Last week, as Washington State legislators wrangled over eleventh-hour details of the $44 billion-dollar budget (and averted a partial state government shutdown), the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program (MPCP)—which was scheduled to sunset this year on June 30—was renewed for 10 more years.
The MPCP is the state’s film tax incentive that helps support local film and video projects, and lures out-of-state productions to Washington to shoot here and spend their money on local businesses, hiring crew, and other goods and services (in fact, only 5 percent is spent on actual film-related businesses—the rest is for things like restaurants and hotels, transportation, retail and employee payroll).
So what does it mean for the film industry in Washington state?
It means the MPCP will continue to bring in revenue for every district in the state; over the past 10 years the program has brought in an estimated $116 million in direct in-state spending.
It also guarantees the continued existence of the official State Film Office, Washington Filmworks, which provides filmmaker support in the form of location scouting information, where to find production resources, and a local crew database. (Full disclosure: I used to work there as their Communications Coordinator.)
Most of all, it will help keep talented filmmakers like Lynn Shelton and Megan Griffiths here and making films—and adding to a vibrant film scene where emerging filmmakers, actors, and producers can carve out a life and career for themselves even while rent and housing costs are skyrocketing out of control.
But while it’s great that the film incentive and office are sticking around, it’s a serious bummer that the cap is staying so small—$3.5 million dollars a year for 10 years.
Even with this limited scope, the MPCP has been able to help support 118 projects over the past 10 years, like SYFY zombie television show Z Nation (filmed mostly in Spokane), Automata, the science fiction noir series based on Penny Arcade’s web comic, the Twin Peaks reboot, and the recent indie darling Captain Fantastic, among many others.
But it's one of the lowest caps in the country; the cap on Oregon ‘s film incentive, for example, is $14 million. As Julia Raban explained, the states with the most generous incentives get the projects—and Washington state has already been on the short end of some lost revenue, when productions like Little Boxes decide to shoot somewhere else.
But, hey … a low cap is better than no cap at all!