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MPAA refutes study attacking US filming incentives

HollywoodThe Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has refuted the findings of a recent study criticising the economic impact of filming incentives in the US.

An august report from the University of Southern California (USC) found the vast majority of US states that offer filming incentives see a poor rate of return and that local wage gains are strictly short-term. 

State authorities are unwilling to face up to the failure of filming incentives because of the sheer amount of money invested in some parts of the country, the USC report suggested.

The MPAA response criticises the USC study for what it calls “distinct inaccuracies and methodological problems”. It claims the USC report shows a basic misunderstanding of how transferable film tax credits work and ignores the link between how much money state incentives offer and the number of productions they manage to attract.   

“It is troubling and without excuse that such a false and misleading study, without statistical and intellectual foundation, would be recklessly promoted by an otherwise respected educational institution such as USC,” said Vans Stevenson senior vice president for state government affairs at the MPAA.

Stevenson goes as far as to label the USC study “academic malpractice designed to make a provocative statement rather than offer sound policy analysis.”

The MPAA pointed to the economic benefits enjoyed by North American production hubs like Ontario and Georgia, whose success has been driven in part by generous filming incentive programmes.  

Filming incentives have long provoked controversy in the US, with detractors frequently taking advantage of a lack of public understanding to suggest - erroneously - that Hollywood producers and movie stars are the principal beneficiaries of tax credit funds. 

Supporters say that the combination of direct production spending and the wider economic impact of expenditure such as hotel nights makes film tax credits a shrewd and necessary investment. However, state authorities do need to commit to tax credit support with a fund that genuinely competes in the marketplace for the kind of shoots they want to attract. 

For more on filming in the US see our production guide.