Governor Riley announces first film to receive state’s incentives

An independent movie about a talented young singer is the first project to qualify for financial incentives from the Alabama Film Office, Governor Bob Riley announced last week. He signed legislation in March that allows Alabama to grant incentives comparable to those that other states use to attract film productions. “This is a promising start to a thriving motion picture industry in our state,” Governor Riley said. “This movie will employ more than 160 Alabama residents in front of and behind the cameras, and it is very clear from the script that the story is set in Birmingham and rural Alabama.” Veteran Birmingham filmmakers Alan Hunter and Hugh Hunter, along with senior producer Deborah Del Prete of Coronet Films, began filming Lexi Alexander’s script of “Lifted” on Monday. The screenwriter is also directing. It’s a heart-warming story about a father who encourages his son to pursue a dream of becoming a singer despite some difficult circumstances.
Alan Hunter expressed his appreciation to Governor Riley for the state’s support of the movie industry. “We are grateful to be the first project to receive incentives and help grow the entertainment industry in the state,” he said. The Hunter brothers previously worked in Birmingham with writer-director Alexander on “Johnny Flynton,” which received an Academy Award nomination in 2003 for Best Short Film. Actor Dash Mihok, who starred as boxer Johnny Flynton, has returned to Birmingham to portray the father in “Lifted.” Uriah Shelton, who recently completed a supporting role in producer Lee Faulkner’s “Alabama Moon,” is cast as Henry, the young singer. Alan Hunter, one of the five original veejays for MTV, has been cast as himself as the emcee of a talent contest. Birmingham’s “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard, is featured as a minister who befriends Henry.
The $675,000 film should qualify for a rebate of approximately $153,750, based on the amount of money producers expect to spend in the state, said Alabama Tourism Director Lee Sentell, whose agency includes the film office. The new law allows a production to receive a rebate of 35 percent on salaries paid to state residents and 25 percent on other expenses. “Alabama Moon” producer Faulkner and Scott Lumpkin, two independent producers based in Baldwin County, drew on their experiences filming in other states and provided input into Alabama’s film regulations, said Sentell. The state’s incentive legislation seeks films with budgets under $10 million. “By spreading our incentives among a number of smaller films, we can concentrate on work force development and attract multiple films to give crews more experience,” Sentell said. The regulations are temporary until published by the Legislative Reference Service for comment and the film office holds a public hearing. The legal process is expected to take an additional two months, he said. Alabama’s new incentive program will support the work of local film officials, including Mark Stricklin of Birmingham and Eva Golson of Mobile, in attracting productions to their communities, he said.
Senator Del Marsh and Representative Richard Lindsey, two architects of the incentive program, are developing a film curriculum that colleges and universities may use to prepare students for work on film crews, officials said. “We are fine tuning the regulations using ‘Lifted’ as a test case before accepting applications for other projects,” Sentell said. The amount of money that Alabama can rebate to movies being filmed during the 12 months starting Oct. 1 will be $7.5 million, he said, growing to $10 million the following year.

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