The Maine Film Association is hoping an economic report released this spring will bolster support for adopting incentives to get more films made in Maine, like “Hangdog,” being shot here on Portland’s Eastern Prom in April. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

It’s been just a few months since the fine folks at the Maine Film Association released what should have been a bombshell report on the economic impact of the Maine film industry. Well, my shell was bombed, anyway, and since this study is bound to come into play during the next Maine legislative session, starting in less than a month, it’s my duty to see if I can bomb you, too.

First, some raw numbers, as compiled by the MFA and unveiled in its May 24 report.

Film and video production in Maine, according to revenue data from some 128 professional companies and individuals in the state, supports 312 full and part-time jobs. Those companies pull in over $29 million in revenue annually, and generate over $16 million in wages. When taking into account the economic impact on related industries like hospitality, retail, trades and legal and accounting services, we’re talking an additional 609 full- and part-time jobs, wages totaling over $28 million in labor income, adding up to an overall economic impact of some $64 million in revenue to Maine businesses.

Plus, we get some great entertainment out of the deal.

Now, some readers might recall someone ranting in this column (OK, it was me) that the Maine Legislature, back in March of this year, refused to pass the bill L.D. 1334. Titled An Act To Promote Economic Development through Increased Film Incentives, it was, on its surface, a fine-sounding way for the state of Maine to attract new film and video production to the state, to incentivize and encourage innovation and development of the already-existing Maine film industry, and encourage young filmmakers – from Maine and away – to think of the state as a viable and attractive destination for moviemaking.

And, you know, I stand by that rant. Yes, even the part where I called lawmakers “stupid.” Even before the MFA’s May report, 10-plus years on the Maine moviemaking beat have allowed me a front-row seat to just how much exciting stuff the Maine film scene is producing – and how much even a modest economic boost from the state would mean to them.


The thing is, there’s a silver lining to even “stupid” decisions, as I was contacted by Louise Rosen, the advocacy committee chair for the Maine Film Association, soon after that article ran. Explaining that L.D. 1334 was actually not everything advocates for Maine tax incentives were hoping it would be (in fact, calling it “a watered-down version of what we’d actually proposed” and “not worthy of support”), Rosen said that advocates had bigger plans for the next legislative session, including priming the pump with a “major study of the overall economic impact of the Maine film and video production industry.”

Mission accomplished there. (See above: “overall economic impact of some $64 million.”)

As Rosen explained further, there is growing support behind a revised (and vastly improved) bill, and the MFA and other concerned Mainers are counting on the economic report to garner even more. (Lawmakers like nice, hard numbers.) In addition, the plan is to expand the umbrella to encompass creators in new and less traditional media in all of its forms “in order to be more inclusive” to what is an ever-evolving filmmaking scene and encourage “cross-fertilization” among Maine filmmakers. As Rosen clarifies, that means that “it can be productions for broadcast, streamers, corporate and nonprofit clients, as well as equity investors and self-financed projects. This work runs the gamut from narrative and documentary films and series, to podcasts, animation and visual effects; as well as YouTube influencers demonstrating ‘how-tos’.”

Again, as Rosen claimed, “This time around, we’re going to be able to get more traction with it, with growing awareness in the business community overall” that film production in Maine brings in as much cold, hard cash as Maine’s growing aquaculture industry, just to pick a high-profile example. Says Rosen, “This would enhance opportunities for local makers and can encourage some more modest feature films and other projects that would like to film here but could use a little boost to help them say, ‘Yes.’ More support for the local community (yes, with some additional work coming from outside the state) would be money well spent, on a clean, green, technologically innovative, forward-looking sector that could help retain Maine’s young graduates.”

Look, the world is in rough shape, and our bank accounts are in just as much trouble. Tax incentives for filmmaking might seem a tough sell to some at this point in time. But, as I’ve been saying for all those 10-plus years, having a smaller percentage of a much, much bigger pie is far preferable to stunting the Maine film industry’s growth out of some stingy, short-sighted prejudice. And yeah, I’m saying “prejudice.”

Filmmaking isn’t a necessity. (I mean for you people – personally, I’d shrivel up and croak in a week without a steady IV drip of movies.) But neither are sports. Or music. Or the gourmet food that’s seen Portland become one of the most desirable food destinations in the entire country over the past few years (and brought in countless tourist dollars as a result). The knee-jerk, crusty Mainer reaction is to look at those gas prices and scowl at any thought of giving tax breaks for some from-away movie company.

Well, we could all do with a lot less scowling in general, especially when, as previously asserted, it’s for stupid reasons. Movies are already being made in Maine. We’ve now seen the concrete economic benefits of that. So why not bring in more business by making the same sorts of economic incentives that have seen (far less photogenic) places such as Georgia, Boston and Canada tossing a few rented lobster pots around and pretending to be us. (Seriously, if I hear one more Stephen King adaptation where people say “aboot,” I’m going to lose it.)

The new Maine legislative session starts on Aug. 8. Here’s how to contact your representatives: You know what to do, Maine film fans.

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