Local film scene bolsters Memphis’ rank for moviemakers

Memphis moved up three notches, from 20 to 17, on MovieMaker Magazine’s annual list of the 25 Best Places to Live and Work as a Moviemaker.

The list looks at filmmaking metrics and costs but also the mix of services and agencies that appeal to creative types, said Bob Raines, Tennessee Entertainment Commission executive director.

“Incentives play a role in the business development. But it’s the city’s creative class that ultimately makes a city a great place to live for creatives. Not only does Memphis have the creative class, it also has a lot of organizations that help to bolster that foundation,” he said.

The top five cities on the list, in order, are Atlanta, Vancouver, New Orleans, Toronto and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In its commentary, MovieMaker cites Indie Memphis as part of the foundation, noting that the film festival, “one of the country’s best,” waives fees for local filmmakers.

But the city itself, which “Hollywood loves to mine for its abundant musical legacy,” is well-positioned to be “a thrumming film hub,” the magazine said, for its film incentives and also “exquisite food, a legendarily great music scene on Beale Street, and a very low cost of living.”

Memphis made its first appearance on MovieMaker’s list in 2006 and has been on it consistently since 2016.

The boost this year is likely the result of the annual production report created by the Memphis and Shelby County Film-TV Commission creates each year. In 2022, its client list included NBC-Universal’s primetime series, “Young Rock.”

In the case of “Young Rock,” Comcast, which owns NBC, receives a 40% tax credit on production costs, including talent, plus a 10% “uplift” on wages for every person it hires to work on the production from Shelby County and 79 other counties in the state.

Before the new incentives, Tennessee offered a 25% cash refund on qualified expenditures. That made it hard to compete with Georgia, for instance, which offers a 30% rebate on production costs, including pay for out-of-state talent and crews.

Over the next three years of production, “Young Rock” will add $74 million per season to the local economy, including hotel costs, said Stefanie Barrett, head of marketing and communications for EDGE, the economic development growth engine for Memphis and Shelby County.

In 2022 alone, the value to the local economy was $37 million.

“You have to remember, this is 257 jobs, which is huge,” Barrett said. “And they are good-paying jobs.”

How cities rank in the list is determined in part by business specifics in states’ film and TV commission annual production reports, Raines said.

“You’re looking at the numbers. You’re looking at how much was invested. You’re looking at how many jobs were created and what types of projects were brought in,” he said. “That is part of right of the weighting process in their (MovieMaker’s) determination.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 18, the Shelby County Commission’s legislative affairs committee unanimously agreed to add a $500,000 request from the local film commission to the county’s request for state funding.

The money would be used to fund an apprentice program for TV and film workers in Memphis.

The impact would be significant, says Linn Sitler, head of the Memphis & Shelby County Film & TV Commission.

“Being an apprentice on bigger budget, high-impact film/TV production gives the novice time-intensive training with seasoned professionals. And that person can form big-time professional contacts that will make the difference in his or her future,” she said in a text.

“We can’t ask these productions to train them and pay for them at the same time,” Sitler said.

“Memphis goes up against Atlanta, and they go up against New Orleans,” Raines said. “Knoxville is going up against Wilmington, North Carolina, and Santa Fe, much smaller cities and towns. But still, from a state perspective, just shows what a great atmosphere and environment we have in our state for creatives.”

This was originally published on “dailymemphian.com

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