Economic Impact from the Oklahoma Film/TV Industry
The celebration of 2020 was an especially reflective period for the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, as we were reminded of the incredible achievements the state experienced over the last decade. While we take pride in the growth we’ve been able to facilitate, the journey is just beginning.
Over the past ten years, the primary message that OF+MO sent into the world was a signal of existence. Our outreach efforts relayed the theme “We are here! We are ready!” and hoped that it would resonate with the right people. As a testament to our belief the state’s potential, it did.
OF+MO tapped into a community of filmmakers that were looking for something different. Word began to spread about the opportunities in Oklahoma. A Los Angeles based producer informed us there was a buzz on the west coast about the “wild west of filmmaking.” With a variety a locations, a crew base that was eager, communities that were welcoming, and one of the most competitive incentives in the country, Oklahoma began to welcome more and more productions. The state quickly saw the benefits of the sharp increase in productions, as the incoming productions brought their money and their job openings to our stores and residents.
Currently, the state often experiences multiple productions filming at the same time. Our message no longer needs to focus exclusively on telling the world we’re here—they know. As the productions continue to choose our state for their projects, it’s the right time to begin shifting our resources to take full advantage of the opportunities they bring. Educational programs are being created so that as many Oklahomans as possible can benefit from the job market that the film industry creates. Infrastructure developments, such as bigger soundstages, are being constructed so that the state can accommodate larger films with bigger budgets. Film friendly workshops are being implemented around the state so that communities understand just how much they have to gain from engaging with this flourishing industry.
Across the board, the message is clear. Filmmakers have heard about the film industry in Oklahoma, and they want to be a part of it. It’s time for Oklahoma to shift our resources to make sure that we can support the recent growth and continue to expand our abilities. Producers love to film in our state because of the enticing resources Oklahoma offers them. It’s time for OF+MO to focus on the incredible potential that this burgeoning industry has to offer Oklahoma.
In 2001, Oklahoma was one of the first states to establish a local film incentive as a method of dissuading productions from taking their projects (and money) to Canada after the Canadian government introduced a national incentive in 1995. Oklahoma’s initial offerings of $150,000 led the way in adapting to the new “weapon” of the artist economy, but the cap was quickly dwarfed by competitors such as New Mexico and Louisiana that were able to offer millions of dollars in incentives. However, this steady climb worked in Oklahoma’s favor, as not every state emerged from the “race to the bottom” as victorious. While states competed with generous incentives in the millions of dollars, some state industries found that an influx of productions resulted in a shortage of experienced local crew members, while other states felt the repercussions that the finite amount of large-scale film production created.
In 2005, after four films had used the Oklahoma rebate program so far, the Oklahoma legislature decided to take the program to the next level by granting the program a $5 million dollar cap each fiscal year. This bill turned the incentive program into a revolving fund, which allowed incoming productions to be earmarked for future years and opened the door to an opportunity for extensive growth by allowing for productions with much larger budgets than previously considered.
During the mid-2000s, the Oklahoma legislature continued to revise the film incentive with changes such as lowering the minimum budget for a project (ideal for establishing infrastructure growth, as crew members can gain experience by beginning with smaller projects), adding a 2% increase to the rebate with the incorporation of Oklahoma music, raising the fiscal year cap to $8 million, and adding in special considerations for high-impact productions.
While Oklahoma has not yet raised the incentive cap to a level that would directly compete with states such as New Mexico or Louisiana, the state has experienced a tremendous amount of growth in proportion to the funds available. By 2004, four projects had participated in the rebate program. In FY19 alone, 22 projects filmed in-state and spent a collective $9,872,362.68 in local Oklahoma expenditures.
Since the program’s inception, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office has established crew and support service directories (which have seen increases in registrations every year), created relationships with productions and Oklahoma residents by establishing a number of film-friendly cities, and taken measures to grow educational opportunities that supply the workforce needed in the growing demand for film crew positions in departments such as accounting, camera, grip and electric, locations, transportation among others.
Over the last 10 years, the program has incentivized film and television productions to spend over $175 million dollars into the state economy, while the state has paid out less than $15 million.
In addition to pumping millions of dollars into the Oklahoma economy, the film incentive has created thousands of part-time and full-time jobs for Oklahoma residents. Fiscal year 19 saw 425 production days and a total of 1,756 hires. The wages for Oklahoma below-the-line crew members for that year alone were over $3 million, and fiscal year 20 is already projected to see over $15 million in resident below-the-line wages for over 900 production days.
