Friday, December 05, 2014

AIFF 2014: Alaska Film Industry Discussion Focuses on Alaska Film Credit

Johnston, Worrell, Schildt, Green, Mazzei
Frank Hall Green, Director of WildLike
D.K. Johnston, Executive Producer/Director of Alaska Filmmakers
Deborah Schildt, President of the Alaska Film Group & Production Manager at Piksik
Dave Worrell, Development Specialist at the Alaska Film Production Promotion Program
Kelly Mazzei, Executive Director of the Alaska Film Office

This is pretty rough note taking, but it will give you an idea of what they talked about.

DK Johnston is talking about the Alaska Filmmakers group and its growth since the tax incentive program went into place.  People  starting to come here to start their film careers now because there is now a huge supportive film network up here.

Deborah Schildt, the Alaska Film Group, moved here from LA.  What can Alaskans do with film?  A lot?  I got my degree in BC and then to LA.  Eight years and 20 features later, I came to Alaska for vacation and loved it.  I'm working in film here now.  We realized we needed an incentive program and we got together.  Industry is changing.  High end commercials coming here changing.  More independents, internet.  If you take your film passion and get on the job training - features, realities, docs, you move up the ladder.  $75,000 you can get the incentive - and benefit for being an Alaskan.  First you need the passion.  Then pursue it.  Join the Alaska Film Group, talk to me, Do it!

Dave Worrell - Our incentive program.  What's it all about.  Signed into law 2008 - also recreated the Alaska Film Office.  It had existed in 80s and 90s, but when film group started, it realized it needed an incentive program.  The industry has become incentive driven.

Provides a tax credit against productions in Alaska.  Makes it more affordable to do the work here in Alaska.  We have the program created by the Legislature.  About diversifying the economy.  I'm in the Division of Economic Development.

Online  - allows Alaskans to create a listing of the products or services etc.  So when producers are looking for Alaskans are looking for Alaskans to work on projects, we tell them to look.  Also, they mostly don't have a tax liability, so they can sell their credit to Alaska businesses.
Program divided ito two sections - Dept. of Commerce where I am and also Dept. of Revenue which runs the program.

1.  Website is for productions to learn about production here, find people, locations, and about the credit. Good site.
2.  We answer the phone and answer questions.  Important that we have a permanent personal contact is critical.
3.  Partner with the Alaska Film group and ??? to have a presence at Outside film conventions.  People ask all sorts of questions about Alaska.  Our job to make Alaska attractive to productions companies.

Kelly Mazzei, Exec. Director of the Alaska Film Office.  Since July 1, 2013 we had 63 applications
Mazzei, Alaska Film Office
for the film credit, of them, 13 features or short films, 37 unscripted ??, ?? documentaries, and commercials.  Films are utilizing our state resources - particularly the documentaries.  Commercials are keeping Alaskans working and showcase Alaska.

Some changes - Commission must approve all applications with majority vote.  Credits can now be used ???, changed to incentivize greater Alaska hire.  She's going through the steps for applying and getting tax credit for a film.

Frank Hall Green
Frank Hall Green - director and producer of the film WildLike. (Opening the festival tonight)  I'll talk about filming WildLike and what it's like to film in Alaska.  It's definitely not difficult - that's the question I get from others at film festivals.  It wasn't hard.  Working in the state with Alaskans.  I'd come again, I'm an avid backpacker and in 2003 we were in Denali.  On the train back I really saw the state differently.  Interesting place with diversity of culture and people - away from the US.  So much more than people realize.  So started writing the story and it made sense to take place in Alaska.

Alaska came first and tax credit came second.  My producer said we should do it in Oregon or Washington.  I said No.  Has to be in Alaska.  Traveled around the state to explore it for the film.  Back to talk with Film Office.  Two helpful things:
1.  The film community was strong, good film network
2.  Tax office and credit

Ultimately for the entire budget of the film - it saved us about 25% of the budget.  It has to be one of the strongest in the country.  The promotion of the tax credit program is really key.

