As president and chair of the Minnesota Film & TV Board, I would like to provide an alternative perspective to that created by the Jan. 12 article “Critics call ‘Cut!’ for film board.”
The board is a 30-year collaboration between the public and private sectors. Our current board comprises 21 volunteer directors, many of whom work in the film and television industry. They include producers, actors, crew, attorneys, educators, a CPA, an international distributor and business leaders from Fortune 500 companies. All are knowledgeable, experienced and responsible, and they do a great service governing the organization and supervising the executive director. In addition, the organization is overseen by the state Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The board commissions a yearly audit by a private CPA firm. It is also subject to program evaluations and financial audits by the Office of the Legislative Auditor, which conducted a financial audit of the board’s operations budget and Snowbate program budget in July 2012. All of this extensive scrutiny has found no spending irregularities or improprieties.
Our mission is to create jobs and economic growth by promoting and supporting the state’s production industry. This involves attracting producers of feature films, commercials, television series and documentaries to Minnesota.
Production companies and studios today select locations for their projects based on where they qualify for the most government film incentive dollars. About 40 states offer producers a production rebate or tax credit — several with funding that tops $300 million a year. Canada also has very substantial incentives of up to 45-50 percent of the film’s budget. Those are our competitors.
Without a competitively funded incentive, it’s nearly impossible to attract productions to Minnesota. So the board directed our executive director, Lucinda Winter, to dedicate her efforts to securing significant state funding for Snowbate, our film incentive program. According to state Sen. Richard Cohen, DFL-St. Paul, we would not have received the funding for Snowbate if Winter and representatives of the board had not made the efforts they made at the Legislature.
The Snowbate incentive became available on Aug. 1, 2013. In the first five months, we have already seen substantial results. As of this writing, the efforts of Winter and her staff efforts to market Snowbate have attracted 13 project applications, including 11 certified projects: one film (“Dear White People”), one TV program, one TV series, six TV commercials and two postproduction projects.
Snowbate has paid out reimbursements of $122,724 based on production expenditures of $582,286. An additional $3,219,570 in Minnesota production expenditures by certified projects is in process.
Snowbate is different from Legacy grants. Snowbate attracts businesses to produce in Minnesota. Legacy grants provide funding to Minnesota producers to help create projects that promote Minnesota arts, history and cultural heritage. Both are administrated by the board (the Legacy grants are also administered by IFP-Minnesota). Both programs are needed, and the board intends to pursue these and other programs that promote and support the state’s production industry.
It takes more than “a few desks and phones and a website” to succeed. Unlike other state film commissions that are our principal competitors and are government offices, we operate more efficiently and with a smaller budget. In comparison to those film commissions, we are lean — yet very effective.
The executive director, the staff and the board are doing a great job. With the newly enhanced Snowbate, we have and will attract a lot of new business, spending and jobs to Minnesota.
Dan Satorius is president and chair of the Minnesota Film & TV Board.