Kentucky's New Film Incentives Quickly Put State on Filmmakers' Radar


This past May, Governor Steve Beshear signed a bill that enables Kentucky to be more competitive as a filming destination. This in turn helps attract the film industry to Kentucky, promoting job growth and tourism for the state.

House Bill 340 gives Kentucky a strong advantage when competing with other states for outside film projects,” said Governor Beshear. “Increased film production in Kentucky means a boost to local economies and an opportunity to highlight the Bluegrass state on both big and small screens across the world.”  

First Lady Jane Beshear, a strong supporter of the bill, believes in its importance to the state's film industry and specifically to local filmmakers. “This legislation gives Kentucky-based filmmakers and production companies a leg-up by offering incentives that help curb their film production costs,” said Mrs. Beshear. “These incentives will help create a heightened interest for both local and outside filmmakers to seek out Kentucky as a premier filming destination, and I look forward to the many new exciting projects that will come about as a result of HB340.”

Production still of Secretariat (2010), filmed on location at Churchill Downs Race Track in Kentucky - image via Google.

Production still of Secretariat (2010), filmed on location at Churchill Downs Race Track in Kentucky - image via Google.

HB340 features many attractive financial benefits to filmmakers, most notably an increase in tax credit from 20 to 30 percent for production in-state spending, and another 5 percent incentive for using local labor.

One of the first productions to take advantage of Kentucky's new generous film incentive program is The Ultimate Legacy. Filming this week at Meadowland Farm, an estate in La Grange, Kentucky, the production employs approximately 200 crew members, 140 of whom are local. This would probably not have happened if the new incentive program wasn't put into place. "I wasn't even considering Kentucky until (the state's) new incentives were brought to my attention," said producer Rick Eldridge.

This legislation gives Kentucky-based filmmakers and production companies a leg-up by offering incentives that help curb their film production costs.
— First Lady Jane Beshear on the new film tax incentives for Kentucky.

Kelsey Forren, a local script supervisor working on The Ultimate Legacy, firmly believes it's high time filmmakers discover the many benefits of filming in Kentucky. "There are a lot of great physical locations (in Kentucky), between city life and rural diversity," said Forren. "I really hope (productions) come to Kentucky and see what this side of the country has to offer."

Since the issuance of the new film incentive bill, at least 10 productions have applied to film in Kentucky, eight of which have already been approved. The approved list includes five feature films, one TV program, one documentary and one commercial. 

How does having film productions (such as The Ultimate Legacy) filming in the state help Kentucky? These productions provide work for local talents, crews, sound mixing and editing companies. During their time in Kentucky, these productions also spend money at local restaurants, businesses, and hotels which in turn helps boost the state's economy.

Production still of Seabiscuit, filmed at Keeneland Race Track in Kentucky - image via Google.

Production still of Seabiscuit, filmed at Keeneland Race Track in Kentucky - image via Google.

Stephanie Whonsetler, the production manager of The Ultimate Legacy, moved back to Kentucky this summer upon hearing about the new generous incentive program. "I love this state, and I think it has a ton to offer," said Whonsetler. "So I took the risk and jumped ship."

Ms. Whonsetler loves living in Kentucky. Her goal is to bring the film industry to the state and show them what Kentucky has to offer. "I think Kentucky's so great because everyone is so excited about the possibility of filmmaking here," she said. "With word of mouth and as long as the state stays committed to it, I really think there's a great future for Kentucky."

Producer Milan Chakraborty brought his movie Where Hope Grows to shoot in Kentucky even before the new incentive program came on board. He enjoys working and filming in Kentucky and  plans to bring more productions here. "Kentucky has a lot of looks that haven't been explored on film, quality equipment and a quality local crew," he said. "I think it can be the best sub-$2 million filming destination in the country."

Kentucky has a lot of looks that haven’t been explored on film, quality equipment and a quality local crew.
— Milan Chakraborty, Producer of "Where Hope Grows" - filmed in Kentucky.

Among the numerous benefits Kentucky offers filmmakers are a variety of available film locations (from historical mansion, old country church, river, mountains, city to horse farms and racetracks) and a talented crew base. With the new generous film incentive program, Kentucky is now a major competitor in the film industry. “With all that Kentucky can provide the film and television industry, from a rich cultural history to a wide variety of settings, I firmly believe this new law is the final step we need to compete with other states in this field,” House Speaker Greg Stumbo said. “The House was proud to partner with Governor and First Lady Beshear in getting this economic measure approved.”

An available film location in Kentucky: Ward Hall in Georgetown, Kentucky - a Greek Revival antebellum plantation mansion located in Georgetown, Kentucky - image via LocationsHub.

An available film location in Kentucky: Ward Hall in Georgetown, Kentucky - a Greek Revival antebellum plantation mansion located in Georgetown, Kentucky - image via LocationsHub.

The list of productions filmed in Kentucky (even before the new incentive program) is long and impressive. It includes popular movies such as Secretariat, A League of Their Own, Elizabethtown, Ides of March, The Insider, and Seabiscuit.

For more information on filming in Kentucky, visit the Kentucky Film Office's website

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PHOTO CREDIT: Banner image of Churchill Downs race track, a popular film location in Kentucky - via LocationsHub.

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