RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s film industry is hoping to grow with a number of proposed bills in the General Assembly for the 2023 session.
“I got into this after working as Michael Keaton’s assistant on Dopesick,” Beau Cribbs, a representative of the Virginia Production Alliance, said. “Working on that production (…) I was shocked by the amount of people that were from Virginia.”
There are many colleges and universities offering film and new media programs in Virginia. However, Cribbs says that because the state does not invest enough in those industries, many skilled workers are lost to other states.
“A single production can bring hundreds of jobs,” Cribbs said. “We [Virginia] are at a major economic disadvantage.”
According to Cribbs, there are 40 U.S. states that currently offer some form of incentive for film and television productions. With a combination of tax credits and grants valued at $10.5 million, Virginia currently ranks 32nd. By comparison, North Carolina offers incentives valued at $31 million. The 1st ranked state is Georgia, which offers incentives valued at $1.2 billion.
What’s in the legislation?
Senate Bill 937 — sponsored by Sen. Ghazala Hashimi (D-Powhatan) — would establish the Television Production Development Grant Program and Fund to award competitive grants of up to $25 million annually to television production companies bringing business to Virginia. On Feb. 1, the bill was unanimously passed by the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee.
Cribbs says television productions are the main priority at the moment, as they bring more 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 Del. David Reid (D-Loudoun) and Del. Glenn Davis, Jr., (D-Virginia Beach) — will increase the annual cap on Virginia’s motion picture tax credits from $6.5 million to $10 million. A House subcommittee voted 5-3 to “lay the bill on the table” on Jan. 16, which is a gentle way of killing legislation while leaving open the possibility of revisiting it later.
Cribbs says he is hopeful that the bill will be revived after those who voted against it were calling for more economic data. He also said it is possible the legislation could end up as an amendment to the House budget.
House Bill 2376 — sponsored by Del. Jackie Glass (D-Norfolk) — would create the Virginia Creative Economy Grant Fund to award up to $20,000 in funding for creative entrepreneurs such as independent filmmakers and content creators. A House subcommittee voted 4-2 “lay the bill on the table” on Jan. 26. A corresponding budget amendment — House Budget Item 125 — would provide $750,000 to the Virginia Creative Economy Grant Fund.
Senate Budget Item 126 would provide a $150,000 expansion of the Virginia Film Office Workforce Development Initiative to go towards educational programs, training and apprenticeships for people interested in working in film, television or related industries.
Cribbs said that, although many of the proposals are sponsored by Democrats, the legislation isn’t partisan. Emphasizing that it was a former Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell, who originally passed Virginia’s motion picture tax credit in 2013.
“This is not really a Democrat-Republican thing,” Cribbs said. “This is an economic development thing.”
As an example of the importance of this proposed legislation, Cribbs brought up recent developments in West Virginia. In 2018, the state repealed state filming policies altogether, including a film industry tax credit. However, after failing to provide a positive return on investment, the state re-established the tax credit in 2022, making it uncapped.
“States that have decided to roll them back are realizing that that is a mistake,” Cribbs said.
A study from Mangum Economics, a Richmond-based economic research company, indicated that the total economic impact of the Virginia film industry in 2019 was $862 million with the employment of 5,629 people that same year.