If Mississippi wants to attract more film-production companies, it needs to train residents for the work, a state study concludes.
A report by the state's Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review also says the state's tax-incentive program for the film industry returned only 49 cents on the dollar for fiscal years 2010 and 2015.
"Generally," the report says, "the performance of the incentive program would have been exceeded by investing the same amount in the manufacturing sector."
Still, the report says, Mississippi has fared better than some states, including Louisiana, whose return on investment was only 23 cents on the dollar. And the number of productions filmed in Mississippi -- movies, documentaries, commercials and reality programs -- increased from fewer than five in 2006 to almost 25 in 2014.
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If Mississippi wants to draw more film production, the PEER report concludes, the state needs to expand its education and employment training options for the industry,
"Mississippi's limited number of film industry-related higher education options and lack of workforce training options prevent this state from establishing and maintaining the trained workforce necessary to support film production," the report says.
The Mississippi Development Authority Film Office, which manages the incentive program and works with the industry, says the state could maintain a film-production labor force by offering "non-academic" workforce training and certification programs in film production. Although the state loses money on the incentive program, MDA sees it as a way to promote Mississippi's natural beauty, increase tourism and create financial opportunities for residents.
The incentive program, established by the Legislature in 2004, loses money mainly because the rebate is relatively small and the state's film industry is in its infancy, the report says. Film companies that invest at least $50,000 in Mississippi are eligible for cash rebates on in-state spending, including payroll, capped at $10 million a project and $20 million a year. The program is designed to attract independent films and small productions.
The MDA Film Office in 2014 added a full-time associate senior project manager in a Biloxi satellite office because of growing Coast demand, the report says.
Scenes were shot in 2015 in South Mississippi for the Bruce Willis film "Precious Cargo," and the movie "Artists Die Best in Black" was filmed entirely on the Coast in 2013. Other movies being shot in South Mississippi in 2015 included "Shark Lake" and "Isolation."
In 2014, the movies "Impact Earth," starring Tom Berenger, and "Midnight Special," starring Kirsten Dunst, filmed on the Coast, along with the reality TV series "Party Down South" and television series "The Astronaut Wives Club."
Also in 2014, the film production company Mississippi Gulf Coast Studios set up shop at the old Harrison County Skate Park in Gulfport to get in on the action.