Initiative Aims to ‘Bring Film to Delaware’

by Dave on June 5, 2009

As first seen in Coastal Sussex Weekly, May 21, 2009:

Despite the occasional “Failure to Launch” or “Dead Poet’s Society,” Delaware has not been known as a destination for film production studios looking for interesting locales in which to film.

Brian Sowards and the people behind the Delaware Film Initiative aim to change that.

“The Delaware Film Initiative is a collation of government officials, the banking industry, film industry, private investors and the state who are working to create an incentive program for Delaware that will attract the film industry to our state, without spending the millions of dollars in subsidies that other states are spending,” says Sowards.  “47 other states currently have film incentives, including Pennsylvania, whose program created over 4,000 jobs before their program was even a year old.”

The creativity in the idea came from a meeting with industry officials who claimed that other states were taking the wrong approach.

“The idea came from the industry,” adds Sowards. “The House Film Task Force Committee invited us, and we in turn invited Hollywood Studios International (HSI), to discuss how Delaware might attract films. Right away it became apparent that Delaware could not and should not hand out the expensive subsidies other states were doing. HSI proposed that the state work with the banks to provide upfront loans, as that was what the industry really needed.”

With Delaware’s notable reputation as a financial center, an opportunity emerged.

“The movies you see in theaters today can get the first 75% of their funding through established financing vehicles by having a marketable script with an internationally know star attached,” says Sowards.  “That remaining 25%, however, requires a lot of searching and sometimes movies get left on the table because they can’t secure it.”

“That is the reason seven film packages have been offered to Delaware in the last year, all with Academy Award winning stars attached, before going on to other states. One movie coming out next month could have been made here but went to Shrevesport, Louisiana instead. Lousiana gives a 40% subsidy on the back end. That was their second choice, they would have preferred a 25% loan upfront even though they would have had to repay it. HSI has stated that if we were to put this program in place they could ‘provide as many movies as we wanted for as long as we wanted.’”

According to the Delaware Film Initiative, several films have attempted to film here, only to be swept away by other states at the last minute.

“A great example of this is “The Wrestler” nominated for an Academy Award last year,” reveals Sowards.  “The final battle, the climax of that movie is set in Wilmington, DE but New Jersey stole it away with their incentive program. Will Smith’s ‘I am Legend’ had a scene that was also going to be shot here in Delaware, but again was stolen away by New Jersey’s film incentive program.”

Sowards sees the beach area as one of the expected beneficiaries of the Delaware Film Initiative.

“Delaware’s beaches are world-renowned for their beauty, unique landscape, and signature towns,” says Sowards.  “Lewes is one of the oldest cities in the US, and Rehoboth has long had a reputation as a choice get-away. Many of the movies we have been presented with feature beach locations, and every one of them could have been shot on our beaches.”

The economic benefits of films begins right away, with crews needing food, shelter, shopping and entertainment, but those benefits can extend years after the shoot wraps.

“Not only would the production of these movies bring millions of dollars to the locations where they would be shot – with the hundreds of crew members staying at local hotels, eating at local restaraunts, and spending at the local retailers, but once those movies hit the box office they would promote Delaware’s beauty to an international audience,” says Sowards.  “4 out of every 5 visitors to the UK say movies inspired or contributed to their decision to go to the UK. Imagine what that could do for Delaware.

“People still go to Berlin, MD because of Runaway Bride. New Mexico has rigorously studied film tourism in their state and reported that film tourism’s contribution to their state is, at a very conservative estimate, 5.5% increase per year. Imagine what our beaches could do with an increase in business of 5.5%”

The initiative’s web site – BringFilmToDelaware.com – is loaded with endorsements from elected and appointed officials from every corner of the state, both parties, legislative and administrative, as well as a petition for Delawareans to sign.

The Delaware Film Initiative will be revealing details about their plan in soon, and if they succeed, it will be lights, camera and action here in the First State.

{ 2 comments }

carol thomas June 5, 2009 at 11:32 am

we are interested in being involved in the film industrt in delaware. we have a historic inn outside of little creek, de. and hope that it might be of interest for a film location. check out our web-site.

carol thomas

JOE DEFILIPPIS JR June 18, 2009 at 5:26 pm

I am very interest in talking with you about flims in delaware. pleasse give me a call 302-753-0503

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