Archive | February 2012

February Bill Recap

Olympia has heard you!  We are pleased to report that SB 5539 is still in play.

SB 5539, the bill to renew the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program, was passed out of the Senate with a vote of 40 to 8 on February 14th.  The bill proceeded to the House where it successfully passed out of the House Committee on Community & Economic Development & Housing with a vote of 8 to 1.  The bill was then referred to the House Ways & Means Committee where it failed to have a hearing before the bill cutoff date of February 27th.

Our legislative team in Olympia worked hand-in-hand with elected officials to get SB 5539 included in the proposed Senate budget, which was released this morning.  Because the bill is included in the proposed budget, it is now considered NTIB – or necessary to implement the budget.  This means SB 5539 is no longer subject to the previous cutoff date.

The next hurdle is to get the bill to the floor of the House of Representatives for a full vote.  There are many different avenues that the bill could take at this juncture.  We are working with our supporters in Olympia to identify the most efficient and effective path.

In anticipation of a vote on the floor of the House, it is imperative that Representatives hear from their constituents. Please write and call today to express your desire to have the bill voted on before the end of session.  We encourage you to use the toll-free Legislative Hotline in Olympia (1-800-562-6000) as well as the IndieClub website ( to contact members of the House of Representatives.

Labor Supports Washington Filmworks

We have solidified support from the unions that represent our state’s film industry  – SAG, AFTRA, IATSE and Teamsters.  The leadership of these unions has been speaking with key legislators in Olympia on behalf of 2ESSB 5539, the bill that supports the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program.

Time To Shift Focus

Preliminary reports from Olympia indicate that 2ESSB 5539 is not included on the agenda for tomorrow’s House Ways & Means Committee meeting.  While the best case scenario would be a hearing in Ways & Means and action on the bill by end of tomorrow, it’s far from fatal if that doesn’t happen.  In the legislature, many bills are labeled necessary to implement the budget (NTIB).  Our legislative team has been working with our supporters in Olympia and we have been assured that 2ESSB 5539 can fall into this category.

It’s that time in the legislative session when many of the standard procedural rules are thrown out the window.  Your legislative team believes that the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program is very much alive, but that it is time to shift our focus.  We believe that Representative Hunter and Speaker Chopp have gotten the message and it is counterproductive to push them further at this juncture.  You can be most helpful by shifting your energy to contacting the two House Representatives from your own legislative district.

Many believe the legislative process is very ordered and that it follows rules that are set in stone.  While this is generally true, as the session ends, the rules become more flexible.  This is the grey area we are in now with respects to the passage of 2ESSB 5539.  When the final statewide budget is agreed on by the House and Senate, part of that process is examining what bills are needed to reach the ending balance.  In order to make the budget work, those bills will need to be passed.  We believe that the final agreement will include 2ESSB 5539.

So you may be curious how a bill gets voted on without committee action.  There are numerous procedural moves that could bring the bill to the House floor for a vote.  It is also possible for the House Ways & Means Committee to hear the bill and take action.  This is possible because all NTIB bills are exempt from cutoff restrictions and thus, still actionable after 5 p.m. on Monday.

As legislators from your district consider the final statewide budget, ask them to approve 2ESSB 5539.  Remind them that the legislation creates jobs and your livelihood depends on it.  It is important to remember they are under tremendous pressure to close the budget gap and minimize cuts in social service and government programs.  Most elected officials realize measures that create jobs are an important part of our state’s economic recovery.  Remind them that 2ESSB 5539 falls into this category.

Many members of our community have expressed interest in going to Olympia on Monday to lobby on behalf of the legislation.  Again, efforts should be focused on contacting  Representatives from districts that you live/work in.  We anticipate the membership will be debating and voting on the proposed budget tomorrow.  Their availability may be limited.  The majority of elected officials will arrive in Olympia in the early afternoon and go into session at 1:30 p.m.  The best opportunity to discuss the bill will be to call them off the floor by submitting a note via a House Page.

Amy Lillard will be in Olympia tomorrow to meet with film industry professionals between 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.  It is important that you connect with Amy before speaking with elected officials to get any available updates about the legislation.  She will also have materials you can distribute to Representatives and Staff.  If you plan on coming to the capital tomorrow, please email Amy directly (

Thanks for your continued support and please let us know if you plan on being in Olympia tomorrow.

