Life Along the Streetcar with Tom Heath from The Heath Team Nova Home Loans

On this week’s show, we’ve got Jeff Brack. He is a local Tucson filmmaker and a board member of Independent Film Arizona. We’re going to chat with him about the recently passed tax incentives that came from the state of Arizona, intended to bring the film industry back to the desert.

Today is July 17th, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.

Each and every Sunday our focus is on Social, Cultural and Economic impacts in Tucson’s Urban Core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A Mountain to the U of A and all stops in between. You get the inside track- right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on DowntownRadio.org- we’re also available on your iPhone or Android using our very own Downtown Radio app. Reach us by email contact@lifealongthestreetcar.org — interact with us on Facebook at LifeAlongTheStreetcar and follow us on Twitter @StreetcarLife

Our intro music is by Ryanhood and we exit with music from Kajambia, “Film Star.”

Transcript

Good morning. It’s a beautiful Sunday. The old pueblo. And you’re listening to K. T. DT. Tucson. Thank you for spending a part of your branch hour with us on your downtown Tucson, a community sponsor at rock and Roll radio station.

On this week’s show, we’ve got Jeff Brack. He is a local Tucson filmmaker and a board member of Independent Film Arizona. We’re going to chat with him about the recently passed tax incentives that came from the state of Arizona, intended to bring the film industry back to the desert.

Today is July 17, 2022. My name is Tom Heath and you are listening to life along the streetcar. Each and every Sunday are focused on social, cultural and economic impacts in Tucson’s urban core, and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on downtownradio.org, also available on your iPhone or Android with our very own Downtown Radio Tucson app. And if

you want to talk to us on the show, our email address is contact@lifelongthstreetcar.org. We’re on social media, Facebook and Instagram, and our podcast is just about anywhere you like to listen to podcasts, including asking your smart speaker to play Life.

Along the Streetcar podcast.

Well, it is July, it’s hot and the sun is out. So it’s time for the Sunburn Film Festival. It’s coming up this weekend. Friday, Saturday at the screening room on Congress Street, 127 East Congress. The Sunburn Film Festival features videos, documentaries, shorts, full length films, but it focuses on those that were either shot here in Arizona that are shot here, and our filmmakers from Arizona. So we have a celebration of Arizona film happening this weekend at the screening room and wanted to share that with you because there was recent news from the state of Arizona legislature that they just recently passed a series of tax incentives designed to bring the film industry back to Arizona.

We’ve been losing out to surprisingly states.

All over the states that I was surprised to find doing filmmaking. But this new tax incentive is supposed to be better than the last one. That didn’t work out so well and it should have an impact. So to find out a little bit more about that, we reached out to a friend of ours, Jeff Brack. He makes films here in Tucson. He’s also a member of the Independent Film Arizona organization and they’ve been tracking this.

And I think that there’s a good.

Sense that this set of incentives is structured better and will have a positive impact on filming throughout Arizona, including right.

Here in the urban core.

So I sat down with Jeff just a few days ago by phone at this interview and I think you’re going to enjoy hearing about all the cool things that are going to happen as a result of the film industry coming back to Arizona. We have Jeff Brack. He is a local filmmaker, also a.

Board member of independent film Arizona. And we were just talking because just a week or so before this airs, the state legislature passed a new tax credit that’s supposed to be an incentive for filmmakers wanting to do work here in Arizona. I know you’re not a tax expert, but you do know a lot about the film industry. Do you have thoughts on was this needed, is it going to help? And what might we see come out of it?

Yeah, well, it’s unquestionably going to be massive for us because unfortunately, what happened so it wasn’t that many years ago, maybe 2025 years ago, there really wasn’t that film incentives weren’t really a big thing. Films just went where it was cost effective and for the locations that they wanted. So over the decades, going back 50, 60 years, this was a mecca of not just Westerns, but tons of western TV series. And then all of a sudden we hit this arrow where state started doing these tax incentives and it became really cut through. And depending on how they structured it, they weren’t always successful. And so I know the Arizona did institute one. I want to say it only ran for maybe six or eight years, and I’m not 100% positive on that, but it ended up allegedly it ended up losing $6 million or something by the time it was all said and done. And so that was used as an excuse to never talk about it again.

I think that one ended over a decade ago. If I remember, it ended like in 2010. So it’s been ten plus years since we’ve had this conversation.

