News & Press

Lawrence Smith

May 12, 2016 | FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB)

Lights, camera, action for Kentucky's growing film industry

Could Kentucky become the new Hollywood East?

It's been lights, camera, action for film production in Kentucky since lawmakers sweetened the incentives to lure film companies. Last summer, the city of La Grange became a giant film studio when crews from Hallmark shot a TV drama.

The movie, originally, was not supposed to film in Kentucky, but tax breaks offered by the state made the difference.

"The incentive package is very competitive, and I really think this the beginning of what is going to be a really nice booming industry for the state," said producer Rick Eldridge.

In 2015, the General Assembly approved one of the most generous tax incentives in the country, second only to Georgia. When a film is produced in Kentucky, the company receives a tax rebate of up to 30 percent of the production cost.

"When they spend money at a local hardware store to buy their wood and hardware to build their sets, we're offering them tax incentives on those purchases," Jay Hall, head of the Kentucky Film Office, told WDRB News.

It appears to be paying off. In the 10 months since Kentucky raised its incentive from 20 percent to 30 percent, the state has received 46 applications from film companies. That's nearly double the applications it received in the previous six years.

The General Assembly's Contract Review Committee approves each incentive offer. It gave the green light to six new projects this week. The committee chairman says it's a good return on the investment.

"Going into restaurants and spending money, if it is with hotels, if it is with local tourism, things such as that," said Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville).

To see the potential for economic impact, officials say take a look at a film's closing credits. Each of those names is a job.

"This a great way to build jobs in Kentucky," said Hall.

Of course, not every film approved actually gets made, and some are low-budget documentaries. But even those help raise Kentucky's profile.

"We could become the next hot spot to film in the United States. It's not out of the question," said Hall.

So while film has not yet become a blockbuster industry in Kentucky, supporters believe it's a matter of time before movies become a box office hit for the Commonwealth.