Lights! Camera! Tax breaks!
Nevada has had a long-term buddy-buddy relationship with the Hollywood film industry. Its proximity to California as well as its wide variety of scenic landscapes have made it a prime location for a number of films. From the last completed film of Marilyn Monroe’s career, The Misfits, which was filmed in the western Nevada desert, to the multitude of movies that have taken place in the bright lights of Las Vegas and Reno—The Hangover, Ocean’s Eleven, Sister Act, Love Ranch, Casino, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Pay It Forward and many, many others—there is clearly a rich potential for cinema that takes place in the Silver State. There is a historical lure of early divorce laws and brothels as well as the modern draws of excess and adventure.
Recent pushes to develop tax incentives for filmmakers who wish to shoot in Nevada have gained some traction. In the beginning of May, actor Nicolas Cage spoke before the Nevada Legislature on behalf of the film industry, urging the expansion of tax incentives for Hollywood. Until now, Nevada has gotten away with not offering incentives, particularly because there are aspects of Nevada’s locale that cannot be easily replicated, primarily the Las Vegas Strip. Cage was speaking in support of Senate Bill 165, which, according to the Las Vegas Sun, “would provide qualified film producers transferable tax credits worth 20 percent of production costs. Additional tax credits would be given for hiring Nevadans.”
While California’s debt, like the universe, is ever expanding, Nevada is a viable alternative for filmmakers who don’t want to break the bank. The benefits of filming here are diverse and mutually profitable. Not only would tax incentives support one of the most lucrative art forms in the world, they would increase the number of employed Nevadans and advertise the amenities the state has to offer. In addition, Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe are already huge tourism draws, and the elite of Hollywood would be able to make themselves easily at home. The presence of the rich and famous breeds an economy with an increased number of luxury products, which can in turn help the cash flow of the state.
By creating incentives for a highly profitable industry like filmmaking, Hollywood filmmakers may begin to think about Nevada as the first place they want to spend their production money. By offering tax breaks, our state would be investing in not only the potential for increased tourism, but also in the potential for jobs and tangent businesses like talent agencies, wardrobe and set production and location scouting agencies, all of which could easily be occupied by Nevada employees.
Journalist Abby Tegnelia said it best in the Las Vegas Sun: “We’re staring down an entire industry with jobs that don’t require four-year degrees, jobs for technicians and people who are good with their hands. Good pay without a college education, but in a career with more longevity than, say, serving cocktails? Has there ever been a better fit for [Las Vegas’] psyche?”
Filming permits in Nevada are relatively inexpensive compared to other states, and the vast amount of space for backlots and studios, especially in Las Vegas, would make filming easy. There are also plenty of scenic locations throughout the state from Death Valley, to Lake Tahoe, to the Strip, to Red Rock Canyon and to the campuses of the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Even the barren desert land that stretches for hundreds of miles could easily lend itself to the horror, science fiction, thriller or indie film genres. The main thing to worry about would be the unrelenting desert heat in the summers, but apart from the June-August period, the climate is very temperate in southern Nevada.
It’s time to embrace a destiny that Nevada is in a prime position to fulfill. By attracting the movie industry, we can expect major returns from our tax incentives.