From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --
Some of the reality TV shows and movies receiving the most money from the state film subsidy program are also paying the least to Alaska residents, state records show.
Of the more than $1 million in wages and salaries the state will subsidize for the sixth season of “Deadliest Catch,” for example, less than $20,000 was paid to Alaska residents. Alaskans were paid 5 percent of the $6 million in salaries subsidized for the Jon Voight thriller “Beyond.”
The numbers were revealed this month following a public records request by the Daily News to the Alaska Film Office. The figures show, for the first time, how much each subsidized movie and TV show reports paying Alaskan cast and crew.
Already the state film office is beginning refuse subsidy requests from producers with a history of making movies with few Alaska ties -- I'm looking at you, "Young World Sleuths: Baby Geniuses 5" -- but carry big salaries for out-of-state workers.
“Big Miracle,” the Universal Pictures family film that debuted Feb. 3 to warm reviews, is the largest Alaska-based movie to date and paid the most overall to resident actors and workers, the records show. All told, Alaskans made $4.2 million on the movie, according to numbers submitted by the filmmakers.
Non-residents made $13.6 million. The film office on Friday published the previously redacted salary data, along with other spending information, on its website.
Wanetta Ayers, director for the Alaska Division of Economic Development, hopes to see local paychecks continue to grow with subsequent movies.
“As we have people moving through some of the training programs that have been financed by the Legislature in the next few months, I think even higher numbers will be possible,” she said.
Supporters of the film incentive, which is up for reauthorization before the Legislature, say the productions bring a slew of benefits to the state beyond just paychecks. Out-of-state cast and crew sleep at local hotels, eat at local restaurants and buy gifts and gear by the bagful. Images of the Last Frontier lure tourists.
Alaskans will continue to win more and better jobs as in-state workers gain experience on set, they say.
Alaska casting director Deborah Schildt worked on “Big Miracle" and the Nicolas Cage/John Cusack thriller “Frozen Ground,” which filmed here last fall. Schildt said Alaska needs a competitive incentive to lure major movies given the lack of sound stages and Anchorage's fledgling crew base.
The number of local crew members appeared to increase slightly from "Big Miracle" to "Frozen Ground," with Alaskans moving into higher-paid roles, she said.
“They had proven themselves,” Schildt said.
The state has not yet approved the final film incentive application for “Frozen Ground.”
Several of the smaller films shot in Alaska under the 3-year-old subsidy paid little to Alaskans, according to figures provided by the filmmakers.
Producers for a trio of “Baby Geniuses” movies about crime-fighting babies and toddlers, shot last year in Anchorage, paid less than 6 percent of all publicly subsidized wages to Alaskans.
The filmmakers reported paying Alaska residents $1 million, compared to $18.2 million to non-Alaska residents.
The film incentive program allows movie-makers to recoup up to 44 percent of their in-state spending in the form of tax credits awarded by the state. The salaries of producers, directors and movie stars is considered in-state spending, as long as the pay is for work performed in Alaska.
The state numbers do not reveal how much individual actors or workers are paid.
As of Feb. 6, the state had approved $24.3 million in subsidies for 36 projects, according to the Alaska Film Office annual report, published today.
The “Baby Genius” movies are sequels to films that were savaged by critics in 1999 and 2004.
The producers – makers of “Robosapien” and “Tekken” -- hoped to film more projects in Alaska. But the state on Dec. 16 rejected Kid Play Entertainment’s request to pre-qualify for subsidies on two new productions.
“We felt that there was not a progression in their business model in operating in the state,” said Ayers, the Economic Development Division director. “That it was not in the best interest in terms of the number of workers that were hired or the number of Alaskan vendors that were being used.”
The movies' storyline also had little to do with Alaska, Ayers said, and the proposed films did not appear to highlight Alaska issues or provide ancillary benefits such as tourism.
Sen. Johnny Ellis, who sponsored the proposal that created the film subsidy in 2008, praised the decision. He also approves of the state’s decision to release new financial information about movies and TV shows that film here, he said.
The release comes as state politicians also debate how much to tax oil companies that do business in Alaska.
“I’m in favor of transparency and as much information as possible. I’d like to have information about the benefits package and the salary of the head of Exxon and British Petroleum and Conoco Phillips," Ellis said, "so the more information, the merrier."
Only two of the TV or movie productions that received $100,000 or more in subsidies report paying more than half of their subsidized salaries to Alaska residents. One was a little-known reality show set in Rainy Pass Lodge, called R5 Sons.
The other was “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”
The Palin reality show/travelogue paid $1.1 million to Alaska residents – the report doesn’t say what amount Palin made, specifically – and $1 million to non-residents. Other in-state spending claimed by the former governor’s show includes $367,000 in transportation and shipping and $424,000 in food and lodging.
A sampling of how much movies & TV shows spend on Alaska hire. We’ve ranked productions that are receiving more than $100,000 in state subsidies based on the percentage of subsidized salaries that are paid to Alaska residents:
-- “R5 Sons.”
52 percent of salaries paid to Alaska residents.
$166,000 paid to Alaskans. $154,000 paid to non-Alaskans.
-- “Sarah Palin’s Alaska.”
52 percent paid to Alaska residents. (Unclear how much Palin made.)
$1,112,000 paid to Alaskans. $1,018,000 paid to non-Alaskans.
-- “Ice Road Truckers,” season five.
37 percent ($295,000) paid to Alaska residents.
-- “Deadliest Catch,” season 6.
2 percent paid to Alaska residents.
$19,000 paid to Alaskans. $1,040,000 paid to non-Alaskans.
-- “Deadliest Catch,” season 7.
3 percent paid to Alaska residents.
$44,000 paid to Alaskans. $1,300,000 paid to non-Alaskans.
-- “Young World Sleuths – Baby Geniuses 5.”
4 percent paid to Alaska residents.
$236,000 paid to Alaskans. $5,197,000 paid to non-Alaskans.