You have pluses and minuses
Plusses:  Incredible landscape and scenery;  all the different ways you can shoot - Anchorage big city, Palmer a small side
Negative:  Short season, but I don't see that as problematic.

We tried to bring as few people as possible.  Thought we couldn't find too much here - others in crew really surprised at all the people working in the industry here in various capacities.

There are so many stories here to tell.  Someone here in Alaska can tell those stories much better than Outsiders.  Comments I get from people who see WildLike - wow, didn't realize it's so beautiful or that it has cities.


Q:  Tax Credits in other states become a political football.  What about here?
Worrell:  Passed on bi-partisan basis, we have firm support, but budgetary and leigslative landscape changing.  In effect to 2018.  But won't make any predictions.
Kelly:  Not a time to sit passively by, but need to be talking to your legislators and you need to tell them you support the incentive.

Q:  What's the timeline for approval?
Kelly:  Want to be fair to producers.  Once a month we get everything approved that we have ready.  The quorum is important.  We need 3 of 4 commissioners to approve.  We're getting applications through on consistent flow

Q:  (I think it was about starting out making a film)
Frank:  You've got to find the money yourself, you have to network for it, you have to make the movie fit the budget.  $75,000 is probably the lowest threshold in the country.  I would try to meet everyone I could in the film industry here.  And I'd meet everyone who could be interested in the story of the film.  Looking in the film network for money isn't helpful, but for people who can help out and share.  It's so easy to get the film bug.  That gives you a bigger community.  Getting people who are not involved i films who aren't normally involved, that will grow the community.
Worrell:  Network, network, network.  Get feedback.
DK:  Community here understands - give a little, get a little.

Q:  Frank, where did you get your story from?
Not from Alaska, more from me.  Wanted outdoors stuff, being on a journey and AK is a great place for that.

Q:  Is the new commissioner supportive?   B.  Made in Alaska stamp issue?
A.  Kelly - change of administration - you know what I know.  It's all just happening this week.  Dust isn't settled yet.  Statute pretty straightforward, not a lot of wiggle room.  Financial impacts will come out in legislative audit reports.  People are excited about the change.
B.  The Logo - we are tasked with administering the program according to the law, so the logo has to be in the end of any production using the tax credit.
Q:  Size requirement, where it has to be shown, etc.  And commercials don't want it shown.
A:  Inent to promote Alaska and film office . . .??

Q for Frank:  how many days and season did you shoot?
A:  Varies, but for us.  Came up at end of June, landed here.  Started shooting on Aug. 1 - 31 shooting days in the five weeks.  Down time spent traveling.
Worrell:  Filming in summer, will compete with 2 million visitors for hotel rooms and rental cars, so later in the season, you get end of season lows.  Still get the look but

Q:  How does subject matter affects credit for approval?
A:  Kelly:  yes, in statute - situations that would never be allowed  - political, sexual (porn), anything on , anything internal for institutional purposes, can't be contrary to natural resources in the state. Some content won't be allowable.  Best interests of the state also there - commission or office, must look at interest of - some employment of Alaska residents, film industry in Alaska, etc.  not contrary to natural resource policy in the state.
One of the first things we do in the review is look at the script and content - not out to not give a tax credit if it fits in the statues.  Give advice to film makers on how to adjust if necessary.

A:  Old program, we did turn down some features because of production company track record in sttate, had nothing to do with
A:  We have objected because determined to be political,  if bring all cast and crew from out of state and zero support of Alaska film industry, not in state's interest.  We're here to help, to help them find out what's available.  Can modify application to show they are hiring.
Worrell:  I'm a resource for productions, I don't issue permit, I know how to get to the agencies that do give permits - NPS etc.
Come to us early and let us help you meet the criteria  We're here to create an industry.  That doesn't happen if you don't approve projects.
Kelly:  left out something in content area, if shown on screen to be breaking laws or bad for promotion of Alaska.  Negative publicity, press, laws broken in the state - that can be a reason to not give credit.  That is not subjective.

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