Tell Montana Stories in Montana

New tax incentive will allow us to better compete with other states and countries as a filming location

By Allison Whitmer

The film industry produces something different every day. Movies and TV shows represent all varieties of genres and styles. Some may be three-hour epics, while others may be only a few minutes. They’re distributed through different methods, from major theater releases to YouTube uploads.

Regardless of the differences, one thing you’ll always see is a sequence to credit the people, and indeed the places, responsible for the production. Credit sequences are determined by contracts, unions and tradition. As a result of financial incentives, the filming location is often represented, too.

If you’re a fan of the Marvel films, then you’re probably used to waiting until the end of the credits to see a teaser scene for the next sequel. You might also be used to seeing the logos of various state film offices, often one of the last things before the credits stop rolling.

States with financial incentives attract hundreds of productions, although the filming location is often different from the setting of the movie or TV show. That’s why a project like “Wildlife,” which is set in Great Falls, filmed in Oklahoma instead of the Electric City.

During the 2019 Legislature, lawmakers passed and Governor Steve Bullock signed House Bill 293 to establish the Montana Economic Industry Advancement (MEDIA) Act, Montana’s first film tax incentive since the Big Sky on the Big Screen Act sunset in 2015.

With the MEDIA Act, Montana has a new tool to help get Montana stories told in Montana — and to help get the economic impact as well.

Film is a powerful tool for promoting Montana. Filming movies, TV shows and commercials in Montana elevates the awareness about our state and pumps outside dollars into our stores, hotels and to 600 or more industry professionals.

The MEDIA Act provides for a 20 percent production expenditure tax credit, with additional components that can increase the transferable credit to a maximum of 35 percent of total base film production investment. Those add-on incentives can include:

• 25% of compensation for Montana resident crews

• 15% of compensation for non-Montana resident crews

• 30% of compensation paid to students

• 20% of above the line compensation per production or television series season, with ceiling

• 15% of compensation paid to actors

• 10% of payments to Montana colleges or universities

• 10% of all in-studio facility and equipment rental expenditures

• 5% of expenditures in a high poverty county

• 25% of post-production wages (not effective until 2021)

• 5% for Montana screen credit

The incentive will become effective on July 1, 2019. Until then, watch for updates at our website, montanafilm.com.

Montana is already the ultimate location for filming movies, TV shows and commercials. This incentive will allow us to better compete with other states and countries. We’re excited to see the Montana logo appearing more often at the end of films and TV shows!

Allison Whitmer is the Montana film commissioner.