Why a Local Film Incentive for Kansas City?
While at the at the AFCI Locations Trade Show in Los Angeles representing Kansas City and the state of Missouri, a screenwriter, let’s call him “Steve,” engaged us in a conversation about a romantic comedy script he wrote called “BBQ.” I immediately pitched the virtues of our incredible Kansas City BBQ scene and our strong crew base and he easily became interested in adding Kansas City to the list of cities he would consider. In the next beat he asked, “What are your incentives?” This question is the norm in the industry. In fact we may have been the only booth at the trade show without active incentives.
Last year the AFCI drew over 3,000 attendees, over 1,000 producers, 684 production associations, 227 directors, 108 film commissions and 83 independent filmmakers. [Source AFCI]
We started tallying every time an interested party inquired about our incentives. We tallied 100 pointed asks in two and a half days on the trade show floor.
Upon my return from Los Angeles, I testified at a hearing in Jefferson City with members
of MOMMA and other supporters of the Missouri State Film Incentives bill sponsored by Representative Kathy Swan. During my testimony I held up the paper that we made tally marks on just the week before and said, “these marks represent lost opportunity for our workforce, our cities, our hotels, our restaurants, our actors, our transportation services and our state.”
Did you know we have 38 university and collegiate level film/digital media programs in Missouri? Where are all of those young people going to go when they graduate?
Why a local incentive? While we may lack a state incentive, we can offer something to productions if we have a local incentive. There are other cities with incentive programs and Kansas City’s new Director of Creative Services, Megan Crigger, came from one such city – Austin, TX. Partnering with Crigger, I started researching other cities programs and began building something that we could apply to Kansas City.
Our city is more complex than most, being a bi-state city, with many of our crew and equipment providers on the Kansas side, but we were determined to make it work. Iterations of the proposed city incentive were reviewed by the City Manager’s Office as well as industry advisers.
The film “BBQ” is why a local incentive. A project like “BBQ” should be filmed here… at least given a real chance to consider filming here. They would hire crew, actors, feature our BBQ restaurants, our city and the economic impact would be Kansas City’s…not another ‘so-called’ barbecue town. Without something to offer, doors close. With this incentive we are throwing our foot in the door to stop it from slamming, saying, “we are open and ready for business!”
Why a local incentive? Workforce leakage is why a local incentive. I received a message from one of our crew members, Michael Stoecker, who is a full time qualified media tech (Key Grip). I’m used to seeing him on sets I visit – he’s one of our highly talented professionals. In his message he explained that he left Kansas City to build up more work and as a result, “bought a home in Nashville literally because of the work that city was bringing in at the time” (quote from Stoecker).
How might the city incentive help establish a state incentive? The City of Kansas City has included the Missouri State Film Tax Incentive on their list of legislative priorities in 2016. That action paired with passing this local incentive for filming, sends a strong message to the State Legislature that Kansas City wants to participate in this industry and we want the State to do it’s part.
The 2015 state incentive ended up making it through the House committee successfully but ultimately the bill died in the Missouri Senate. We are still actively pushing for it – putting time, energy and resources behind it. Follow MOMMA and our office for updates on this.
Attraction is part of any economic development plan to bring and grow commercial business and so is retaining and expanding a workforce. A city incentive is a step in this direction. An incentive to help attract productions that can sustain a workforce, can bring workers to town for careers, and can also stop our talented people from leaving Kansas City.
We are very pleased that Kansas City is one of the up-and-coming film friendly cities in America. As my boss Ronnie Burt likes to remind us at Visit KC, we have a common mission to “Ignite KC” and a “global passion for visiting Kansas City.” Our doors are open, come on in!