Seattle based producer Lacey Leavitt offered the following guest post in response our announcement on Monday about the status of funding. She encourages the film industry to get involved and write Governor Inslee. Read on for more information.
If you wish to write the Governor, we encourage you to tell your personal story. We have included some statistics below about the economic impact of the incentive program, should you wish to include this information in your letter.
Monday’s announcement from Washington Filmworks (WF), that the organization can no longer accept new applications for feature films and episodic series due to a lack of remaining funds, is further indication that our state’s motion picture production incentive program needs to be significantly upgraded. Since WF’s announcement, there has been a firestorm of activity on social media from our statewide filmmaking community asking what they can do to help.
Historically, our diverse film community reached out to our state legislators to discuss the incentive program. Because the legislators are not currently in session, I am taking this opportunity to share the importance of our industry with Governor Jay Inslee. The fact is that every successful film state has an enthusiastic, committed Governor, who has taken the lead. I know that Governor Inslee recognizes the importance, both economically and culturally, of the creative economy and particularly the motion picture industry. The current caps on WF were created before he became governor. I have high hopes that Governor Inslee will use his platform to make things better for Washington’s creative economy by substantially raising the cap on WF’s program.
Below you will find a copy of the letter that I sent to Governor Inslee today. I encourage you to share your own story with him. In writing, please acknowledge the great work he has done in the past and encourage him to help us in the future. Here’s a link to submit your letter to Governor Inslee.
Dear Governor Inslee,
I am writing to you today because you have long been a champion and advocate for our statewide film industry. I was encouraged to hear you talk about the importance of Washington’s production incentive program during your election campaign. This program remains key to building a long-term sustainable film industry in Washington State.
As you may have heard, Washington Filmworks (“WF”) announced Monday that it has committed all of its 2014 funds to bring the television series Z Nation and a feature film called Captain Fantastic here. With just two projects, WF has exhausted its funds and is no longer able to accept applications for funding assistance from other job-creating projects for the remainder of the year.
I am affected by this announcement personally because this summer I am producing a feature film called The Greens Are Gone that is now forced to relocate production. We will take the project and its jobs to Massachusetts where we expect to qualify for a production incentive. This project is just one of many that will now need to find a production home outside of Washington State since there is no longer any funding available through WF.
Since launching the production incentive program in 2006, my film colleagues in Washington State and I, have worked hard to regain a national reputation as a destination for motion picture production. However, with only $3.5 million annually in the production incentive program, Washington State has the 5th smallest fund in the nation. For many of my colleagues working in film, if they are not hired on one of these two productions they will likely have to travel to find work in Oregon, Georgia, Louisiana or one of the other states enjoying a boom of incoming film production due to their robust incentive programs.
I know that the production incentive program was established before your administration and that you are just getting acquainted with the program. Despite increased demand, the fund has not increased. The truth is our future success is limited by the size of the fund. I can tell you first hand, that I have been consulting with and considering several multi-million dollar film projects that want to come to Washington State, but it doesn’t make economic sense for them to locate here when there are no incentive dollars available. They will go to Oregon, Massachusetts, or most anywhere else. If there is an increase in the fund, we WILL bring more jobs with better wages and more money into the economy.
Every successful film state has had a Governor taking the lead and partnering with the industry to create jobs, in turn bringing millions of dollars to every part of the economy, and generating long lasting tourism benefits. As the next legislative session approaches, I see an opportunity for the film community and you to work together with the legislature to shape a vision for the creative economy and motion picture production; a vision that will endure and become a part of your successes and legacy as our Governor.
- A 375% return in seven years – Between 2007 and 2013, Washington Filmworks distributed $22.5 million in direct funding to 92 projects, including 40 feature films, five television projects, and 47 commercials. Over seven years, Washington State taxpayers enjoyed $84.4 million in direct in-state spending, including $35 million in wages and benefits for Washington residents and $49.4 million for in-state business purchases – which represents a return of 375%. That equates to over 6,000 jobs for Washington cast and crew. Washington Filmworks remains the only film incentive program in the world that requires industry standard payments for health and retirement benefits.
- A $232M Impact – For every dollar of direct spending, there is also $2.75 worth of indirect economic impacts totaling $232 million for industries that support media production, such as construction, hotels and retail stores.
About Lacey Leavitt: A Seattle producer, Leavitt has premiered films at the Sundance Film Festival for the past four years. Her first two features as a producer, The Off Hours (written/directed by Megan Griffiths) and The Catechism Cataclysm, (written/directed by Todd Rohal), premiered in 2011. She co-produced Safety Not Guaranteed (directed by Colin Trevorrow) and Touchy Feely (directed by Lynn Shelton). Leavitt co-produced Shelton’s film Laggies starring Keira Knightley, Sam Rockwell and Chloe Grace Moretz, and released fall 2014 by A24. She also co-produced Griffiths’ Lucky Them, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and stars Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church and Johnny Depp and will be released May 30 by IFC. Leavitt is producing The Automatic Hate with Alix Madigan, has several other projects in development and was a Sheila C. Johnson Sundance Creative Producing Lab fellow.