I read your article about the Illinois production tax credit with interest [The Works, June 2]. As the editor of Screen, a local film and video trade magazine, I'm excited about the passage of this bill, along with an attractive incentives package in Wisconsin and the renewal of dormant incentives in Minnesota. Michigan is also considering a bill of its own, which has stalled in the state senate after passing the house unanimously late last year.
Without a tax incentive of its own Illinois can expect its production numbers to decline significantly. The state can also expect local production businesses, whose supply of jobs and revenue depend on the volume of production shooting in state, to fall on hard times. This not only means less tax revenue for the state, but more local employees out of work.
Obviously legislators want to see greater representation of minorities on set and a larger percentage of minority-owned vendors being hired by visiting production companies. If the production industry wants to see this tax credit renewed we need to take significant steps on the diversity issue.
Several steps have already been taken. For example, the Illinois Production Alliance, which has lobbied for incentives legislation for years, has an active diversity committee. This committee has been instrumental in signing up minority-owned vendors and crew members with the Illinois Film Office, which makes its list available to incoming productions.
From late February to mid-March of this year, IATSE Local 476 motion picture studio mechanics union conducted a four-week intensive grip and lighting training workshop for young and minority students. This workshop was funded through the state of Illinois as part of the diversity component of the old tax credit.
At a May 15 celebration of the new bill Illinois Film Office diversity officer Joyce Davis said she was working with the Local 600 cinematographers' guild to put together a camera training program. She also said she was working with Local 476 on a follow-up workshop.
With productions now required to submit a diversity plan, we may see an increase in the number of minority crew members and vendors being hired to work on film productions. But it's up to the industry to train a greater number of minority crew members and to promote those crew members to producers. The industry also needs to recognize the depth of minority talent that already exists locally and promote those workers to visiting productions.
I also want to mention the fact that while a lot of public attention has been focused on feature films, the recently passed tax credit also applies to commercial production, which has been the lifeblood of the Chicago production community for years.
Local production companies now have a significant tool to use when bidding for jobs from ad agencies. If Chicago's sizable ad market can be convinced to keep a larger portion of their commercial work in state, it could have major ramifications for the local production industry.
Editor, Screen Magazine