Wood site for many movies

PARKERSBURG – From the undead to dolls, the Mid-Ohio Valley and other West Virginia venues have been the sites for a number of films.

The West Virginia Film Office in Charleston, which is part of the state Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism, offers a number of incentives to attract potential filmmakers to the area.

Pam Haynes, director with the film office, said one of the movies filmed in the area, “Bubble,” used a number of different local sites for filming and premiered here as well.

“We worked with Cecil Childress at the Blennerhassett, he was a dream to work, he bent over backwards and rolled out the red carpet for them,” Haynes said. “We were very pleased with the support of Felice Jorgensen at the Smoot Theatre for allowing the premiere to take place at her theater. We had the mayor’s help, they allowed the film office to use the services of the fire department to capture some images from the top of their bucket truck. We just met with the production manager of the film in L.A. in November, and they are still talking about what a wonderful experience it was,” she said.

In-state production companies can take advantage of the services offered through the film office as well, Haynes said.

“If they get a tax credit, they can apply it to any liability they own, business franchises, corporate or personal income. However, if they don’t have enough tax liability, they might have tax credits left over they can sell to another company or individuals that do have a tax liability. It works well for in-state companies,” she said.

Eric Benson, a local filmmaker, said he hopes to work with the film office on some projects he’s involved with now. Benson’s earlier faith-based film “Seven Deadly Words” was filmed primarily in Connersville, Ind., but did have a showing locally.

“We didn’t work with them on that project because it was primarily filmed in Indiana, but we do hope to work with them on our future projects. Our new projects are also family-friendly faith-based stories. We have two scripts in the works. The next one is ‘The Publication.’ It’s a mystery/drama, and we are looking at the Glenville and Parkersburg area for possible film sites,” he said.

Benson said one of the key aids the film office has available is the tax credit program.

“West Virginia, unlike some other states, has a low threshold for participating in the program. Many states require $300,000 or more, before it can be transferable. Having the lower threshold helps lower budget family filmmakers to participate, and working with their program is ideal,” he said.

“The office also gives us the ability to network around the state for cast and crews. So the tax credit and that ability are two key things I see as great benefits. The staff there are wonderful, they love showing off the state through the medium of film, it really is an untapped resource,” Benson said.

Benson said when he is invited to speaking engagements on his filmmaking projects, he takes the opportunity to talk about the film office in Charleston.

“There are a lot of people that just don’t know about the program here. Some states have tax credit programs, but don’t have a transferable tax credit,” he said. “I always take the opportunity to talk about the film office in West Virginia,” Benson said.

Haynes said the film office has a lot to offer potential filmmakers.

“They have to meet certain requirements. They have to have a minimum spend of $25,000 in the state, and projects cannot violate certain provisions of the statute: no filming of sexual activity, no minors involved with sexual activity, and others,” she said.

“We believe the legislative intent with the provision is that it not be a typical stereotype, like ‘Wrong Turn,’ that’s is our interpretation. That doesn’t mean it has to be a positive story, it doesn’t mean it can’t be negative, it just cannot be significantly derogatory, we believe that relates to the stereotypes,” Haynes said.

“Wrong Turn” was a 2003 movie about a group of people stuck in the backwoods of West Virginia where cannibalistic mountain men whose bodies are disfigured kill people that travel through the area. The movie was filmed in Canada, but portrays the hills of Greenbrier County in West Virginia.

The film office also provided some assistance for the local filming of “Pro Wrestlers vs. Zombies,” a production which premiered this spring in Parkersburg.

“We assisted them with locations, acting as liaison with property owners, city officials, whatever they needed that helped them do business here,” Haynes said. “They also participated in the Tax Credit Program.”

The West Virginia Film Industry Investment Act provides up to 31 percent tax credits for in-state spending. Funded at $5 million annually, there are no caps but there is a requirement for a minimum spend of $25,000. Eligible projects include feature length films, TV films and series, commercials, music videos, and commercial still photography.

Purchases and rentals of tangible personal property and purchases of services directly used in production are exempt from state sales tax, with some exceptions. Stays at the same facility for more than 30 consecutive days (per room/individual) are exempt from state and local taxes.

The office can even affect the flow of the Gauley River to suit productions every November, a complimentary service made possible by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Huntington District.

Filming on most state-owned property is fee-free, although there are some restrictions.

Depending on the scope of the production, the film office may assist with negotiations of other incentives such as discounted location fees, space rental, vehicle rental and others.

For more information on the services, the requirements, restrictions and exemptions, contact the West Virginia Film Office, at 866-698-3456, or go online to: wvfilm.wvcommerce.org.