Senator Terri Bonoff of Minnetonka is introducing a bill appropriating $10 million for the Minnesota Film and TV Board's Snowbate program. Snowbate is Minnesota's film production rebate program that reimburses qualifying film and television productions a percentage of their locally spent film budget.
Minnesota is one of 41 states (and Washington DC) that offers such a program, though recent reluctance to fund Snowbate has left Minnesota lagging behind the other states and international destinations.
Moderately budgeted movies, such as Gran Torino and Juno, both set in Minnesota, were filmed elsewhere because the incentives were better. Both were written by Minnesotans and Gran Torino's second-billed actor - under only Clint Eastwood - went to high school in a Minneapolis suburb.
With combined budgets estimated around $40 million, Gran Torino and Juno would have been tremendous boons to the local economy and helped put Minnesota back on the filmmaking map. They would have given a huge boost to the many talented film and television professionals who would have been hired.
Opponents of film rebate incentives argue the state shouldn't give money back to the 'rich Hollywood elite', but films will be made, most likely in the most economically sensible place. Minnesota would be wise to attract as many film and television productions as possible so the money is spent here instead of places like Ohio, which is attracting produdction activity with a $40 million incentive even though the state lacks the film infrastructure we have here.
From 2007 to 2011, Minnesota invested $4.6 million in Snowbate from the general fund. During those years, production dollars qualifying for Snowbate totaled $28.4 million with $17.7 million of that being waged directly to Minnesota workers. Add the income taxes Minnesota collected on those wages along with the sales tax on the purchases of the productions ($1.1 million and $680 thousand, respectively), and the state's return on investment is $6 for every $1 spent on Snowbate.
The true beneficiaries of programs like Snowbate are the local professionals, restaurants, hotels, rental houses, construction companies, grocers - the list goes on. Producers are under great pressure to create content as cheaply as possible, so they are lured to locations that offer the greatest return on their expenditures. By giving a small percentage back to the producers in the form of tax incentives or rebates, the local economy still comes out on top. It really is a win-win situation.