Filmed in east Missouri, the major motion picture Gone Girl brought close to $7.9 million into Cape Girardeau’s local economy in a matter of weeks.
Not long after the film’s 2014 release, tourists from across the country looking to go on the “Gone Girl driving tour” poured into the approximately forty thousand-person town, says Steph Shannon, Kansas City Film Office director. “That could be any town in Missouri.”
Armed with information like this, Shannon and others had been lobbying state legislators and Missouri Governor Mike Parson to renew a film tax credit program that had gone dormant. The efforts finally paid off: Parson renewed the program nearly a decade after it expired.
The Show MO Act hopes to offer incentives for more movie productions in Missouri. The passed legislation not only reauthorized the bill but strengthened it. The bill will allow Missouri to be more competitive in the film industry, securing more film locations and, hopefully, strengthening the overall economy.
“We are marketing Kansas City as a destination for projects,” Shannon says. “But the pain point for years [was] when we don’t have a film incentive, it really shuts the door on us.”
Shannon isn’t the only one that feels this way. At a Senate hearing in February, before the bill was passed, Erin Brower spoke on behalf of Hallmark Media. “We shot ninety-two movies in 2022,” Brower said. “Now, the majority of those movies were filmed in Canada, which has a very generous film tax credit. But as more states adopt film tax credits, we shot nine in the U.S.: North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah, Hawaii. And so, if Missouri does pass this bill, Hallmark Media will be able to finally consider Missouri as a film production site, which we will be thrilled for.”
The film tax program would allow approved motion media productions filmed in Missouri to receive tax credits up to $16 million. The base incentive would start at twenty percent and could increase to sixty percent if certain requirements are met. Additional incentives could be stacked if the project takes place in rural or blighted areas. To ensure incentive money is spent properly, productions will undergo two audits: one by a licensed Missouri CPA and the other by the government.
“Every project is a business in and of itself,” Shannon says. Each job can employ three hundred to four hundred people including actors, camera crew, lighting, audio and even jobs that aren’t quickly associated with filmmaking like plumbing, carpentry, catering and accounting.”
Many actors from Missouri are hoping the act will lead to more filming and production opportunities in the state. One of these advocates is David Dastmalchian. You may recognize Dastmalchian from films such as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, The Suicide Squad, The Dark Knight, Prisoners and, most recently, Oppenheimer. But before Dastmalchian appeared in Hollywood blockbusters, he spent a childhood in and around Overland Park.
“I spent my childhood in either Kansas or Missouri and so the stories that I am yearning to tell often are set in either those specific locations or fictional locations I’ve created that evoke the same atmosphere,” he says.
Several Missouri-based stories haven’t been filmed in the state due to lack of tax credit incentives. The Paramount+ original series Tulsa King was originally titled Kansas City King, and the hit Netflix series Ozark, whose story revolved around Missouri’s lake region, was produced in Atlanta, Georgia. “The producer of Ozark has, every year, supplied us with a letter of support to show legislators that they really did want to film more here,” according to Shannon.
There have been some efforts to cut costs and bring projects to KC. After the state’s original film tax credit expired in 2013, Kansas City passed its own regional incentives. Dastmalchian was the first to take advantage of these, filming his project All Creatures Here Below in KC. He provided a look into the financial and creative benefits of having a program across the state.
Producers have already latched onto the new bill. Since being signed into law, five productions have shown interest in filming in Missouri, according to Film in MO, a volunteer-run organization that advocated for the film tax credit in Missouri. Other independent filmmakers have already taken advantage of the new legislation, like Jefferson City local and seasoned producer Gina Goff. Goff is looking to return home to film a major motion picture adaptation of the short film At Niangua’s End, which is set in the Ozarks. “[The film] definitely piqued my interest because [of] the Missouri element, because this is home,” Goff says.
Goff knows from experience that filmmakers seek out tax-friendly states for production. “Unfortunately, Missouri has missed out on so many things by not having the tax incentives in place,” she says. She adds that on top of Ozark and Tulsa King not being filmed in Missouri, “a lot of people don’t realize that Yellowstone was based on a Missouri story as well.”
The At Niangua’s End film adaptation is budgeted to be a $3.5 million movie shot at the Lake of the Ozarks, featuring local businesses and landmarks. “What I think will be special about it is to not only see something finally shot in Missouri, but just all of these Missouri-based filmmakers and actors and crew members coming together to make a movie,” Goff says.
After working in and around Los Angeles for three decades, Goff says, “I’m excited to finally be returning home to make a movie.”