Money for Media: Indiana offers Filmmaking Tax Credit Incentive

Photo courtesy of Unsplash

You might not know that many set-in-Indiana film favorites aren’t actually filmed in Indiana due to financial reasons. The Funky Bones art installation seen in “The Fault in Our Stars” isn’t the real deal, and “Stranger Things,” while set in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, is not filmed in-state. Simply put, it’s just cheaper to shoot media elsewhere — but not for long.

In a matter of weeks, the Indiana filmmaking scene will receive a much-needed incentive through the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Starting July 1, 2022, Indiana production companies will be eligible to receive tax credits on up to 30% of their production expenses via the implementation of Senate Enrolled Act 361. The catch? Hire Hoosiers. 

We won’t bore you with too much of the heavy legal stuff, so here’s the important part: with this new law going into effect, Indiana will become an economically viable place to produce all kinds of media, including music, digital media, movies, TV and more. It’s big news for the state, whose production scene has historically been more costly than those in surrounding states.

That’s never stopped aspiring Indiana filmmakers, though. Indiana is home to several film festivals that take place each year, including Indy Film Fest and Heartland Film Festival. According to Greg Sorvig, the artistic director for Heartland Film, these festivals attract talent from across the nation — but until now, these filmmakers haven’t had enough incentive to stay.

“If you are a state without tax incentives, it’s hard to maintain an active film industry that’s competitive or at the level of a state that has that,” Sorvig said. “We’ve seen that with filmmakers that have come to our festivals before. People come to the Heartland Film Festival or Indy Shorts. They fall in love with Indiana. But they can go across the bridge and essentially get money to make a film. And it could be millions of dollars.”

Now, Indiana-based filmmakers and producers will no longer be forced to film out-of-state in order to keep production costs affordable. In fact, we might be seeing empty warehouses and other properties transformed into production studios, similar to the Spirit Halloween stores that pop up in former big-box storefronts as fall approaches. Alongside this initiative will come growth: more jobs, more media and more creativity, all within Indiana. 

Among these opportunities lies the potential for a construction boom, an influx of entertainment jobs and career growth for Indiana grads with filmmaking degrees. Plenty of Indiana’s colleges offer degrees in film, but many alumni have sought post-grad jobs outside of the state. A spike in the availability of in-state production jobs could change that, and according to Sorvig, big-name companies might be what get us there. 

“Until we have a really developed film community of our own, I think there will be some big productions that come in from familiar names, studios and production companies,” Sorvig said. “That will help get the workforce of people who already live or maybe even decide to move to Indiana prepared and ready for hopefully decades’ worth of work and filmmaking here in the state.”

In the meantime, Indiana’s existing filmmaking community is anticipating a new reality: the ability to create dream projects in-state. While it might take some time to get things going, Sorvig assures that there’s no shortage of passion amongst the filmmaking community. 

“We do have a great network of screenwriters, producers, directors, commercial filmmakers as well, who are ready to take that leap,” Sorvig said. “They call Indiana home and they’ve been wanting to see the industry develop here too. People might think we don’t have anything here in terms of a film industry, but I think we’re really excited to prove them wrong.”

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