The purpose of The Kentucky Film Office is not to make movies, but to create jobs and business opportunities for Kentuckians.
The office is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. Together, we share an obligation to encourage private enterprise as it builds an industry in Kentucky. We believe the film industry has long-term benefits for the commonwealth.
Our plan to incubate this industry is best described as a three-leg economic development stool that includes film incentives, workforce development and permanent production facilities:
▪ Film incentives: This program allows companies who make entertainment programs in Kentucky to receive limited rebates on the money they spend in the commonwealth. The film industry has invested over $31 million in Kentucky over the last two years. Nearly two dozen film-production companies spent that money to produce 23 movies.
Those companies earned $9.2 million in state film incentives, leaving a difference of $22 million in the Kentucky economy. Film crews and actors have made 16 movies in Louisville and Lexington, but the industry’s reach is much wider than that.
Towns such as Mayfield, Horse Cave and Harlan have hosted film crews and actors over the past 24 months. In all, 59 Kentucky counties are identified as potential film production locations. Those are meaningful opportunities to inject new revenue and jobs into local economies.
▪ Workforce development: Filmmakers working in Kentucky earn a 30-percent incentive for qualified expenses. An enhanced incentive is triggered if those film companies employ Kentuckians. That provides an additional 5-percent rebate to the employer.
Overall, the film industry has created 372 full-time equivalent jobs in Kentucky. However, that workforce is far below what is necessary for continued growth. Asbury University has an innovative, hands-on training program that is contributing a solution to the workforce needs of the film industry. In a matter of weeks, rather than years, those who complete the Kentucky Film Certification Program are certified to work in this trade.
▪ Permanent production facilities: Once trained, those skilled employees need a place to work full-time. That’s why establishing production studios in Kentucky is critical. We are in conversations with several notable companies who want to establish permanent studios in the commonwealth. They are attracted by our state’s central location, diverse climate and filming locations, the potential of our workforce and the incentives available in our state.
Without studios, career opportunities for Kentuckians are limited. Film companies won’t move here permanently unless they are confident the film incentive program is stable. As you can see, this industry brings exciting new opportunities. Our cabinet is launching a research initiative that will guide our plans for job creation and additional business opportunities. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor our progress to ensure we are investing taxpayer dollars effectively.
Don Parkinson is Kentucky’s Secretary of Tourism, Arts and Heritage.
At issue: Herald-Leader article, “Kentucky awards $5 million a month to low-budget films. What do we get in return?”