Vegas as the new Hollywood on hold… for now

Graphic by Kayla Roberts.

Plans to fund film production development in Las Vegas halted, and UNLV plays an important role in future plans. Could this Nevada legislation be the opportunity that film students are asking for?

Films such as “Casino,” “The Hangover,” the “Ocean’s 11” film series, and plenty of others have shown our Las Vegas on the big screen. However, our city has never been able to keep a lasting presence of film production in our economy. 

In Nevada’s 82nd Legislative Session, state legislators proposed a bill that could change the future of film production in Nevada. This bill, SB496, was not voted on before the session ended and now sits in limbo at the state legislature. This bill could diversify Nevada’s economy and create opportunities for students who wish to break into the industry, but with the bill stalled at the Nevada legislature, what does it mean for the future of a long-term film industry in the state and for UNLV film students?

SB496 includes a change to the Nevada film tax credit system and funding to build two film lots: The Las Vegas Media Campus, funded by Birtcher Development in partnership with UNLV, and another in Summerlin that would be partially funded by Sony Pictures. 

Film tax credits are crucial to making Nevada a competitive option for studio companies looking for a place to create their films or shows. In a letter to the Senate Revenue and Development Committee, proponents of the bill say that SB496 will diversify the Nevada economy, bringing more jobs and opportunities to the state. 

I feel this is the kind of economic diversification and development we need in Southern Nevada,” says Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom, “and the tie-in with UNLV is a tremendous bonus.” 

The legislation also received support from the likes of the City of Las Vegas and Henderson, Nevada AFL-CIO, and now state resident actors Mark Wahlberg and Jeremy Renner. 

Despite the strong support for the bill, there are people who oppose it. In an opposition letter presented to the State Senate Committee on Revenue and Development, Jim DeGraffenreid of the Nevada Republican Party wrote that the bill “is a truly astonishing proposal to give handouts to the already wealthy and well-connected, while ignoring the small businesses that are the heartbeat of our economy.

UNLV has an important part to play in this bill. The proposed Las Vegas Media Center, for example, is in partnership with the university. It would contain 15 sound stages and a training facility for students. 

SB496 and its infrastructure plans give opportunity to many UNLV students who are studying to be working professionals in the industry. Competitive tax incentives for studios entice them to bring their production projects to our city and state, and by building the infrastructure required for big productions, present and future students will have more steady access to work and the opportunity to meet working professionals in the industry and make contacts.

“It’s already difficult to find gigs in the city as a film student trying to get into the business,” says UNLV student Erik Iraheta. “I think the bill could really help with getting us consistent work.” 

Just the Las Vegas Media Campus alone is proposed to create 6,800 full-time jobs. The proposed Summerlin production lot that is in collaboration with Sony Pictures would create even more.

Despite the setback, SB496 was not voted down and can still be revived when the legislature is back in session in February of next year unless there is a special session.

Though there may be specifics that the state legislature needs time to discuss, there is no doubt of the upside of SB496 becoming law for UNLV film students who want to make a career in the entertainment industry.


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