Losing Out to Other States, Will Tennessee Revisit Their Tax Incentives?

Jason Lee in Memphis BeatOver the last two years Tennessee, more specifically Memphis, has lost out on some high profile projects to surrounding states. The Blind Side, came to Georgia to shoot, even though the film was based in Memphis. Footloose, which was slated to originally film in Georgia, was going to relocate to Tennessee when native Craig Brewer took on the project, but now is again slated for Georgia because of the cost savings. "Georgia probably is our biggest competitor right now,” Sharon Fox O’Guin, of the Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission. “As you may know, we lost Footloose to Georgia."

Now there's TNT's Memphis Beat, set to debut tomorrow, the show is actually shot in Louisiana.

Some in Tennessee could fight to expand the states current incentive package to be more competitive, however, getting legislatures on board has always been a tough sale. Attempting to do so in a down economy, and in the face of local issues, can be politically risky.

The real difficulty comes in convincing people that the film industry is an industry, and an industry worth attracting. Which for a city like Memphis, and sister city Nashville, is a paradox since the music industry has been a integral part of the culture and economy for well over 90 years. The overlap with film should logically make it an easier sell, such as it has in Louisiana, thanks to that state's jazz and blues legacy.

“There was resistance in terms of understanding what the movie industry means to our city, and so we were not able to get the laws changed,” [Rep. Joe Towns Jr.] said.

So what can Tennessee and Memphis do?  With Atlanta getting more studio space over the next two years, Louisiana still scoring big films like The Green Lantern, and states like North Carolina also with a significant head start, probably not much till the economy recovers. Although, never discount the power of pride as a motivator.

"Why are we losing so many?”  wondered [Rep. Mark White]. “We ought to have them right here. If it's about Memphis, why isn't it filmed in Memphis?

Memphis Fights to Bring Movie, Television Productions to Town