SHERIDAN — In an effort to diversify the economy, travel and tourism leaders have approached legislators to reinstate funding for a program aimed at the film industry.
In 2007, the Wyoming Legislature initiated a statute allocating $1 million toward incoming or in-state filming projects through the Wyoming Film Industry Financial Incentive program. The funds were administered by the Wyoming Office of Tourism’s Film Office with a goal of bringing the entertainment industry to Wyoming, reporter Juliette K. Rule said in Wyoming Rural Electric News magazine in March.
Legislators set the initial statute with a five year sunset. In 2012, it was passed again by the legislature for another four years. The state eventually sunsetted the statute and added the leftover funds — now about $16,000 from the original $1 million — in a footnote on the budget.
“It didn’t seem prudent to hold $1 million in an account that wasn’t being utilized when there were other pressing needs of the state,” Wyoming Travel and Tourism executive director Diane Shober said.
The budget footnote allows the Wyoming Office of Travel and Tourism to allocate funds if it deems a certain film production worthy. How those funds are allocated, though, differs greatly from other film-friendly states. Wyoming set up the program to offer rebates up to 15 percent for money spent on filming within the state, and the tourism office allocates those funds in post-production work after extensive paperwork is completed. States like New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and California all offer tax credits; Montana offers grants, and Colorado also provides rebate opportunities.
“Wyoming, just because of the nature of our tax structure, is very low,” Shober said. “We don’t have a state income tax; even our sales and use tax is low.”
The basis of the idea for the program is to boost Wyoming’s economy.
“The purpose of it is to create jobs and create tax revenue and have outside companies coming in and buying goods and services from Wyoming businesses,” Shober said. “And then the benefit for the Office of Tourism, obviously, is having Wyoming on the big or small screen.”
Exposure to Wyoming’s selling points — wide open spaces, blue skies and bold sceneries — bolsters Wyoming’s tourism.
Despite the lack of funding in past years and a hope for more sustainable funds for the FIFI program in the future, Sheridan Travel and Tourism has pushed through and created opportunities for film crews coming into this part of the region. Sheridan Travel and Tourism executive director Shawn Parker, alongside Salvatore Brown and producer Bruce Moriarity, bring Rolls Royce to town annually to shoot a commercial and other promotional materials for multiple entities.
Brown, in an interview with Wyoming Rural Electric News, agreed with Shober’s emphasis on serving Wyoming first and making sure production crew values align with those of Wyoming business owners.
Shober went before the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources legislative committee Friday in hopes of reinstating the statute for FIFI funding. Whether that happens or not, Parker said Sheridan Travel and Tourism will push the envelope in bringing film production to the state.