Business & Economy

Filmmakers see expanded Minnesota tax credits as opportunity to grow talent pool

A woman stands before a small crowd on a filming stage.
Actors and film makers gather for an event called The Mixer on Saturday.
Kyra Miles | MPR News

Minnesota’s new film tax credit expansions could attract big movie and TV projects to the state. Earlier this year lawmakers expanded the 25 percent tax credit cap from $5 million to $25 million dollars. Now, supporters say the state needs a larger film workforce and WestBone Productions hopes those opportunities are extended to creatives and filmmakers of color.

The local production company, which aims to create an accessible and diverse local film industry, hosted an event called The Mixer on Labor Day weekend to connect filmmakers of color with people who want to break into the industry.

Van Hayden, an award winning filmmaker who started his career with Spike Lee, was a panelist at the event. He serves as co-chair of the Minnesota Film and TV Board of Directors and said the tax credit expansion will be a game changer for the state.

“Minnesota is a viable place to have sustainable production business,” Hayden said. “Like any other business, you have to have the the resources and the investment to get to that position. And that's what we see the tax credit as, we see it as an investment in building an ecosystem of job opportunities.”

Hayden said the money that would flow into the local economy could leave a legacy that rivals states with large film industries like Georgia and New Mexico. He also noted the importance of filling Minnesota’s film industry with diverse perspectives.

“Traditionally, a lot of the stories that we've seen, that we've heard or we've been told about have been told from a kind of a dominant white perspective,” Hayden said.

A man stands for a portrait.
Leonard Searcy, the founder WestBone Productions, attends an event called The Mixer on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.
Kyra Miles | MPR News

Leonard Searcy founded WestBone Productions and started The Mixer 4 years ago because he also saw a need for more diversity behind the camera.

“I would ask the producers, where are the Black people?,” Searcy said. “Where are the brown folks at? And they say the same thing. I don't know where to find them. And so I created the mixer to introduce them.”

The two-day event hosts panels with guests who produced several award-winning movies and TV shows including “Dear White People,” “When They See Us,” and “Only Murders in the Building.”

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