I’ve had the privilege to visit several times recently with Matthew Earl Jones, the new head of the Arizona Office of Film & Media, also known as Studio 48.
Matthew has deep roots in all aspects of the film industry and is taking a practical approach to running an office that was shuttered for six years. He’s the man with the right plan.
While Arizona lacks a tax incentive for the film industry that some other locales enjoy, we do have some significant benefits that, when you add them up, will make Arizona competitive again in this space.
Here are some highlights of my conversations with Matthew:
Our permitting and regulatory environment are big positives. You want to shoot a car chase scene? We’ll make it easy and safe.
The state will work with the State Land Department and agencies to make low cost use of our buildings and spectacular resources.
We’ve gotten our education community involved. The new movie Car Dogs, for example, is an ASU product. Its director is an ASU professor and the crew was comprised of ASU students who earned internship credits to crank out the 21-day production.
We’re a right to work state, unlike that union-heavy state Tinseltown is located in.
Yes, New Mexico had an aggressive tax credit and it has a lot of film activity, but we’re closer to Hollywood and offer far more amenities than our friends to the east.
Thanks to the ingenuity of Bob Parsons, we have a state-of-the-art production studio here. Sneaky Big Studios offers a world-class facility and access to the latest editing and post-production technology. It’s a new jewel. Kudos to Parsons for being recognized with the Phoenix Film Festival’s 2017 Visionary Award. It’s well deserved.
There are plans afoot (I will keep our dear readers in suspense here) on a plan to get the business community involved to lower the costs for those producing films here. The industry makes a worthwhile economic impact that’s worth expanding. Film production was responsible for over 5,000 hotel room nights in 2016 in metro Phoenix alone
We are working with our friends from Sonora on a regional play. Think about it: Between Arizona and Sonora we have every climate and landscape imaginable. You want desert, sea, snow or forest, we’ve got it. There may be a creative way to use both regions to lower costs and make us more competitive. (Let’s put that on the agenda for the NAFTA renegotiation!)
It’s very important that the state fund this office and make it clear that the office is here to say. Housed with the Arizona Commerce Authority, the Arizona Office of Tourism, and the Arizona Mexico Commission, our film efforts touch several economic development areas.
Matthew is working on making the state’s film efforts sustainable. Not just crews passing through, but a permanent fixture. Part of this is to get more “above the line” investments like Sneaky Big in Arizona. We want more producers, investments and intellectual property created here.
As a dad of an aspiring actress, I want to see Arizona develop a thriving film business. As a youngster, my dream was to act. My last gig was in the fifth grade playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan. I earned good reviews. I dabbled in some improv and acting classes, but Hollywood never called. But later in life I keep myself in shape in case the right part in an action movie pops up – I’m not picky.
Check out gofilmaz.com for more info.