Developing State Tax Incentive Programs for the Entertainment Industry

On Friday, April 21 the Brooklyn Entertainment and Sports Law Society (BESLS) hosted the inaugural Brooklyn Law Entertainment Law Symposium. The Symposium theme was “Contemporary Legal Issues in the Entertainment Industry” and had many students, faculty, practitioners, family, and friends in attendance – BESLS is already excited for next year!

The Introductory Presentation, “Developing State Tax Incentive Programs for the Entertainment Industry,” presented by Brooklyn Law Professor Marshall Silverman (Co-CEO Worldwide Entertainment Studios, Inc.; Former VP of Production & Senior Motion Picture Counsel at Warner Bros. Pictures) analyzed different kinds of tax incentive programs for film productions around the country.

The presentation began with Professor Silverman discussing the history behind tax incentive programs for the entertainment industry in the United States. He pointed to a shift at the end of the 20th century, which resulted in many film productions relocating abroad to Europe and New Zealand.  When trying to understand this geographical shift, it quickly became apparent that these locations were so enticing due to the favorable tax incentives afforded to the arts.  Moving production to these locations became so popular, that actors hailing from these areas allegedly began to perfect their American accents, in order to secure roles in these American films that were being made in their countries.  Following the lead of these programs abroad, states in the U.S. began to consider adopting their own tax incentive programs.

The presentation concluded with Professor Silverman discussing the adoption of such tax incentive programs in the U.S., noting several jurisdictions including but not limited to Georgia, Montana, New York, California, and New Mexico. Georgia’s tax incentive program was highlighted as being one of the best tax incentive programs in the U.S.  Georgia’s tax credit, unlike others, is not capped, and thus any production which spends the minimum amount will qualify for the program. 

As the designer of the Montana Economic Industry Advancement (MEDIA) Act, Professor Silverman was instrumental in developing Montana’s tax incentive program. Unlike Georgia’s tax credit, at the time the MEDIA Act was enacted, the governor of Montana added in a cap to the program.  Thus, the tax credits are only afforded to a limited number of productions, typically Paramount’s Yellowstone and its related prequels, which are filmed in Montana. Hopefully, Montana’s new governor will follow Georgia’s lead and support an amendment to the Act to remove the cap from the program.  We will have to stay tuned! 

BESLS and everyone in attendance would like to give a special thanks to Professor Silverman for an incredibly informative and engaging discussion about the development of state tax incentive programs for the entertainment industry.

Written by: Haley Zenenberg
Haley is a 2024 J.D. Candidate at Brooklyn Law School

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