Please Keep It Polite

Our legislative team has alerted us that Representative Ross Hunter’s personal cell phone number is being circulated and that supporters of SB 5539 are calling him at this number to ask for a hearing.  We appreciate the film community’s passion and dedication, however it is inappropriate and counterproductive to contact Representative Hunter on his cell phone.  Please use appropriate channels to support SB 5539.
The following is the contact information you should use:

Update From Olympia – Spread the Word

The House Ways & Means Committee meets today (Saturday 2/25) to discuss the proposed statewide budget that was introduced in the House of Representative last week. Because the budget takes priority, few other bills will be considered today. The Ways & Means Committee meets again, at 10 a.m. on Monday (2/27).  SB 5539 could be a part of that agenda.

Elected officials that support the bill continue to lobby Representative Hunter and Speaker Chopp in order to secure a hearing on the bill.  Both Representative Hunter and Speaker Chopp have acknowledged the emails, letters and phone calls from the community.  This effort is an important part of our campaign — please keep it up!  If you have already contacted their offices, you can call or write again to express your disappointment that SB 5539 was not on today’s agenda Ways & Means Committee and urge them to include the bill in their agenda on Monday, February 27.

  • Remind Speaker Chopp and Representative Hunter that SB 5539 passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority vote, 40 to 8.
  • Remind them that SB 5539 passed the House Committee on Community & Economic Development & Housing with an overwhelming majority vote, 8 to 1.
  • Remind them that SB 5539 deserves to be considered in the House Ways & Means Committee.


Representative Hunter’s email is and his Olympia Office telephone number is (360) 786-7936.


Speaker Chopps’ email is and his Olympia Office telephone number is (360) 786-7920.


Please help spread the word and encourage people to write and call TODAY!

All Incentives Are Not Created Equal

Our community is working hard to share the importance of SB 5539 and the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program with our legislators.  As you rally your own networks to write and call your elected officials, we felt it is important to remind Washington how unique our state’s film incentive program really is.  The following article, by Washington Filmworks Executive Director Amy Lillard, originally ran in Media Inc. earlier this month.  We wanted to share the reasons why Washington’s film incentive program is a model for incentive programs.  It would be a travesty to see it go.

“With no incentive in place, what’s next for the Evergreen State’s production industry?”

By Amy Lillard, Executive Director, Washington Filmworks

Forty states in the Union offer motion picture incentives designed to attract film projects that create thousands of jobs and bring millions of dollars to a state. While Washington State was one of the first to offer such an incentive, it is no longer one of the forty. How did this happen?

The momentum created by Washington Filmworks (WF) and the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program is impossible to ignore. Since launching the program in February 2007, WF has approved 71 projects for funding assistance, including 29 feature films, 37 commercials and 5 television projects. These projects have had an estimated $137 million economic impact over the past four years. And in fact, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC), an independent body of the legislature, recommended in a report authored in December 2010 that the program be renewed because it effectively maintained our position in a competitive marketplace.

Despite this significant contribution to the state’s economy, the bill to renew the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program was never brought to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote during the 2011 legislative session. The program officially sunset on June 30, 2011.

Recently, major media outlets such as the Los Angeles TimesNew York Times and Wall Street Journal have been picking up stories about how film production incentives represent bad economic development for states. Fueled by biased and politically motivated entities hiding behind important names such as The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, when examined critically it becomes apparent that these studies make for good newspaper headlines, but they fail to tell the true story. Not all production incentives are created equal.

Many articles about motion picture incentives examine the industry through a microscope and highlight only the most aggressive incentives in the United States. Michigan is often cited in articles as one of the worst economic development opportunities, as they offer production companies up to a 42 percent return on all production spending. In contrast, Washington State offers 30 percent back on qualified in-state spending only. In Washington, a producer may only get a return on what the production proves they have spent on the ground by renting local equipment, paying for locations, and hiring Washington resident cast and crew.

