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If Indiana Could Attract Movies: How That Could Mean Jobs and an Economic Boost

Indiana is not actively trying to attract the movie industry. Other states have done it and get the benefits.

INDIANAPOLIS -- When the Oscars are on TV Sunday night, you probably won't be seeing any movies shot in Indiana winning Academy Awards. Because so few movies are shot here, you are missing out on the benefits that come along with the movie industry operating in your community.

Working against ourselves

"Indiana University and Ball State-they've put a lot of time and resources into developing these great media schools. And yet kids graduate and even if they wanted to work in Indiana they can't," said Angelo Pizzo, writer and producer of the movie "Hoosiers". "There are no jobs in the film business."

While there are some jobs here and there when independent movies are shooting here, Indiana's failure to court the film industry means the chances of big budget movies being shot here these days are near nil.

Misses and near-misses

"If we were to shoot 'Hoosiers' today, we would shoot everything but Hinkle Field House in a small town in Illinois or Ohio, because we would get back 30 cents on every dollar that we spent," said Pizzo. The states that surround Indiana offer that money back to big budget movie makers in exchange for the jobs and the boost to the economy.

"'The Fault in Our Stars' was a big loss for Indiana and Indianapolis. It was shot in Pittsburgh because of tax incentives," said Teresa Sabatine, the first film commissioner for Indianapolis. Her office is called FilmIndy.

The 2014 film is set in Indianapolis, and was an adaptation of a novel by Indy native John Green.

The opportunities

"The industry has created this opportunity for states to come to the table with a tax incentive," said Sabatine. "Most states, I think there 13 currently that do not and we are one of them, offer between 20 and 30 percent on the dollar."

That's money back to the movie makers in exchange for the jobs they bring and the boost to the economy. The people who make the movies benefit. But, so do the people who run businesses or need work.

"They're spending money at hotels, restaurants, at catering companies. They're renting houses. They're renting cars. They're really a diverse economic impact."

Sabatine and Pizzo have been working together as part of a group trying to educate legislators on the benefits that Hoosiers are missing. Both have different explanations for the reasons they believe lawmakers have not moved recently on a new plan for incentives (a weak plan from the mid 2000s did not provide much use in luring film companies).

The reasons we don't do it

"There's a bias against Hollywood and there's a negative feeling about tax credits from enough legislators that matter," said Pizzo.

Sabatine said she believes legislators are more focused on luring tech jobs, which has been successful lately. But, she said when it's done right, getting big budget movies would be just as much a boost to job growth. In Atlanta, enough movies are filming there and nearby, that most of the film jobs are now permanent, with companies that provide services to films.

"When you are strategic about which products you want to bring to your city or state and you know what the economics are going to be, there is a huge upside," she said.

The plan for both Sabatine, Pizzo and other people who believe the future of jobs is in the creative arts (jobs she points out, that cannot be automated) is to keep after the state legislature.

PHOTO: Thinkstock/Kanzefar

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