Elimination of the Ohio Motion Picture Tax could affect thousands

When big stars like John Travolta, Bruce Willis or Arnold Schwarzenegger come to Columbus to film movies, people respond in one of two ways. Some roll their eyes and grumble about closed streets. Others get excited and scramble to catch a glimpse of Hollywood in the Midwest.

Whatever the reaction, you can't argue the economic impact of having movie productions that create local crew jobs and revenue for hotels, restaurants and more.

Except maybe you can.

Earlier this month, the Ohio House cut the $40 million Ohio Motion Picture Tax credit. Film productions with budgets of $30,000 or more are eligible for a maximum 30 percent tax credit. The Senate disagreed, voting instead to further expand the eligibility for the tax credit. A final decision on the budget will be made by June 30.

“Every film chases tax credits,” said John Daugherty, executive director of the Greater Columbus Film Commission. “It's the nature of the business. If the tax credit goes away, the films here are going to go somewhere else.”

It also means that local filmmakers, including some with projects already in the works, will have to readjust their budgets. Ohio-based post-production companies, as well as independent studios, could be put in financial binds.

“Since 2009 when the Motion Picture Tax Credit was enacted, there've been over 5,000 full-time equivalent jobs,” Daugherty said. “If the tax credit were to go away this year, that's going to affect thousands of people across the state.”

In Columbus specifically, more than 300 people and 90 businesses would be directly affected, he added.

On Thursday, May 23, Daugherty and other Ohioans will share testimonials in support of the tax at a Senate Finance Committee meeting at the Statehouse. And that evening, members of the film community will have an informal gathering to further discuss the critical situation.

Anticipating the possibility of the tax credit going away, Daugherty has helped re-shape the mission and vision of the commission. For example, the organization is partnering with local venues to exhibit films, connecting with local filmmakers who have been working in silos, and collaborating with schools to introduce underserved children to filmmaking.

“That is how I see the future of the Film Commission,” Daugherty said. “Really being community-oriented while still supporting films and promoting Columbus as a filmmaking destination.”

In the meantime, he encourages people to support the tax by writing lawmakers (language and email addresses are provided at filmcolumbus.com). And you don't have to be in the industry. Residents who get a kick out of seeing the stars in the streets of Columbus can also help.

“It invigorates the neighborhood for a little bit and gives people a sense of community,” Daugherty said. “So people who would love to see more film come through — most certainly they can write in.”