It was a while back. And I don’t know that it was that strong of a tax incentive, honestly, because about 20 years ago, states like New Mexico and then Georgia and Louisiana, tons of actually other states, but particularly Georgia and New Mexico, just got real aggressive and started courting Hollywood. And they have had billions of dollars flow through their states. Now, Netflix and other studios have built studio space in Albuquerque. I know there’s been two projects, two $1 billion projects for studios being built up in Albuquerque, and it’s just been flooded with productions. And it’s particularly hurtful when they have a story that takes place in Arizona that’s filmed in New Mexico. Because as pretty as New Mexico can be, it just isn’t Arizona. It doesn’t look the same. And if you’re from here, you definitely can tell. Yeah.

And I think that’s interesting talking about the difference between what’s happening in the markets back in 20 05 20 10, we didn’t have all these independent studios with Netflix or Apple, plus HBO Max. In fact, we just had HBO. Max I’m sure most people know we’re just in town filming the first part of a series.

Yes. So we had the HBO series Duster, which is A-J-U Abrams created, produced, directed the pilot episode. And that was a ten episode commitment where they were going to come in here, film the pilot break for the holidays, come back in the spring, and film the next nine episodes. Unfortunately, during the holiday break in the beginning of the year, discovery and Warner Media, who owns HBO, merged. And just for the sake of simplicity, they reevaluated the projects. And because Arizona did not have a permanent tax incentives, they pulled the remaining nine episodes and took them to New Mexico, which was hurt because we were all very excited. The whole film community here was really excited. The shooting of the pilot went really well. I know a lot of people that worked on it. A lot of businesses benefited. Everybody was really excited about the economic impact it was going to have. And then they were talking 60, $65 million economic impact to our local economy here. So I would like to think

that probably helped increase the wheels. With this film incentive getting passed through the Arizona legislature, I do think it was a big factor.

Yeah, the timing was pretty obvious that those two definitely were. At least a conversation was had about losing that opportunity. And in the start of this legislative.

Session, I think had the merger not happened, they were going to shoot the first season here in the hopes that this legislature was going to move forward and then they would have it for future seasons. So there’s obviously a little hope that now that this goes into effect, maybe if it gets greenlit for season two, maybe they come back because the story takes place in southern Arizona Phoenix Tucson area in the 1970s. And you can’t really fake sorrows and the terrain here. And I know they’re actually going to be doing second unit, some filming here, second unit, because of that reason, you.

Need to see the scenery in the background and you have to plug that in.

Right. And then hopefully they’re interested in coming back. But even if they don’t, I think we are going to have a flood of films and series coming this way. We’ve been told for years, a lot of producers that I’ve talked to, that they would love to come here because we’re directly next door to Hollywood. I mean, next state over. They literally have to drive through Arizona or fly over Arizona to go to Mexico. It would just be a short drive or 1 hour flight. And they’re here. I think we’re about to have a big influx of work. And hopefully we’re going to see a groundswell of new filmmaking crews, people maybe even relocating here. Students, they graduate from the film programs here at University of Arizona. And as you stay in the state to help support these productions, I think it’s going to be pretty amazing.

We’re talking with Jeff Brack. He’s a local filmmaker. He’s also a board member for Independent Film Arizona, talking about the new tax incentives designed to bring film crews back to Arizona.

And we’ll be back to that in just a moment.

But first I want to remind you that you’re listening to Lifelong Streetcar, downtown Radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on Downtownradio.org.

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We’ll finish up here our interview with Jeff Brack, talking about the impact of recent incentives passed by the state legislature to bring filming back to Arizona and talk a little bit about the talent pool that’s going to be needed to.

Support some of these new expected films and shows. Yeah, that’s an interesting component. I think on a surface level, you.

Get the idea, okay, that’s great.

They’re going to bring a bunch of people out here.

They’ll eat.

They’ll be in hotels or be all kinds of economic impact. But sometimes what gets lost is that skilled job creation. Not just extras or the manual labor. But the people that do have a film background or film education. They get an opportunity then to use those skills without leaving Arizona or Tucson or whatever the case may be.

And that actually becomes a massive value added when you have trained crews, because the next question after does your state have tax incentives? Is do you have crews? So that is a major part of their decision making, whether they’re going to come here or not.

Do we have crews now that can support this potential explosion of interest?

