On location in Greenwich? CT looks to revive film tax credit
GREENWICH — Hollywood could be coming back to Connecticut — at least if members of Greenwich’s legislative delegation have their way.
State Rep. Livvy Floren said last week she is throwing her support behind House Bill 6267, which would restore the tax credit program covering film and digital media, to persuade filmmakers to work in the state. Other members of the town’s bipartisan delegation say they will do the same.
“Keeping this industry in our area and encouraging it to grow is a box office boffo endeavor,” said Floren, R-149th District.
“From the outset, the program was an economic driver in my district of Greenwich and Stamford,” she said. “Blue Sky Studios, ESPN, NBC Sports and WWE, among others, are thriving. Along with the film and digital media productions themselves, the companies provide ancillary economic activity to caterers, car services and real estate for homes and rentals.”
The state legislature initially approved the tax credits in 2006, but detractors said the tax credits gave away more revenue than they brought to the state. In recent years, the focus has shifted away from filming movies in Connecticut and more toward making television shows.
The brief text of HB 6267 says it would amend the state’s general statutes to “restore the film and digital media tax credit program as it was originally established.”
Under the previous tax credit, filmmakers worked on location in Greenwich and other parts of Fairfield County. Scenes from “The Big Wedding,” which starred Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton and Katherine Heigl, and “Life of Crime” with Jennifer Aniston, were filmed in Greenwich. Additionally the Showtime dark comedy/drama “The Big C” with Laura Linney often filmed in Greenwich and Stamford. In 2014, “The Boychair,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates, shot scenes at Eastern Greenwich Civic Center. It was one of the last movies filmed in the state under the old tax credit.
A similar bill was introduced in the Senate in January by state Sen. Alexandra Bergstein, D-36, who represents Greenwich and parts of Stamford and New Canaan. Reinstating the film and digital animation production tax credits, would bring productions to the state, “thereby generating more job opportunities in a growing and lucrative industry,” Bergstein said.
Floren said the tax credits would be a big benefit to local employers such as Blue Sky Studios, a major animation studio that has its headquarters in Greenwich.
The benefits of a thriving film and media industry in Connecticut would also extend to students, she said. She cited mentoring and employment opportunities for students at J.M. Wright Technical High School in Stamford, Norwalk Community College and the University of Connecticut in Stamford.
Floren said that she intends to sign on as a co-sponsor once she sees the final language in the bill, which was introduced by four Democratic state representatives: Joseph Gresko of the 121st District, Joe de la Cruz of the 41st District, Alphonse Paolillo of the 97th District and Christopher Rosario of the 128th District.
A public hearing was held on the bill on Feb. 28, and it was referred to the Finance, Bonding and Revenue Committee. Floren is a member, and newly elected state Rep. Stephen Meskers, D-150th District, serves as a vice chair.
Meskers expressed his support for the bill, also citing Blue Sky Studios and its high-paying tech jobs that boost local businesses and benefit the state. The program would also help smaller startup companies that bring young workers to the state for good jobs, he said.
“Anything that brings those high-paying jobs to Connecticut is something I support,” Meskers said.
State Rep. Fred Camillo, who was in office when the credits were in effect, also said he was on board. “They have paid dividends for the state and for our area,” Camillo said.
Floren said she was hopeful the bill will be voted out of the committee and placed on the state House’s calendar for debate. If it passes, it would then go to the State Senate for approval.
There should be bipartisan support for the effort, she said.
“The program has been so successful for so many years that I believe legislators on both sides of the aisle appreciate its economic development merit,” Floren said.