Ohio tax credits woo films to Northeast Ohio

By Carol Harper, The Morning Journal

A tax credit of up to 35 percent is attracting production companies who film movies or television shows in Ohio and hire local talent.

Next week, Lorain actor Kenny Santiago Marrero said he starts work on “My Blind Brother,” a feature comedy film, at spots along the Lorain lakefront.

“It’s going to be filmed on our waterfront with the help of the port authority,” said Marrero, who currently is finishing filming a different movie in North Carolina. “We need all the boats we can get. We’re going to involve the people of Lorain.

“The director and writer is Sophie Goodhart,” he added. “She’s from England. She does have an incredible, remarkable story. We’re shooting for 20 days in the Lorain area.”

Star actors include Adam Scott, Jenny Slate and Nick Kroll, Marrero said, and further casting calls have begun.

Since July 1, 2012, 57 movies or television shows have applied for a motion picture tax credit. Of those, 25 projects were certified for the credits totaling $25 million, said Katie Sabatino, communications manager for Tourism Ohio .

When production companies file taxes, they submit the certificate for the tax credit, she said.

“It’s performance based,” Sabatino said. “They only receive it if they deliver on their promise. Producers have told us they don’t consider filming in a state if it doesn’t have tax incentives.”

A scoring system is used to decide what film projects receive the tax credits, Sabatino explained, such as the number of Ohio residents the production company plans to hire, the total budget of the project, and well-known names associated with it.

“It has to reach a threshold,” she said.

Movies in production in Ohio that qualified for the tax credit include “Missing in Cleveland,” “Wake,” “Redundancy,” “Children of Wrath,” “With This Ring,” and “The Bronze,” according to a website of the Ohio Film Office.

The Ohio Motion Picture Tax Credit takes up to 35 percent off a production company’s qualifying expenses while producing a film or other media entertainment project in Ohio, according to a frequently asked questions fact sheet at the Ohio Film Office.

Qualified productions include an entire motion picture or media project. To be eligible for tax credits, the entire amount spent in Ohio must be at least $300,000, Sabatino said.

Participation in the program is competitive, she said.

The company pays a non-refundable application fee of 0.5 percent of the estimated value of the tax credit up to a maximum of $10,000, she said. The tax credit allows 25 percent off taxes for in-state spending and non-resident wages, and 35 percent off taxes for Ohio resident wages, she said.

In April, a mini film festival at The Palace Theater in Lorain included three short films with Lorain connections.

Joshua Porter, a Columbus resident and director of the short film “Fin del Ano,” said Ohio locations attract projects in the film industry.

“The tax credit, plus we live here — Ohio actors, crew, landscapes,” Porter said. “I’ve been involved in the film industry for 15 years. I have a film studio in Columbus.”

His movie was shot at a horse farm in Central Ohio.

“Right now we have the Columbus Film Fund,” Porter said, adding $20 million is available to fund 10 films in the next seven years in Ohio.

Porter said they rewrote “Fin del Ano” for a full feature film. He hopes to begin that project in a year or two, and to return Marrero as the star actor.

Marrero plays a farm hand who is ordered to shoot a prematurely born race horse.

“It deals a lot with current, relevant human rights issues,” Porter said. “I lived in San Antonio. Now I’m married to a Kenyan woman. I’ve always gravitated to racial and immigration issues.”

Applying for the tax credit is very involved, Porter said. So far, “Fin del Ano” has not qualified for the credits, Sabatino said.

“The Bronze” was another movie shot last year in Northeast Ohio, including in Amherst and Elyria, that also applied for the tax incentives, Sabatino said.


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