Zach Spicer, CEO of Pigasus Pictures LLC, left, speaks on the current state of filmmaking in Indiana during a panel discussion at Ignition Music Garage in downtown Goshen Friday morning. Also pictured is Amy Howell, director of Film Indiana. Staff photo by John Kline
Zach Spicer, CEO of Pigasus Pictures LLC, left, speaks on the current state of filmmaking in Indiana during a panel discussion at Ignition Music Garage in downtown Goshen Friday morning. Also pictured is Amy Howell, director of Film Indiana. Staff photo by John Kline
GOSHEN — Zach Spicer knows how to get more movies made in Indiana: give producers and investors a monetary incentive to do so.

Spicer, CEO of the Indiana-based film production company Pigasus Pictures LLC, was one of five film industry professionals invited to speak on the topic of filmmaking in Indiana during a panel discussion at Ignition Music Garage Friday morning. The event was part of the kickoff to the 2019 River Bend Film Festival in downtown Goshen.

Joining Spicer on the panel were Nathan Bechtold, president of the Indiana Filmmakers Network; Amy Howell, director of Film Indiana; film producer Kelly Daisy; and Adam Howell, director of production and events for the Heartland Film Festival. Local artist David Kendall served as moderator for the group.

TAX INCENTIVES

According to Spicer, one of the biggest reasons why so few films are currently made in Indiana is that the state offers no tax incentives for film making, a fact which he said often drives potential film producers and investors to other states that do offer such tax incentives to make their films.

Along those lines, Spicer and the panel’s other members were asked to give their thoughts on the recently failed house bill, which if passed would have established a film and media production expenditure tax credit for the state.

While similar legislation has been put forward — and ultimately failed — for at least the past 10 years, Spicer said he was particularly optimistic about the bill’s potential passage this year, given the amount of support the bill seemed to be receiving from state legislators on both sides of the aisle.

“This year was really great. We had more support than we’ve ever had on it. The lieutenant governor signed off on it. We started to have a lot of representatives on both sides of the aisle that actually supported the bill. And as it was broken down to us, the governor actually signed off on it as well,” Spicer said of the bill. “But apparently the governor did not push his staff enough to see it through the committee process, which is, in short, infuriating, because essentially the reality is that there’s one reason why people don’t make movies in Indiana. There’s one. It’s not because there’s not talent here, and it’s not because there aren’t stories here, and it’s obviously not because people aren’t passionate about it here. It’s because there’s not a tax incentive.”

As someone who runs a film company in Indiana, Spicer acknowledged that life would be much easier for him and his company if it were located, say, 50 miles to the west in Illinois, where tax incentives are made available for filmmaking.

“We have a film that’s coming up that we’re trying to raise money for. It’s $2 million. I could go to L.A. today, with all the pieces that we have in place for it, and I could raise $2 million and make that movie in Illinois,” Spicer said of the issue. “But I’m not going to do that. I’m going to keep making movies in Indiana. But it just doesn’t make sense, so no one will come here. It’s no secret why we keep having the same discussion every single year. So hopefully the vote is going to come up again, and I urge everyone in this room to get slightly as upset as I am, and to urge and actually call (your legislators). Because it will be the only future that we will see when it comes to all of this.”

THE BUSINESS OF FILMMAKING

Panelist Amy Howell, director of Film Indiana, the state support office for the film, television, commercial and new media industries in Indiana, said her suggestion for how to get a tax incentive bill passed in Indiana is to frame the language in terms of job creation, rather than just focusing on creation of the film itself.

“In the conversations that I have behind the scenes, I think the better approach to go about it is, let’s talk about it as a jobs bill. We’re creating jobs for people,” Howell said. “We have a bunch of passionate people, we want to create jobs, and we want to create job retention in our students. We have so many students, they graduate from college, and where do they go? New York. They go to L.A. They go to Atlanta. They leave Indiana. We do not want them to leave. We want them to stay here, and we want them to make movies here. So I think the approach we all need to band together to say is, ‘we are creating jobs in the film industry.’ That’s the way we should approach this.”

Fellow panelist Adam Howell, director of production and events for the Indianapolis-based Heartland Film Festival, noted that one of the best ways he envisions for eventually getting such tax incentive legislation passed is to simply continue creating — and properly marketing — quality films that generate enough buzz to capture the attention of state legislators.

“If we want something to change, we’re just going to have to put it in their faces, and eventually they’ll see the results,” Adam said of the issue. “We have to continue the communication, continue the lobbying, continue the efforts, but if we as filmmakers, the filmmaking community, just say, ‘Well, our hands are tied’, then there will be no momentum. Since I started with Heartland 10 years ago, we have seen just a consistent increase and rise in Hoosier-made films, and the quality just keeps getting better and better. And if we just keep, in essence, doing that, and doing it better, pressing more people to do it, there are going to be individual champions, whether it’s foundations, whether it’s corporations, saying, ‘You know what, this probably financially doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for me to back it, but it needs to be backed’. It really starts from the desire to just do it.”

Speaking to the importance of creating buzz-worthy films when it comes to generating support for filmmaking at the state level, Adam also stressed the importance of not just creating quality films, but also having strong business plans with which to market those films to the public. Such plans, he said, could very well mean the difference between a film that gets noticed and a film that falls by the wayside.

“You have to think about this from the start to end, because if you make a film and have no idea what you’re going to do with the film, and have no actual business plan, then you just have a good film with no success,” Adam said. “We see this so much in the film festival world. They have zero business plan. So be an artist, but be a really freaking good business person, because that will start the snowball. You have to think about the endgame.”

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