The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program has been incredibly successful at growing both local hires and incoming productions, with in-state, out-of-state, and internationally based productions are gaining more exposure with expanded technology over the past decade. As the number and size of productions has increased, so has the local infrastructure. Local crew members in the industry have gained experience and found upward mobility in incoming productions, support services have found ways to engage with film as an addition to their existing businesses, and communities have welcomed productions into their streets, homes, and businesses as a way to participate in the economics and the artistry that filmmaking provides. While the numbers have shown that the rebate program has brought success to the state with new heights projected to be achieved in the coming years, it is important to remember the intangibles that the program brings to the table as well.
Oklahoma Film + Music Office: Rebate Program Growth 2005 – 2020
In 2001, The Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program – The Compete With Canada Act – was created. Key points were as follows until the conclusion of the 2005 Legislative Session:
- Subject to the availability of funds.
- Rebate of 15% of documented Oklahoma expenditures made in Oklahoma directly attributable to film or television production in this state may be paid to a production if the Office of the Oklahoma Film and Music Commission determines that the proposed project has a reasonable chance of economic success.
- Production must have a minimum budget of ($1,000,000).
- Production must file an Oklahoma income tax return for the year the activity and expenditure occurred.
- Production must provide screen credit, “Filmed Under the Auspices of the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program.”
- Production must provide evidence of a recognizable distribution agreement within 180 days of the end of principal photography.
- Total funding from 2001 to 2004: $379,188. As of 2004, program was on empty.
House Bill 1756:
- Replenished the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Fund up to $5 million per year.
- The rebate fund became a revolving fund created by the State Treasury for the Oklahoma Tax Commission. It was made a continuing fund not subject to fiscal year limitations. The Oklahoma Tax Commission now transfers, from the revenues which would otherwise be apportioned to the General Revenue Fund, an amount that the Commission estimates to be necessary to pay the rebates.
- The rebate is extended to film and television productions as well as commercials.
- A company must have a minimum budget of $2 million and spend $1.25 in Oklahoma.
- New tiers: company must employ Oklahoma residents for at least 50% of its below-the-line crew to qualify for full 15% rebate. Rebate of 55 are available if a company employs up to 24% Oklahomans and 10% for companies who employ 25-49% Oklahomans.
- Company must provide evidence of completion bond guaranteeing the completion date, general liability insurance with minimum coverage of $1M and a worker’s compensation policy pursuant to state law.
- Rebate fund amended to include any public or private donations, contributions, and gifts received for the benefit of the fund.
- Production company shall provide evidence of recognizable domestic or foreign distribution within one (1) year from the end of principal photography.
- The rebate is payable on or after July 1 following the fiscal year in which documented expenditures were made.
- Point of purchase tax exemption to qualified productions on sales taxes paid for property or services to be used in productions. There is no minimum budget or expenditure requirement to take advantage of this incentive. This cannot be used in conjunction with the 15% rebate.
House Bill 1716:
- This new program gave state taxpayers investing in film or music projects produced in Oklahoma a 25% income tax credit on profits made when those profits are reinvested in another film or music project produced in Oklahoma. Credit cannot exceed Oklahoma taxpayer’s liability. Credit is non-assignable and non-transferrable.
Senate Bill 877:
- The new inclusion of the construction of film and/or music production facilities in Oklahoma to the Tourism Development Act offered state income tax credits ranging from 10% on a minimum $500,000 construction project to 25% for projects over $1 million. Credit cannot exceed Oklahoma taxpayer’s liability. Credit is non-assignable and non-transferable.
House Bill 2792:
Revised Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program as follows:
$2M minimum budget requirement – now cumulative. A production company can qualify for the rebate if they complete multiple productions within a fiscal year that total $2M if each project has a minimum budget of $300K and it meets all other rebate requirements
- Budget threshold- exclusion to hiring requirements of Oklahoma crew if budget is $30M or higher.
- “Crew” Definition tied to MPAA’s – “crew means any person who works on pre-production, principal photography, and post production, with the exception of producers, principal cast and the director.
- Creation of Oklahoma Expatriates Program – If a production hires from a roster of qualifying Oklahoma expatriates now living elsewhere (roster managed by the Oklahoma Film & Music Office), those salaries count towards Oklahoma expenditure requirement of $1.25 million. In return, production company agrees to take on a local apprentice for purposes of workforce training.
- Completion bond requirement modification: With the exception of major studios, production companies shall provide name of completion guarantor and a copy of bond guaranteeing completion. If a film is not bonded, no rebate money will be released until evidence is provided that all Oklahoma crew and vendors have been paid along with evidence that there are no liens against production company in the state.
- Permit Process – Productions working with OFMO must apply for and be granted a no-cost filming permit.
Senate Bill 623:
Revised Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program as follows:
- Included Above-the-Line expenditures as qualifying Oklahoma expenditures if payments made to out-of-state loan-out corporations and Limited Liability Companies (“LLC’s”) registered to do business in the state of Oklahoma or wages paid to in-state Above-the-Line personnel. Aggregate ATL qualifying expenditure cannot comprise more than 25% of total qualifying Oklahoma expenditures. “Oklahoma-based” is defined as a company or individual with an Oklahoma income tax or corporate tax liability.
