Riley signs bill to give film incentives

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Bob Riley on Tuesday signed into law a bill that Alabama officials hope will mean in the future movies like “Sweet Home Alabama” won’t be filmed in Georgia and other states.

Riley, signing the bill in a ceremony at the state Capitol, was surrounded by legislators, film industry supporters, tourism officials. Also on hand were two representatives of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival who were dressed in Elizabethan outfits.

The new law offers financial incentives to companies that film movies, television shows or other productions in Alabama. It provides for breaks on sales, income and lodgings taxes for companies spending at least $500,000 to film in the state or spending at least $50,000 to make soundtracks.

Critics of such incentives have questioned whether states recoup their money, but the legislation, sponsored by Rep. Richard Lindsey, D-Centre, passed both the House and Senate by unanimous votes.

Riley said the incentives will give Alabama a chance to showcase its diverse scenery and talented citizens. He said the measure will also lead to training programs in the state to develop cameramen, lighting experts and other technical workers needed to support film productions.

Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell said the bill’s signing may come in time to make sure that a planned movie about University of Alabama football fans, “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer,” is filmed at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa and not at a stadium elsewhere in the South.

Sentell said it may be July or August before his office can prepare rules for awarding the incentives.

Rep. Pebblin Warren, D-Tuskegee, said she was looking forward to calling her daughter, Hollywood actress Sharon Warren, and telling her incentives for movie makers had become a reality.

Sharon Warren, who played singer Ray Charles’ mother in the 2005 movie “Ray,” spoke to legislators several years ago and urged them to pass the incentives.