2019 Oscar nominations have Alabama roots, do tax credits work?

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Nominations have been announced for the 2019 Academy Awards, and AL.com reports that Alabama is well represented among the nominees.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening was nominated for best documentary feature film. This film, about Hale County, Alabama,  “allows the viewer an emotive impression of the Historic South – trumpeting the beauty of life and consequences of the social construction of race, while simultaneously a testament to dreaming – despite the odds.”

Up for best picture is the film The Green Book. One of the producers was Alabamian Octavia Spencer. The First Man, based on Auburn professor Emeritus James R. Hansen‘s book on  the life of Neil Armstrong, has been nominated for several awards. Alabamian Jason Isbell contributed to the soundtrack for the nominated film A Star is Born.

Alabama is tempting to many filmmakers because of their generous tax incentives in a state that offers a wide range of scenery, according to Variety. “Specifically,” they report, “Alabama provides a 35% refundable tax credit on resident above-the-line and below-the-line workers. For non-resident above- and below-the-line personnel, the refundable tax credit is 25%.” They continue “There is also a 25% refundable tax credit on all other qualified expenditures. A $20 million project cap applies. The compensation is $1 million for above-the-line contributions and $500,000 for below-the-line work.” We are considered one of the best states for filming tax incentives.  

Some believe that the tax incentives do not provide a large enough return on investment. In 2007, Republican Rep. Phil Williams of Huntsville introduced a bill that would abolish the Entertainment Industry Incentive Act of 2009 which provided those incentives. Birmingham Business Journal cited a study by the University of Tennessee that said the state could “almost certainly generate larger and more enduring economic benefits to the state with an alternative use of these taxpayer dollars that is more closely linked to stated economic development goals.”

The Alabama Film Office reports that “Alabama has catered to everything from small, independent shorts to massive Hollywood film productions.” A new film, Inheritance, starring Kate Mara (House of Cards) and Simon Pegg (Ready Player One), will begin filming in Birmingham in February, according to Bham Nowwhich also has a list of films that have been filmed in the city, including Live! and Trading Paint.