- The minimum budget for the film shall be Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00) of which not less than Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000.00) shall be expended in the state. The minimum budget requirements of this paragraph shall be met by any film, television, or commercial production company that produces multiple film, television, or commercial projects within one (1) year, if each project meets a minimum budget of Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00) and the total budget of all projects in one (1) year is not less than Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00) of which not less than Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000.00) shall be expended in this state.
- The production company shall provide evidence of a recognizable domestic or foreign distribution agreement, or, must provide evidence of being accepted to one of the top fifteen (15) film festivals or two or more of the top thirty (30) film festivals in the U.S. within one (1) year from the end of principal photography.
Senate Bill 1956 (formerly HB 2583):
As a means of incentivizing the use of Oklahoma musicians, music, and music facilities for the film industry, an additional 2% rebate is now included if the production company spends at least $20,000 for music created by Oklahoma residents or for recording music in Oklahoma.
- Loanout/LLC Language revised based on Oklahoma Tax Commission input.
- Distribution requirements expanded to include a provision for the inclusion of nationally recognized network or cable television pilots
- In an effort to keep up with industry trends, expanded definitions for Tourism Development Act (bricks and mortar tax credit) to include not only “film and music production facilities”, but also “digital media” facilities.
- For Tourism Development Act, minimum expenditure threshold lowered from $500,000 to $100,000 for music production and post production facilities and $350,000 for film production, post production, visual effects and digital media facilities to encourage development of facilities in Oklahoma at more practical thresholds, particularly for music.
Senate Bill 3198:
- This new law created a Task Force on Creative Artists Guilds to study approaches to organizing, establishing, and supporting creative artist guilds in Oklahoma in order to provide a cooperative structure to advance visual and performing arts through education, exhibitions, and workshops.
- Provided for the designation of a state rock & roll song in conjunction with the 2009 launch of the Oklahoma History Center’s exhibit, Another Hot Oklahoma Night. From March 1 to August 1, 2008, the Oklahoma Historical Society hosted a website located at the address oklahomarocksong.org as well as polling locations at special events and at the Oklahoma History Center, allowing the public to nominate an official Rock and Roll song. In August 2008, the nominations were pared to ten appropriate songs by a panel of experts. This panel consisted of an appointee by the Governor, an appointee by the Speaker of the House, and an appointee by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, two appointees by the Office of the Oklahoma Film and Music Commission, and two appointees by the Oklahoma Historical Society. From September 1 to November 15, 2008, the public voted on the official Oklahoma Rock and Roll Song which was signed off on by Governor Brad Henry in the spring of 2009.
Senate Bill 318:
Revised Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program as follows:
- Increased 15% rebate (17% as of 7/1/08 with use of Oklahoma music/music facilities) to 35% (37% with use of Oklahoma music/music facilities) in order to be competitive in the marketplace
- Removed distribution requirement
- Removed crew tier requirement
- Revised language for income tax filing requirement per the OTC
- Lowered minimum budget requirement to $50,000 per project
- Lowered minimum in state expenditure requirement to $25,000 per project
- Added language that the Oklahoma Tax Commission shall, upon notification of the approval from the Office of the Film and Music Commission, issue payment for all approved claims with no fiscal year delay beginning July 1, 2010
Senate Joint Resolution 24:
- Sponsored by Senator Mike Schulz and Representative Joe Dorman, this bill names “Do You Realize” by The Flaming Lips as the Official Oklahoma Rock Song.
Senate Bill 1351:
- Added the Oklahoma Film & Music Office to the Oklahoma Open Records Act bringing the commission in line with the exemptions extended to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce and This act provides for the information falling under the categories of business plans, feasibility studies, financing proposals, marketing plans, financial statements, or trade secrets to be kept confidential as required to promote the successful development of business in our state.
Senate Bill 391:
- A bill to double the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program’s annual cap to $10 million. The bill passed the Senate 39-5. However, it was not heard in the House per Representative David Dank of Oklahoma City and was held over to be re-heard during the 2012 Legislative Session
Senate Bill 1435:
This bill proposed to immediately repeal the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program upon passage, but did not make it out of committee and was never passed by legislature nor signed into law.
Senate Bill 1623:
Senate Bill (SB) 1623, (Section 33, Page 176 of this 186-page bill) recommended, among other things, to reduce the 35-37% rebate to 17.5% as of January 1, 2013. The bill further set forth that no rebate claim be payable on or after January 1, 2014, shortening the sunset date of July 1, 2014 by six months. This bill was not passed by the legislature nor signed into law.
