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Proposed tax credit could save Maryland filmmakers up to $125,000

Eduardo Sanchez, co-writer and co-director of “The Blair Witch Project,” was among the Maryland filmmakers who spoke Wednesday before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee in support of a measure that would set aside half a million dollars in tax credits for Maryland filmmakers.

Frederick News Post file photo by Bill Green

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland filmmakers speaking on behalf of a film tax credit bill said they would like to see Maryland become the next Georgia.

Just under two dozen members of the fil

m industry, many based in Frederick County, spoke Wednesday before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee to lend support to a measure that would set aside half a million dollars in tax credits for Maryland filmmakers.

They said it was common for Marylanders working in the film industry to leave to find work. Places including Canada and Georgia offer tax incentives that they said helped foster local film projects, which in turn generate business in a wide variety of sectors. A local industry would also give voice to talent that might not otherwise have a spotlight, supporters said.

“Blair Witch Project” co-director Eduardo Sanchez noted he would soon go out of state for four months to work.

“It would just be great to be able to sleep in my bed sometimes when I’m working,” he joked.

Vincent De Paul, a producer and actor who has appeared on “House of Cards,” “Mad Men” and “NCIS: Los Angeles,” said he saw how other markets were thriving because of tax incentives and would like to come back to his hometown of Baltimore given sufficient opportunities at home.

“I miss my family, living 3,000 miles away in California. The soil in Baltimore is pure, and it’s where I’m from,” he said.

Sen. Ron Young (D-District 3) presented his bill that would require the Department of Commerce to reserve the first $500,000 in tax credits in each fiscal year for qualified small or independent film entities.

To qualify for tax benefits, the filmmakers or producers must have been incorporated in Maryland for at least one year and do at least half of its filmmaking activity in the state. They would also need to employ Marylanders in at least 40 percent of the workforce and spend at least $25,000 in Maryland.

“It’s creating Maryland jobs. It’s spending the money in Maryland,” Young said.

If the filmmakers meet those requirements, they would be able to claim a tax credit equivalent to 25 percent of those costs up to $125,000. Television series could claim a higher credit of 27 percent.

The governor’s proposed fiscal 2019 budget already includes $5 million in funding for the program, according to a fiscal analysis.

The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee heard a similar bill last year, but it took no action on it.

Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chair Edward J. Kasemeyer (D-Baltimore County) said the bill had support among the committee, but some legislators had difficulty understanding its purpose was to nurture an industry, not generate tax revenue.

The committee that evaluates tax credits last year concluded that the state would not get sufficient benefit, he continued.

Young said that the proposal would be more successful this year if lawmakers can understand it as an investment as opposed to a tax giveaway.

Russ Hodge, president of the Frederick-based production company Three Roads Communication, said that companies like his benefit Maryland. He noted that in past years, his company brought up to $3 million in business to the state. Many of his clients, he added, are based in New York and California.

“I am bringing out-of-state money here to Maryland, not the other way around,” he said.

Originally posted on January 25, 2018

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