New rules stop rebates for one-time productions following backlash over 'The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon' in Minnesota

Updated: August 19, 2019 06:43 PM

New rules are now in effect at the state board that handed out more than a quarter-million dollars in taxpayer money to "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" after its Minnesota-based show following the Super Bowl.

Under the new rules, that rebate wouldn't be allowed.

“It was something that people were obviously concerned about and we needed to address it,” said Melodie Bahan, the executive director of the Minnesota Film and TV Board. The board faced heavy criticism when it was revealed that $267,000 was sent as a rebate to the NBC late night show.

“I think the way we have addressed it, it doesn’t go too far, it doesn’t have unintended consequence, but it really does address what people were concerned about,” Bahan said.

Under the new rules, any one-time production that is tied to a national event – like a Super Bowl or political convention – would not qualify for a rebate, commonly referred to as a “snowbate.”

'Tonight Show' received big state rebate for Super Bowl broadcast

Also, the board now has more discretion on how it spends its $500,000 budget. Projects will no longer be approved on a first come, first serve basis – the board will instead evaluate their economic impact, and number of Minnesota hires.

State Representative Nolan West was an outspoken critic when Fallon’s hefty rebate hit the headlines this summer.

“The changes are an improvement. It's just sad that it took this debacle with Jimmy Fallon to make it happen,” West said. “Hopefully we can save some taxpayer dollars.”

The tax credit being sought by the Minnesota Film and TV Board is already in place in several states.  The 15 states shown below in red currently offer some form of a tax credit as part of an incentive package.  Minnesota and the other 13 states highlighted in blue offer a rebate or a grant to lure filmmakers.  17 states including all of the states that border Minnesota offer no incentives at all.

Now that the rules are in place, the board is moving to tackle its next challenge: convincing lawmakers to go to a tax credit system instead of one based on rebates.

Bahan said it’s why they’re missing out on big projects like the movie “Clouds,” based on the inspiring local story of Zach Sobiech.

According to the board, Warner Brothers will likely film in Canada and make it look like Stillwater.

“Minnesota stories are being told in other states because of the economics of it,” she said.

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Ryan Raiche

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