WV film office promotes industry throughout state - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

WV film office promotes industry throughout state

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Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures

West Virginia may not be Hollywood, but it doesn't have to be in order to benefit from a thriving film industry.

"It is similar to any other industry — it provides jobs, business development and film tourism opportunities," said Pam Haynes, director for the West Virginia Film Office. "There is a plethora of avenues that it touches upon.

"The vendors that they use range from heavy equipment rentals to lumber needs, dry cleaning, car rentals, catering — you name it. This industry hits it. It's an important revenue stream that could be quite significant."

The Mountain State has been a location for many movies, music videos and commercials with some settings more obvious than others.

Films that have made it to the silver screen include: "Gods and Generals," "Matewan," "We Are Marshall," "Win a Date with Tad Hamilton," "Super 8," "Sweet Dreams" and "Reckless," among many others.

"Little Accidents," which was filmed in Raleigh County in the summer of 2013, premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Jan. 22.

"The communities that they go into (to film) get the most impact, financially speaking," said Haynes.  "It also has a trickle-down effect to the state as a whole because the vendors pay taxes on the revenue they're receiving. The wages that are earned by the local hires also trickle down to the state.  

"Everything has a positive impact. There is no negative."

The WVFO recently hosted two workforce training seminars to identify and train local crews. The WVFO keeps a directory for available crew and vendors on its website, wvfilm.org.

"It's an industry that is sometimes considered transient, because generally when they film on location, they leave," Haynes said. "They come and spend their money and they're gone. But if we had more of that, on a consistent basis, then our workforce would have sustainable employment year-round. 

"We have dozens of skilled laborers that are available for hire in this industry."

The community of Beckley played a vital role in hosting "Little Accidents," which was directed by Sarah Colangelo.

The Resort at Glade Springs in nearby Daniels housed many of the actors, including Elizabeth Banks, Josh Lucas and Boyd Holbrook. An available space in Uptown Beckley became the film's on location central office.

"Any time that you have the film industry in your community, it garners you extra exposure and benefits you economically," said Ellen Taylor, president and CEO of the Beckley-Raleigh County Chamber of Commerce. "When they're here, it's a great impact economically, and if the film is successful, it brings even more exposure to your area."

The state of West Virginia recognizes that filmmaking is more than just art.

Much more.

"Our tax department recognizes filmmaking as manufacturing," Haynes said. "It's because it is taking a product and turning it into something else. Nearly all positions on a film set require skilled labor. 

"All the way from carpenters, construction workers, … and there are the production assistants, makeup artists, caterers — people you wouldn't necessarily consider manufacturing."

Business incentives for shooting films in the mountain state

Beautiful locations are not the only reason to choose West Virginia for filming. 

Tax credits, sales tax exemptions and other incentives combine to make West Virginia the perfect location for filming.

 

  • The West Virginia Film Industry Investment Act is a competitive tool used to recruit film industry business into the state. The Act provides as much as 31 percent in tax credits for in-state spending, which breaks down to 27 percent base plus 4 percent for 10 or more resident crew or talent hires. The Act is funded at $5 million annually and it has no caps but requires a minimum spend of $25,000. Eligible projects include feature-length films, television films and series, commercials, music videos and commercial still photography.
  • Purchases and rentals of tangible personal property and purchases of services directly used in production are exempt from the 6 percent state sales tax, with the exception of food, beverages and motor fuel. 
  • Staying at the same facility more than 30 consecutive days (per room and individual) will make a person exempt from the 6 percent state and various local taxes. The exemption is automatic and is available to anyone. 
  • Anyone who has ever wanted to control the flow of a river can use "River on Demand™" for the solution. The flow of the Gauley River can be modulated to suit productions every November as a complimentary service made possible by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District, but safety issues take precedence and advance notice is required. 
  • Filming on most state-owned property is free of fees, but in certain circumstances, a fee may be assessed and cost recovery charges may be applied. 
  • Depending on the scope of a production, the Film Office may be able to help productions with negotiations of "soft" incentives, such as discounted location fees, office space rental, lodging and vehicle rentals. The Film Office utilizes an established statewide network of governmental agencies along with economic development, tourism and community leaders to negotiate attractive rates on many services.

 

Information courtesy of the West Virginia Film Office