Since 2007, Washington Filmworks has sought to create a partnership between business, labor, the arts and government to help fuel the economy. This incentive has been a resounding success, keeping Washington competitive in film and keeping film industry workers employed. As the only state that requires health and retirement benefits for workers on a production, the Washington incentive was never about bringing Hollywood to Washington, but rather providing actors and crew from every part of the state with steady work and keeping the doors open for businesses that support the film industry.

Take away the lights, the camera and the action, and you can see what the film incentive really means: Jobs. The JLARC report also suggests that the number of jobs in the motion picture industry increased each year that the production incentive was online, with the exception of 2009, when the recession hit. That said, according to Employment Securities data, film employment declined at a rate of 0.7 percent during this time period, which is significantly less than the statewide average of 1.4 percent during the same time period.

The reality is that film industry work is project-based, and a typical film industry professional may work on three to four major productions in a year. And when working on a production, these film industry professionals typically work 14- to 16-hour days. It is difficult, if not impossible, to equate these project-oriented jobs into a box typecast as FTEs. But why should one good-paying, family-wage, 9am-to-5pm desk job represent a better opportunity for the state than the jobs the film industry provides its workers?

It is worth mentioning that there were very few easy decisions to make in the 2011 legislative session. With the state badly in debt and social services strained almost to the breaking point, it might seem difficult to endorse a tax incentive for the movie industry. However, the loss of the film incentive represents a further strain on the economy, forcing industry workers to rely on unemployment and causing the loss of millions in potential revenue to the state. The short-term gains of cutting the incentive are nothing compared to the long-term economic damage the absence of the program creates.

While devastating to the film industry in Washington, this does not represent the death knell of movies and TV in this state. Actors continue to act, writers continue to write, and gaffers continue to gaff, but without the incentive in place, jobs—real paying family-wage jobs—will dwindle until they disappear altogether. Fewer and fewer projects will come to Washington and it will not be long before the Evergreen State becomes the Evergreen “Fly-Over” State, as projects pass us by in favor of Oregon or Vancouver, B.C. Washington’s homegrown filmmakers, cast and crew will be forced to go out of state to work, or worse yet, move themselves and their families to states with competitive incentives in place.

In this difficult economic climate, you are seeing states across the country maintain and even increase the production incentives that they offer. NewMexico just voted to continue their incentive program, with a higher cap than was proposed by the governor. Utah just voted to raise their incentive, and Governor Kitzhaber in Oregon led the charge to get their incentive program renewed through 2018.

Washington State has so much to offer filmmakers: Diverse locations, talented cast and crew, and a wealth of production resources. What we don’t have is an incentive.

With 40 other states across the country with incentives in place, we can only wonder: What do the 40 other states know that we don’t?

Ask Reps. Hunter & Chopp to Support SB 5539

Yesterday we announced that SB 5539 is at a critical juncture.  We put out a call to action asking that supporters of the Motion Picture Competitiveness Program who live or work in the 43rd and 48th Legislative Districts write House Speaker Frank Chopp and Representative Ross Hunter, Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee.  Find your legislative district here.

Several of you have asked what you can do if you do not live or work in these districts.  Please contact them.  As Speaker of the House, Mr. Chopp represents all of Washington. As Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, Mr. Hunter represents all of Washington. Constituents of their districts may carry more weight in being heard by their offices, but we are in a leave no stone unturned scenario.  Thank you for your diligence.

Many of you have inquired if Speaker Chopp is supportive of the legislation. We understand, from our legislative team, that he is impressed by the number of constituents that are contacting him in support of the program.  While we may not know his official position until a later date, we believe he is hearing your message and that he understands the essential relationship between the program and the viability of Washington’s film industry.

  • Remind Speaker Chopp and Representative Hunter that SB 5539 passed the Senate with an overwhelming majority vote, 40 to 8.
  • Remind them that SB 5539 passed the House Committee on Community & Economic Development & Housing with an overwhelming majority vote, 8 to 1.
  • Remind them that SB 5539 deserves to be considered in the House Ways & Means Committee.

Representative Hunter’s email is and his Olympia Office telephone number is (360) 786-7936.

Speaker Chopps’ email is and his Olympia Office telephone number is (360) 786-7920.