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The Color of (Movie) Money

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on May 31, 2005 1:39PM

Four major film productions are lensing in Chicago this summer, including The Break-Up with Jennifer Aniston and Lake Forest’s own Vince Vaughn. With six more projects set to begin production in Illinois this year, you’d think that the folks in the Illinois and Chicago film offices could sit back and congratulate themselves on a job well done. Yet other state film offices are on the chopping block due to budget shortfalls. Also, the tax credits that are largely responsible for the increase in Illinois film production are not finding easy passage in the General Assembly. Will this mean no more visits from Keanu? Let’s take a look.

Film offices in three states have experienced problems in recent 2005_05_31_moviemoney.jpgmonths. Indiana’s film office closed up shop and saw its duties folded into the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, a quasi-governmental group that replaces the Indiana Department of Commerce. Wisconsin’s film office may close on July 1st unless a group of state businessmen and casinos can find a way to prevent it from being a victim of budget shortfalls in that state. Lastly, Louisiana’s tax credit program has come under fire recently due to concerns of revenues not exceeding tax credits and of credits extended to productions that don’t do a majority of their filming in the state.

So what’s to become of Illinois’ own recent cinematic renaissance? Illinois is having its own budget problems and arts programs are usually the first to get cut in those situations. Also, Illinois’ production tax credit is only extended to production companies that make a “good faith effort” to set and meet a minority employment target. Illinois lawmakers have recently voiced concerns that companies haven’t been doing enough to guarantee those hires. The state’s spring session ends today with the bill to extend the tax credit through 2006 held up in a House rules committee after passage in the Senate and a bill to extend loans to minority production houses experiencing similar problems.

Unless lawmakers can use their persuasion to hire fewer Caucasians, Chicago may look more like Toronto on the big screen next year.