Legislature seeks to boost Puerto Rico film industry
SAN JUAN – Paula Rivera Solanas, co-owner and vice president of Atención Atención Inc., endorsed Tuesday House Bill 728, which seeks to amend the Economic Incentives for the Puerto Rico Film Industry Act to eliminate the requirement of advertising, distribution or commercial exhibition to the general public abroad for projects that include episode series, miniseries and TV programs of a similar nature.
According to the legislation, production of local TV content is a critical component of Puerto Rico’s film industry as it creates long-term jobs that benefit residents and generates a permanent infrastructure that uses local indirect resources from several industries.
“Everything you see on the TV show is done in Puerto Rico, with Puerto Rican people. I think tax credits are an important tool and I hope that whether or not I get the [tax] credit, it will not make a difference to our company, but to achieve that one has to be solid and stable, strong enough so as not to need it. The incentive gives you peace. Peace of mind to start a new project. It allows you to have cash flow to continue betting [on the business], to continue looking for ways to grow. Having a quality product that is seen abroad makes us look good, makes people want to come to the island,” Rivera Solanas explained.
The bill, authored by House Speaker Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, aims to include pilots and TV projects without limiting it to comedies, interviews, news, game shows, entertainment and reality shows, as well as children’s and variety shows.
Rivera Solanas told the House Committee on Economic Development, Planning, Telecommunications, Public-Private Partnerships and Energy that in 2016 they filed six tax credit requests before the Film Corporation in relation to projects carried out throughout the year. However, the requests did not generate any response and they did not receive the corresponding credits. “With this new reality we do not know how long we can hold on without having to fire people.”
She explained that for every dollar that is granted in credits, her company pays three times that amount in payroll and more than 50% is returned to the government in various kinds of taxes—not counting taxes paid in turn by the 102 hired workers. She pointed out that the return on investment (ROI) is 3 to 1 and also prevents young and talented people from leaving the island to achieve their dreams.
Committee Chairman Víctor Parés Otero pointed out that “the intention of the bill submitted by the House speaker was to provide that relief, that necessary push to develop this industry in Puerto Rico, which was very powerful at a given point in time.”
Jorge Luis Aquino Calo, head of the Puerto Rico Film Program, also participated in the hearing. He, too, endorsed the bill, echoing Rivera Solanas’s expressions regarding the importance of providing incentives to the island’s film industry. He also said the film fund is currently owed $14.9 million, so collection procedures need to be followed up on.
He also recommended that the program be turned into a Secretary’s Office under the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC by its Spanish initials), which would allow for greater control and oversight of the agency, as well as returning to the old formula, which was to take between $0.25 to $0.50 from movie and show tickets and putting that money into the film fund, among other alternatives to benefit filmmakers, as an incentive for marketing and distribution purposes and incentives to sponsor film festivals.