- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 4, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma House passed a bill Tuesday - on a second try - that extends a tax credit for the film industry after debating the economic impact of the measure and how one film that received such an incentive portrayed the state.

House members voted 65-28 for the measure after reconsidering the bill. It had fallen three votes short of the necessary 51 needed to pass in the 101-member House on Monday.

The state provides rebates to filmmakers amounting to $1 for every $3 dollars they spend on movie productions in Oklahoma, up to a total of $5 million. The program is scheduled to expire July 1. The bill by Rep. Todd Thomsen, R-Ada, extends the credit for 10 years to July 1, 2024.

An emergency measure that would force the bill into effect upon its signing into law failed.

Thomsen earlier said the Oklahoma Film & Music Office, which works to attract the film, television, video, and music industries to Oklahoma, estimates the incentive program had a direct economic impact of $35.1 million last year through spending on items such as catering, housing, set production and lighting for productions.

“This has been a successful program, and if we discontinue this program right at this point, anything that has been built up to this point you won’t be able to put it back together anytime soon,” Thomsen said, adding that the program is attracting more productions and building an industry to diversify the state’s economy.

One of the most noteworthy films that has used the program recently is “August: Osage County,” an adaption of an award-winning play by Oklahoma native Tracy Letts and starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, among others. George Clooney was a producer. Both Roberts and Streep were up for Academy Awards for their performances in the film on Sunday.

Rep. Don Armes, R-Faxon, called the movie “dark” and “out there,” but said it’s not unlike some Oklahoma families.

“But the point I wanted to make is they had some of the most beautiful footage of the Osage that I’ve seen in a long time. Meryl Streep was absolutely in love with Oklahoma after that, and Meryl Streep gets on national television and talks about Oklahoma,” he said.

Lawmakers who opposed the bill said the program is a wasteful use of tax dollars and said Hollywood is the last place that should be getting incentives to portray the Sooner State.

“I don’t like giving away taxpayer dollars,” said Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, during the debate. “Now, members, if you want to portray Oklahoma in a good fashion, you know what? I think the last place you go is to Hollywood to make a good movie about Oklahoma. I think what you do is you give $1 million or $500,000 or a way lot less to the Oklahoma Department of Tourism, and they could do a great film, a great something, that they could advertise on TV and they could give a good image of Oklahoma.”

Jill Simpson, director of the Oklahoma Film & Music Office, did not return messages seeking comment. The measure now heads to the Senate.



House Bill 2580: https://bit.ly/NoAdj9

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