Legislature considers extending tax credits for filmmakers

JUNEAU -- Call it the "Everybody Loves Movies" bill.

State legislators are considering whether to tweak and extend a law passed in 2008 that gives tax credits for films made in Alaska.

At a meeting Tuesday morning of the House Special Committee on Economic Development, Trade and Tourism, legislators heard from a string of Alaskans about how they benefited from films produced here since the film-incentive program became law in 2008.

People mainly talked about two movies filmed last summer in Alaska: "Everybody Loves Whales" starring Drew Barrymore, and a movie tentatively titled "Ghost Vision" with Jon Voight.

ABC Motorhomes rented lots of RVs and Avis rented lots of cars. The shipping company Totem Ocean Trailer Express shipped tractor trailers and other cargo both into and out of Anchorage for the movies.

Brice Habeger, a Juneau resident who graduated college in 2008 with a film degree, said he did production scouting for "Everybody Loves Whales" and worked as a grip on "Ghost Vision." All of his film classmates in Chicago thought Los Angeles was the promised land but he wanted to start his career in Alaska.

"We can with this bill grow a crew base that rivals any other state," Habeger said.

Karen Tallent told legislators she's been able to give up her job as a classroom teacher to work as an on-set studio teacher for children appearing in movies filmed in Alaska. The production companies hire lots of Alaska residents and the crew members brought in from out of state spend a lot here on hotels, food and trinkets, she said.

"Even the hot dog vendor got business from 'Everybody Loves Whales,' " she said.

Maya Salganek, an assistant professor and director of film studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said that a tax incentive is a first step in attracting established film companies, directors and actors to Alaska. Interest in film-making here is taking off, she said. Enrollment in film classes at UAF has jumped 60 percent in four years, she said.

While Alaska residents pay no state taxes, corporations do.

The extension of the tax credits is contained in House Bill 67, which is being tweaked and will be considered by the committee on Thursday morning, said Rep. Bob Herron, D-Bethel and the committee chairman. Herron and Anchorage Democrat Chris Tuck are sponsoring the bill.

The current law allowing for film tax credits will expire in 2013. The proposal is to extend it by 10 years to 2023. The tax credits would only apply to expenses incurred in Alaska. Film companies could sell the tax credit to any company with a corporate income tax liability including fishing, mining and oil companies, according to the sponsors.

Find Lisa Demer online at or call 257-4390.