Senate Bill 1126 (*Formerly SB330):
A bill which would amend the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program as follows:
– Reduce the rebate percentage from 35% to 25%
– Increase the cap from $5 million to $10 million subject to the availability of funds
– Extend the sunset date to July 1, 2024
The House measure was defeated by a vote of 38-45 with 18 members excused from voting. Many members, who had previously supported the bill, either chose to vote along party lines, not to vote or were not in attendance. The program’s existing sunset date of July 1, 2014 is still in effect.
House Bill 2580:
- A bill to renew and extend the sunset date (expiration) for the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program from July 1, 2014 to July 1, 2024. The bill passed the House 56-12 and the Senate 31-11. The rebate bill was the first to be signed by Governor Mary Fallin this legislative session.
House Bill 2344:
- A bill to reduce the fiscal year payout cap from $5 to $4 Million in the revolving fund. The bill passed the House 89-3 and Senate 36-8. Governor Fallin signed the bill March 2017 and went into effect July 1, 2017.
Senate Bill 200:
A bill which would amend the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program as follows:
- Increase the annual cap on rebate payments approved by the Oklahoma Film and Music Commission from $4 million to $8 million and grants an exception to the cap for high-impact productions.
- Extends the sunset sate of the Compete with Canada Film Act from July 1, 2024 to July 2, 2027.
- Allows funds from the Oklahoma Quick Action Closing Fund to be used to make rebate payments to a high-impact production pursuant to the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program.
- Defined high-impact production as a production of which total expenditures or production costs are equal to or greater than $50 million, with at least one-third of total costs deemed Oklahoma expenditures. When a rebate claim for a high-impact production is approved, payment is to be made by a special appropriation to the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program Revolving Fund if the claim is approved during a regular or special session of the Oklahoma Legislature.
The bill passed the Senate 39-7 and the House 37-8. The rebate bill was signed by Governor Kevin Stitt this legislative session.
House Bill 3920:
- A bill which would amend the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program to Increase the cap from $8 million to $16 million subject to the availability of funds. The bill was not heard in the House in 2020.
House Bill 3921:
- Incentive Program and updates statutory references and definitions to reflect the addition of television production projects to the lineup of entertainment projects that receive state incentives. The bill also created a tax credit film and television projects with projection budgets greater than $5 million with a minimum budget for a film project at $500,000, of which at least $250,000 must be expended in the state. The minimum budget for each episode of a television production project is $250,000. The measure limits each film project to a $7 million tax credit cap; each television production project to a $1.2 million per episode tax credit cap; and limits the total amount of credits authorized through the program at $50 million per year from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2030.
- The measure provides credits for qualifying entertainment industry expenditure (25%), music expenditure (1.0%), post-production expenditure (1.0%), soundstage expenditure (1.0%), use of a “Filmed in Oklahoma” logo (1.0%), opening credit using “In Association With the State of Oklahoma” (1.0%) qualifying environmental sustainability expenditure (1.0%) and qualifying expenditure for compensation paid to nonresidents (15%).
- HB 3921 passed committee and House with 67 Ayes and 28 Nays, but was not heard after referred to Senate Appropriations Committee on March 16, 2020 due to Coronavirus.
Senate Bill 1442:
- SB 1442 modifies the term “high impact production” within the Compete with Canada Film Act to provide the Oklahoma Film and Music Office with the authority to set additional requirements relating to an individual production which otherwise meets the $50 million expenditure threshold. The measure removes the $8 million cap on Film Enhancement Rebates, instead making it subject to the availability of funds. The legislation makes an annual apportionment to the Oklahoma Film Enhancement Rebate Program Revolving Fund of $8 million from income tax revenue.
- SB 1442 was heard and passed in Senate Appropriations Committee and Senate and assigned first reading in the House March 12, 2020, but assigned to Calendar due to Coronavirus.
Over the last 10 years, the program has incentivized film and television productions to spend over $135 million into the state economy. In addition to pumping millions of dollars into the Oklahoma economy, the film incentive has created thousands of part-time and full-time jobs for Oklahoma residents. Fiscal year 20 saw 818 production days and a total of 4,206 hires. The wages for Oklahoma below-the-line crew members for that year alone were over $10.5 million.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic, growth in film and television (“Screen”) production had been ground-breaking. This is being driven by increased investment from streaming services, as well as established studios and broadcasters. With spend of $177 billion, 2019 was a watershed year. This is also a conservative total, as it includes features, scripted TV drama and documentaries only. In direct output terms, Screen production is larger than sectors such as electric motor vehicles and book publishing globally In the US last year, according to calculations by UBS reported in the Economist, content spending by 16 companies was roughly equal to the sum invested in America’s oil industry in 2019. The Screen production sector is now a serious economic driver in the global economy. It is also providing a strategic opportunity for governments to build creative and digital industries and drive jobs of the future.