Bringing film back to Arizona

In 2013, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a trained team of wildland firefighters, lost 19 of its 20 members while fighting the Yarnell Hill blaze in Arizona.

The firefighters were honored in the 2017 motion picture Only the Brave, which grossed a worldwide total of $25.8 million. However, the movie was not filmed in Arizona but our neighboring state New Mexico.

Only the Brave is one of many movies and TV shows to choose to film in New Mexico over Arizona. A Star is Born also filmed its Arizona shots next door, as well as the movie Arizona.

New Mexico is doing a gangbuster job…They’re going crazy over there. Their business is exploding and they’re making millions of dollars,” Randy Murray, owner of Randy Murray Productions, said. “A lot of films went [to New Mexico]…instead of Arizona. That’s always kind of been beef… You see these neighborhoods in Albuquerque, and it says Chandler, Arizona.”

Between 2006 and 2010 Arizona had a film tax incentive program that provided production companies with a transferable tax credit, but the program had a sunset clause.

According to Murray, Arizona’s incentive program had some structural flaws but brought in business nonetheless.

“What it really did is it made Arizona open for business. It allowed us to take part in the discussion, to be on the list,” Murray said. “Business was booming, Arizona was retaining its place in the community.”

Murray is working with the Arizona Film and Media Coalition to bring back film to the Grand Canyon State.

We have a program of eight initiatives that we are going to be presenting over the next two years to the legislature to bring Arizona back in the film industries,” he said.

First, the coalition is working to develop a permanent film office with adequate funding in Arizona.

The coalition worked with Arizona Representative Bob Thorpe (LD-6) to introduce House Bill 2258 that would have establish the Governor’s Office of Film and Media and “promote film and media production in this state and coordinate with any other state or local agency or private sector entity to assist the production industry in all categories of production.”

The Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) currently has an Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media. It was established in 2016 and “focuses on showcasing Arizona as an ideal filming and digital media destination.”

According to the ACA, Bob Parsons, founder of GoDaddy, Yam Worldwide Inc. and the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, provided more than $250,000 in financial and in-kind contributions to the office in 2016.

Last year, Parsons committed more than $300,000.

“More filming and production in the state strengthens our economy and keeps jobs right here in Arizona,” Parsons said in a statement. “In just a handful of months, we’ve seen the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media implement partnerships with other state entities and create programs to help advance the film industry throughout the state. The entire business community should rally behind this office and its goals.”

The ACA is also working with local businesses to provide more incentives for filmmakers through two signature programs: Reel Deals Discount program and the Film Resource Coordinators.

Reel Deals is a “pro-business, free-market program that allows the private sector to support the film and digital media industry.” Through this program, the ACA works with vendors to provide special discounts to out-of-state production companies.

The Film Resource Coordinator program allows talented individuals in rural communities to work with production companies as the point person, helping them in areas like seeking out locations and sourcing local talent.

“Since its launch in December 2016, the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media has assisted nearly 50 productions in Arizona,” Sandra Watson, ACA president and CEO, said. “In addition, partnerships with the Arizona State Parks & Trails, the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the Arizona Department of Transportation have been formed. We value business leaders like Mr. Parsons for his willingness to show his support for the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media in such a big way.”

Murray said he believes most states are too focused on bringing the production to their states rather than the creative side.

“[If] the creative process happens in Arizona and we’re not as concerned with the production…we will retain the students that come out of here,” Murray said. “We should be going after the executive and incentivizing them to bring their business to Arizona. If we do that, if we can get the head of the creative beast to be based in Arizona, to live and work here, the production will follow.”

Emily Richardson

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