When remembering her hometown of Monett, Joni Tackette can think of plenty of places that would make great settings for movies or TV shows.
But as a casting director who works to help provide actors for film and TV productions, she said many places across the state also would make great sets.
"One of my favorite drives is down I-44 from St. Louis to Southwest Missouri," said Tackette, president of the Missouri Motion Media Association. "Our urban settings have been other cities in film, and our rural locations could be used as a setting for any rural place in America."
That sentiment has become a sore spot with the spotlight recent productions have placed on the Show-Me State.
"Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," a 2017 criminal drama that won Academy and Golden Globe awards, was filmed in North Carolina. "Ozark," a Netflix drama about a mild-mannered accountant laundering money for organized crime on the banks of Lake of the Ozarks, was filmed on Lake Allatoona and Lake Lanier in Georgia; its third season is slated for production in that state as well.
Jefferson City is the scene of the main reasons those productions about Ebbing and Lake of the Ozarks didn't happen on location, Tackette said. An economic incentive program that allowed production companies to recoup costs was allowed to expire in 2013, and Missouri legislators haven't renewed it.
Not for lack of trying: Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, sponsored bills to get the incentive rolling again but couldn't get enough support from colleagues.
Filmed in Missouri
Tackette said her group is waiting to see the results of Tuesday's election, then work to rally support again from legislators. Tackette said she hopes that Swan will once again jump on board so Missouri communities can reap the benefits of an industry that is becoming big business.
"She seems to get it," Tackette said. "She's from Cape Girardeau, and she saw the amazing results and economic benefits from seven weeks of 'Gone Girl' production."
That 2013 adaptation of Gillian Flynn's book starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike was produced by 20th Century Fox. According to a report from the Southeast Missourian, producers spent more than $7.8 million in audited expenditures in the region, including lodging, office space, catering and security. Locals were hired to build sets, prepare food, handle production and even act. The state of Missouri returned $2.36 million through the state's tax-credit program.
Episodes of ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" also resulted in returns through the program. Producers received more than $100,000 for the episodes featured in Joplin after the 2011 tornado.
Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, said he generally favors such programs that offer good returns on investments. But the environment in the state Legislature over the years has been unwelcoming for programs that could be considered excessive.
"There are a group of legislators that are opposed to tax credits of any kind," Davis said. "I think it's a good idea to invest in programs that get you back a few dollars for every dollar. But other expenditures have taken priority, and we have a limited amount of revenue available."
In other states
One of the main factors determining a production location is the cost, which means producers actively search out such tax credits and other ways of controlling costs. In the Southeast Missourian report, a Fox official said "Gone Girl" wouldn't have been filmed in Missouri without the tax credit.
Christoper Rennier and Thomas Rennier, brothers who produced the low-budget film "Above Ground," said cost was a contributing factor for making their movie in Greenfield, Missouri — the city is the hometown of Thomas Rennier's wife. Because of her connections, the brothers said they "didn't pay a penny for the location," according to a report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Missouri's program, when it was in effect, was paltry compared with other states. While Missouri's was capped at $4.5 million, Tackette said, 12 other states had caps of more than $10 million and three others had caps of more than $100 million. Georgia doesn't have a cap on its program, Tackette said.
The notion about filming off-location is nothing new — filmmakers and TV producers have a long history of making shows about certain areas in other areas. Tackette, who worked for 2009's "Up in the Air" starring George Clooney, said St. Louis settings were used to re-create locations all across the country.
What is new, Tackette said, is a significant expansion of the industry. Streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are making movie-quality TV shows that offer the potential for repeat business. Without even a meager credit, "Ozark" will continue to be a Peach State production.
"Five years ago, we'd be talking about movies, but now we're talking about episodic television," Tackette said. "When a TV series is renewed, that is work that can come back to the same area for four or five years. Companies are spending a great deal of money, and directors want to film in Missouri for authenticity. But they aren't even looking at us. They are flying over to other states."
Turn in receipts
In order for a production company to receive economic incentives from the state of Missouri, it must first turn in receipts for expenses made during a production to the Department of Economic Development, said Joni Tackette, president of the Missouri Motion Media Association.
"They don't get the incentive ahead of time," Tackette said. "They have to come here, spend here, hire Missourians and turn in their receipts first."