Film industry

Minnesota Film Industry Welcomes 6 Projects After Tax Credit Program Launches

Film crews moved into an old farmhouse in Grant this summer to work on the Signature Films production “Marmalade.” The romantic heist stars Camila Morrone, Aldis Hodge and “Stranger Things” star Joe Keery.

It is one of the first projects approved under Minnesota’s new film production tax credit program.

“I think it started off as a small film but it’s going to be a good film,” said Anne Healy, the stage manager. “This is actually going to be a postcard for Minnesota because we shot at the general store in Marine-on-St. Croix, we were at the drive-in, we were in Stillwater, we were here on the farm, and we were in Shakopee in a gravel pit.

Healy met 5 EYEWITNESS at the farm, which she identified as a potential location due to its historic features. The wallpaper, layout, and landscape match the aesthetics of the film.

“You would have to pay people a lot of money to make a farm look like this,” Healy said. “We just started scouting and things fell into place.”

She got her start in the film industry decades ago when a friend recruited her to help scout rinks for “The Mighty Ducks.”

“Two weeks ended up being years,” Healy said. “It was just really, really fun and right after ‘Grumpy Old Men’ came along.”

These films were followed by “Fargo”, “Beautiful Girls” and “Jingle All the Way”.

“It was just one after another after another,” Healy said. “And that was before anybody had any incentives, it was just that we had these films on these merits of having a crew and locations and it was fun to stay here.”

Louisiana launched a movie tax credit program in 1992. In the early to mid-2000s, more states followed suit, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At the height of 2010, 45 states plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico had similar programs.

“We weren’t competitive and we couldn’t do anything, I just watched my career go away,” Healy said.

More than 30 states currently offer tax credits for movies.

Film industry advocates have been pushing for a program in Minnesota for years. In 2021, the Legislative Assembly enacted a 25% tax credit for production companies that spend at least $1 million, in a tax year, on qualifying production costs. The measure passed with bipartisan support.

“It’s now a necessary condition for attracting big projects or any projects to our state,” Rep. Dave Lislegard (DFL-Aurora) said during a March 2021 House Tax Committee meeting. “It’s really an opportunity for the state of Minnesota, it’s an industry that’s about to explode and they’re looking for a place to go.”

Rep. Joe McDonald (R-Delano) also argued for the legislation, “What they bring to the city and our state, economic activity and excitement, is good for our state and that’s a good deal.”

According to the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), it is first come, first served until the program’s $5 million annual cap has been allocated. Unused allocations are carried over to the next fiscal year.

DEED told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that $2.3 million has been carried over from fiscal year 2022 and therefore $7.3 million is available for fiscal year 2023.

The HGTV Renovation 911 series, the Discovery+ series and Magnolia Networks Family Dinner with Andrew Zimmern, and a Mattel TV commercial package are all in various stages of production. Three films – “Marmalade”, “Merry KissCam” and “Downtown Owl” – have also all been approved under the program.

“It creates jobs, it gets people talking about the Twin Cities,” said Kevin Winge, executive director of the Women’s Club of Minneapolis.

He hosted the “Marmalade” crews at the Women’s Club in July. About 35 people have transformed a room on one of the upper floors of the building, which served as women’s accommodation decades ago.

“They hung artwork specific to the scene they were shooting,” Winge said, as he walked down the hall. “Everything looked very different.”

He added: “They all spend money in the neighborhood, they go to Dunn Brothers around the corner, they have coffee and they call for food, they chase Uber, they use Lyft Drivers.”

The Women’s Club has hosted film crews in recent years. It was featured in the 2014 movie Dear White People.

“My greatest hope for the state of Minnesota and the motion picture industry is that we return to where we once were – a leader certainly in the Far North for film and television shoots,” Winge said.

In addition to renting the space, the Marmalade team also brought attention to the Women’s Club at a pivotal time.

“The club has been closed for a year and a half like so many other places around the world, so the added value for us is to show that the women’s club is back and running,” Winge said. “It’s nice to see people again.”

The production spent several weeks filming in locations across the state. Crowds gathered in Jordan in June to catch a glimpse of Keery.

“People who made ‘Marmalade’ are thinking about bringing another movie so, again, it’s going to start over and over and people will come here because people want to come here,” Healy said. “It gets people out and it’s really goodwill, it’s really goodwill for the state.”

According to DEED, the six projects approved so far represent more than $10.3 million in proposed spending in Minnesota. “Marmelade” is expected to account for nearly $2 million of that total amount. Production companies that apply are required to employ as many Minnesotans as possible.