Maine has become a haven for independent films and TV shows such as “North Woods Law,” but efforts to lure big Hollywood productions have been ineffectual. Other nearby states including Massachusetts and Rhode Island offer bigger incentives for filming in their states, but Maine offers limited incentives.
Rep. John Joseph Picchiotti, R-Fairfield, is proposing a bill that seeks to change the plot for filmmaking in Maine.
“There are over a thousand jobs we could create. We could open a film studio in Kennebunk with 40 full-time jobs,” said Picchiotti. “And see four to five large-scale productions a year.”
A similar bill proposed in 2010 died in appropriations. The new bill LD 1004 would make changes to spur more production of filming, TV and a spectrum of media projects.
If the eight-point act becomes law, production companies will see an increase in their incentives to film in Maine from 12 to 25 percent when they hire Maine residents and from 10 to 15 percent when they hire out-of-towners.
“The more Maine residents they hire, the better it is for everybody,” said Karen Carberry Warhola, director of the Maine Film Office.
Currently, the first $50,000 earned by each employee for work done in Maine can qualify for the incentive.
“This increases that amount to $250,000 per employee,” she said.
During in-state production, wages paid to “above-the-line” and “below-the-line” employees qualify for the incentive. With the new bill, only wages for below-the-line employees — which includes electricians, carpenters, make-up artists and production assistants — would qualify. Above-the-line employees are actors, producers, writers and directors.
“It’s designed to get the bigger films like ‘On Golden Pond,’ which was filmed in New Hampshire but set in the Belgrade Lakes, to come here,” said Picchiotti.
In the last few years, the state’s film industry has bloomed, largely because of independent films.
“Since I’ve come on board, media production is up 200 percent,” said Warhola, who was hired in July 2012.
In the same period, spending has tripled, she added.
Though TV shows such as “Down East Dickering” were recently canceled, more films being shot in Maine are getting distribution deals.
“In the last two years, films made by Maine filmmakers got distributed to more theaters; “Beneath the Harvest Sky” and “Bluebird,” are two, Warhola said.
And these statistics can only go up if this bill goes forward.
“This encourages the hiring of more local people on productions,” she said. “It’s a great thing to bring more jobs to Maine.”
The public hearing before the Legislature’s Taxation Committee is set for 1.p.m. Monday in Room 127 at the State House in Augusta.