ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Several film production companies are bringing their projects to Minnesota, with some citing financial incentives designed to lure filmmakers to the state.
Minnesota Public Radio News reported (http://bit.ly/1hVJFD6 ) that five feature films have qualified for rebates since funds for Minnesota’s reinstated “snowbate” program became available last August. The program gives rebates to film companies for 20 percent of what they spend in the state, and rebates of 25 percent if the films are shot outside the Twin Cities metro area.
Two films are currently shooting in northeastern Minnesota, including “Heart of Wilderness,” just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. At least five more films are scheduled to begin in northeastern Minnesota later this year. A few are also scheduled for the Twin Cities. Several have projected budgets of $1 million or more.
Riki McManus, director of the Upper Minnesota Film Office, said production companies typically spend half their budget on location - on lodging, restaurants, dry cleaners, equipment rental and other items.
“Those can be big dollars,” she said.
Towle Neu, director of “Heart of Wilderness,” said the film - about a husband and wife who go to the wilderness to salvage their marriage after a drug deal - was going to be shot in Minnesota all along, but the financial incentives encouraged the crew to spend more money.
The rebates also convinced the filmmakers to support local businesses, executive producer and co-writer Kevin Byrnes said.
“We had to buy $5,000 worth of hard drives,” Byrnes said. “I probably could have gotten them online pretty cheaply, but with the incentive up here, we ordered them through a local computer vendor” in Ely.
The program is made possible through $10 million in state spending over two years and an additional $800,000 from the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Board for projects in northeast Minnesota.
The last time Minnesota offered a snowbate, from 2007-2011, the state allocated about $5.5 million, of which just over $4.1 million was spent. This time around, through May 20, the state has doled out about $1.3 million, for films, TV shows and commercials.
State Auditor Jim Nobles is evaluating the Minnesota Film and TV Board, to see if the state’s approach is working. Lucinda Winter, board director, said states that don’t offer incentives don’t attract movies.
“It’s that cut and dry,” Winter said. “If you are not offering an incentive, whether your political leanings are for or against, you’re not in the game.”
Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org