I’ll say we do have Cruise and we have good people, we just don’t have enough of them. I know that the IFA our group independence of arizona. We aim to be the local Arizona community of filmmakers that represent the film makers and create a community networking. But we also want to be a place where people educate themselves, get trained. So we’re already developing curriculum for training PA, and down the line over time we’ll be adding more classes and training for positions that producers are looking for.

Like a PA, a production assistant.

Production assistant, yeah.

What type of work is that a skilled position? Do you have to have a film background to know what to do in that role?

I would say PA is there’s knowledge definitely needed, but it’s more of a helping hand in any way that the production needs. But you got to know what you’re doing. You can’t be following around. So that’s why there’s training necessary. But as far as the skilled work goes, like camera department and grips and lighting and sound. We have fantastic people, and again, just not enough of them. But I think as these productions come in and as people there’s been a lot of people that relocated from La to Albuquerque because they just wanted to get out of the expensive living situation. And there was tons of work in New Mexico. So I think we’re going to have some of that, too. People relocate here and help supplement the people that were trained, the local people were training will be supplemented with people relocating here. And I know and I’ve heard from other people that Arizona filmmakers relocated to New Mexico and they’ve been jones in to come back.

Okay.

And so I would imagine some of those native Arizona is going to come back here now that we have the tax incentive and productions are going to return.

Yes.

You mentioned some other states, too, in New Mexico, obviously, right next door from a location setting. That’s probably our closest. But there are people you said Louisiana, Georgia, so that drain has been cross the country. I just talked to someone recently. I had no idea that Atlanta was this hotbed of movie productions. And I found out all of these films that I thought were Hollywood films were actually made in Atlanta. It is quite surprised by that.

Stunning Atlanta, Georgia has become the Hollywood of the east coast. It’s stunning, like you said, how many productions, television series, movies are filmed there every single day. I have a filmmaker, a friend I went to film school with, he went out there and shot a TV series and came back to La and was editing it. So I Googled it recently, and I don’t want anybody to people can do their own research. But I Googled what the economic impact of film was on Georgia, and it was somewhere in the $3 billion range. So we were talking about having a TV series come in. Tucson have a $60 million economic impact. They’re in the billions. That’s the level of productions that are going over there.

And I’m sure these incentives they have to scale. If you just get a few more productions, it’s not going to make the loss of that tax revenue really probably worth it. But if you can build that infrastructure that you’re talking about, and now you’ve got an economic base of training and developing film crews and filmmakers, then you have another economy that’s being built. So I think this one was a good thought out process. And that, my understanding, was it’s a 20 year commitment to this program. And that gives you time to sort of build. I think the last one was only committed to, like you said, six, seven years. So it takes a couple of years to ramp up and then you don’t see the benefit and you get rid of it for 20 years. It seems like you have the time to really ramp this up and it might take a few years to get where you need to be. But it could really have that long term effect that you’re talking about yeah.

To be competitive in New Mexico. But there’s obviously going to be some competition for these productions. The cool thing is, like you said, they really thought this through better in the way it was structured. So it’s going to ramp up. From what I was reading, it’s going to start year one, which could start as early as this October. They have a cap of 75 million a year but on the third year it’s up to 125,000,000.

What do you mean by a cap? Is that for the total amount of credits that can be given?

Yes.

And that’s across all projects?

Across all projects.

Okay.

So the cool thing is that the incentive that they’ve created is actually better in most cases in New Mexico’s. So the percentages depending on the size of the production and the tier that it falls in and then there’s added on percentages for how much crew you hire locally, how much business you do locally, whether you use a sound stage here. There’s percentages that can be added on whether you do post production here. So there’s additional percentages that add up beyond what New Mexico offers. And they just doubled their cap to 110,000,000. But ours in the 30 years, 125. So we are super competitive right out the gate. And that’s extra exciting too because we’ve been basically been getting our butts kicked for two decades here.

And I guess some of the things that you look at the long term tangibles and you might not know if a film was done here in Tucson necessarily, but will we see an increase in film students? Is that the University of Arizona metric that we can track or they’re independent schools that do this type of training?

That’s a great question. I don’t know. I’m assuming they will the next time I talk to the fellow office, peter Cattle and notate down there. That would be a great statistic to track, I would assume. Yes. That can’t help but grow those numbers. Yeah.

