As the most active movie producer in Rhode Island and recipient of $946,000 in state film tax credits over the last two years, Chad Verdi stood to potentially lose out when lawmakers began working on an overhaul of the program in reaction to 38 Studios’ demise this spring.
But Verdi, the East Greenwich maker of Inkubus, Infected, and Paz, said he would rather state funds leave the entertainment sector than have them go to Curt Schilling’s video game company or another like it in the future.
“These credits should be for Rhode Island filmmakers and not for companies that come in from out of state trying to take advantage,” Verdi said.
For Rhode Islanders who delight in watching Hollywood stars like Dana Delany and Bill Murray chew up Ocean State scenery, the film-credit overhaul lawmakers came up with in the fiscal 2013 budget may force a newfound taste for independent cinema.
What lawmakers settled on included a new $5 million per-project maximum credit and an existing $15 million cap on all film tax credits that can be issued in a given year.
To nurture the local industry, Rhode Island eligibility requirements were changed to allow locally done post-production, editing, writing, sound design, and music composition to count toward qualifying for a credit. (Marketing costs were expressly excluded.)
Where before a majority of shooting had to take place in the state, now a project qualifies if 51 percent of total production cost is spent here.
The 51 percent local filming helped draw Hollywood crews to shoot films in Rhode Island, but left out companies like Providence Pictures, which is based in downtown Providence, but shoots its documentaries around the world.
Along similar lines, the new rules set the minimum budget for tax-credit-eligible projects at $100,000 instead of $300,000, which will broaden the potential pool of low-budget, local independent projects that can qualify. The program now has a 2019 sunset date.
The 7-year-old film tax-credit program was slated for an overhaul even before 38 Studios desperately applied for $14.3 million in credits to stave off insolvency.