Tennessee to Beef Up TV Production Incentives

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Despite past problems and controversies, Tennessee officials are piling on more incentive money for TV production crews to film within the state.

That’s because they want another show just like “Nashville,” which aired for several years on ABC and then on CMT.

State officials are now offering incentives for more non-resident labor — but only to a point, according to a Tennessee Entertainment Commission Press Release.

“Our primary goal is to help cement a permanent and thriving motion picture industry in Tennessee; one that provides extremely well-paying jobs for Tennesseans and also embodies Tennessee’s creative spirit,” said TEC Director Bob Raines, in a press release.

With the new conditions, in place this month, qualified scripted television series that spend more than $500,000 per episode in Tennessee and include a “Filmed in Tennessee” logo are eligible to receive up to 30 percent in grant support for their spending on Tennessee labor.

“TEC will also incentivize up to 25 percent of non-resident labor for qualified scripted television series,” Raines said.

“This non-resident compensation will be capped at $2 million. We consider this critical for television shows that are casting the top acting talent in the business.”

The “Nashville” TV series reportedly employed hundreds of Tennesseans and worked with hundreds of small businesses and production vendors.

“We want to replicate that two or three times over,” Raines said.

This past summer, The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a right-of-center think tank based in Nashville, released a report criticizing the incentives.

Nashville, the report said, cost Tennessee taxpayers millions of dollars.

“The show, which has now been cancelled twice in three years due to poor ratings, has received the most taxpayer money of any project, totaling $45 million in state incentives alone (including millions more in local taxpayer incentives),” the report said.

“Even worse, the show’s six seasons received the largest six individual Tennessee Entertainment Commission grants of any project in state history. The smallest incentive, $5.7 million given for the sixth and final season, was still awarded after CMT announced the show would be permanently cancelled.”

After the show’s second season, ABC producers considered relocating production to Texas, unless the show received more Tennessee taxpayer incentives. This came after producers spent less than 50 percent of season two’s budget in Tennessee, according to the report.

“Also of note is that with the increased production budget after the first season, the percentage of expenditures that were qualified Tennessee expenditures dropped dramatically,” the report said.

“The show also demonstrates that if a taxpayer-incentivized television show becomes even somewhat popular and scales up production and budget, the vast majority of a project’s growth will inevitably occur elsewhere, likely in Hollywood, where actors and actresses are more likely to reside and where support staff is easier to obtain.”

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to chrisbutlerjournalist@gmail.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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