We may see some benefits to our airport if we were bringing people in from La. There might be some benefits there. So there’s all these little things. We can watch these threads as they come out because these large projects tend to have a ripple effect. And we’ve seen it in a completely separate topic like the City of Gastronomy. That was great. It gave us this designation. But it also has this ripple effect of driving tourism to Tucson and having so many other industries now that are benefiting from the success of the culinary world. And you take the film, you bring that into this scenario and we already have some great film festivals. We have some great film energy. I’m excited to see what culturally this brings not just economically, but what culturally it has an impact on.

I think that it’s going to have a tangible effect on the whole state, but I think particularly Tucson because we have that history already. We have Western sets here ready to go and there are still people working in Hollywood that remember working here. So when you already have that legacy, that helps a lot too. This community really embraces the arts and I think it’s going to be really.

Big for Tucson now with An Streetcar is kind of focused on the urban core. A mountain University of Arizona Duster was filmed in large part in that space. Is there a lot of activity in.

The urban part or is this something.

That we’re going to see like at old Tucson studios and out in the suburbs?

You know, I probably can’t say for sure, but I would imagine yes. I think that because if productions are coming here and they can use our urban downtown to double as other city downtowns, they’re going to be everywhere. I think they’re going to be using the urban corridor. I think they’re going to be using Mount Lemon. I think they’re going to be using the desert. I mean, just a quick 30 minutes drive down toward Patagonia, you’ve got grasslands that can pass the Midwest. What’s amazing is we can cover any terrain imaginable. And we actually have, I believe we have it just went into effect a year or two ago, a relationship with the Mexican state of Sonora where film crews can travel down and use the beaches like Choia Bay in that area. Literally, productions coming here can have any terrain imaginable. Wow, it’s a strong package.

Yeah.

Well, this is fantastic and we’re definitely going to keep an eye on different opportunities and if you hear of anything really taking place in that urban environment, let us know.

But what about you?

Do you have any projects that you’ve got recently completed or coming up or anything that we should know about?

Well, I do have a screen play that I’m working on developing into an actual production and my understanding is I figured I might be interested. Does this affect locally produced productions or is it only for luring external shoots in? And from what I’ve heard, and I haven’t confirmed this, but from what I’ve heard, even local productions benefit from the tax incentives, although they do have to reach because it’s tiered, you do have to reach a certain level of budget for it to really have a big impact. But you do start to see just a few hundred thousand dollars on a low budget film. Every dollar counts. So that’s great too that it’s actually going to support and incentivize local production as well. So hopefully I’ll have a production at some point here that can also benefit from it.

And last question here as we wrap.

Up, there might be people that are listening that are interested in getting involved in the film industry is this something that the independent Film Arizona group can guide? Is there a website that people can check out?

Absolutely. It’s actually our mission is to be the one stop shop. So the place where everybody comes first, whether they want to come here from out of state, or whether, like you said, a local that wants to be interested in volunteering or even starting to work in the industry or be an extra or be an actor, we want to be the place that you come check out.

How do people find you?

Yes. So it is ifilmaz.org.

So the letter ifilmaz.org.

That’s it.

Oh, that’s pretty cool. That’s catchy, too. I film AZ and we’ll link to that from our Facebook page and things of that nature.

Jeff. I appreciate your time.

I can imagine there’s some excitement in your world with all of this news happening. So, as always, thank you for taking a few minutes to share the good news with us.

Thank you for inviting me. I love sharing and love supporting your show. And thank you for all you do for Tucson.

And thank you to Jeff Brack for taking his time to walk us through the incentives, how they’ll impact our film industry, and then how that trickles through the rest of our talent pool, our education and our economy. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to life along the streetcar in downtown Radio 99.1 FM, available for streaming on Downtownradio.org.

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Where does the time go? Where does the time go? As they would say in the film industry, episode 210 is in the can. That’s a wrap.

I think that’s what they would say.

If there’s topics we should be covering, let us know. Hit us up on our email address, contact@lifelongstreetcar.org. If you don’t know what email is, that’s cool. Just find us on social media. We’re on Instagram and Facebook. If you don’t know what those are.

I can’t relate, so I’m stuck.

But we would love to know more about what’s out in the world and what we can cover. And we’re going to leave you a little music today by a gentleman named Kajambia. It’s from 2021, thought it was somewhat appropriate. The song is called Film Star. I hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.

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