Arizona creates new incentives for lagging film production - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

Arizona creates new incentives for lagging film production

"Wishman" is filming on location in Prescott for the next month. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "Wishman" is filming on location in Prescott for the next month. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
"Only the Brave," based on the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, was shot, primarily, in New Mexico. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) "Only the Brave," based on the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, was shot, primarily, in New Mexico. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Matthew Earl Jones is the director of the Arizona Office of Film and Digital Media. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Matthew Earl Jones is the director of the Arizona Office of Film and Digital Media. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Previous movies have been shot in Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Previous movies have been shot in Arizona. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
PRESCOTT, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Movie lights and cameras are capturing the main street charm of Prescott, Arizona for the first time in years. And a new state film office is aiming to increase film production in Arizona, but it could be a hard sell because of the tax credits and incentives other states are offering production companies.

“If I were a bean counter only, I’d be saying there’s no reason to shoot over here,” said Marc Gold, who is the producer of "Wishman", which is filming on location in Prescott for the next month.

[RELATED: New feature film 'Arizona' is being shot in New Mexico]

Arizona does not offer tax incentives to movie companies. Neighboring New Mexico offers film companies a 25 percent tax rebate on the amount of money they spend. Kentucky offers a 30 percent rebate. Oklahoma offers 35 percent.

But Gold did choose Arizona, in large part because the film is set here, and because the man on whose life it is based, Frank Shankwitz, is a Prescott local. And Shankwitz has managed to create financial incentives of his own.

[RELATED: Bringing the film industry back to Arizona? (Feb. 24, 2015)]

He arranged for the county to lend a building to the production company to use as a headquarters, studio, set and soundstage – free of charge. The Prescott community has also embraced the production, offering costumes and period vehicles.

“It’s just kind of surreal that this whole adventure is happening, “ said Shankwitz, a retired highway patrol officer, who co-founded the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

[RELATED: Filmmakers hope new movie will revive industry in Arizona (March 11, 2015)]

While Prescott landed Wishman, another big-budget film called "Only the Brave," slipped away. That film is based on the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who died fighting the Yarnell Hill fire. "Only the Brave" was shot, primarily, in New Mexico.

“I will not lie. That personally hurt,” said Matthew Earl Jones, who is the director of the Arizona Office of Film and Digital Media.

He was not in this position when the producers of "Only the Brave" decided on New Mexico, but he says it’s his job to make sure something like this never happens again.

“We’ve got more diverse topography than any other state in the country. We are the nearest big city to Los Angeles,” said Jones.

But what Arizona does not have is a tax incentive. That has forced Jones and the rest of the film office to become creative. They have managed to get the state Department of Transportation and Parks Department to waive fees for production companies to shoot in parks and on our highways. And Jones is about to roll out a new program called “Reel Deals.” It’s a private sector discount program for the film industry.

“When you start adding it up, then we are a great bargain, and I think we can resume our rightful place in the film industry,” said Jones.

Arizona’s mountains, deserts and streets have served as the background to hundreds of major motion pictures and television shows. And the state has historically benefited from the film business. But former Gov. Jan Brewer shuttered the film office after the recession started, and film in Arizona has all but dried up ever since.

Now with Jones at the helm and some new incentives, the state is hoping to compete with its neighbors. And there is a lot of money at stake. Last year, New Mexico reported gaining $387 million in direct spending from filmmakers. To put that in perspective, the last time the Valley hosted the Super Bowl, it accounted for $295 million in direct spending from visitors and media.

Back in Prescott, the writer and director of "Wishman" said there are other reasons the production came to Prescott, and not all of them are financial.

“If you can, it’s always nice to retain as much of the authenticity of the location as you can and I think that, hopefully, we’ve achieved that,” said Theo Davies, the writer and director.

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