Vt. lawmakers consider reviving film commission

Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 11:46 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Filmmakers in Vermont will tell you it’s a challenging state to work in, and a new legislative report supports that. Now, lawmakers are chipping away at suggestions to grow the industry in the Green Mountain State.

“Ten percent of Vermont’s economy is in the creative sector,” said Rep. Stephanie Jerome, D-Rutland, the sponsor of a bill that would create an Office of Film and Creative Media in Vermont. Jerome says having a central resource for filmmakers would expand networking and create opportunities in the state. Jerome points out every single college and technical school here has a film or digital media program.

“Anecdotally, we believe this is a youthful industry. It would be really wonderful to grow this as a strong adhesive industry in Vermont,” Jerome continued.

The office would be responsible for creating a database of Vermont media professionals and resources establishing a tax incentive program, and managing internship opportunities.

Advocates of creating a central resource include Chad Ervin, Co-Founder of the Vermont Production Collective, and Amy Cunningham, Executive Director of the Vermont Arts Council. Ervin says they’ve talked about creating a central database, but it would be hard considering it’s not his primary job.

The House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development Thursday reviewed the findings of a task force that was formed to look into the issue. “The hearing went well,” Ervin said. “Everyone seemed very responsive and generally energized and ready to listen and move forward.”

“The film and media segment holds strong appeal for younger people with native digital skills and we know film festivals are growing across the state and have strong economic impacts for communities,” said Cunningham.

A previous iteration of the film commission was established in 1995 and for several years was credited with helping to bring some big Hollywood films including “What Lies Beneath” and “Me, Myself & Irene.” But by 2011, the film office was criticized for being ineffective and restructured, and by 2014 it was disbanded entirely.

If the office were re-established, it would have a budget of $350,000 to cover one full-time employee, database software, and a website. There could be additional part-time employees if needed.

“It’s a really great opportunity to build and grow this sector,” Jerome said.

In the meantime, those looking to network in Vermont’s film industry can check out the Made Here Film Festival happening in Burlington April 13th to 16th.

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