The Trouble with Film in Indiana (Part I)

with Teresa Sabatine, Film Commissioner at Film Indy

Indiana General Interest

The trouble with film in Indiana stems directly from the trouble with incentives offered from the Hoosier state to in-state and out-of-state filmmakers and artists.  Change is here, however, with the inclusion of Indiana’s first-ever, film commissioner. Teresa Sabatine makes her return to Indiana after spending nearly a decade producing projects for Lionsgate and 20th Century Fox. Her return to the land of her alma mater (Ball State University) could not have come soon enough. A modest tax incentive for films last expired in 2012 and lawmakers since have failed to introduce a winning replacement. In 1992, it was the Pelican state of Louisiana that first introduced tax incentives for film production. Indiana was late to the game and only passed it’s first tax credit for film in 2007; which included at 15% tax credit for film with a $2.5 million annual cap. Those may seem like hearty numbers but as one writer, Daniel S. Comiskey, wrote in his article for Indianapolis Monthly on the subject, “compared with its neighbors, the Hoosier incentive amounted to little more than a cameo.”. Sabatine highlights the issue more in depth and enlightens viewers to the battle she is forging for the sake of Hoosiers in film. For more with Sabatine, click here and watch The Trouble with Film in Indiana (Part II).

Interview(s) recorded on July 12, 2017. Hosted by Taylor Bennett. Part 1 of 2.

Read a partial transcript of the interview here:

Bennett: Let’s talk about your position, it’s a new position. What is your role.

Sabatine: The city, in 2014, conducted a study to see if there would be a economic benefit to having a central film office in our city; covering central Indiana.  the study proved that it would be great. There are 600 production companies across central Indiana and across the state…there are thousands.  At the time, CICF with Brian Paine, Visit Indy and the city of Indianapolis decided to put together a two year initiative to see what we could get done.

Bennett: I imagine that is the most challenging, right? Actually seeking people to come in and do the work…

Sabatine: Unfortunately, the economics of the film industry, as it stands and have for a while. The current data is that 37 states are offering tax incentives for filmmakers. Currently, Indiana doesn’t offer anything. We are sitting in the middle of Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois who are all offering an incentive and we’re losing that business to the states surrounding us.

Bennett: It is a legislative move, as to why we don’t offer incentives?

Sabatine: It is a legislation choice that other states have made to invest in this economic opportunity. At some time, we (Indiana) did have tax incentives but weren’t utilized very well. The thing to understand is that you are creating an ecosystem just like the auto industy, or agriculture. This is a billion dollar industry. If you look at Atlanta, Georgia, last year they generated $2 billion in direct spending from the film industy and that led to $7 billion in additional spending in the state because of the film industry.

Bennett: Why did you want to be Film Commissioner?

Sabatine: I grew up in Muncie, Indiana. I’m a small town girl and my parents always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. I went out to New York after college and got on the David Letterman Show and worked in small production companies on small TV shows. After being in the industry for 9-10 years, I just decided that there were more young boys and girls from those small towns in Indiana that would like those opportunities. It was exciting to think we could build something from scratch and create jobs and impact the community from an economic perspective. Coming home also seemed like a good idea; I have family here.

Bennett: For more on this subject, click on the link below to view Part II of my interview with Film Indy’s Film Commissioner Teresa Sabatine.