Innovate Mississippi

Point Innovation Magazine Winter 2013

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FEATURE Could Mississippi be the Next Hollywood? Wendy R. Mullins U nfortunately, a lot of the good things that happen in Mississippi tend to slip under the radar, while anything negative seems to garner the national spotlight. One such example is the recent improvements made by the Mississippi Legislature in Senate Bill 2462 to the Mississippi Motion Picture Incentive Act. Yes, we have one, but maybe that slipped under the radar, too. The Act was originally enacted in 2004, but was recently amended to increase the financial incentives made available to movie producers with the hope of luring more projects to Mississippi. Pursuant to the revised Act, a motion picture production company can seek cash rebates in connection with its production of a motion picture in Mississippi when the film has been approved by the Mississippi Development Authority and expends at least $50,000 on the project. There are two varieties of rebates available: a base investment rebate and a payroll rebate. The base investment rebate is equal to 25 percent of the amount expended in Mississippi on production. The payroll rebate is equal to 30 percent of amounts paid to Mississippi residents and 25 percent for amounts paid to nonresidents, with an additional 5 percent bonus payroll rebate for employees who have been honorably discharged from the U.S. Armed Forces. The amendment also increased the total rebate amount available for any single motion picture project from $8 million to $10 million, and the previous cap on any one individual's payroll (solely for purposes of calculating the payroll rebate) was increased from $1 million to $5 million. So, will Mississippi become the next Hollywood? Only time will tell, but director Tate Taylor has said he wants to make his native Mississippi a place where people can build careers with steady work in the movie business.1 Taylor produced "The Help" in and around Jackson and the Mississippi Delta in 2010, and recently announced plans to film a new project about the "Godfather of Soul," James Brown, with most of the filming to be done in and around Natchez and Jackson. Given the timing, it seems unlikely that the Act played a major factor in Taylor's site selection, but that didn't stop him from publically acknowledging the Act and its recent revisions to increase incentives, saying that "studios will shoot movies where it makes the most economic sense" and that Mississippi's newly revamped film incentives help make the state more attractive.2 While it is still too early to know the actual economic impact of the revisions to the Act, one thing is for sure: Mississippi is better off with, than without, these projects. In addition to the direct financial impact (increased spending at hotels, restaurants and gas stations, among other places), there are other indirect, but no less tangible, benefits. For example, the Fondren area in Jackson received upgrades to the exterior of many businesses during the filming of "The Help," increasing pedestrian traffic and spawning new restaurants and shops. Likewise, when films such as "The Client," "The People vs. Larry Flynt" and "A Time to Kill" were made in Mississippi, they not only created jobs and other direct economic buzz, but several also resulted in the refurbishment of local facilities. Personally, I am not sure anyone in Mississippi wants our quaint state to become the next Hollywood, but let's face it, we all enjoy sitting down at a restaurant and glancing over to see a movie star across the room! ● Mississippi Business Journal, Sept. 2, 2013, "Director of 'The Help' Wants Film Business to Grow" 2 Id. 1 •••••••••••• Wendy R. Mullins is Special Counsel in the Corporate and Securities group at Bradley Arant Boult Cumming, LLP. She can be contacted at wmullins@babc.com for more information. www.innovate.ms 59

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