By Julia Masters – Reporter, Nashville Business Journal
Award-winning actress Nicole Kidman starred in and co-produced her new thriller, “Holland, Michigan,” at Middle Tennessee’s World Wide Stages this year — and it won’t be her last project filmed here.
Kidman, a Nashville resident and founder of Blossom Films, plans to continue advocating for growing Tennessee’s half-a-billion-dollar film industry, which is benefiting from a new tax incentive program that launched in 2022, bringing jobs and money to the state’s economy.
“There’s so many locations here that have not been explored and also an incredible array of technical talent and untapped artistic talent which I would love to be a part of growing,” Kidman told the Business Journal. “I know that we have competing states that offer tax incentives that draw film productions far more than they do [in Tennessee], so it requires a lot of advocacy and work on my behalf to get it to come here.”
The state’s biggest competitors are Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and recently, Kentucky and Oklahoma.
Kidman’s latest movie, directed by Mimi Cave, created 200 Tennessee resident jobs, hired over 375 Tennessee vendors to support production and amounted to $33 million in Tennessee direct expenditures.
Productions like “Holland, Michigan” bring a “fast rush into the economic bloodstream,” said Bob Raines, executive director for the Tennessee Entertainment Commission.
“The biggest impact is that [films] go across a broad spectrum. … There’s not anything that a movie doesn’t touch,” Raines told the Business Journal. “You’re spending real money fast into the economy and it’s impacting real people in real time.”
When Raines assumed his position in 2002, Tennessee’s film industry, which at the time only generated around $50 million statewide, was passive, like much of the Southeast region.
Productions came to the region mainly because of locations. Today, they are attracted by of incentives and workforce.
“The state of Tennessee got a lot of benefit from [the film industry’s growth in the Southeast] because of our proximity, our entertainment workforce that we had here, our infrastructure,” Raines said. “We started seeing it being less of a passive industry and turning more into something that was more ongoing in people moving here, putting roots down here and actually working out of our state.”
Tennessee’s new tax incentives for the film industry
Since 2022, Tennessee has added two incentives that are structured around the state’s taxations policies: a 40% tax credit aimed at attracting larger productions, like Kidman’s “Holland, Michigan,” and a 25% grant, aimed at independent productions, typically those $5 million and under, Raines said.
For the former, the studio is able to use the credit Tennessee gives for the production and pass it on to its affiliate parent company, which has a large tax liability and can offset it, Raines said.
“It makes a very stable credit,” Raines said. “It has continuity in it and that’s what these companies are looking for and there’s no sunset on it.”
There have been eight studio productions since the tax credit was launched. The latter is a cash grant funded yearly. Right now, 95% of applicants are Tennesseans.
Looking into the rest of this year, Raines would like to see at least two more large productions and an episodic (or series) happen in Tennessee, as well as 20 independent productions.
Kidman is working on another project that she hopes to bring to Tennessee next year. “I have another project that I would act in and produce, but that’s an ongoing series which is also really good because it’s constant, people know that there’s income revenue. And then on top of it, there’s not just the crew and the cast, there’s all the vendors, there’s the things that we hire, there’s locations that we use. So, there’s a constant flow of income to the state which is much needed always,” Kidman said.
Series, like the show “Nashville” that showcased Music City to a world stage from 2012 to 2018, create long-term, high-wage jobs. “It’s the engine that all production services will start to wagon around. When you have a series, you’ll have companies coming in to service, to actually create real economic clustering,” Raines said.
Building a workforce for the film industry in Tennessee
An area of focus to help Tennessee’s film industry flourish is workforce training, with increased exposure for youth to different aspects of the industry.
“Workforce training is part of that big picture, being able to come in and say, ‘These are our schools. This is how our schools are feeding into the community. This is how the community is training,’ and training up into the bigger productions like ‘Holland, Michigan,’” Raines said. “What we can be doing better as a state is that we can be putting more intentionality around how we put these vehicles together and how we put that workforce training in how it connects from school to job.”
Kidman was young when she started acting and is passionate about creating opportunities for youth.
“It piques their interest and actually, young people, this may be a career that they can see different aspects of filmmaking. They can see performance, they can see all of the technical avenues,” Kidman said.
She’s been involved in helping organizations like Nashville-based The Theater Bug, which offers programming for youth in performing arts, and brings seminars to the Belcourt Theatre.
Kidman is dedicated to the Nashville community. She has been a Nashville resident for 18 years, her husband, country singer Keith Urban, has been in Music City for almost 40 years. Both of their children were born there.
“If I have any power, then that’s what I hope to do, is nourish the community, because this community has been very good to me and continues to be extraordinary to me,” Kidman said. “We would just love people who are interested in the film industry, and then also young people, to have access to jobs and see job growth. The city is already growing exponentially since it was two decades ago, but to see that growth artistically, financially and with nourished growth. It’s not people taking from the state, but actually giving to it creatively.”