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Nebraska Film: Heath Mello advocates for film tax incentives

(Editor's Note: This article is part of a series titled Nebraska Film: An Exploration of the Growing Community.) As the Silicon Prairie region continues to build a reputation for being an entrepreneur and innovation hotspot, Nebraska is looking to become a Hollywood of sorts for its blossoming actors, directors and other "filmsters" awaiting stardom. While

Heath Mello speaks at the Omaha Chamber’s Cornstalks event on July 29. Photo by Andrea Ciurej.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series titled Nebraska Film: An Exploration of the Growing Community. Learn more about the goals of this series and find links to its articles in our announcement: Nebraska Film series starts Monday, August 9.

As the Silicon Prairie region continues to build a reputation for being an entrepreneur and innovation hotspot, Nebraska is looking to become a Hollywood of sorts for its blossoming actors, directors and other “filmsters” awaiting stardom.

While the California-based district touts its high-profile celebrity culture, Nebraska is focused on building a solid foundation of accomplished actors and actresses, from Omaha-born actor Marlon Brando of the last century to Lincoln native Hilary Swank of today’s modern film. Nebraska is also home to award-winning directors, such as Omaha’s Alexander Payne and Dana Altman (pictured left alongside actor John Beasley of Omaha, photo from northseafilms.com), the grandson of acclaimed filmmaker Robert Altman.

But there is one thing holding Nebraska’s film industry back that has benefited California’s well-endowed film production playground: refined film production tax credit programs for film and television expenditures spent locally.

The motion picture and television industry is responsible for the creation of 881 direct jobs and $15.2 million in wages in Nebraska, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. But, the state has no significant tax incentive for production.

Nebraska Sen. Heath Mello, who represents the state legislature’s 5th District, looks to overturn the absence of these tax incentives with a piece of legislation allowing “an incentive that will allow the state to compete with other states and increase film and television production in this state” known as LB 1073.

“We have producers, we have actors, we have directors, we have creative talent in Nebraska to really make our film industry blossom,” Mello said. “We just don’t have the assistance the way that other industries have it.”

In this bill, Mello proposed that a 17 percent income tax credit will be given to production companies that produce a film, television show, commercial or web-based or internet-delivered content in Nebraska.

An additional two percent of the funding will be given if the company spends at least $20,000 for the use of music created by a Nebraska resident recorded in the state or for the cost of recording music locally. The tax credit will increase an additional three percent if the company produces film, television or commercialized material in a non-metropolitan area of the state.

As of April, measures to pass the bill, which was introduced in January, were postponed indefinitely, therefore, suspending all further activity against the bill.

“Unfortunately, due to I think some of the concerns that came with the implementation of this new tax incentive,” Mello said, “some senators I talked to felt we needed to go back and try to find a way to pair down the costs.”

Mello’s bill was not the first attempt to pass these incentives in Nebraska. He, however, continues to push this issue before the unicameral, along with another bill, which was also indefinitely postponed, to promote job training in film, television and web-content production in Nebraska – LB 1704.

“I believe that the creative economy of Nebraska is growing [and] it’s growing right now it seems like, under the radar,” Mello said. “We have opportunities I think to try and keep young people in Nebraska…that’s part of that building the creative economy opportunity.”

A few weeks ago, Silicon Prairie News sat down with Heath to further discuss the importance of film tax incentives in Nebraska, as well as his thoughts of the growth of Nebraska film and its vitality to local talent and the economy.



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