If you’re looking to get a gig as one of the 6,500 workers slinging lithium at the new Tesla Gigafactory in Storey County, the state legislature’s September 11 vote to authorize about $1.3 billion in tax breaks to get Elon Musk’s Wonka Facotry-for-Batteries secure in its new home was a godsend.
If you’re trying to get Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3 done on the cheap, though, the deal is somewhat more problematic.
That’s because the Nevada Film Office’s $80 million, four-year tax credit to lure productions to Nevada is going bye-bye. Instead, to help pay for the massive Tesla tax abatement, $70 million of that money is now off the table.
But even more troublesome, of the $10 million remaining, $5 million has already been committed to the first four productions to apply for the tax credit in its first year. And of that $5 million, $4.4 million went to Mall Cop 2. The remaining $600,000 divvyed out among independent films Lake Mead; the untitled Gerardo Naranjo project starring Dakota Fanning; and In the Spotlight, the Nigel Luthgoe-produced CBS reality series that filmed at The Mirage in the spring but has yet to appear on the network’s calendar.
Then there’s another $900,000 an unnamed production is seeking, which is currently being reviewed for a hearing on September 23.
Assuming that one gets the green light, the remaining $4.1 million will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until the original sunset date for the credit: December 31, 2017. Nevada Film Office President Eric Preiss expects that all of that money will be claimed before then.
There’s some hope for the credit coming back. According to the Reno Gazette-Journal, state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson expects the film cred to be “replenished” in 2015. But we want to replenish our stock of ’60 Corvettes, too. Let’s all go down to the governor’s office together and see how it works out.
Prior to the cuts, Preiss noted one of the difficulties in trying to lure the productions in the first year of the tax cut was that movies are planned far enough in advance that a short lead time into 2014 shoots was problematic.
Now, as the Film Office plans to soldier on, it’s hard to imagine that producers would be as willing to commit to a state that can’t keep its incentives on the table when mapping out the blockbusters of 2016 and beyond.
“Nothing changes,” Preiss says. “We continue doing what we have always done. Obviously the change in the current amount of incentives available is noteworthy, but we have always marketed the state and been successful in bringing productions to Nevada before and after the incentive. The incentive is one tool in our toolbox, we will continue to promote our one-of-a-kind Nevada locations, experienced crew, and the overall film-friendliness of our state.”
Maybe those new Star Wars movies needed a Tattooine, or we could have lured a high mesa True Detective Season 3. (Or at least Matthew McConaughey spewing cut-rat nihilism while driving around our highways.) What are we getting instead? More reality shows. An endless supply of them, in every color of the “weird jobs people do in Vegas” or “slightly different iteration of Pawn Stars” rainbow.
This isn’t a bad thing because of the lost jobs, or because productions were going to want to film on the Strip regardless—of course those things are both true. It’s bad because not only does the state necessarily lose some credibility within the industry, but also because it robs Nevada of the chance to build up a kind of gravity within the area. It might have been that movies would start coming here just for Strip shoots, but the more of them that came and the longer they spent here, the more time the industry had to familiarize itself with Nevada—first the lesser-traveled parts of the city, then the land around it and up into the rest of the state. Look at Pittsburgh. It doubled as Detroit in Robocop, but then started turning up in more and more films until it was a stand-in for New York (The Avengers) and Gotham (Dark Knight Rises).
That momentum carried through to commercial successes like The Fault in Our Stars and critic-bait like Foxcatcher. Their 2015 slate has movies coming from Will Smith, Vin Diesel, Russell Crowe and Jake Gyllenhaal. Playing home to diverse offerings like that could have been Nevada’s future. Instead, it’s dark goddamn days when we can’t even be the next Pittsburgh.