CHICAGO – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced his plan to help rebuild Illinois’ faltering film industry. Through a new tax incentive, a clear focus on strengthening Illinois’ visual media assets, and wider marketing outreach, the governor hopes to restore what was a $124 million industry in the late 1990’s, but sank to $27.6 million in 2002.
The governor was joined by the Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Jack Lavin; the Director of the Illinois Film Office, Brenda Sexton; and several members of Chicago’s film industry, including Harold Ramis, who wrote and acted in both Ghostbuster films and directed Caddyshack, Analyze This and Groundhog Day, among many other successful films.
“For decades, Illinois was the Hollywood of the Midwest, known for great movies like Blues Brothers, The Untouchables, Ferris Beuler’s Day Off and Home Alone,” Blagojevich said. “But that’s changed over the past few years. Since 2001, 18 films that were set in Chicago were actually filmed in Canada.”
Canada aggressively pursued the United States film market by drastically cutting taxes and fees on production costs. Twenty-four states have responded by enacting their own incentives. But Illinois has not taken steps to remain competitive in the film and television production market.
Blagojevich hopes to reverse the trend by enacting a tax incentive that will attract the film industry back to Illinois. His plan would provide a tax credit equal to 25% of the wages paid to Illinois residents working on television and film projects shot in Illinois. In order to qualify, productions of 30 minutes or more will have to spend at least $100,000 on Illinois labor. Other, shorter film productions may also qualify for the incentive.
The governor’s incentive is expected to draw seven new major film productions to Illinois next year, creating 1,281 jobs and $98.4 million in direct expenditures – such as hotels, food, and services – to the local economy.
“Illinois possesses a wealth of assets to the visual media industry. We need to make sure movie and television companies can afford to take advantage of what we have to offer,” Blagojevich added.
Chicago is home to 20 acting, video and film schools, including Columbia College, the world’s largest film school. In the entire state, nearly 34,000 people work in 145 different film-related occupations. In addition, Chicago is home to the second largest ad agency base in North America – giving the city’s visual media industry a significant potential market base.
In order to protect and improve upon Illinois’ assets, Blagojevich today created the Illinois Visual Media Task Force to recommend steps the state can take to expand its visual media infrastructure. Specifically, the group will look into ways to keep local talent from moving to the coasts, attract visual media equipment suppliers to the area in light of Panavision’s 2002 move to Dallas, and possible partnerships to make sure our region can continue to offer adequate sound stage services to meet the needs of major productions. The task force will be chaired by Jack Lavin, Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Fourteen other members from a wide cross-section of the industry will be appointed in the next two weeks. They will report back to the governor by January 1.
“In addition to making sure we have an adequate infrastructure in place, we also need to do a better job marketing Illinois as an ideal location for film and television production,” said the governor. “We need to tap into our many friends and Illinois natives who have achieved success in the industry.”
Under the governor’s direction, the Illinois Film Office will work with industry professionals to attract new film and television business to Illinois. The office will sponsor an annual event recognizing production achievements in Illinois, and will help facilitate joint marketing projects that benefit the many different mediums of visual media. The Film Office will also organize an ambassadorship program encouraging Illinois film celebrities to raise the state’s profile at film festivals and other networking events.