved could potentially be used to benefit low-income families in Massachusetts. I completely support the state aiding low income working families, and think the state should make subsidizing low income families a priority in their budget.  The solution should not be to take away an incentive that provides other working families with steady jobs. The average person who benefits from the film tax incentive is middle class with a family and needs of his or her own.  If Massachusetts loses the film and TV industry which has been slowly growing since 2006, thousands of people working in the production industry will be out of work, and then may potentially rely on state assistance.

Furthermore, the film and TV productions happening in MA have a trickle down effect that supports other industries. Creating a film or TV show takes a lot of effort and collaboration that people often forget about when watching the finished product. They see the glamorous actors on screen, they see the director’s vision, they hear the screenwriter’s dialogue and they know Hollywood producers made it all happen, but there is more work that goes into a production than just the people with “above the line” credit. It takes hundreds of people working on a production to get the finished product, and that equals a lot of job opportunity.

Additionally, other businesses are supported by these productions. To transport their equipment and props, sets hire trucks and truck drivers, once again supporting local blue collar workers. The crew must be feed, as well, and if they are in MA, they are not going to order food to be shipped from California. Instead, they are going to turn to a local MA catering company to feed their cast and crew three meals a day for an extended period of time. For example, my aunt works at company in MA that sells used science equipment and over the past few years she has received several larger orders from films and TV shows shooting in MA seeking props.

If the film tax is taken away, productions will chose to film elsewhere, either in milder climates around the US or even abroad which will take jobs away from Massachusetts residents and New England residents as a whole. Producers and production companies are simply looking for the most cost effective place to film that will give them the aesthetic they need. Without the film tax incentive, MA will not make that list and they will go elsewhere. Personally, I don’t want to be watching a movie that is supposed to be set in Boston only to find out during the credits it was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia. If films and TV shows being shot in MA dwindles, people who rely on a steady stream of productions to support themselves will be forced to relocate to other states, which means uprooting their lives and leaving their family and friends in search of work.

Although they may cost the state more, ultimately, they create a wealth of job opportunities, which is essential considering the job market has still not completely recovered from the recession. These jobs are not limited to within the film and TV industry itself. Productions coming to MA also give business to the hospitality industry. Additionally, big name celebrities coming to town and films being set here give the great state of Massachusetts some publicity, which, in turn, helps drive tourism.

If you want to see the real faces of the MA film industry, I recommend checking out the Facebook group called Save MA Film Jobs. You might even see some Emerson Alums in there who decided to stay in MA instead of going the traditional LA route!

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