Film tax credits pay off for Maryland [Letter]

Four years ago, when the state's lack of tax incentives sent our local and union film crews off to earn their taxable income in other states, I, having just spent seven months in Detroit working on a very high-budget movie about boxing robots, returned back to my hometown to find absolutely no film work on the horizon. I used my boxing robot money to fund a total career re-invention and activated my residential real estate license. I was quite fortunate as shortly thereafter, "House of Cards" and "Veep" arrived in Baltimore and my union brothers and sisters were able to leave their Michigan, Louisiana and Atlanta hotel rooms, come back to Maryland, return to their families, earn a living — and buy houses.

Last year, I helped five of my fellow crew members buy homes. Some were buying their first, some were up-sizing for their growing families. These are Marylanders who want to stay. Trained, skilled and seasoned, these are professionals who have been practicing their craft in this state for decades. They are Marylanders who pay property taxes and income tax. I know that five homebuyers don't justify a $15 million tax rebate, but my brief story is a just a small glimpse into the grand financial impact of local movie production ("Senator faults administration effort to keep 'House of Cards,'" Feb. 21). Those five sales were a substantial portion of my income, and each transaction employed home inspectors, title attorneys, lenders and loan processors, not to mention the impact that the transactions had on the other side of the table — the sellers and the homes they would go buy with the proceeds.

As I mentioned, I worked in Detroit during the early days of its very ambitious film incentive program. I am not a financial expert, politician or city planner, so I can't speak to how they went about executing their rebate program. I will say that it was immediately obvious that their program was fundamentally different than ours. They were attempting to create an entire industry in a short period of time with a lot more money. There didn't seem to be many of the restrictions on their rebate criteria. I remember hearing that huge Hollywood actors' salaries were eligible for the rebate. I was there working, there were dozens of Baltimore and California imports working across the state, filling in the gaps for a local union that didn't have a fraction of the bodies to fill the production demands. In the end, the major difference is that Detroit was trying to create jobs that had never been there. Other states have done it, but it never happens overnight. Here, our rebates not only create jobs, they sustain an industry that already has a deeply rooted local infrastructure. We don't need to import labor, we don't need to build soundstages, we're ready to work and if the work isn't here, our crew will go elsewhere.

People can argue all day as to whether state governments should subsidize any industry, but at the end of the day, film rebates are pretty clear and the production only receives the rebate after a careful audit of the local financial impact. If someone told letter writer Gary Moyer ("Why should Md. give the film industry a free ride?" Feb. 26) that they would trade him $140 for $15, he knows he would be an idiot not to accept.

Dawson Nolley, Baltimore

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