Increased film tax incentives could bring studios back to Washington

The third highest-grossing film of the year so far is about an artificially intelligent doll that becomes murderous.

If you haven’t seen it M3GANYou’ve probably heard of it, or at least seen people doing their spooky, campy dance on TikTok or The Drew Barrymore Show.

What you may not have heard: It’s set in Seattle. Not that you can really say that. M3GAN was filmed in LA and Auckland, New Zealand.

It’s been common in movies and shows for the past two decades. Studios want the Washington aesthetic but get more tax breaks elsewhere. Although Washington used film incentives early in the 2000s, it was outpaced by other states and neighboring Canadian province, according to Washington Filmworks executive director Amy Lillard.

“This is really a response to this runaway production after Vancouver, BC, this place that’s right above us here in Washington state,” Lillard said. As the film industry booms, tax breaks on film projects have cost the BC government hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.

Seattle seems like a great place to shoot a tech horror movie. But what about beloved local stories?

This year will also see the release of The boys in the boat, directed by George Clooney. It is an adaptation of the story of the University of Washington men’s rowing team at the 1936 Olympics. The film was shot overseas so famous UW landmarks such as the ASUW Shell House on Lake Washington will most likely be recreated using digital effects.

All of that could change. Lawmakers have increased the country’s incentive pool. As of January, there will be $15 million in tax breaks available to studios.

Oregon has about $20 million a year, Montana has 12. So Washington finally fits right in there,” said Lillard. Georgia is the top US state for film tax breaks, providing an estimated $1 billion in loans in 2021 and 2022.

Now that more incentives are available, Lillard is getting more calls. Filming begins next month for the second season of a show on Christian streaming platform Pure Flix in Spokane, Washington Northern exposure Star Cynthia Geary.

“We can now move on to some of these larger episodic series,” Lillard said. “We now agree with what Oregon is doing, who had Portlandia, The Librariansgrim.”

Lillard said he doesn’t expect a big blockbuster any time soon.

“We’re really interested in finding the right match. We’re never going to have Marvel movie number 17,” Lillard said.

But who knows? A sequel to M3GAN should be released in January 2025. perhaps M3GAN 2 will be a real Seattleite – not a transplant.


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